He continued to watch the appearance for half an hour longer, and then he struck seven bells. In that time the steamer could be seen more distinctly, though she was still five or six miles distant. He was satisfied from his reasoning that the vessel was approaching the cape. The craft looked smaller than the ship, and in another quarter of an hour he was convinced that she was the pirate. Then he hastened to the cabin, and announced the news to the captain, and Louis heard him.
"Are you sure it is the pirate, Flix?" demanded Captain Scott, as he sprang from his bed and looked eagerly into the face of the messenger.
"Not absolutely sure; only reasonably confident," replied Felix, as he followed the captain to the forecastle.
Scott examined the distant sail with the glass for a little time, and Louis did the same with another. Morris was aroused by the voices, and rushed out with his field-glass.
"That's the pirate!" exclaimed the captain; and the others had waited for him to express his opinion.
"If my mother should step on deck and tell me so, I shouldn't know it any better," added Felix; and Louis and Morris were equally sure of the fact.
"Go to the engine-room, Morris, and tell Felipe to stir up his fires," said the captain, who had suddenly become a mass of vim and activity. "Then call all hands."
Scott observed the approaching steamer with his glass till she was within three miles of the Maud. Morris had been ordered to set the American flag, and it was now floating in the light breeze at the ensign staff.
"Now all hands will come with me," continued the captain; and all but Felipe followed him to the cabin.
His first movement was to throw off the cushions from the divan on the port side, and raise the lid of the transom. From this place he took out a breech-loading rifle, one of half a dozen deposited there three months or more before. They had been in service in the famous attack of the Samothraki on the Maud in Pournea Bay, and had never been removed. No one asked any questions; and the captain ordered them to be conveyed to the pilot-house and engine-room, where they would be available for immediate use. A supply of cartridges was also sent forward, and those who had revolvers were instructed to put them in their pockets.
All these orders were promptly obeyed, and the situation began to look decidedly warlike. Louis could not help asking himself whether or not Captain Scott was not proceeding too rapidly. But the belligerent chief had Captain Ringgold's written orders in his pocket, and there was no room for a protest. Everything appeared to be ready to give the pirate a warm reception, and nothing more could be done.
The Moorish steamer was feeling her way into the bay very slowly, sounding all the time. The Maud was anchored in fourteen feet of water, which placed her keel very near the rocky bottom, and with no greater depth for a cable's length outside of her. Scott had chosen the position of the little steamer so that the Fatime could not come alongside of her, or within a cable's length of her, which is one-fifth of a nautical mile.
"I think we are all right now, Louis," said Captain Scott when he had completed his preparations.
"It looks as though you meant to fight the pirate," added Louis.
"Not if it can be avoided; but I do not intend to let Mazagan take any one of my people out of the Maud; and all hands will shoot before anything of that kind can happen," replied Scott very mildly, and with no excitement in his manner; for he had studied the bearing of his model, and tried to imitate him.
"Do you expect Mazagan will resort to violence, Captain Scott?"
"That is an odd question, Louis," answered Scott, laughing heartily, perhaps as much to manifest his coolness as to treat the question lightly. "Excuse me, Louis, but you make me smile. Do I expect Mazagan to resort to violence? For what did he visit Pournea Bay? Did he resort to violence when he caught you in that shop in the Muski? Did he resort to violence when his assistants attempted to capture you and Miss Blanche in Zante? What do you suppose he followed the Maud up here for, Louis?"
"Perhaps to induce me to pay him twenty thousand dollars to let up on Miss Blanche and myself," replied Louis, overwhelmed by the argument.
"Are you ready to pay him?"
"Then he will resort to some other means to accomplish his purpose in coming to Cyprus. Do you wish me to surrender the Maud to him?" asked the captain.
The Fatime let go her anchor as near the Maud as the depth of water would permit her to come.
THE LECTURE ON THE ISLAND OF CYPRUS
Captain Scott was ready to do anything the occasion might require. Possibly he would not have been sorry to come into collision with Captain Mazagan and his piratical craft, judging from what he had said to Louis Belgrave, and he had pluck enough to precipitate a conflict with the enemy; but sometimes it requires more courage to keep out of a fight than to plunge into one.
As he had admitted himself, Louis was his model; and he felt that no rashness, no braggadocio, no challenging, no casting down the gage of battle to the pirate who had already outlawed himself, no holding out of a temptation to cross swords with him, would be justified or palliated when he came to render an account of his conduct in what was yet to occur to the commander of the Guardian-Mother.
Whatever he did he was to do strictly in self-defence. The character of Captain Ringgold and of Louis would permit nothing more than this. The "Big Four" fully understood why the Fatime was there. It was true that the Maud had held out the temptation for her to follow her; but it was as a man with a gold watch and plenty of money in his purse holds out a temptation to the robber; but it does not follow that he should throw away his valuables.
But the plan suggested by Scott and adopted by the commander had not worked as had been expected. The Guardian-Mother ought to be there in the bay, or somewhere in the vicinity; but nothing had been seen of her, and no one knew what had become of her. According to the plan, the two steamers were to find a way to escape from the pirate, and Scott had marked out the manner in which it was to be done. The gale and the non-appearance of the ship had upset the plan, though the Maud had carried out her portion of the programme.
"What next, Captain Scott?" asked Louis.
"Wait," replied the captain.
"Wait for what?"
"I don't know," replied Scott, shaking his head. "Wait for whatever is to come."
"But what is to come?" asked Louis, who still had a fear that the captain would resort to some fool-hardy expedient.
"You know just as much about this affair as I do, Louis, and you may be a better prophet than I am. It is not a question of navigation just now, or I should be willing to take the entire responsibility. Of course the handling of the Maud is an important element in getting out of the scrape, whatever it may prove to be. I have somewhere seen a picture of a good-looking gentleman playing chess with an individual provided with horns, hoofs, and a caudal appendage. But in this game the mortal appeared to have the best of it, and he says to the infernal power, 'Your next move.'"
"And that is what you say to the representative of the same infernal majesty in Khrysoko Bay," interposed Louis, rather pleased with the illustration, especially in its application to Captain Mazagan.
"Precisely so; it is the pirate's move, and I shall not do a thing till he makes it," added Captain Scott. "What Mazagan will do, or how he will do it, I have no more idea than you have, Louis. That is where we stand. I am willing to listen to any advice that you wish to give me."
"I have no wish to give any advice," replied Louis; and by this time he was entirely satisfied with the position Scott had taken, and he approved everything he had done.
At this point Pitts announced that dinner was ready, and Scott led the way to the cabin. The ledge of rocks appeared to cover at least half an acre of the bottom of the bay. The Maud had anchored abreast of the rock, in two fathoms of water. It was just about high tide when she came in, as the captain had learned from his nautical almanac, and the ebb placed the craft broadside to the Moorish steamer, so that the "Big Four" could see her out the cabin windows.
The pirate made no demonstration of any kind, and the dinner was disposed of in good order, and with hardly an allusion to the exciting events that were expected. Pitts was instructed to give the engineers their dinner as soon as possible; for all hands might be needed at any moment.
"Heave the lead, Flix; it begins to look like shoal water around us," said the captain when they returned to the forecastle.
The great rock was of a light color, and could be distinctly seen from the deck. A portion of it rose about six feet above the surface of the water when the Maud anchored, and the receding tide now permitted two feet more of the projecting cone to be seen.
"By the mark two," reported Felix, as he drew up the line.
"Twelve feet; we have not much to spare under the keel," added the captain. "We had fourteen feet when we anchored, and the tide has been ebbing five hours."
"Hold on, Captain Scott!" shouted Felix, as he carried the lead-line to the other side of the vessel. "I have been measuring on the top of a bulging rock. And a half two!"
"Fifteen feet; that looks more like it. There ought to be about three feet ebb and flow here, and your sounding gave about double that, Flix."
"It was the fault of the rock on the bottom, Captain;" but the leadsman heaved the line all around the steamer with the same result.
There was nothing to do except to observe the Fatime; but she did nothing, and there was no appearance of any movement on her deck.
"I think we had better attend to that lesson now, as we have nothing else to do," said the captain after they had looked about them for a time. "I don't care to have the pirate suppose we are on the anxious seat."
"All right," replied Louis, as he seated himself on the rail by the bow flag-pole. "I have studied my lesson, and I am all ready."
"Blaze away, then," replied the captain.
"If any of you have not yet found it out, I will begin by informing you that the land on three sides of us belongs to the island of Cyprus, and you are again on Turkish territory. The owners of the island call it Kebris, written by them G'br's, if you can make anything of that combination of consonants," Louis began, spelling out the strange names he introduced. "The Greeks call it Kupros, and the French, Chypre. Venus was the original goddess of spring among the Romans, but became the goddess of love, the Aphrodite of the Greeks, and was worshipped as such in this island by the Phoenicians and other ancients.
"One of this lady's names was Cypris, or Cypria; and that is why the island happens to be called Cyprus. It is in about the same latitude as South Carolina. It is about 35 to 50 miles from Asia Minor on the south and Syria on the east. It is 140 miles long by 60 in breadth, containing 3,707 square miles, or larger than both Rhode Island and Delaware united.
"It has two ranges of mountains extending east and west, the highest peak being 6,352 feet. It has plenty of rivers, with no water in them except after heavy rains, or when the snow melts on the mountains. There is no room for lakes of any size, though there is a small one on the east coast, which dries up completely in summer, like the rivers, but has an abundance of fish in winter. This is rather remarkable, and the fact is not doubted, though the phenomenon has not been explained."
"The fish must go down where the water goes," laughed Felix. "If there are any volcanoes here, I suppose they come up in the winter all boiled or broiled ready for the table."
"I don't know how that is, Flix, and we haven't time to investigate the matter. The interior of the island is mostly composed of a great plain, which was once famous for its crops of grain; but the system of irrigation which prevailed has been discontinued, and its fertility no longer exists. In a scarcity of rain five years ago there was almost a famine in the island.
"As you have seen for yourselves, there is a deficiency of harbors, and this bay is a fair specimen of them. It has two places they call seaports, but they are not worthy of the name. They are on the south side, and in such a blow as we had last night, they afford no shelter to shipping from southerly storms; and Captain Scott was wise in coming here instead of going to Limasol, which is just inside of Cape Gata. The ports on this side of the island would be similarly exposed in a northerly storm. Safe ports are necessary for the commerce of a country or an island, and therefore to its prosperity.
"In ancient times there were ports at Salamis, Paphos, and Famagusta, in the eastern part of the island, which was the portion celebrated in the past. The capital is Leucosia, as I find it on my chart, though I find it elsewhere put down as Nicosia; and even the cape we have in sight is Pifanio in a standard atlas. The population is 186,000, of whom not quite 50,000 are Mohammedans, and the rest are orthodox Greeks. The great majority of the people speak the Greek language, but it is so much corrupted that Flix would not understand it."
"You are right, my darling; I want the pure Greek of Kilkenny, or I don't take it in," replied the Milesian.
"The island was colonized by the Phoenicians, who have a history too long to be related now; but they occupied the northern part of Syria and the country to the north of us. They were the New Yorkers of their day and generation, and were largely engaged in commerce. They brought the worship of Venus over here, and called the island Kupros after her. It had at first nine independent kingdoms, and I should suppose that almost anybody could afford to be a king in this locality. It was conquered by the Egyptians about five hundred years before the time of Christ; then by the Persians; and finally came into the possession of the Romans.
"It went with the Eastern Empire when Rome was divided. The people embraced Christianity at an early date. It was said that a shepherd discovered the body of St. Matthew and a part of his Gospel in the island, which called many early saints to visit it. In 646 A.D., Cyprus was taken by the Saracens, but was not long held by them. Richard Coeur-de-Lion captured it on his way to Syria for the Third Crusade. In 1570 the Turks obtained possession of it, and have practically held it ever since.
"The ruins of Salamis may be seen at the other end of the island. In the Book of Acts we read that Paul came over here. 'And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.' Then the account informs us that they went 'through the isle' to Paphos; and doubtless the place was near Point Papho, which I find on my chart. Don't forget to tell Mrs. Blossom, Flix, that you have been to an island visited by Paul and Barnabas in their missionary travels.
"The island has about the same productions as Egypt. Carobs, or locust beans, figure up to about $300,000. But I fear you will not remember any more figures if I should give them; and I see there is something like a movement on board of the pirate."
"You must repeat that lecture on board of the ship when we get back to her," added the captain. "It was telling us just what I wanted to know."
"I could have done better if I had had the library of the Guardian-Mother for reference," replied Louis, as all hands fixed their attention on the Fatime.
"They are getting out a boat, sir," said Don, who had gone to the hurricane deck to obtain a better view.
"That means that they intend to pay us a visit; and as I intend to retain the command of the Maud until I am relieved by Captain Ringgold, I shall allow no one from the pirate to come on board," said Captain Scott in his most decided tones. "All hands except Felipe will arm with breech-loaders and revolvers, with a supply of ammunition, and form in the port gangway."
This order was promptly executed, and the force collected at the place designated. This gangway was concealed from the enemy by the house on deck. Louis had two revolvers, and he loaned one to Don. Scott had carried out a handsaw which was kept in the pilot-house in readiness for any emergency, as well as an axe and a hatchet. The captain had used this same saw with decided effect upon some smugglers who attempted to obtain possession of the little steamer in the Bay of Gibraltar, and he placed it where it was ready for use at any moment.
In addition to this novel weapon, he had sent for a small heave-line with which he had done some lassoing on the same occasion, and also on Captain Mazagan at a later period. The five hands in the port gangway had loaded their weapons, and were ready to be called into the field. The captain took a look at them, and all was satisfactory. He hastened back to the forecastle, where he saw that the boat was already pulling for the Maud.
A MOST IMPUDENT PROPOSITION
Certainly it looked decidedly warlike on board of the little steamer Maud; and Felix, who was never inclined to be very serious over anything, declared that she was like a bantam rooster ready for a pitched battle in a farmyard. Captain Scott called Louis out, and proposed to him that he should take the command of the riflemen, who were required to keep out of sight of the Moors in the boat.
"Of course I will obey orders wherever I am placed; but, if you will excuse me, I must protest against the appointment," replied Louis, as they watched the approaching enemy. "Morris is one of our number in the gangway, and it would not be fair or right to put another fellow over the first officer."
"That is all right in theory; but Morris is the youngest fellow on board," reasoned the captain.
"But he is just as resolute, plucky, and prompt as any one on board. He thinks quick, and has good judgment," persisted Louis. "I should be very sorry to be placed over his head."
"Say no more! I only thought it would be unfortunate to lose you in the place where you could do the most good," added Scott. "I will give my orders to Morris, and let him carry them out. I don't know any better than the rest of the fellows what is coming out of this affair; but it is plain enough now that Mazagan intends to do something."
"No doubt of that; but it does not follow that he intends to attack us. He knows very well that such would be piracy," suggested Louis.
"Piracy! He makes no bones of anything that will put forty thousand dollars into his pocket; and that is what he expects to make out of us. Piracy is nothing but a pastime to him; and he relies upon His Highness to save his neck from any undue stretching," replied Captain Scott, as he walked to the port gangway. "Is everything ready here, Morris?"
"Everything, Captain," answered the first officer. "The rifles are all loaded, and every man has a supply of cartridges in his pocket. Every one has a revolver except Pitts."
"I have two, and he shall have one of them," interposed Felix, handing his extra weapon to the cook, with a package of ammunition for it.
"I think we shall be able to render a good account of ourselves, whatever may turn up in the course of the afternoon," added the captain. "I want you with me on the forecastle for the present, Louis; for, after all, there may be more talk than bullets in this affair."
"I hope so," added Louis sincerely; though it was evident that some of the boys looked upon the adventure as decidedly exciting, and therefore agreeable.
Louis walked to the forecastle with the captain, and both of them gave their entire attention to the boat that was approaching, having now accomplished more than half the distance between the two vessels.
"I can't imagine what has become of the Guardian-Mother," said Louis, as he directed a spy-glass to seaward. "She cannot have intended to desert us in this manner. What do you suppose has become of her, Captain Scott?"
"I shall have to give it up at once, for I cannot form any idea," replied Scott. "She was to follow us, and in some such place as this bay we were to bring things to a head, and give the pirate the slip."
"I hope nothing serious has happened to her. The last we saw of her she was rounding a point near Damietta."
"She intended to get out of sight of the pirate as soon as possible, so that the Fatty could follow the Maud; and she did all that in good order. But I have no doubt that she is safe enough; and, if we don't get chewed up in this scrape, I have no doubt she will soon put in an appearance in these waters."
"Steamer, ahoy!" shouted a rather tall man in the stern-sheets of the boat.
"In the boat!" replied Scott, after he had waited a moment, and then in a very careless and indifferent tone.
"That's Mazagan," said Louis.
"Of course it is; I knew he was there before he opened his mouth, the pirate!" added the captain.
"Is Mr. Belgrave on board?" demanded the captain of the Fatime.
"What if he is? What if he is not?" answered the captain.
"I wish to see him."
"He is not to be seen at the present moment. What is your business with him?" Scott inquired, as indifferently as though the affair did not even remotely concern him.
Of course his manner was assumed, and Louis listened to him with the most intense interest; for he was anxious to ascertain in what manner the captain intended to conduct the negotiation, if there was to be anything of that kind. In spite of his affectation of indifference, he knew that Scott was quite as anxious in regard to the result of the parley as he was himself, though he was the intended victim of the pirate.
"My business is quite as important to Mr. Belgrave as it is to me," replied Mazagan.
"Very likely; but what is your business with him?"
"It is with him, and not with you," returned the pirate, apparently vexed at the reply. "Who are you? I don't mean to talk my affairs with one I don't know."
"I am Captain Scott, commander of the steamer Maud, tender of the steamship Guardian-Mother, owned and in the service of Mr. Louis Belgrave," replied the captain as impressively as he could make the statement. "That ought to knock a hole through the tympanum of his starboard ear," he added with a smile, in a lower tone.
"Of course he knew who you were before," added Louis.
"He ought to know me, for I fished him out of the water in the harbor of Hermopolis."
"If Mr. Belgrave is on board, I wish to see him," continued Mazagan.
"I may as well face the music first as last," said Louis, as he stepped out from the shelter of the pilot-house which had concealed him from those in the boat.
"Of course it is no use to try to hide you. Do you wish to talk with the pirate, Louis?" asked the captain.
"I don't object to hearing what he has to say, though certainly nothing will come of it," replied the intended victim.
"It will use up some of the time, and the longer we wait before the curtain rises, the better the chance that the Guardian-Mother will come in to take a hand in the game," suggested the captain; and Louis took another look through the glass to seaward.
"You needn't look so far out to sea for the ship, my dear fellow; for when she appears she will come around Cape Arnauti, and not more than a mile outside of it, where she will get eight fathoms of water. She is coming up from the south; and if our business was not such here that none of us can leave, I would send Morris and Flix to the top of that hill on the point, where they could see the ship twenty miles off in this clear air."
While the captain was saying all this, the four Moorish rowers in the boat dropped their oars into the water, and began to pull again; for the patience of their commander seemed to be oozing out.
"That won't do!" exclaimed Scott. "Boat ahoy! Keep off!" he shouted.
"I told you I wished to see Mr. Belgrave, Captain Scott; and you do not answer me. You are using up my patience, and I tell you that I will not be trifled with!" said Captain Mazagan in a loud tone, with a spice of anger and impatience mixed in with it.
"That's just my case! I won't be trifled with! Stop where you are! If you pull another stroke, I shall proceed to business!" called the captain, with vim enough to satisfy the most strenuous admirer of pluck in a moment of difficulty.
The oarsmen ceased rowing; and when the boat lost its headway it was not more than forty feet from the side of the Maud. Scott did not object to this distance, as there was to be a talk with the pirate.
"Mr. Belgrave will speak with you since you desire it," said Captain Scott, as soon as he realized that the boat's crew did not intend to board the steamer.
He walked over to the port side of the deck, where he could still command a clear view of the boat all the time; and he did not take his eyes from it long enough to wink. He was ready to order the riflemen to the forecastle; and he intended to do so if the boat advanced another foot.
"What is going on, Captain Scott?" asked Morris, who stood at the head of the column.
"Mazagan wants to talk with Louis, and we are willing he should do so; for we desire to gain all the time we can, in order to enable the Guardian-Mother to arrive here before anybody gets hurt."
"We have heard all that has passed so far, and we expected to be called out by this time," added Morris.
"I don't care to have you show those rifles just yet, and I hope you will not have to exhibit them at all. You can sit down on the deck and hear all that is going on," added the captain, as he moved away. If he took his eyes off the boat at all, it was only to glance at the lofty cape where the ship would first be seen.
Louis had placed himself at the rail, ready for the conference that the pirate desired. Mazagan had met him face to face, and he could not help knowing him.
"Are you Mr. Louis Belgrave?" demanded the Moorish captain, more gently than he had spoken to Scott at the close of the interview with him.
"That is my name," replied the young millionaire with all his native dignity.
"We have had some business relations together, and at the present moment they are not in a satisfactory condition," the captain proceeded.
"Go on," replied Louis when he paused; for he had decided to say nothing that would unnecessarily irritate the villain.
"I wish you to join in the conversation, and express your mind freely."
"I shall do so as occasion may require. I am ready to hear any statement you wish to make; but I have nothing to say at present."
"Between the noble and exalted gentleman in whose services I sail his steam-yacht, and the commander of your larger steam-yacht, Captain Ringgold, there is a difficulty of very great magnitude;" and Captain Mazagan paused as if to note the effect of this announcement upon his auditor.
"Proceed, sir," added Louis.
"Do you deny the truth of what I have stated?"
"By no means," said Louis with a polite bow and a wave of his right hand.
"His Highness, the Pacha, was grossly and disgracefully insulted and assaulted by Captain Ringgold, who has so far declined to make any apology or reparation such as one gentleman has the right to require of another. Can you deny this statement?"
"Proceed, Captain Mazagan; I have nothing to say," repeated Louis.
"You will not speak?"
"If you desire it, I will; but simply to suggest that you wait on Captain Ringgold with your grievance."
"That he has tried to do, and called upon him in Constantinople for that purpose; but Captain Ringgold is a coward, a poltroon! He keeps himself shut up in his cabin, and refuses to give my noble master any satisfaction."
It was with a struggle that Louis maintained his dignity and preserved his silence.
"Finding all the avenues to any satisfaction closed against him, my noble master, one of the most exalted dignitaries of the Empire to which he is an honor, employed me to obtain the redress to which he is honorably entitled. So far I have not been successful. My noble master has been graciously pleased to modify the terms and conditions upon which he will consent to discontinue his efforts to obtain adequate satisfaction for the insults heaped upon him. He will accept the atonement of two hundred thousand francs for the injury done him, assured that this penalty would be the severest punishment that could be inflicted upon a cowardly and penurious American like Captain Ringgold."
"Why don't you send in your bill to him for the boodle?" asked Louis, who thought somebody must have written out the speech of Mazagan for him.
"He would not notice the claim," replied the pirate.
"I don't think he would," said Louis, inclined to laugh.
"I intend to make the matter sure this time. If you will do me the favor to come on board of the Fatime, and remain with me in the cabin, which is quite as luxurious as your own on board of your large steam-yacht, until the money is paid, it will save all trouble and settle the matter at once," continued the Pacha's representative with a suavity creditable to his French education.
"If you please, Captain Mazagan, we will not settle it in just that way; and without any disrespect to you personally, I object to taking up my quarters in the cabin of the Fatime," replied Louis blandly.
"Then I must take you by force!" exclaimed the pirate.
He gave the order for his men to pull. Captain Scott called out his force.
"JUST BEFORE THE BATTLE, MOTHER"
Morris Woolridge did not make use of any military forms, for he did not claim to understand them; but he simply came on the forecastle himself, followed by the other four of his party; for Louis had joined it when directed to do so by his superior. Captain Scott took the rifle he had reserved for his own use from the pilot-house. Those who had been waiting for the order had only to move a few feet, and not a second of delay had been made.
A boat large enough to contain six men, as did the pirate's, does not overcome its inertia and shoot ahead forty feet without any apparent lapse of time, like a bullet shot from a rifle. Morris and his men were in position before the boat had made ten feet.
Morris gave no orders according to the manual of the soldier, but he ranged his command on the forecastle, close to the starboard rail. The guns were all loaded, and every one of the party had had some experience in the use of the weapon, so that none of them had to be taught how to fire it.
"Aim at the boat," said the first officer in a quiet tone; and all the rifles were directed to the enemy.
It was a fact which came out afterwards, that every one of them aimed at Mazagan, not only because he was the most prominent mark as he stood in the standing-room, but he was regarded as the biggest villain of the assailants, and they could shoot him with less compunction than the Moors in his train. He was the representative of the villain behind the scenes, and all the mischief seemed to come out of him.
"Stop where you are, or I shall order my men to fire!" shouted Captain Scott, as soon as the rifles were all aimed at the boat. "Say that in Arabic to them, Don!"
The engineer translated the warning for the benefit of those who were back to the Maud, and perhaps did not see the weapons that were pointed at the boat. But Mazagan could see the six rifles, including the one in the hands of the captain; and before Don could finish his Arabic sentence, he had given the order to cease rowing. At least it was supposed he had done so, for the Moors dropped their oars, some of them into the water.
The boat's crew were in a panic without any doubt, and Captain Scott was inclined to feel that "the coon had come down." Mazagan spoke to them in a savage tone, as though he was reproving them for their cowardice; but they plainly did not relish the idea of being shot down without being able to make any resistance, for there was nothing that looked like a musket to be seen in the boat.
After his recent experience in Cairo, probably Captain Mazagan was provided with a revolver; but he did not exhibit it, and in the face of half a dozen breech-loaders, capable of sending three dozen bullets into the boat, it would be a piece of useless bravado. It could be seen on the forecastle of the Maud that the pirate's crew were demoralized. The Mohammedans are said to be fatalists; and in what they regard as a holy cause they have no fear of death, for they believe it bears them directly to paradise. But some of them must have had sense enough to understand that they were engaged in piracy, and that their heaven did not open wide its gates to those who fell in the commission of crime.
The boat lost its headway, and became motionless at a distance of twenty feet from the Maud, with the rifles still pointed at its crew. If the pirate chief had a revolver in his pocket, this was the time to use it; but he did not even produce it. He could not help seeing that if he fired a shot, it would immediately cause half a dozen bullets to be sent into the boat; and he had good reason to believe that he would himself be the first victim.
"What are you about?" he demanded in angry tones.
"About to fire if you come any nearer," replied Captain Scott.
"Can't you see that we are unarmed? Do you mean to shoot us down like dogs?"
"That depends upon you, Captain Mazagan. But you are so very polite while you act as a pirate, that I think it is proper for me to say, with your permission, that my crew can fire thirty-six balls without stopping to load again. If you persist in this business, not one of your number will ever get on board of the Fatime again," added the captain of the Maud, as decided as before; but the politeness of the pirate and Louis had amused him at such a time, and he was disposed to imitate them.
"If you mean to murder us all, I cannot help myself just now," howled Mazagan, furiously mad at the disappointment which had suddenly overtaken him; and he seemed like an angry child who had been denied a piece of candy, and resented it with tears and yells.
"All you have to do is to pull back to your ship, and we shall not take the trouble to follow you," answered Scott. "This difficulty is not of our seeking."
"I came to you peaceably, unarmed, with a fair proposition"—
"A most impudent and presumptuous proposition!" shouted Captain Scott.
"I have been respectful and polite to you, and you threaten to shoot me and my men."
"You have plainly announced your intention to take Mr. Belgrave on board of your steamer by force. Do you call that respectful and polite?"
"But I gave him a polite invitation to take possession of my cabin without the use of force, and he declined to accept it," argued Captain Mazagan, somewhat mollified in his tone and manner.
"Which he had a perfect right to do. You proposed to rob him of the sum of two hundred thousand francs; and you invite him to become a prisoner on board of your ship in the capacity of a hostage for the payment of the money of which you propose to rob him."
"What is the use of arguing the question with him, Captain Scott?" interposed Louis, who retained his place in the ranks. "His position is absurd, and the fellow is a fool as well as a knave."
"I have distinctly stated that my claim is to be indemnification for the injury done to my noble master," replied the pirate, in reply to Scott's last remark. "I do not propose to rob you."
"Call it blackmail then, if you please."
"I do not know what that means."
"Mr. Belgrave has nothing to do with your claim. He has not insulted or assaulted your ignoble master; and, in United States dialect, you 'have taken the wrong pig by the ear.' To come back to first principles, I have nothing more to say," added Captain Scott, as he turned his back to the claimant.
"I have something more to say," returned Mazagan, bristling up with anger again. "My boat is unarmed; but I have not come up here without being prepared to meet you. I wish to be fair and just, and I will state the truth to you."
"I don't believe you know how to do it!" exclaimed Scott.
"I would not irritate him any more than is necessary," said Louis in a whisper.
"I have lost all patience with him," replied the captain; and his manner indicated that he spoke the truth.
"You will find before you have done with me that I can and do speak the truth, Captain Scott. When I made my first attempt to obtain satisfaction for my noble master in the Archipelago, I failed because your large ship was armed with cannon, and she disabled my felucca. When my noble master offered me the command of the Fatime, to be used in carrying out his wishes, I stipulated that she should be armed with two twelve-pounders, with a supply of ammunition. I may add that I have served as an officer in the Turkish navy. Now, Captain Scott, I have nothing more to say from this boat, and the next time I speak it will be with twelve-pounders; and my last word is that the Fatime will not go out of this bay till she leaves with Mr. Belgrave on board of her."
"Adieu!" shouted Scott in mocking tones.
"Do you suppose the villain spoke the truth, Captain?" asked Louis.
"Very likely he did, though he is not in the habit of doing so," replied Scott, laughing; but he was accustomed to put the best face upon an awkward situation.
The boat was pulling away from the Maud, and the danger of an attack was removed for the present. Mazagan appeared to be urging his men to pull with all their might, and they were doing so. He evidently had a purpose before him, born of his failure to accomplish anything by his visit to the Maud.
It seemed to be incredible that this man could be sane and sensible to make such a proposition as he had put forward; and doubtless it was done to clothe piracy in a more seemly garb than it usually wears. It was simply ridiculous on the face of it, with no imaginable foundation for the preposterous claim advanced.
Mazagan went on board of his steamer, and a few minutes later a cloud of black smoke began to pour out of her smokestack. Captain Scott had already ordered Felipe to put his furnaces in order for quick time. At the indication given of the firing up of the enemy, he went to the engine-room himself. Don was at work on the fires; and he gave Felipe directions to get up all the steam possible, and to prepare to run the Maud at the greatest speed she had ever attained.
Then he went to the pilot-house, and did not appear to be inclined to talk even with Louis. He went to work upon the chart which included Khrysoko Bay, called Pifanio on some maps, and studied intently for a considerable time. It was clear to all on deck that he had something in his head, and it was believed that he was preparing to meet the boastful threats of Captain Mazagan.
"Well, my darling, what is to be the next scene in the comedy?" asked Felix, as he seated himself by Louis in the bow.
"I don't know, Felix; but whatever it may be, Captain Scott is evidently getting ready to play his part in it," replied Louis, still watching the captain through the open front windows of the pilot-house.
"They are making the steam sizzle below, and I suppose the captain has ordered this to be done. By the powers of mud! Do you mind that?" exclaimed the Milesian, pointing to the Fatime.
"What of her?"
"Don't you see that she has a gun run out on her port side? She had just thrown open the port when I spoke," replied Felix.
"Then the pirate spoke the truth for once," added Louis.
"He said the vessel had been armed with two twelve-pounders, and we have not even one. I suppose she has the other on the starboard side. If she had half a dozen of those playthings she might do something."
"She may do a deal of mischief with two of them if they are well handled," suggested Louis.
"She can't use but one of them at once, and she will have to come entirely about before she can do anything with the other. Her top-gallant forecastle isn't big enough for them, as the Guardian-Mother's is for hers. I am not much scared yet, my darling."
"Neither am I, Flix; but I think this is about the tightest place we have been in since we came across the Atlantic."
"Captain Scott will arrange the affair all right. If I were a sporting-man, I would bet on him yet," protested Felix.
"But while we are not scared, you know that it is possible for one of those guns to put a shot through our boiler, rip out the engine, or tear a big hole in the plates of the Maud," added Louis.
"We can plug the shot-holes—I believe that is what they call it."
"We have not a single one of the old man-of-war's-men of the Guardian-Mother on board who can tell us what to do in case of accident."
"But we won't croak, whatever else we do. If we are to be sent to the bottom of this bay, we will go down with the best grace possible," added Felix, who was certainly in as good humor as ever he was, in spite of the brass gun that protruded at the side of the Fatime. "Do you suppose Captain Scott knows about that twelve-pounder?"
"He appears to be very busy; and I doubt if he has looked at the enemy since he went into the pilot-house," replied Louis. "I think I had better tell him that Mazagan spoke the truth about his guns."
The young men might well have been excused if they had been intimidated at the situation as it was now presented to them. That the Maud was to be the mark for the cannon of the enemy looked like a settled fact; but no one seemed to be at all excited or nervous. It is true that all of them had been in several fights. They had fought the fishermen in the Canaries, the smugglers at Gibraltar, the Greek pirates in the Archipelago, and the brigands at Zante. They had had some experience of danger, but they had never come into the presence of great guns before. They were to face these on the present occasion; at least, they were prepared to do so.
Before Louis could reach the pilot-house, he saw the captain standing at the wheel, and heard one bell in the engine-room on the gong. It was evident that he was ready to carry out his plan, whatever it was; for he was not expected to announce it. Felix observed the Fatime and her twelve-pounder, whistling, "Just before the Battle, Mother."
AN EXPEDIENT TO ESCAPE THE ENEMY
Captain Scott had directed Morris to heave up the anchor before he buried himself in his study of the chart in the pilot-house, and to do it in such a manner as not to attract the attention of the Fatime's people. It was not a very heavy anchor that was required for a craft of the size of the Maud, and it had been done very easily and quietly.
Louis went into the pilot-house, where the captain was behind the wheel by this time. He was gazing intently at the conic rock which rose from the water a cable's length ahead of him, off a point on the main shore. When he brought the little steamer in to her anchorage in the morning, the lead had been kept going all the time, and he had noted the soundings on the log-slate at his side. It was now dead low tide, and the last sounding had given fifteen feet.
"I suppose you have noticed a change in the appearance of the Fatime, Captain Scott," said Louis, as he took his place opposite him.
"What change? I haven't glanced at her. I don't like the looks of her, for she stirs up bad blood in me. I have been trying to be a saint like you, Louis, and it is the most difficult enterprise in which I ever engaged," replied Scott, as he directed his attention to her. "I don't see any change in her."
"Don't you see that gun sticking out through her bulwark?" asked Louis.
"I see it now, but I had not noticed it before," answered the captain. "Then Mazagan was not lying when he said that his vessel had been armed since he took command of her. I suppose I ought to be frightened at the appearance of that twelve-pounder, poking its muzzle out the side of the vessel; but somehow I am not a bit scared," said the captain, with a broader smile on his face than usual.
"But twelve-pound shot are not agreeable missiles to have plumped through the side of the Maud."
"Perhaps not; but the lively little craft is built of extra strength, and she can stand a few of them. I am more concerned about the speed of the Fatime than I am about her guns. Of course she has another gun on her starboard side."
"If Mazagan had consulted me in regard to the placing of them, he could not have arranged them to suit me any better. But her speed is of more consequence than her guns."
"I judge from that, that you intend to run away from her," suggested Louis.
"Louis," said Captain Scott, looking at his companion with a very serious expression for him, "there is a recording angel hovering over and around me all the time."
"I suppose every fellow has one near him, to make a note of all his thoughts and actions, though we don't often take notice of his presence."
"I believe all that, and that we shall be held responsible for all we do and say, and even for what we think," replied Scott.
"A fellow has to keep a guard over his thoughts, for they are the foundation of his actions."
"But you are taking a higher flight than I am, Louis, and we will overhaul your idea some other time, when there are no twelve-pounders near," interposed the captain, as he glanced at the enemy. "My recording angel is not one of the sort you are thinking about; though, metaphorically speaking, I believe in those to whom you allude. If my winged spirit, so constantly near me at times like the present especially, were to materialize, he would present the photograph of Captain Royal Ringgold."
Louis could not help smiling as he imagined the angel described; and he thought the dignified commander made a rather odd-looking ethereal being.
"I am not making fun of the idea, Louis; the commander seems to be close aboard of me when there is any doubtful question to be decided by me as captain of this craft," continued Scott. "He is looking at me, and writing down all I do and say, ready to hold me responsible for everything when I meet him again. He is bigger and more present, so to speak, just now than ever before. If he knew the situation here at the present moment, it would half worry the life out of him, though he would be as dignified as ever."
"You have made a picture of your sense of responsibility; and I am glad you feel it so keenly," added Louis.
"This is a tight place for a young fellow like me, and I want to do my duty faithfully. If I should follow out my natural, inborn inclination, I should pitch into the Fatime, and open fire upon her officers and crew with all the rifles and revolvers we could muster. But I don't do that sort of thing now. I am not the same fellow I was when I came on board of the Guardian-Mother. Now I shall run away if I get a chance to do so."
"I think you are wise, Captain Scott," added Louis.
"Whatever my recording angel sets down for or against me, he shall not write that I tried to get into a fight with that pirate," said the captain with a great deal of emphasis.
"You know something about her speed, for we had a little trial of it in the Strait of Gibraltar."
"We did not beat her in a straight run, and we escaped from her by manoeuvring and the aid of shoal water," the captain explained. "I depend upon the same kind of assistance to get out of the present scrape."
"Then you have a plan in your mind, Captain Scott?" asked Louis.
"I have. I shall do the best I can to get away from the pirate; but we may not succeed. I have no plan of this bay, only the general chart, on which but a few soundings are given. We may be driven into a corner where we shall have to see what virtue there is in our firearms, though I hope not."
"If we are compelled to fight, I am confident that every fellow on board will stand by you. I shall for one; for I heartily approve the platform on which you stand, Captain Scott," said Louis, giving him his hand.
"I thank you, Louis, with all my heart. You make me stronger than I was before," replied Scott, as he took the offered hand, and warmly pressed it.
The Maud was going ahead at only half speed, blowing off her extra steam; for she was in condition to make the best effort of her existence. Morris and Felix were at the bow, wondering what those in the pilot-house found to talk about so long. The water was extremely clear, as they had seen it in the Bahamas, and they were watching the bottom, composed entirely of rocks. Morris occasionally thrust down a long-handled boathook whose length he had measured, and it gave him thirteen feet about every time.
With her bunkers full of coal as they had been when she left Alexandria, the Maud drew twelve feet of water, and by this time she had reduced it six inches. She was approaching the shore, and she could not continue much farther. Scott did not explain his plan in detail, and only said that he intended to escape if he could. He had a theory in regard to the formation of the bottom of the bay, which had twenty fathoms of water at a distance of a mile from the shore.
He had a theory in regard to the subject which was by no means a novel one, that the bottom of the sea was similar in its features to the surface of the land. If the face of the country was rugged and uneven, so was the bottom of the sea near it. On Cape Arnauti the hills rose to the dignity of mountains, and some of the soundings at the entrance of the inlet were over a hundred fathoms, which confirmed his theory in its application to this particular locality.
Otherwise stated, Captain Scott believed that if all the water in the bay could be suddenly dried up, the bottom of it would present the same irregularities as the shore. Doubtless his theory was correct in regard to the great oceans. Islands are only the tops of submarine hills and mountains rising above the surface of the water.
The captain steered the Maud directly towards the shore, while the steamer was making not over five knots an hour. He kept one eye on the rocky cone on the starboard hand, which was an elevation on the enormous ledge of half an acre.
"Where's the bottom, Morris?" he called to the first officer when the steamer was abreast of the cone.
"Thirteen feet down," returned Morris.
"Heave the lead on the port hand, Flix," added the captain very quietly; and he seemed to be still in a brown study.
"Mark under water two," reported the Milesian.
"Give the depth in feet now."
"Thirteen feet, short."
"Keep the lead going."
For about a quarter of a mile farther Scott kept the Maud moving in the same direction, with no change in the reports of the soundings. The great ledge could still be seen from the windows of the pilot-house; but suddenly the color changed to a darker hue. At this point the captain threw the helm over to port, and changed the course from south-west to north-west, a full quarter of a circle. The soundings were continued, and for some time the reports were of deeper water.
Louis had nothing to do on the forecastle, and he returned to the pilot-house, where he stationed himself at the door on the starboard side, where he could look down into the clear water as the others were doing. The ledge still presented the same appearance; that of a smooth surface, though with many seams and protuberances upon it.
"You seem to have found a channel inside of the ledge, Captain Scott," said Louis, after he had watched the indications for some time.
"I thought there must be some kind of an opening on this side of the ledge; for on the shore there is a strip of land half a mile wide covered with trees. The channel is all right here; but I would give up all my chances of being appointed to the command of the Guardian-Mother within the next ten years, to be assured that it extends out to the deep water outside the bay," replied Scott, turning around to look at his companion, and thus showing that there was a cloud on his face.
"Don't you believe that it extends the whole length of the ledge?" asked Louis, who could not fail to see the shadow of anxiety that hung over the expression of the young commander.
"It is no use to believe or disbelieve in a thing you know nothing at all about," replied Scott, as Louis placed himself at the side of the wheel opposite to him, so that he could see his face. "Do I believe it rains in New York City at this moment? What is the use of expressing an opinion about a matter upon which you have no material to base an opinion?"
"Correct, Captain!" exclaimed Louis, laughing. "Many people make fools of themselves by doing just that thing; but your recording angel never does it. I did not know but you had the means of knowing something about it."
"None whatever; there is no law of nature I know of that requires the channel to reach through to deep water. But there is one circumstance which leads me to fear it is 'no thoroughfare' to the deep water."
"What is that, Captain?"
"The present attitude of the Fatime."
"She does not appear to have changed her position or her looks since she ran out that twelve-pounder."
"That is just it!" replied Scott. "If he really intends to bag Mr. Louis Belgrave as his game in this hunt, as I have no doubt he does, he is not going to allow me to carry him off in the Maud through this channel without doing some kicking and some barking with his twelve-pounders. He remains there as quietly as though he had you in his cabin already. Mazagan is a sea-captain, and probably has spent most of his life sailing in these waters. I am afraid he knows more about this channel than I do, or has a more detailed chart of this bay than mine."
The Maud passed the cone, and continued on her course for a short time longer. Half a mile more would take her into twenty fathoms of water.
"It would look very hopeful, Louis, if the Fatime were only doing her best to overhaul us in a chase; but she is like an alligator sunning himself on the water, she don't move a muscle," said the captain.
"Well, if we have to go back, we shall still have the chance of a race before us," suggested Louis.
"I hope so," added Scott.
"Only hope so?" queried Louis.
"That's all," answered the captain, with something like despondency in his tones and expression.
"Twelve feet and a half!" shouted Morris with emphasis.
"By the mark two! Twelve feet!" shouted Felix.
"Eleven and a half feet!" said Morris.
"Eleven feet!" yelled the Milesian.
Captain Scott rang one bell on the gong to stop her, and then three more to back her. The boat was lowered into the water, and only seven feet of water could be found half a cable's length ahead of the Maud. She could go no farther in this direction.
THE BATTLE FOUGHT, THE VICTORY WON
Whatever doubts Louis had in the first instance about Captain Scott's management of the defence of the Maud, he now believed that he honestly and sincerely desired to escape from the difficult and trying situation without an encounter with the pirate. He had feared the temptation to make a hero of himself would lead him into a conflict with the enemy when it might be avoided.
Without "showing the white feather," he had conducted himself with quite as much prudence as resolution. He had done his best to escape from the bay without any fighting. Before his reformation he was generally "spoiling for a fight" when there was any dispute or difficulty; but on the present occasion he had done his best to avoid one.
He had tried to do just as he believed Louis, his model in morals and conduct, would have done if he had been in command of the Maud. The hearty approval which his mentor had expressed of all he had done so far afforded him intense satisfaction, and he was sure that Captain Ringgold could find no fault with his management up to this moment.
"Here we are, Louis; and, so far as my plan is concerned, we are euchred. It is a failure," said Captain Scott, as he took a survey of the surroundings, which remained precisely the same as they had been from the beginning.
"Through no fault of the plan or yourself, Captain. If there was no channel here to deep water, of course you could not pass through it," replied Louis. "You have done everything you could."
"I have been asking myself if I was to blame for getting into the trap; for we certainly are in a trap," continued Scott. "I followed the instructions of Captain Ringgold to the letter; and when I brought the Maud to her anchorage by the ledge, the pirate was not in sight, and I knew no more of what had become of him than I did in regard to the Guardian-Mother."
"You have no occasion to censure yourself for anything," replied Louis. "You have obeyed your orders, and our present difficult situation is the result of the non-appearance of the ship. Don't blame yourself, Captain Scott, for not a shadow of an imputation can rest upon your conduct."
"Thank you, my dear fellow. I hope I shall get out of this bay without forfeiting your generous approval," added Scott.
"Here we are, Captain, as you say, and it looks as though we were in a bad scrape. All we have to do is to turn our attention to the manner of getting out of it. If there were any reason to reproach yourself or anybody else, we have no time to attend to that matter. What can be done next?" demanded Louis, rousing his energies to face the difficulty.
"What we do next depends mainly upon what the Fatime does; and she isn't doing anything," replied Captain Scott, apparently roused to new exertion by the burst of energy on the part of his companion in the pilot-house. "I have no doubt Mazagan intends to make an effort to get possession of our millionaire as soon as he has the opportunity; but he will never succeed unless he knocks the Maud all to pieces with his twelve-pounders, which I don't believe he can do, Louis. You have comforted me so effectually, my dear fellow, that I begin to think it is time for me to do something of the same sort for you."
"I don't feel the need of comfort and consolation yet," said Louis quite merrily. "I am not at all alarmed; and what I say is not braggadocio."
"If the Maud is wrecked by the guns and sent to the bottom, we still have the whole island of Cyprus open to us," added the captain.
"To come down to the hard pan of business, allow me to ask a foolish question or two, and you may laugh at them if you please. What is the Fatime waiting for? Why doesn't Mazagan proceed to carry out his threat to capture me?" asked Louis.
"For the simple reason that he cannot; and the question calls for a review of the situation," replied the captain, as he took from his pocket a paper on which he had drawn a diagram of the position of both vessels, with the shape of the bay, the ledge, and the soundings so far as they were known. "Here is the Maud," he continued, making a small cross on the paper at the point in the inside channel where she had come to the shoal water. "There is no way to get out of this place except that by which we came in."
"I understand all that; for we have the shore on one side of us and the ledge on the other, and the channel is not deep enough to permit us to go ahead," added Louis.
"That is our position. The Fatime lies in deep water at least a mile from us. She is a steamer of four hundred tons, and she must draw at least fifteen feet of water; for both of these steamers were built where they put them down deeper in the water than they do in our country. The pirate would take the ground anywhere near the ledge, and she could not come into the channel by which we reached this point. Therefore, she can do nothing; and her guns would not hit us a mile distant, if they would carry a ball as far as that. You can see why she can do nothing yet a while."
"But the tide is rising, and we now have an hour of the flood," suggested Louis.
"But the tide is rising for the Fatime as well as for the Maud."
"There was nine feet of water on the ledge at low tide, and there will be twelve feet at high tide."
"That will not be till nine o'clock this evening. But even if it were now I should not dare to undertake the task of piloting the Maud over the ledge; for I know nothing about the soundings on it except on the south edge. That would not do. We must get to deep water by the way we came in here," said the captain very decidedly.
"A shot from the pirate!" shouted Felix at this moment, as he noted the flash.
A moment later the report came to the ears of all on board, and the gun-made noise enough to startle a timid person. All watched for the ball, and saw it strike the water about half way between the two vessels.
"Bully for you, Mazagan!" exclaimed Felix. "You fired at the water, and you hit it."
"He is only trying his gun, and he will do better than that after he gets his hand in," said the captain. "The piece was depressed too much to prove what it would do if properly aimed."
"They are getting up the anchor!" shouted Felix a couple of minutes later, after he had brought his spy-glass to bear upon the pirate.
"She is evidently going to do something," said the captain, who had taken his usual place at the wheel, while Louis was on the other side of it, where both had remained after the steamer stopped.
"What do you suppose Mazagan intends to do now?" asked Louis.
"I have not the remotest idea, except that, in a general way, he will try to keep us shut up in this channel. For that reason I do not propose to remain here any longer;" and he rang the gong to go ahead.
The tide must have risen six or eight inches by this time, increasing the depth in the channel to that extent. Scott had taken the bearings very carefully when he came in, and he soon rang the speed bell. The Maud proceeded at full speed till she came to the turn in the passage, where the captain rang to stop her, in order to take an observation.
The Fatime had not yet got under way, and she appeared to be having some difficulty with her cable or anchor. As soon as the Maud had lost her headway the port gun belched out another flash and cloud of smoke. The Maud was at about the same distance from the pirate as when the latter fired before, and Scott watched with interest for the result of the discharge. The solid shot plumped into the water half a mile from the mark, just as though it had been dropped from some point overhead.
"I don't know much of anything about gunnery, except with four-pounders on a yacht; but that last gun was elevated so that we know about the range of her pieces," said the captain. "It is less than half a mile, and her shots would not do much damage at more than half that distance."
"She has weighed her anchor, and started her screw," reported Felix, who was still watching the enemy with the glass.
Scott rang the gong, and the Maud went ahead again. At the same time he directed Felipe to be ready to give the steamer her best speed.
"Another shot!" shouted Felix.
This one was discharged from her starboard gun, as she came about; but its range fell considerably short of that of the other piece. The Maud was still in the channel, and the ledge could be seen through the clear water on the port hand; what the soundings were on the starboard hand had not yet been demonstrated. The steamer was moving at her ordinary speed. The Fatime had turned her head to the south; and, though she was still nearly a mile distant, her engine gong could be heard when it rang for the vessel to go ahead.
The pirate soon changed her course, with the apparent intention of "cutting across lots," in order to reach the Maud. A hand was heaving the lead, indicating that Mazagan was not sure of his soundings. She went ahead on the new course not more than the eighth of a mile before she came about, showing that the depth of water was not satisfactory to her commander.
"If the tide were not rising, I should know better what to do; for we might go back to the angle in the channel, out of the reach of the guns, and remain there till the morning tide, and then work out into deep water," said Captain Scott, after he had observed the movements of the enemy for a couple of minutes. "But with two feet more water, the Fatime can go at least up to the verge of the ledge, and that plan would not work anyhow."
"Another gun!" cried Felix, as he caught the flash.
The enemy was a little nearer than before, but the shot fell hardly less than half a mile from the Maud. Mazagan had "swung to" in order to fire this shot, but resumed his course at once. Scott desired to gain some time by leaving the channel, and heading to the south-east. Morris was sounding with his boathook, and reported only thirteen feet when the Maud began to move in that direction.
"Twelve feet and a half!" shouted the first officer a little later.
"This won't do," said Scott, shaking his head. "The water shoals to the southward, and all we can do is to face the music."
"What do you mean by that, Captain?" asked Louis.
Scott made a couple of crosses on his diagram, and passed it to his companion.
"The cross on your left is our present position near the outlet of the channel," the captain explained. "On the port we have the ledge, and we can't run over that. On the starboard the water is too shoal for us. We can go neither to the right nor the left."
"Therefore you must run dead ahead."
"Precisely so, or right into the guns of the enemy."
"Couldn't you retreat up the channel again?" asked Louis; and it began to look to him as though "the end of all things had come;" and it even appeared possible that he might be captured, after all.
"Heave the lead, Flix!" called the captain, without answering the question.
"And a half two!" reported the Milesian.
"That means fifteen feet," said the captain. "The Fatime could come into this position now, or at least within an hour. After we had run as far as we could go up the channel, we should hardly be more than four hundred and fifty feet from her, and she could batter the Maud to pieces at her leisure. We must face the music. That is our only safety, if there is any safety anywhere."
"I am with you, Captain Scott. But we are taking all the shot, and giving none. I am not a nonresistant in such a situation as this," said Louis. "We can't run away, and we must fight!"
"I am glad the suggestion comes from you, Louis," replied Scott. "Morris, bring out your company of riflemen! You will act as sharpshooters, and pay particular attention to the bridge and pilot-house of the enemy."
"Ay, ay, Captain!" returned Woolridge.
Louis left the pilot-house to join the ranks. Don came up from the fire-room, and Morris led his force to the hurricane deck, which commanded the best view of the enemy. By this time the Fatime was within the eighth of a mile of the Maud. Her engineer was forcing her to her best speed; but she was coming head on, and could not use her broadside guns without swinging to, which Mazagan seemed to be unwilling to do, as it caused considerable delay every time it was done.
She was coming in ahead of the Maud, and her starboard gun would soon be available at a distance of not more than twenty yards. The work of the riflemen on the upper deck was evidently having its effect, and one man had been seen to fall on the bridge of the pirate.
Suddenly the helm of the Fatime was put to starboard, and the steamer presented her broadside to the Maud. The gun was discharged then, and the shot struck the house on deck of the little steamer, tearing its way through the galley. Scott, perhaps maddened by the crashing boards behind him, put the helm to port. Felipe was driving the engine to its full power, and the bow of the Maud struck the broadside of the Fatime, crushing in about six feet of her plates. Then he rang to back her, and the little steamer went clear of the disabled pirate.
THE CATASTROPHE TO THE FATIME
If the strength of the little Maud was never fully tested before, it was done on the present occasion; and the construction and material of the Fatime at the same time. The story of the manner in which the Guardian-Mother had run into and made a hole in the side of the Viking had been many times repeated on board of the ship while the "Big Four" were on board of her; for this affair had interested Scott more than any other item of her voyage.
The young captain had done at this time precisely the same thing that Captain Ringgold had at another; and the blow had not been given by accident on either occasion. When at the distance of sixty feet from the Maud, the pirate had swung to and discharged her starboard gun, the shot from which had passed through the galley. She was under full steam; her port gun was no doubt all ready, and another turn of the wheel would have enabled her to send another shot through the Maud.
To Captain Scott it was the critical moment of the conflict. Another ball from the enemy might go through the boiler or the engine, or disable his beloved little craft in some other manner; and he did what seemed to be the only thing he could do for the salvation of the Maud and his ship's company. He had disabled his vindictive enemy.
Up to the moment when the Maud struck the decisive blow, the five "sharpshooters," as Scott had called them, had used their rifles; but the people of the Fatime had taken refuge under her top-gallant forecastle, or behind whatever would afford them shelter from the bullets, and not many of them appeared to have been hit. Besides, the situation was altogether too novel and exciting for the party to act with anything like coolness, and the smoke from the twelve-pounder concealed the enemy at the most critical moment. They had discharged the rifles at random, rather than with careful aim at each shot.
The moment the collision came, the voice of the captain called the party to the main deck; for the battle appeared to him to be ended. The enemy could not board the Maud, for she had backed at least fifty feet from the disabled steamer; but all hands were needed there in case they attempted to do so with their boats, of which she had one on each quarter.
"Don!" shouted Scott, as soon as the rifle-party appeared on the forecastle, and while the little steamer was still backing.
"On deck, sir," promptly responded the second engineer.
"Go below forward, and see what damage has been done to us," added the captain. "Flix, heave the lead!"
However it may have been with the others on board of the Maud, the young commander was in full possession of all his faculties, in spite of the tremendous excitement which must have pervaded the minds of all on board of the little craft. His first care was for the Maud, and he looked all about him to ascertain what mischief had been done. He sent Pitts to the galley to report on the effect of the shot there.
"And a quarter seven!" reported Felix.
This was the first mark on the chart outside of the shoal line from one to two miles from the shore. The captain now turned his attention to the condition of the Fatime. Louis had gone into the pilot-house to receive any orders the commander had to give him. The collision had been a surprise to him. It had not occurred to him that Captain Scott would resort to such an extreme measure, though he had hinted at something of the kind early in the morning.
"I suppose we may consider the battle as ended, Louis," said Scott, as the other took his place on the opposite side of the wheel, where he could see out of the front window on the port.
"I should say that it was decidedly ended, and in the most decisive manner," replied Louis, though his thoughts were not a little scattered and confused by the exciting events of the last few moments. "What next?"
"If the pirates undertake to board us with their boats, we must be ready to repel them," replied Scott.
"Board us! Why, the water is pouring into that hole in her side as through a mill-sluice!" exclaimed Louis.
"But they are lowering their boats; and it remains to be seen what they intend to do with them."
All the hands on board of the Fatime appeared to be Moors, for they were all dressed in Oriental costume. By this time she was letting off steam with a tremendous racket. The crew were casting loose the boats at the quarter davits. If there was an English engineer on board of her, he had clothed himself in Moorish costume, for no one in a European dress could be seen.
"She is settling in the water," said Louis, as he observed the condition of the disabled vessel.
"In a word, Louis, she is going to the bottom!" exclaimed Captain Scott. "Do you see anything of Mazagan?"
"I have been looking for him, but I can't make him out," replied Louis.
By this time one of the boats was in the water, and the men were crowding into her without any order or method in their movements. No one appeared to be in command, and every one was acting for himself. There must have been a couple of officers besides the captain; but no one exerted his authority. The other boat was soon in the water, and all who had not found a place in the first one crowded into her, some of them jumping overboard in their haste to save themselves.
The first boat shoved off from the side of the Fatime, and all the people of the Maud watched it, some of the firing party seizing their rifles, and preparing to use them, to ascertain what the pirates intended to do. It contained ten men, as Morris counted them. The four men at the oars gave way as soon as it was clear of the vessel, but the head of the boat was directed to the shore.
"Those villains have had fighting enough, and I don't believe they will give us any more trouble," said Captain Scott, when the boat was fairly in motion for the shore. It was evident enough that they could do nothing to save the steamer, and they had abandoned her. The other boat presently came out from the farther side of the vessel, and it contained only seven persons, from which it appeared that the Fatime's ship's company consisted of only seventeen men, unless some of them had been killed or wounded, and left on board.
"This looks like the end of the Fatime, and I don't believe she will give us any further trouble in our voyage, wherever we may go," said Captain Scott, while all hands were watching the passage of the two boats to the shore.
"But why don't she sink?" asked Louis.
"Though that is a big hole in her side, the most of it was above water in the first of it, and the brine did not flow in very rapidly; but she is settling very fast now, and it is a question of only a few minutes with her now," replied the captain, as he rang three bells upon the gong in the engine-room to back her. "We are rather too near her if she makes much of a stir-about when she goes down."
"Help! Help! Save me! Save me!" came in rather feeble tones from the wreck of the Fatime.
At the same time the form of a man was seen staggering to the end of the bridge.
"That's Captain Mazagan!" shouted Felix from the forecastle.
"Mazagan!" exclaimed Louis.
"Shall we do anything for that man, Captain Scott?" asked Don, coming to the front windows of the pilot-house. "If we do, it must be done in a hurry, for that craft is going to the bottom in less than two minutes."
"Of course we shall save him," replied the captain, looking at Louis.
"Certainly, we must save him!" added Louis with an earnestness that impressed his companion. "Don't let us forget that we are Christians at such a moment as this! How shall it be done, Captain? Give your orders, and count me in as the first volunteer."
"Get the boat into the water, Morris! Be lively about it. Louis and Felix will go in it to save this man if they can," replied the captain.
The boat on the hurricane deck was a small and light one, and the first officer had it in the water almost in the twinkling of an eye. Louis and Felix leaped into it, and in another instant they were pulling for the wreck. It was a smooth sea, and the distance was not more than fifty feet; for the captain had rung to stop the backward motion as soon as the cry from the survivor reached his ears.
"Mind your eye, Louis!" shouted Scott, as soon as they were in motion. "She may go down at any moment! When I shout to you, back out as fast as you can! I will watch her, and let you know when she is likely to make her last dive!"
"Ay, ay!" returned Louis.
"I beg you, Captain Scott, not to let them go any farther," said Don very earnestly. "She is settling fast by the stern, and she will go down by the time they get alongside of her. She has settled so that the hole is more than half under water."
"That is so!" exclaimed Scott, as he glanced at the stern of the wreck. "Hold on! Hold on!" he shouted with all the force of his lungs. "Back out!"
The two rowers obeyed the order promptly, and backed water with all their might; and it was fortunate that they did so, or they would have been caught in the swirl of the sinking vessel. Before they had retreated twenty feet, the stern of the Fatime suddenly went down, with a mighty rush of the water around her to fill up the vacant space inside of her, and then she shot to the bottom, disappearing entirely from the gaze of the beholders, as well in the two boats of the ship's company that had abandoned her, as of those on board of the Maud.
"That is the end of the pirate!" exclaimed Captain Scott, with a sort of solemnity in his tones and manner, as though he regarded the fate of the steamer as a retribution upon her for the use to which she had been applied.
"Amen!" responded Don at the window of the pilot-house.
The burden of his responsibility began to weigh upon his mind as Captain Scott witnessed the last scene of the drama. But his thoughts were recalled to the present moment when he saw Louis and Felix, the commotion of the water having subsided, pulling with all their might back to the scene of the catastrophe.
The little boat had not been far enough away from the turmoil of the water to be unaffected by it; and for a moment the puny craft had rolled and pitched as though it would toss its passengers into the bay. A skilful use of the oars had saved the boat from being upset, and Louis and Felix began to survey the scene of the uproar as soon as the waves ceased the violence of their motion.
"Mazagan has gone to the bottom with her!" exclaimed Felix, as he looked about the various objects that had floated away from the wreck as it sank to the bottom.
"Perhaps not," replied Louis. "He was on the end of the bridge, and he may have floated off and come to the surface. Give way again, Flix!"
"There he is!" shouted the Milesian, as he bent to his oar with his boatmate. "His head just up out of the water, as though he had just come up from the bottom."
A few more strokes brought the boat to the point where Felix had seen the head just as it rose again. He rushed to the bow, and seized the drowning man by the collar of his vest, for he wore no coat, and dragged him to the middle of the boat. He seemed to be exhausted or insensible, for he did not speak. With a great deal of difficulty they labored to get him in; but the boat was so small that they did not succeed at once.
"All right, Flix; hold him where he is, if you can. The captain has started the Maud, and she will be here in a moment," said Louis. "Pass the painter of the boat under his arms, and make it fast if he is too much for you, though it will be but for a moment."
"I can hold him in the water easily enough, my darling. I wonder what made him come up," replied Felix.
"I suppose he was lighter than the water. But here is the Maud."
The little steamer ran alongside the tender, and Don and Pitts leaped into it. By the order of the captain they drew the insensible form into the boat, which was then taken on board with the victim in it. It was shoved aft to the cabin door, in which Morris had made up a bed for the sufferer.
The engineer and the cook proceeded to examine him. In his right shoulder they found a bullet-wound, which he must have received while on the bridge, doing his best for the destruction of the Maud. The cook declared that it was not a very bad wound, and not at all likely to be fatal. Pitts brought some brandy from the medicine-chest, and gave him a small quantity of it.
This stimulant revived him, and then he wanted to talk; but Pitts would not permit him to do so. He remained with him, while Louis and Felix went forward to report to the captain, and Don went to the engine-room to tell Felipe the news.
THE CONSULTATION IN THE PILOT-HOUSE
Felipe Garcias, the first engineer of the Maud, had filled the same position on board of her when she was owned and used by Ali-Noury Pacha. He was a young man of eighteen now, a native of the Canary Islands, and a very religious Catholic. The orgies conducted by His Highness on board of the little steamer, not to say the crimes, had disgusted and revolted the pious soul of the youth, and he had rebelled against his master.
For this he had been abused; and he had run away from his employer, departing alone in the Salihe, as she was then called. After an adventure with the unreformed Scott, the "Big Four" had been picked up at sea in an open boat, and conveyed to Gibraltar, where the Fatime had followed the Guardian-Mother from Funchal.
Felipe quieted his conscience for taking the steam-yacht by causing her to be made fast to the Pacha's steamer, and leaving her there. At that distance from his home the little craft was an elephant on the hands of the owner, and he had sold her for a nominal price to one who had disposed of her to the present owners. Don had been himself an engineer on board of the Fatime; but he had been threatened when he criticised affairs which occurred on board of her, and he was ill-treated. He escaped from her at Gibraltar, and had been employed by Captain Ringgold in his present capacity.
"The Fatime has gone to the bottom, Felipe," said Don as he entered the engine-room. "There will be no more defiance of the laws of God and man on board of her, for the present at least."
"God is good, and God is just," replied the chief engineer; but he did not understand English quite well enough to comprehend the remark of Don, who proceeded to repeat and explain it.
Captain Scott still remained at the wheel, and had not left it for a moment. He was thinking all the time of what he had done, and wondering what his recording angel had written down in regard to his action in the greatest emergency of his lifetime.
"Mazagan is wounded in the shoulder; but Pitts thinks it will not prove to be a fatal wound," said Felix as he went into the pilot-house.
"Has he come to his senses?" asked the captain.
"He has; and he wants to talk."
"I should like to hear him talk; for there are some things about this affair which I do not yet understand."
"The cook says he must not talk yet, and he is taking charge of the case."
"Where is Louis?"
"He was looking on, and doing what he could for the wounded man. Do you know, Captain Scott, I believe it was the ball from his rifle that struck Mazagan!" said Felix, with an impressive expression on his face.
"Nonsense, Flix!" exclaimed Scott. "How under the canopy can you tell who fired the shot, when five of you were firing at the same time?"
"Within my knowledge Louis has defended himself with a revolver in his hand three times, and in every one of them he hit his man in the right shoulder," replied Felix. "He never fires to kill; he is a dead shot, and he can put the ball just where he pleases every time. If Mazagan had been shot dead, I should know that Louis did not do it."
"I remember that the fellow in the Muski was hit in the right shoulder," added the captain.
"That disables a man without making a very dangerous wound. But, Captain, darling, don't whisper a word to Louis that he did it, for it might make him feel bad."
"I won't say a word; but ask him to come to the pilot-house, for I want to see him, Flix," said Scott, as he had had no opportunity since the catastrophe to speak to the one he regarded as the most important personage on board of the Maud.
In fact, but a very few minutes had elapsed since the event occurred. Those on the wreck had made haste to escape before they should be carried down with it, and they were still pulling at no great distance from the Maud for the shore. Louis appeared at the door of the pilot-house very promptly; for he imagined that his presence before the wounded man was not agreeable to him, and that it emphasized in his mind the disastrous failure of his expedition to this island.
"What next, Louis?" asked the captain with a smile on his face; for he believed he had stolen his friend's first question "after the battle."
"That is for you to decide, Captain Scott, and I intend to avoid any interference with the duties of the commander," replied Louis.
"But when the commander asks for advice it may be given without offence," suggested Scott. "We have just got out of the tightest place in which we have ever been placed, and our experience hitherto has been boy's play compared with this day's work."
"That is very true; this is by all odds the most serious affair in which we have ever been engaged," answered Louis, as he seated himself on the divan.
"I am not going to beat about the bush for a moment, my dear fellow; and before we talk about anything else, even of what we will do next in this trying situation, I want to say that I am very much troubled in my mind in regard to the consequences of what I have done," continued Scott, as he seated himself by the side of his friend and model on the divan.
"I don't wonder that you are troubled; so am I, for I think we may well regard what has happened as an extraordinary event," added Louis.
"I say what I have done; for I purposely abstained from asking advice of you or any other fellow, after I had decided what to do, even if there had been time for me to consult you. In other words, I took the entire responsibility upon myself; and there I purpose to have it rest."
"Of course you had no time to ask the opinion of any fellow, even if it could have been of any use to you."
"I believe I did the best I could. The shallow water at the south of us prevented me from running away in that direction, as I tried to do, and the only avenue out of the difficulty was directly ahead of the Maud."
"I understand it all perfectly, for I could measure the situation from the upper deck," said Louis.
"I headed the steamer to the east. Then came that shot through the galley. The Fatime was coming about in order to bring her port gun to bear upon us. She could not well avoid hitting us if she had tried to do so, we were so near. If the ball went through the engine or the boiler, both of which were exposed to the fire, that would have been the last of us. Half of us might have been scalded to death; or, at the best, Mazagan might have knocked the Maud all to pieces at his leisure after he had disabled the vessel."
"I might have hoisted a white rag, and surrendered, permitting the pirate to take you on board his steamer; but if I had done that, I could never have held up my head again, and I could never have looked my recording angel in the face to tell him I had let the pirate take Louis Belgrave out of the Maud."
"It would not have ended in just the way you have pictured it, Captain Scott," added Louis with a smile. "I think enough of the ship's company would have stood by me to enable me to make an effectual resistance, and Mazagan might have got a bullet through his left breast instead of through his right shoulder."
"Every fellow would have stood by you, my dear fellow, as long as you stood yourself," replied the captain. "If Mazagan had disabled the Maud, he could have retired out of reach of our rifle balls, and knocked a hole through the vessel with his guns, and sunk her. Then he would have had nothing to do but to pick up his millionaire, and ransom him with double the sum he demanded in Cairo."
"Perhaps you are right, Captain Scott; but I think we need not discuss what might have been. We know what is; and this is the problem with which we have to deal."
"Bluntly, Louis, I desire to ask you whether you approve or disapprove what I have done as the captain of the Maud?" continued Scott rather nervously for him.
"I wholly and heartily approve of what you have done!" protested Louis with emphatic earnestness, and without an instant's hesitation.
"My dear Louis, give me your hand!" exclaimed Scott, springing to his feet; they clasped hands in front of the wheel, and the captain seemed disposed to extend it to an embrace. "You have removed all my doubts and anxiety by what you said and the manner in which you said it. If you approve my action, I believe the commander will do the same."
"While I do not accept your view of what might have followed if you had done otherwise, I believe you did the best thing that could be done. If the end had not come just as you say, it would have amounted to the same thing. Let us leave the subject now, and come back to the question you asked me when I came in. What shall be done next?" said Louis.
"I don't think we can do anything but wait here till the Guardian-Mother comes. If we go to sea, she will not know where to find us," replied Captain Scott. "What do you think of it, Louis?"
"I am decidedly opposed to remaining where we are. Though you and I may agree that what has been done is all right, the officers of the Turkish government in authority on this island may not be of that opinion. There is no town, or anything like one, in sight, and I have not been able to make out even a single house or habitation of any kind."
"It is an exceedingly rough-looking country on shore. There are nothing but mountains and forests to be seen. The nearest town put down on the chart is more than ten miles distant, though there may be a village or houses behind those hills on the shore to the south of us. If any of the inhabitants had heard the three shots fired by the pirate, they would have shown themselves before this time."
"But I think we had better be farther from the island. When the Guardian-Mother comes, she must take the same course which we followed yesterday," persisted Louis. "I quite agree with you that we must remain in this vicinity. It is almost as calm outside the bay as it is inside. How is the water off the cape?"
"There are eight fathoms half a mile from the point. I think you are right, on the whole, Louis; for we don't care to meet any Turkish officers of any kind," replied the captain, as he rang the gong to go ahead.
The sound of the bell brought all hands except Morris, who had volunteered to stay with the patient in the cabin, to the forecastle. Pitts had gone to the galley to ascertain the condition of his wares after the passage of a twelve-pound shot through his quarters. The stove had not been struck, but it had knocked about everything else into the utmost confusion. He was arranging things as well as he could; for it was now five o'clock in the afternoon, and time to think of getting supper.
"How is your patient, Pitts?" asked Louis, coming to the door.
"He is doing well enough, though he has a good deal of pain. I suppose the ball is still in his shoulder, and he will not be much better till that is removed, Mr. Belgrave," replied the cook. "We are under way again, sir."
"We are running out to the cape to wait for the Guardian-Mother," returned Louis, as he joined the others on the forecastle.
The two boats from the wreck had made a landing on a point near the conic rock on the ledge. The course of the Maud took her within half a mile of them; for she passed over the outer extremity of the ledge.
"They are making signals to us," said Felix to the captain. "There goes a white cloth on a pole."
A little later a boat put off pulled by four men, with another in the stern sheets. The captain rang to stop the screw; for he was curious to know what the men wanted.
"Let the boat come alongside," said he.
There was not force enough to do any mischief if the Moors had been so disposed. Don was sent for to do the talking; but the first person Louis saw was Jules Ulbach, who had been Mazagan's assistant in his operations. Louis talked with him in French. His first statement was that his employer had been shot in the shoulder, and had gone down with the wreck. The spokesman for the steamer did not deem it advisable to contradict this statement.
Then Ulbach begged for a passage to some port from which he could return to Paris. A few words passed between the captain and Louis, and the request was peremptorily refused. The Frenchman begged hard, declaring that the island was a desolate place, and he should starve there. The men had come to beg some provisions, as they had not a morsel to eat.
"Give them all they want to eat," replied the captain when the request was translated to him.
"The Guardian-Mother!" suddenly shouted Felix at the top of his lungs.
All hands gave three rousing cheers, to the astonishment of the Frenchman and those in the boat. Pitts came out of the galley to ascertain the cause of the demonstration, and he made out for himself the bow of the ship passing the point of the cape. A plentiful supply of food was put into the boat, and the Maud continued on her course.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE GUARDIAN-MOTHER
The appearance of the Guardian-Mother in the offing was hailed with rejoicing by every person belonging to the Maud. Off on an independent cruise as the boys were, and "when the cat's away the mice will play," it would not have been strange if they had enjoyed their freedom from the restraining presence and influence of the commander; but no such feeling pervaded the minds of the ship's company.
Not even the captain of the little steamer had felt that he was in possession of any unusual liberty. It might have been otherwise with him and his companions if the threatening presence of the Fatime had not been a serious damper upon them. As it was, the voyage to Cyprus had resulted in a tremendous event.
Whatever Scott had said to Louis Belgrave about knocking a hole in the side of the pirate, as Captain Ringgold had done with the Viking, had no bearing whatever upon what he had actually done when the critical moment had come in the encounter. He declared rather lightly that he would proceed to this extremity if he were the captain of the larger steamer; but it had not occurred to him to do such a reckless deed with the little Maud, when his opponent was a steamer of four hundred tons.
Captain Scott and his companions had expected to see the Guardian-Mother long before she appeared. The commander might naturally have felt some anxiety in regard to the safety of the Maud in the gale of the night before, though it had not been a very severe storm; and Scott and Louis supposed he would make all possible haste to be near her. Instead of that, she was fully ten hours behind her, even with her superior speed and more weatherly ability. They could not explain her delay, and it was useless to attempt to do so.
"What do you suppose will become of those fellows from the pirate, Captain Scott?" asked Louis, looking at the people from the Fatime on the shore.
"I haven't the least idea, and I don't think I shall trouble my head with the question," replied the captain. "We have given them provisions enough to keep them alive for several days, and they can make their way to some town. I don't consider their condition as at all desperate. If Captain Ringgold thinks it necessary, he will do whatever he deems advisable."
"I don't consider those men as pirates, or hold them responsible for the acts of Captain Mazagan," added Louis. "They had to obey his orders, and I doubt if they had any knowledge of his intentions."
"I did not see a single person, as well as I could make them out in the boats, who looked like an Englishman. Probably the foreign engineers retired from the Pacha's service when Mazagan took command of her. They knew the meaning of piracy. At any rate, the steamer was not officered nor manned as she was when we saw her at Gibraltar. Don says her cabin was magnificently furnished, as he had seen through the open door, for he had never been into it. But he is certain that she is an old steamer, built for a steam-yacht, but sold by her owner at a big price when she became altogether behind the times."
"She could not have been very strongly built, or the Maud would not have knocked a hole in her so easily," said Louis.
"It has been repeated over and over again that the Maud was constructed of extra strength when she was built. Who was that man of whom she was purchased?"
"Giles Chickworth, a Scotchman," replied Louis, as he recalled the character.
"He declared that she was the strongest little vessel of her size that ever was built. Don examined the inside of her bow immediately after the blow was struck, and I have done so since. She has not started a plate or a bolt. But then we had all the advantage. We struck the pirate fairly on the broadside with the part of our craft where she is the strongest, and where there could be no give or spring. It does not seem so strange to me as I think it over."
"Pitts," called the captain a little later, while they were still watching the approach of the ship, "how is your patient?"
"About the same, sir; I don't see any change in him," replied the cook. "But he will have the doctor to-night, and that will put him in the way of getting well."