"Bob! Are you there?" cried Carey, for there was a chilling silence below.
"Ay, ay!" came in half-smothered tones, and this was followed by the sound of someone turning out of a bunk. The next minute Bostock's bloodstained face appeared, with a tremendous swelling on the brow, the result evidently of a blow given with marlin-spike or club.
"Bob!" cried Carey, wildly, as he caught the old sailor's hand.
"Master Carey!" cried the injured man, stumbling out as if giddy. "This is a good sight, dear boy."
"Which of the blacks struck you that cowardly blow?"
"Nay, nay, it warn't one of the black fellows, my lad, but Old King Cole himself."
"But how? why—what for?"
"Don't you puzzle a chap with too many questions at once, my lad, for my head's a bit swimming."
"Oh, Bob, my poor fellow! Here, Jackum, a bucket of water to bathe his head."
"Bucketum waterum? Iss!" cried the black, darting off, and Bostock seated himself on an upturned barrel.
"Let's see," he said; "how was it? I forgot, sir."
"Never mind that, then. Where's the doctor?"
"The doctor, sir?" faltered the old fellow, to Carey's agony, "I dunno. Ah, I 'member now. Comes to me in the galley, he does."
"No, sir; Old King Cole. 'Come here,' he says, 'and get me something out o' the forecastle.' I goes with him, gets to the hatch, and he says, 'Fetch me up that noo axe as is down there.' 'Right, sir,' I says, and I'd got down three steps when I sees his shadder across me as if he was lifting something, and I turns sharply to see a club in his hand just lifted up. I shies and dodges, but I was too late; down it comes dump on my forrid, and I dropped down into the forecastle."
"Bob!" cried Carey.
"That's true enough, sir, and then I seemed to go to sleep with every idee knocked out o' me. I just recklect thinking I should be better in a bunk, and I lay there dreaming like till you calls me, and that woke me up. What's o'clock, sir?"
"Time we bestirred ourselves, Bob, to find the doctor. Bob, he must have served poor Doctor Kingsmead the same."
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
Poor Bob Bostock's head had seemed as much swollen mentally as it had been externally, but these words on the part of Carey gave a fillip to his power of thinking, and he stared at the lad with his mouth open and, instead of being stupefied and weak, he grew rapidly stronger.
"My eyes and limbs, Master Carey!" he gasped; "you don't mean to go and say such a thing as that, do you?"
"I do, Bob, but look here," he went on, keeping to a whisper; "try and be cool and take it all as a matter of course. Everything may depend upon our taking our troubles calmly. We must not let the black fellows think we are upset over it."
"I see, sir. Yes, that's right. You mean if we show the white feather these fellows'll come and pluck us."
"Something of the kind, Bob. There, go on bathing your head and keep friendly with Black Jack."
"Right, sir. I see. Chuck dust in their eyes?"
"Here goes, then, sir, and I'll begin with water and make out that I think it all a big lark."
The old sailor knelt down before the bucket and began to bathe his forehead and the tremendous swelling, while Black Jackum looked on anxiously. The next minute Bostock raised his head, saw that the second black was looking at him solemnly, and he made a hideous grimace at him—an extremely hideous grimace, for his swollen and disfigured forehead helped to make it so.
The black stared, with the opalescent whites of his eyes forming rings around his irides. Then, grasping the fact that it was done as a joke, he burst into a loud guffaw, slapped his thighs and cried, "Bunyip— bunyip!" bounding away the next moment, for Bostock sent a handful of water splashing all over his face.
Black Jackum roared at this, and Bostock made a feint of splashing him, to the other blacks' great delight.
Jackum dodged and ducked his head, Bostock keeping up the threatening till Jackum protested.
"No—no—no," he cried. "Let feel um," and he stretched out his hands.
"All right," cried Bostock, ceasing his watery threats; "feel then."
"Feel cookie," said Jackum, solemnly. "Cookie brokum?"
The black's fingers were applied with delicate touch to the old sailor's head.
"Gently, old soot-box," said Bostock, quietly submitting; "it feels as if it was red-hot."
"No brokum," said Jackum, turning sharply to Carey and catching at the boy's wrist. "Feelum."
Carey felt the injured head gently, and was not a bit the wiser, save that he could not feel the movement of fractured bones, so he nodded back to Jackum and repeated the black's words.
"No brokum," he said, and the black laughed, caught hold of Bostock's loose neckerchief, slipped it off, and tied it round the injured place, laughing and nodding as he turned the old sailor round and pointed out the bandage to Carey. "Big Dan hit um," he said.
"That's right, sonny," cried Bostock, laughing. "I say. Big Dan, drinkum, drinkum," and he made a pantomimic gesture with his hand as if tossing off a dram.
Black Jackum gave a sharp glance aft to make sure that his white chief was not on deck, and then, grinning with delight, he imitated Bostock's action with his doubled hand as if drinking.
"Rum—rum," he said, and then, with a wonderful display of the imitative faculty, he went through a clever pantomime, turning his black face into a grotesque copy of Mallam's, as he made believe to pour rum out of a bottle, drinking again and again, smiling in an imbecile manner at first, and then beginning to grow fierce, while his companions squatted on the deck, nodding and enjoying the performance.
In a few seconds Jackum's countenance changed, his eyes began to roll, his face seemed puffed out, and a brutally savage look came over it. He growled like a wild beast, turned on his black companion suddenly, and kicked him over, ending by jumping on him softly, to the black fellow's great delight. Then he seemed to run amok among a number of imaginary people, pulling out his boomerang, pretending to cock it, and shooting in all directions, ending by making a furious rush at Bostock, making believe to drag him to the hatchway, where he took out his club, struck one tremendous blow and clapped down the trap-door. Then he took up a bottle and glass from where they did not stand on the deck, drank two glasses and, after pretending to drain the bottle, threw it overboard, and, with his eyes half shut and a horribly brutal look, went slowly to the side, settled himself down, and went to sleep.
The whole performance did not take a minute, and then he was back beside Carey.
"Big Dan," he whispered, with his eyes twinkling with the same delight which infused his companion, who rolled on the deck in the excess of his mirth.
"Yes, that's it," said Carey, impatiently. "Big Dan. Drink. Bad. Now, Jackum, look here."
"Look?" said the black. "What look?"
"Listen, then. Find doctor."
"Find doctor. Where doctor?"
"Yes," said Carey.
Jackum turned to his companion and asked him, but it was evident that the man knew nothing, and Jackum stood for a moment or two thinking.
"Doc-tor," he said at last, making a significant gesture downward. "Sleep um," and he shut his eyes and laid his face upon his hand.
"No," said Carey.
"Jackum go see."
He started to run aft, and Carey and the other two followed, the black fellows, who were busy picking and cleaning the game they had brought back, paying no heed.
As they reached the cabin entry Carey anxiously caught Jackum's arm.
"Mind," he whispered, pointing downward. "Big Dan. Shoot, shoot!"
The black nodded, and dropped upon his face, to crawl up and cautiously thrust his head inside and listen, drawing it back again directly, shutting his eyes, puffing out his face and uttering a low deep snore.
The next moment he was in again, crawling like a huge black slug head first down the stairs, till they saw only the soles of his feet, and then they disappeared, the other looking on grinning as he squatted down.
"It's not snoring, Bob," whispered Carey. "There is something terrible below. I think the doctor is dead, after wounding Mallam badly."
"Oh, don't say that, my lad; but hullo! what's wrong with your chesty? You keep putting your hand there."
"I don't think it's much," said the boy. "Never mind now. It hurts badly now and then. Mallam shot at me."
There was a sharp report, a rush, and quite in a little cloud of smoke Jackum bounded out on the deck, whipped his club out from where it was stuck in his girdle behind, and made several vicious blows at nothing in the direction of the cabin stairs, his teeth bared, and a savage look of rage in his eyes.
Then, clapping his left hand to his ear, which was bleeding, he whispered:
"Big Dan shoot."
He turned to his fellow, who examined the wounded ear, the lobe of which was split. Then the injury was pinched together for a few moments, a little grass bag was produced from somewhere, and a pinch of clay-dust applied to the wound.
This done, Jackum grinned again.
"Big Dan there," he whispered.
"But the doctor?" whispered Carey, excitedly.
"Jackum find," was the confident reply, and with a quick nod he bounded to one of the open saloon skylights, lay down, and edged himself through the slit, let his body go down, hung by his hands a moment or two, and let go, dropping into the saloon without a sound.
Carey and Bostock stood listening for some minutes, but there was no sign made, and though the boy lay down on the deck with his ear close to the opening he could hear nothing; and at last he rose and made for the cabin entrance, to kneel down and listen there to the low, deep groans uttered from time to time.
It was horrible, and in spite of the pain he was in Carey was ready to risk everything and rush down to put an end to his suspense.
Just when this was unendurable he felt a light touch upon his shoulder, and turned to find the second black pointing upward to the quarter-deck.
Carey went up at once, and found that Jackum was just squeezing himself edgewise beneath the hinged opening of the saloon skylight.
He grinned with satisfaction.
"Find doc-tor," he said, fumbling in his girdle. "Big Dan shoot— shoot."
"Not killed—mumkull?" whispered Carey, in a voice full of the anguish he felt.
"No, no, no. Baal mumkull. Big Dan shoot. Doctor broke."
"Where, his head?" said the boy, with a sigh of relief, as he touched his own.
"Baal head. Leggum," said the black, touching his thigh; and then from out of one tightly clasped hand he took a roughly doubled-up piece of paper, holding it out to the boy with a peculiar look of awe in his countenance.
"Ah!" cried Carey, joyfully, as he snatched at the paper, a leaf evidently torn out of a little pocket-book. "Here, Bob," he said, with his voice trembling, as he opened out the scrap to display a few words hastily pencilled in straggling characters, and he read:
"Thank Heaven you are alive. That ruffian fired at me, and the shot divided an artery. I am too weak to stir. Take care. He is somehow injured and lying at the bottom of the cabin stairs groaning. I am dreadfully weak and faint, but I managed to stop the bleeding."
"Three cheers for that," said Bostock, softly. "This is bad noos, Master Carey, but there's a deal o' good in it, though; now, aren't there?"
"Good?" cried Carey, with a look of horror.
"Yes, sir, good," said the old sailor, stolidly. "You see, he says he's stopped the bleeding."
"Yes, yes, that is good, certainly," said Carey, with his hand pressed to his aching breast.
"Then there's something better, sir; he says Old King Cole's somehow injured, and lying at the bottom o' the cabin stairs groaning, and if that aren't a blessing in disguise I should like to know what is."
"And we don't know how he is."
"No, sir, we don't know how he is, but he must be pooty bad, or else he wouldn't go on shooting at everybody who goes nigh. I wish, though, he'd ha' hurt old Jackum a bit more."
"Might ha' made the nigger so savage that he'd ha' gone down and finished him off. I aren't a murd'rous sort o' man, Master Carey, but he tried to kill me, only he didn't hit hard enough, and I get thinking that there old ruffian won't be perfeck till he's quite finished. Well, sir, what's to be done? You're skipper now as t'others is both wounded. I should say first thing is for you to rig yourself out with a revolver and a gun as I've got waiting for you ready, and, as it used to be when I was aboard a man-o'-war, you just read your commission out loud to the crew. They won't understand it, but that don't matter; we Jacks never did. Next you'd better make me your first lieutenant as well as cook, and then go and knock over a nigger or two just to let 'em see you mean business."
"Don't trifle, Bob," cried Carey, angrily.
"Nay, sir, I aren't trifling; I mean it. You've got the whip hand o' they niggers, and they 'bout worships you. Just you bounce about a bit and let 'em see what you're made of, and then give 'em your orders what to do."
"Yes, what would you do first?"
"Well, sir, if it was me I should send Jackum and a couple more—no, I wouldn't send jackum, because he's not a bad sort o' fellow, and we couldn't spare him. He'll be a splendid go-between, because you see he understands the language, and it'll be better to tell 'em what they're to do than knocking it into 'em with a club. You send three of 'em down below, and let 'em put the old king out of his misery."
"What! Kill him?"
"Ay, sir, he must be badly hurt and half dead. Such chaps as him aren't a bit o' use in the world."
Carey looked at the man with so much disgust painted in his face that Bostock shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, p'raps that would be a bit strong, sir, but one must do something, and it won't do to leave him down there shooting at everyone who goes nigh."
"Let's get to the doctor first," said Carey.
"Nay, sir; I aren't going to let you go down them stairs and be shot again, whether you're my officer or whether you aren't," said the old sailor, stoutly.
"I am not going down that way. We must get axes to work and enlarge the opening through the skylight," said Carey.
"Ah, now you're talking sense, sir. Of course, but you'll have a revolver?"
Carey nodded, and Bostock hurried off, to return in a few minutes without the objects of which he had been in search.
"Well, where are the arms?" cried Carey.
"Aren't got 'em yet, sir. Them chaps want me to light a fire and cook the thumping big snake they've got, and it's a horrid idee, sir. The oven'll never be fit to use again. They made signs that if I didn't they'd light a fire on the deck, and one chap began rubbing his fire-sticks to get a light."
"I can't spare you, Bob," cried Carey, anxiously. "What am I to do? Here, I know," said the boy, rising to the emergency. "Here, Jackum!"
The man, who had been watching him intently, sprang to his side on the instant, looking ready to obey the slightest order.
"Tell your boys to take the snake over to the sands and light a fire there to roast it. They can make a feast."
The black nodded, as if fully endorsing the plan. "Jackum go too."
"No, stop, I want you. Send all the others."
"Jackum want eat."
"You shall have plenty to eat," cried Carey, and the man grinned, spoke sharply to his companions, who ran with him forward, and, as the pair watched them and listened, they heard quite a babel of excited voices rise, and Carey's heart sank.
"They won't go," he said.
"Oh, won't they, sir," said Bostock, with a chuckle. "You'll see directly."
The old sailor was right, for directly after they were seen carrying the carefully skinned and cleaned serpent to the side, where they lowered it into the boat, into which they crowded till it was full, four of them perching on the outrigger.
Then with a loud shout the heavily-laden canoe was pushed off, the paddles began to splash, and Jackum came back.
"All gone 'way," he said, rather solemnly, as if disappointed at not being able to join the banquet. "Jackum want eat."
"Yes, of course. Come along. Here, Bob, what can you give him to eat?"
The black's eyes sparkled, as he turned eagerly to Bostock.
"What yer like, Sooty?" said the latter.
"Bob gib ticky-ticky; Pick Dilly. Much cake."
"Look ye here," said the old sailor. "You love damper?"
"Iss. Much ticky-ticky."
"And I'll light a fire and roast something for you to eat by-and-by."
"Jackum no like roast somefin. Cooky big bird."
"Yes, I'll cook a big bird for you. That do? Come along then."
A minute or two later Jackum was seated with a big damper cake and a basin of treacle between his legs, smiling all over his face wherever it was not coated with molasses, and that was naturally about the mouth. When they saw him fully occupied Carey and Bostock turned to where the arms were hidden, and soon after each was provided with a revolver and gun loaded, and with an ample supply of cartridges.
"Now, Bob," cried Carey, excitedly, "the Chusan is once more our own. If we fastened up the gangways we could keep all those blacks off."
"What about Jackum?"
"He would obey me now."
"Dessay he would, sir, but what about Old King Cole?"
Carey gazed at him with wrinkled brow and was silent for a few moments, for the question was hard to answer, and he gave it up.
"Get an axe," he said.
This-was soon done, and they repaired to the saloon skylight, where Bostock leaned his gun against the erection ready for use if wanted, and began to use the axe.
At the first blow there was a crash of glass, followed by a revolver shot from the bottom of the stairs, when Bostock dropped the axe and seized and cocked his gun.
"The old un's at it, sir. Look out; maybe he's coming out."
"Fire at him if he fires at us," said Carey, excitedly.
"I'm a-going to fire at him, sir, afore he does," said the old sailor, sturdily. "See my swelled head, sir?"
"That's right, sir. Well then, 'cordin' to the rules of the game it's my first play this time, and yours too."
Carey was silent, and nothing followed the shot.
"He must be disabled, Bob?" whispered the boy. "Go on again."
Bostock struck once more, and there was another shot below, but this time the old sailor went on, striking again and again, beating out glass and dividing the cross pieces of wood to make an easy entrance for anyone to get down. But not a dozen strokes had been delivered before the black was once more at their side.
"Hullo!" cried Bostock; "you haven't eat all that damper."
"Jackum eat allum damper, allum ticky-ticky. Good!" cried the black, grinning.
"Well, I couldn't ha' done it myself in the time," said Bostock. "Here, lay hold."
He pointed to the partially demolished light, which the black seized and wrenched off, threw it down on the deck, and then, without hesitation, glided through, and dropped softly into the saloon cabin.
"You go next, Bob."
"Nay, sir, oughtn't you to order me on guard to shoot down the enemy if he comes on deck?" Carey nodded.
"Yes, keep watch," he said. "I'll go down." The way was easy enough now, and the next minute Carey was on the saloon table, from which he leaped to the floor, to face Jackum, who cried, eagerly:
"Doctor. Jackum know."
The black led the way to the captain's cabin, and there was a faint cry of delight as the boy sprang forward and let his gun drop against the locker, to grasp Doctor Kingsmead's extended hands.
"Oh, doctor, doctor!" he cried. "At last! at last! But how thin and white you look."
"Loss of blood, my lad. Ah, Jackum!"
For the black had crept close up to the berth and squatted down, gazing anxiously in the sufferer's face.
"Doc-tor mumkull?" he said.
"Killed? Oh, no, my man. I hope not for a long time yet."
"Mumkull—no," said Jackum. "Brokum?"
"Yes, broken if you like," and he pointed to the slit-up leg of his trousers and a large bloodstained bandage, tightly bound round.
"Who 'tick 'pear froo doctor leggum?" cried the black, springing up, with his eyes flashing and the look of war in his set teeth; and it was as if he wanted the name of the member of his pack, as he drew his club from behind, to shake it menacingly.
"No, no. Shot-gun," said the doctor.
"Ho! Big Dan?" whispered the black, and he pointed downward.
"Yes," said the doctor, and for a few moments his voice grew a little stronger. "Carey, lad, the cowardly ruffian must have been mad drunk this morning, for he came to me furious and foaming and accused me of encouraging you to set the blacks against him. I denied it, of course, and he grew more furious, using bullying and insulting language, till in my irritation I struck him, and he went away, while I began to repent, feeling how awkward our position was. But a few minutes later I had come to the conclusion that the time had arrived when we must strike for freedom, and I was looking longingly across the lagoon at where I could see you practising throwing the boomerang, and wishing you back. Then I turned to go forward and speak to Bostock, who was busy in the galley, when I saw that ruffian standing just outside the cabin entry, taking aim at me with a gun.
"I shouted and rushed at him, but he fired twice before I could reach him. I felt a tremendous blow on the leg, but I closed with him and we fell together, struggling down step by step to the saloon door, where I loosed my grasp and rolled in, to lie half insensible; but I heard the door banged to and locked on the outside. Then a deathly feeling of sickness came over me, and I lay wondering at the sounds I heard as of water splashing, as if bucket after bucket was dashed down to wash something away.
"That sound saved my life, Carey," said the doctor, after a pause, "for it seemed to revive me to a sense of what was wrong, and I crawled from the dreadful pool in which I lay, to tear a strip from the tablecloth and staunch the bleeding, before I fainted away, to be revived again by hearing a horrible crash as if someone had slipped upon the wet stairs. The door was nearly driven in, but the fall continued, and I could hear Mallam cursing horribly as he tried to get up, but only to fall back and lie silent for a time. I must have fainted again, but the desire for life was strong, and I forced myself to see to my injury. It's a horrible wound, Carey, and bled so that I thought it would never stop; but the bone was sound, and I was surgeon enough to tie the artery, and—and—"
His voice had been growing weaker and weaker, and now it ceased, the poor fellow lying with his eyes half-closed.
"Doc-tor go mumkull," whispered Jackum, but Carey made an angry gesture and, fetching water from the table, he moistened the wounded man's lips, and in a short time had the satisfaction of seeing him revive a little and in a faint whisper ask for a drink. Carey raised his head a little, and half a glassful was swallowed with avidity. This was reviving, and the doctor was soon able to press his young companion's hand.
"Where's Bostock?" he said at last.
"On deck," said Carey, promptly; but he said nothing about the old sailor's injury.
"Hah!" replied the doctor; "I can get better now. But what is the matter with you, my lad? Your voice sounds strange, and you keep one hand over your breast. What is it?"
"Oh, nothing much," said Carey, with a feeble attempt at a smile.
"Tell me," said the doctor, in almost a whisper; but there was a stern look in his eyes as he said, "I know. You have been overtaxing yourself. The old trouble has broken again."
"No, no," cried Carey, eagerly now. "I was on the cabin stairs seeking for you, when that old wretch fired at me, and I felt something strike me here." He pressed his hand upon his breast.
The knowledge that another was suffering seemed to renew the doctor's strength.
"Let me see," he said, more firmly.
Carey hesitated, but the stern eyes forced him to obey, and as he sat there with the last rays of the setting sun streaming into the cabin, he bared his breast, to show a great red patch as large as the palm of his hand.
"Spent or badly loaded bullet, Carey," said the doctor, faintly. "Painful, but no danger, lad. The skin is not pierced." He could say no more, but lay holding the lad's hand, while Jackum watched in the midst of an intense silence, till a shot suddenly rang out, just as the cabin was darkening.
"Hullo! What's that mean?" came in a deep growl from the top of the cabin stairs.
"Ahoy there!" roared Mallam. "Where's that there doctor?"
"You ought to know," shouted Bostock, every word in the silence of the gathering night sounding plainly on the listeners' ears. "Down below, with your shot in his limb."
"Curse his limb!" roared Mallam.
"Look ye here," said Bostock, in hoarse, stentorian tones, "I've got a double gun, double-loaded, in my fins, and I'm pynting down straight at you, my old beachcomber; and I tell you what it is, if you begin any of your games again I looses off both barrels and ends you. D'yer hear?"
"Yes, I hear, cooky. I won't fire any more. You must bring that doctor down to see to me. I'm wrecked."
"What's the matter with you?" growled Bostock; "too drunk to move?"
"No-o-o-o!" roared the beachcomber. "I fell down these cursed stairs and broke both my legs."
"Oh, that's it, is it?" said Bostock, coolly. "I was wondering what was the matter. Well, it'll keep you quiet for a bit."
"You send down the doctor, I tell you."
"He can't come, and if he could he wouldn't. I'll send some of your black fellows to come if you give up your pistols and gun."
"What!" roared Mallam. "I'm king here, and—here, you tell the doctor to come to me directly."
"Shan't," growled Bostock.
"Big Dan brokum," whispered Black Jackum.
"Yes," said Carey, "both legs."
"Black Jackum go and men'. No. Big Dan shoot um."
At that moment there was the sound of joyous shouting from the island, and the ruddy glare of a big fire played through the saloon window.
"Boy big eat corroborree," said the black, sadly. "Jack go eat snake? No. Big Dan not shoot, Jackum 'top men' both leggum."
"Ahoy, there!" roared Mallam, from the bottom of the stairs, "if that doctor aren't down here 'fore I count five hundred I'll fire down into the powder store and blow up the ship."
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.
"Master Carey, sir!" came through the broken skylight. "Hear that? Hadn't we better begin first?"
"Wait a minute," replied Carey, who was trembling with excitement, brought on by the responsibilities of his new position. "Let me speak to Doctor Kingsmead."
Bostock grunted, and the boy turned to the wounded man.
"Did you hear what this wretch said?" he asked.
The doctor pressed the hand which took his, but made no reply in his utter exhaustion, and Carey drew back uttering a sigh, as much from pain as anxiety.
"It's no use," he muttered, "there's no help for it. I've got to do it all."
"Big Dan go mumkull ebberybody?" asked Jackum, quietly, and as if it was all a matter of course.
"No, no," cried Carey, angrily. "I'd soon kill him."
"Ha!" cried the black out of the darkness, for it was night now, with the black's figure just visible in the flames from the shore. "No kill Jackum?"
"Not I," cried Carey. "Here, let me come by."
He thrust the black aside, and went under the broken light.
"Look here, Bob," he cried. "Can that old wretch blow up the ship?"
"Well, sir, that's what I've been thinking. It's all very well to say you'll do a thing, but it aren't always easy, you see."
"But is the powder magazine close by where he's lying?"
"That's what I want to know, sir?"
"Don't you know?"
"No, sir; and that sets me a-thinking, how can he know?"
"But you've belonged to the ship for years."
"Ay, sir, I jyned for the first v'y'ge."
"And you've seen her loaded."
"That's so, sir."
"And you don't know where the powder magazine is?"
"Well, sir, to speak quite fair and honest, I don't."
"Isn't that strange?"
"Sounds so, sir, but 'tween you and me I don't b'lieve there is any powder magazine. The old Soosan aren't a man-o'-war."
"No, of course not."
"She aren't got no great guns like we had aboard the Conkhooroar. What do we want with a powder magazine?"
"But there is a gun on deck."
"Tchah! A little brass pop-shot, to make signals with. The skipper had got some charges for her, and a few boxes o' cartridges in a locker; but I don't believe there's even the ghost of a magazine."
"Then it's all an empty threat, Bob."
"I don't say that, my lad, because though I never heard o' one there's room for half a dozen. All I say is, it aren't likely. Only I don't want you if we are blowed to bits to pull yourself together afterwards, and come and blame me."
"No fear, Bob," said Carey, speaking with some confidence now.
"You see, sir, that old ruffian says that he'll blow the old Soosan up, and it may be solemn truth, and same time it may be only gammon; but it makes a man feel anxious like and think o' our raft and the whale-boat Old King Cole come in, and think he'd rather be aboard one o' them than stopping here."
"Retreating to the boat, Bob?"
"Yes, sir, or else chancing it, and that last aren't pleasant. I think we ought to say, 'Look here, my fine fellow, two can play at that game o' yours,' and get a tin o' powder, put a bit o' touch paper through the neck, set light to it, and chuck it down the stairs and blow him to smithereens first."
"And explode the magazine ourselves if there is one?" cried Carey.
"Well, I ham blessed!" cried Bostock. "I never thought o' that! Anyone would think I was an Irishman."
"If I'm to take the lead now, Bob, I won't have any talk of murder like that."
"But it aren't murder, sir; it's on'y fair fight; tit for him before it's tat for us. Not as we need argufy, because it wouldn't be safe to try that game. Oughtn't we to take to the boat, sir?"
"How can we, Bob?" cried Carey, angrily. "You wouldn't go and leave the doctor?"
"Nay, sir, that I wouldn't. I shouldn't call a chap a man who'd go and do a thing like that. We should take him with us."
"Hoist him with ropes through that broken skylight! Why, it would kill him."
"Well, Jackum and me we'd carry him out o' the s'loon door, sir. We'd be werry careful."
"Pish! You know that the old ruffian commands the staircase, and he shot both Jackum and me when we were there. He'd riddle you both with bullets, and perhaps quite kill Doctor Kingsmead."
"Well, sir, he's riddling of me now, sir; I dunno what to say; on'y it don't seem nat'ral to stand still and be blown up in a splosion, when you might get away. Ha! I have it, sir. S'pose I get the boat round under the cabin window, and you and Jackum shove the doctor out and lower him down. What d'yer say to that?"
"Nonsense!" cried Carey, impatiently. "I don't understand wounds much— no, not a bit; but from what the doctor said I'm sure if we tried to move him he'd bleed to death."
"That settles it, sir, then; you and me's got to stay. But look ye here, Master Carey; they say it's best in a splosion to lie down flat till it's over. Ah, there he goes again. It's coming now."
For Mallam's voice was heard once more, roaring for Bostock.
"No; he will not fire the magazine till he has had another talk to you."
"Think not, sir? I were reading in the Mariner's Chronicle that pirates always blows up their ships when things go again 'em, and he's nothing better than a pirate, say what you will."
There was a savage roar from the beachcomber, and as Bostock hurried along the quarter-deck and descended to the cabin entrance two shots were fired in rapid succession.
"Big Dan go mumkull—kill a feller," whispered Jackum, as the exchange of words came to where they stood listening.
"Drop that! D'yer hear?" roared Bostock. "Drop it, before I come and finish you off."
"Yes; come!" snarled Mallam.
"I've a big mind to, you cowardly old thief. I want to pay you for that crack on the head you give me from behind."
"Come down, then, you sneaking hound. Where's that doctor?"
"Too bad to move, with your cowardly shooting."
"Wish I'd killed him," growled Mallam.
"You've bit your own ugly red nose off in revenge of your face. If you're waiting for the doctor to come and put you right you'll have to wait a couple o' months; and then if he's a bit like me he'll finish you off out of the way."
"Are you going to send him down?"
"No; I aren't going to send him down; but I tell you what I will do—if you don't hand up that revolver I'll pitch a lanthorn down alight so as to get a good aim at you, and then I'll give you two barrels o' this."
There was a few minutes' silence, and then the beachcomber began again.
"Send that Black Jackum down to me. Where's he been all this time?"
"Keeping out of your reach, you old madman," growled Bostock.
"You send him down."
As Carey listened it became plain to him that no matter how defective the black was in speech he understood pretty well every word that was said, for a firm sinewy hand was laid upon the lad's arm and the man said softly, "Jackum won't go. Want 'top 'long you. Big Dan mumkull Jackum."
There were a couple more random shots fired, eliciting raging threats from Bostock, and then the old sailor came back to the light.
"How's the doctor, sir?" he said.
"Good job too, sir," said the old sailor, with a sigh. "Wish I could go to sleep and never know what's going on. Come much easier to be blowed up when one didn't expect it. Wonderful how cowardly a man feels when he knows that there's a lot o' gunpowder as may go off any moment just under his feet."
"But you must see, Bob," said Carey, softly, "that it's only a bit of bragging. He can't blow up the ship."
"Think not, sir?"
"I feel sure of it."
"Ah, I wish I could feel like that, sir," sighed Bostock. "You wouldn't, though, if you come up on deck and heard how he's going on."
"I can hear every word, Bob, and so can Jackum."
"Jackum? Ah, I 'most forgot him. I say, sir, his brothers, or whatever they are, seem to be carrying on a nice game, over yonder. P'raps it's 'cause they feel that they're safe enough. They've got a thumping big fire, and they're dancing round it like a lot o' little children playing at may-pole. Seems to me, sir, that these here blacks grow up to be children, and then they makes a fresh start; their bodies go on growing like anything, but their brains stops still and never grows a day older. Hark, there he goes again."
"Yes, sir; you can hear him talking to himself as you stand at the top o' the stairs listening. He was at it when I was there, and he's at it again."
"What is he doing?" whispered Carey.
"Seems to me, sir, as if he's tearing a way through a bulkhead so as to get a clear opening to the powder barrels."
"If there are any," said Carey, sharply. "O' course, sir; that's what I mean. Hear that?"
Yes, Carey had heard that—a sharp cracking tearing sound as of wood splitting and snapping, and as the sounds continued it was easy enough for the listeners in the dark to imagine what was going on, and that the old beachcomber was preparing his mine.
"Here, Jackum," said Carey, in a sharp whisper.
There was a quick movement, and the black squatted beside the lad.
"You had better go ashore and join your men."
"Jackum men? Jackum boys."
"Yes, go and join them."
"Jackum 'top 'long o' Car-ee boy."
"No, it is not safe. You must go. Big Dan is going to shoot powder and kill."
"Big Dan shoot big gun; mumkull eberybody?"
"Yes; be off while you can."
"Car-ee boy come too?"
"No, I am going to stay here with the doctor."
"Jackum 'top 'long doc-tor too."
"But it is bad. Big Dan mumkull—kill. Shoot powder."
"Jackum don't care fig," said the man, nonchalantly. "Jackum baal want be mumkull."
"But you will be killed if you stop," said Carey, excitedly.
The black laughed softly.
"Jackum be mumkull, Jackum 'top? Car-ee no kill Jackum. Like Jackum lots. Give Jackum ticky-ticky."
"You don't understand," cried Carey. "Big Dan will kill us all if we stop."
"Hey? Big Dan brokum."
"Going to shoot. Powder—gun."
"Ho!" exclaimed the black, who seemed now to have some idea of there being danger. "Car-ee no 'top. Come 'long shore. Eat snake."
"No," said Carey. "You go; I must stop with the doctor."
"Doctor not go," said the black, thoughtfully. "Hole in leggum. Jackum won't go. 'Top 'long o' Car-ee."
"Better give it up as a bad job, sir," said Bostock, from the light. "He means he won't go away and leave you. They're rum chaps, these black fellows, when they take to a man."
"Because they won't leave me, Bob?"
"Then some white fellows are as queer, don't you think so?"
Bostock chuckled, but made no reply.
"Bob," said Carey, suddenly, "it is quite plain, isn't it, that we can't move the doctor?"
"Well, sir, I s'pose so."
"Then it is impossible for me to leave him. If there is an explosion I hope and pray that we two may escape."
"What about me, then, sir?"
"You will go to the boat directly with Jackum. I shall make him go."
"Right, sir, and wait in the boat till the ship blows up. And some day if I get away from here and reach Brisbane and your father comes to me and says, 'Where's my boy?' I ups and says, 'He wouldn't leave the doctor, sir, who was lying bad, having been shot; so me and a black fellow takes to the boat and rows half a mile away so's to be out o' reach o' the falling bits when the Soosan blew up as she did; and a werry beautiful sight it was.' Then he says to me, he says—Yah! I'm blessed if I know what he'd say; all I knows is that I aren't going to meet him; not me, my lad; I'd sooner have a blow up from the Soosan than one from him."
"Bob," said Carey, softly, "I wish I could reach up and shake hands with you."
"Well, so you can, dear boy," said the old sailor, huskily. "Thankye, my lad. Go and sneak away at a time like this? I'm made of a different bit o' stuff to that. I say, lookye here, Master Carey; I bleeve it's all flam and bunkum. He aren't got no magazine to fire, or else he aren't got no pluck to do it. There won't be no blow up, and we're a-going to face it with a bit o' British waller, eh?"
"Yes, Bob, we must face it," replied Carey.
"That's right, sir; then we'll do it comf'table and like men. Lookye here, my lad, you must be 'bout starving."
"Starving, Bob? I had not thought of it," said the boy, sadly.
"Then I'll think for you. I say you must have something, and so must I. Fellow's engine won't work without coal. Hi! Jackum! Something to eat?"
The black bounded to his side.
"Jackum want eat. Baal hab bit snakum."
"More you did, Sootie; but you shall have something better. Come along."
"Car-ee come 'long too."
"No," said Carey; "I'll stop here."
"Car-ee come. Doc-tor farss 'sleep. Big Dan brokum. Sit alonga long time. Baal fetch um too much drinking grog. Old man no good."
"Go along with Bob."
"Go alonga Cookie now?"
"Yes, and he'll give you plenty."
"Plenty eat. Jackum come back soon."
Bostock reached down his hand, but the help was not needed, the black springing up and rapidly making his way on deck, where he stood for a few moments gazing across the lagoon, stained blood-red now by the big fire; and he laughed softly.
"Black fellow eat plenty snakum. Jackum eat plenty now. Sit alonga self."
A few minutes later he was happily sitting on the deck by the galley "alonga self," eating half the overdone bird which Bostock had given him, while the old sailor had roughly prepared the most tempting part for his young companion and taken it to the saloon skylight.
"Here you are, Master Carey," he said. "Brought your coals. How's the king?"
"I have heard him groan several times."
"That's because he's low-sperrited, sir, because he didn't quite mumkull me and the doctor. But I say, sir, he's a long time blowing up the ship. Got it, sir? That's right! You'd better eat it in the dark, for fear he might crawl up a few steps if he saw a light, and want to pass the time practising his shooting. Now, no gammon, sir."
"What do you mean, Bob?"
"You'll eat that bit?"
"I don't feel as if I can."
"But you must, dear lad. It's to make you strong to help the doctor, and mebbe to shoot straight again' Old King Cole."
"I will eat it, Bob."
"Right, sir! That's British pluck, that is. How's your chesty now?"
"Very bad, Bob."
"Then sorry I am. Next time the doctor begins to talk you ups and asks him what he's got in his medsome chest as is good for it. I say, though, I s'pose it's no use to try and coax the doctor with a mossick of anything, is it?"
"Oh no, no."
"Not a cup o' tea and a bit o' toast?"
"Not now, Bob; he's sleeping calmly, and that must be the best thing for him."
"Right, sir. It's Natur's finest fizzick, as well I know. There, I'll go and have a snap myself, for it's the middle o' the night, and I haven't had a bite since breakfast."
There was silence then, and Carey thought the man had stolen softly away; so he was trying to keep his promise, though the first effort he made to partake of the food gave him intense pain. Then he started, for Bostock said softly:
"He's pretty quiet now, sir; I hope he aren't hatching any noo tricks again' us. Tell you what it is; I'm going down to him to-morrow with a mattress to see if I can't smother him down till I've got his shooting irons away. We shan't feel safe till that's done. My word! I should like to chain him up in the cable tier till we could hand him over to the 'Stralian police."
"Yes," said Carey, gravely. "Bob, that's the most sensible thing I've heard you say."
"Is it, sir? Then I'll go and give myself a bit o' supper after that. Are you eating?"
"I'm trying to, Bob."
"Trying's half the battle, sir. There, now I am off."
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.
The dreary hours crawled along, and it seemed to Carey that he was suffering from a long-drawn weary nightmare, made up of his own pain, a sigh or two at times from the doctor and restless movements, groans, and threats and cursings from the beachcomber.
It was a horrible night, for the boy, in addition to his other troubles, felt as if he were somehow to blame for the sufferings of the wretched man below.
Lying there in agony with broken legs! It was horrible, and the boy could not have suffered more if he had himself been the victim of the accident.
But there were breaks in the misery of that long dark night. Bostock was soon back, announcing that his head was two sizes larger than usual, but that he was all the better for his supper, and ready for anything now.
He told the watcher, too, that the black fellows ashore were still keeping up their fire, stopping probably to eat sometimes, but at others re-making the fire till it blazed again, and playing in the bright light at "Here we go round the mulberry bush."
But the little incident that gave Carey the most satisfaction was that soon after Bostock's return to his post at the skylight there was a soft rustling, a light thud on the floor, and directly after the black squatted down close by where the lad was seated, and, though he could not make out his figure, he felt sure that the Australian was watching him with the dumb patience of a dog.
"That you, Jackum?" he said, softly, and he stretched out his hand, to find it touched the black's rough head, which seemed to press itself into his palm.
"Iss. Jackum eat big lot. 'Top here now. Car-ee go sleep."
The boy sighed, and then there was silence till he spoke again.
"Will the black fellows come back soon?" he said, as he thought of the idea he had had about keeping them off.
"No come back. Go sleep roun' fire. 'Top all snakum eatum."
Twice over it seemed to Carey that he lost consciousness, though he never went fairly off to sleep, but sat there suffering terrible mental pain and the burning sensation in his chest as if he were being seared with a hot iron.
The night seemed as if it would never come to an end. Mallam had begun muttering hoarse threats again, and at last startled all into preparation for action by firing three times, each shot striking some place on the upper part of the staircase, and once shivering some glass.
Then he became quiet again, and it seemed directly after that Bostock said:
"The blacks' fire's out, sir, and the stars are beginning to get whitish. Be sunrise in less than an hour. I'll go and light our fire now, and as soon as the kettle boils I'll make you a cup of tea."
"Thank you, Bob," said Carey, huskily. "I shall be glad of that."
It seemed a long time to one suffering from a parched throat, and the pale light of dawn was beginning to steal in through the broken opening and the cabin ports, when there was the click of a teacup on the deck, and Jackum said softly:
"Cookey make billy boil. Car-ee tea."
Down went the tray with the refreshing cup on the deck, and Bostock thrust his head through the broken light.
"Master Carey, sir, ahoy! Three cheers, and another for luck. If ever there was a sight for sore eyes it's now. Sail ho, sir, not three mile out, lying just beyond the reef. A small steamer, dear lad, as must ha' seen the fire last night."
"Help at last!" panted Carey.
"Ay, my lad, they've kept their fires banked up, and the smoke's pouring out of her funnel and hanging to leeward like a flag."
"Iss. Ship come," said Jackum, who had bounded up and inspected the vessel. "Jackum fess all aboy. Car-ee going fight him?"
"No, no," cried the boy; "they must be friends," and, utterly worn out now, he broke down and hid his face.
"Don't do that, dear lad," whispered Bostock. "Keep it up a bit longer, for I must leave you now. Jackum and I must go off in the whale-boat and pilot them inside. Can't you keep it up just an hour more?" and the old sailor's voice shook as he spoke.
"Yes," said Carey, as his teeth grated together. "Go on."
"Right, my lad. I don't think there's anything to fear, but take my gun, and if that old ruffian does rouse up and crawl to the saloon door—'tarn't likely, or he'd ha' been here before, but I says it, my lad, because it would be your dooty, and you must—shoot, sir; shoot him. He aren't a human man, only a something in a man's shape; a murderer, that's what he is, and you must shoot him as if he was a wild beast. Now, Jackum, give him the gun, and come with me."
The black obeyed with alacrity, and a few minutes later Carey heard the faint plash of oars, and sat there in the utter silence, watching the doctor's pallid thin features, as he still slept deeply, and listening for the sounds from below which did not come.
It must have been close upon two hours before that silence was broken by the sound of voices, the grating of a boat against the steamer's side, and the trampling of feet on deck.
"Jackum backum," cried the black, as he dropped down, with his face shining with excitement.
"Ahoy there!" cried Bostock. "How goes it, my lad? Here we are. Boat's crew well armed, and we're going to have Old King Cole out before many more minutes are gone."
"Take care," cried Carey, excitedly. "Think of the danger. What are you going to do?"
"Roosh him, sir, somehow or another," cried the old sailor, "and I'm a-going first."
"What! He will shoot you."
"Let him try," cried Bostock, grimly. "I aren't forgot what he did to me with one of the nigger's clubs. I've got Jackum's here, and maybe I shall get its big knob home quicker than he can put in a shot."
Carey had no further protest ready, and he sat in agony, hardly realising that it was strange the various sounds had not awakened the doctor.
But his every sense was on the strain, as he listened to a sudden rush down past the saloon door, expectant of shot after shot from the beachcomber's revolver.
But no shot was fired, though a revolver was fast clenched in the old ruffian's hand.
There was, however, to be no hand-cuffing and carrying off to the justice of man, for the spirit of Dan Mallam the beachcomber had passed out that morning, as the old sailor said, with the tide.
The small steamer lying anchored close by in the lagoon had after a long and dangerous search at last achieved her purpose, having been despatched, with Carey's father and the captain and chief officer of the Chusan on board, in search of the wreck if it were still on the reef, and the meeting was a joyful one.
"I never could think you were dead, my boy," was whispered in Carey's ear; "and your dear mother always felt the same. I knew I should find you, and I have, thank God! thank God!"
"Car-ee's ole man?" said a voice just after, and Mr Cranford turned sharply round to stare at the shining black face.
"Yes," he said, frowning; "I am Carey's—er—old man."
"Me Jackum! You shake han'?"
"Next to Bostock and the doctor, father, my best friend," said Carey, eagerly.
"Then he is mine," said Mr Cranford.
"Here's a canoe of savages off from the island," shouted the captain of the Chusan from the deck. "Does this mean a fight?"
"Jackum boy come back," cried the black. "No shoot; all good boy. Jackum take you Big Dan island. Plenty shell, plenty copra, plenty old ship 'tuff. Big Dan mumkull. Jackum give all Car-ee now."
But no start was made for the other portion of the King's domain, for a few days were necessary in the way of rest for the doctor; and the captain of the Chusan and the mate had to satisfy themselves of the impossibility of getting the vessel off. During these days, though, there were busy times, for the specie the Chusan had been bearing was all hoisted out in safety and transferred to the smaller vessel.
Not much else was done save the taking on board of the pearl shells as the freight belonging to the doctor and Carey. The pearls were already in safety, and Bostock made a greater haul with the help of a chum and the blacks from the tubs ashore.
"Twice as many as the first go, my lad," said the old sailor, rubbing his hands, "and, I say, oughtn't you and the doctor to lay claim to what we're a-going to find?"
"No," said Carey, "and besides, we have not found it yet. If there is much worth having it will go, I should think, to the company that owns the Chusan. But we shall see."
Carey Cranford saw the great treasures in pearls, pearl shell, and valuables collected from wrecked vessels in the course of some twenty years, during which Dan Mallam had reigned paramount in a lonely island off the north-west coast of Australia, for Jackum piloted the steamer there in triumph, and looked proud of his achievement, while he pointed out everything he thought of value to Carey, and could not understand the lad's hanging back from helping himself to articles he did not want.
The steamer was nearly laden with valuable pearl shell and the boxes of pearls hoarded up by the old beachcomber, who was supposed to have escaped from Norfolk Island with a party of his fellows who had all passed away.
These must have been enough, with their insurance, to quite compensate the company for their loss. In fact, voyage after voyage was made to the Chusan and to Jackum's island during the following twelve months on salvage business, and with excellent results.
But we have nothing to do with that. It is enough to state that the boats on the night of the wreck had been carried in safety to a western Australian port; that the doctor rapidly began to mend; that Carey's injured chest was doctored by a sick man; and that Jackum wanted badly to follow the young adventurer when the time came for saying good-bye, and was only stopped by its being impressed upon him that he was King of Pearl Island now, and was to go on collecting till Carey came to see him some day on a voyage with his father, to trade for all his copra, shell, and pearls.
Jackum nodded and grinned.
"Get big lot. You come some day," he cried.
"Some day, Jackum, if my father will fit out a vessel."
"Iss," said Jackum. "No Big Dan. Killa feller. Mumkull eberybody. You come sit along Jackum. Jackum show Car-ee how fro boomerang next time. Ha, ha!"
The last Carey saw of him then was the tall black figure waving his boomerang as he stood up in his canoe, before showing his teeth and then hurling the weapon, to fly far after the retreating steamer, to curve up and return—to the canoe—not quite, for it dropped into the sea some fifty feet away, to be lost somewhere in the lovely submarine gardens of the reef along by whose side the steamer glided.
A fortnight later, with the doctor steadily gaining strength, the vessel glided into Moreton Bay. Then Brisbane was soon reached; but the message had flown before on wire to the lonely watcher, waiting for the son she would not believe to be dead, month after month, till three-quarters of a year had passed.
And when the house was in sight there was a figure at an open door, and Carey dashed off, his father hanging back, while Robert Bostock, mariner, who was laden with luggage, placed it in the road, turned his back, sat upon it, and began to fill his pipe. This done, he struck a match, but somehow when he held it to the tobacco there was a sudden ciss, and the match went out.
"Now, how did that there 'bacco get wet like that?" he growled. "Dear! and she a-waiting all this time for the dear lad as didn't come. Ah, it's no use wishin', but I do wish as my old mother was alive now to do that to me."
"Bob ahoy!" came in a cheery shout. "Come on! Never mind the things. Here's mother wants to shake your hand."
"Ahoy, sir; hand it is," shouted back the old fellow. Then in a growl, "S'pose I must go. Think on it, though; me havin' a drop o' salt water in one eye!"