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OF CAPTAIN KETTLE
'i 6 7/
"A CONTINUOUS STREAM OF ROCKETS SPOUTED FROM
See page 195
BY CUTCLIFFE HYNE
DOUBLEDAY & McCLURE
By CUTCUFFB HYNB
I. The Guns for Cuba i
II. Crown and Garotte 27
III. The War Steamer of Donna Clotilde 54
IV. The Pilgrim Ship 77
V. Fortunes Adrift 100
VI. The Escape 124
VII. The Pearl Poachers 147
VIII. The Liner and the Iceberg 175
IX. The Raiding of Donna Clotilde 199
X. Mr. Gedge's Catspaw 225
XI. The Salving of the Duncansby Head 255
XII. The Wreck of the Cattie-Boat 280
THE GUNS FOR CUBA.
" The shore part must lie entirely with you, sir,**
said Captain Kettle. " It's mixed up with the For-
eign Enlistment Act, and the Alabama case, and a
dozen other things which may mean anything be-
tween gaol and confiscation, and my head isn't big
enough to hold it. If you'll be advised by me, sir,
you'll see a real first-class solicitor, and stand him a
drink, and pay him down what he asks right there
on the bar counter, and get to know exactly how
the law of this business stands before you stir foot
" The law here in England," said the little man
with a reminiscent sigh, " is a beastly thing to fall
foul of ; it's just wickedly officious and interfering ;
it's never done kicking you, once it's got a fair start ;
and you never know where it will shove out its ugly
hoof from next. No, Mr. Gedge, give me the States
for nice comfortable law, where a man can buy it by
2 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
the yard for paper money down, and straight pistol
shooting is always remembered in his favour."
The young man who owned the SS. Sultan of
Borneo tapped his blotting paper impatiently.
** Stick to the point, Kettle. We're in England
now, and have nothing whatever to do with legal
matters in America. As for your advice, I am not
a fool : you can lay your ticket on it I know to an
inch how I stand. And I may tell you this : the
shipment is arranged for."
" I'd like to see us cleared," said Captain Kettle
" No one will interfere with the clearance. The
Sultan of Borneo will leave here in coal, consigned
to the Havana. A private yacht will meet her at
sea, and tranship the arms out of sight of land."
"Tyne coal for Cuba? They'd get their coal
there from Norfolk, Virginia, or else Welsh steam
coal from Cardiff or Newport."
" It seems not. This contract was placed long
before a ship was asked for to smuggle out the
" Well, it looks fishy, anyway."
" I can't help that," said Gedge irritably. " I'm
telling you the naked truth, and if truth as usual
looks unlikely, it's not my fault. Now have you got
any more objections to make ? "
" No, sir," said Captain Kettle, " none that I can
see at present."
" Very well, then," said Gedge. " Do you care to
sign on as master for this cruise, or are you going
to cry off?"
" They'll hang me if I'm caught,*' said Kettle.
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 3
" Not they. They'll only talk big, and the British
Consul will get you clear. You bet they daren't hang
an Englishman for mere smuggling in Cuba. And
besides, aren't I offering to raise your screw from
twelve pound a month to fourteen so as to cover the
risk? However, you won't get caught. You'll find
everything ready for you ; you'll slip the rifles ashore ;
and then you'll steam on to Havana and discharge
your coal in the ordinary humdrum way of business,
And there's a ten pound bonus if you pull the thing
off successfully. Now then, Captain, quick : you go
or you don't ? "
** I go," said Kettle gloomily. " I'm a poor man
with a wife and family, Mr. Gedge, and I can't afford
to lose a berth. But it's that coal I can't swallow. I
quite believe what you say about the contract ; only
it doesn't look natural. And it's my belief the coal
will trip us up somewhere before we've done, and
bring about trouble."
'• Which of course you are quite a stranger to ? "
said Gedge slily.
** Don't taunt me with it, sir," said Captain Kettle.
" I quite well know the kind of brute I am ; trouble
with a crew or any other set of living men at sea is
just meat and drink to me, and I'm bitterly ashamed
of the taste. Every time I sit underneath our min-
ister in the chapel here in South Shields I grow more
ashamed. And if you heard the beautiful poetical
way that man talks of peace, and green fields, and
golden harps, you'd understand."
" Yes, yes," said Gedge ; " but I don't want any of
your excellent minister's sermons at second hand just
now, Captain, or any of your own poetry, thanks.
4 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
rm very busy. Good morning. Help yourself to
a cigar. You haul alongside the coal shoots to get
your cargo at two o'clock, and Fll be on board to see
you at six. Good morning." And Mr. Gedge rang
for the clerk and was busily dictating letters before
Kettle was clear of the office.
The little sailor went down the grimy stairs and
into the street, and made towards the smelling Tyne.
The black cigar rested unlit in an angle of his mouth,
and he gnawed savagely at the butt with his eye-
teeth. He cursed the Fates as he walked. Why did
they use him so evilly that he was forced into berths
like these ? As a bachelor, he told himself with a
sneer, he would have jumped at the excitement of
it. As the partner of Mrs. Kettle, and the father
of her children, he could have shuddered when he
threw his eyes over the future.
For a week or so she could draw his half-pay and
live sumptuously at the rate of seven pounds a
month. But afterwards, if he got caught by some
angry Spanish war-steamer with the smuggled rifles
under his hatches, and shot, or hanged, or imprisoned,
or otherwise debarred from earning income at his
craft, where would Mrs. Kettle be then ? Would
Gedge do anything for her ? He drew the cigar from
his lips, and spat contemptuously at the bare idea.
With the morality of the affair he troubled not one
jot. The Spanish Government and the Cuban rebels
were two rival firms who offered different rates of
freight according to the risk, and he was employed
as carrier by those who paid the higher price. If
there was any right or wrong about the question, it
was a purely private matter between Mr. Gedge and
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 5
his God. He, Owen Kettle, was as impersonal in
the business as the ancient Sultan 0/ Borneo hcrscU;
he was a mere cog in some complex machinery ; and
if he was earning heaven, it was by piety inside the
chapel ashore, and not by professional exertions
(in the interests of an earthly employer) elsewhere.
He took ferry across the filthy Tyne, and walked
down alleys and squalid streets where coal dust
formed the mud, and the air was sour with foreign
vapours. And as he walked he champed still at the
unlit cigar, and brooded over the angularity of his
fate. But when he passed between the gates of the
dock company's premises, and exchanged words with
the policeman on guard, a change came over him.
He threw away the cigar stump, tightened his lips,
and left all thoughts of personal matters outside the
door-sill. He was Mr. Gedge's hired servant ; his
brain was devoted to furthering Gedge's interests ;
and all the acid of his tongue was ready to spur on
those who did the manual work on Gedge's ship.
Within a minute of his arrival on her deck, the
Sultan of Borneo was being unmoored from the bol-
lards on the quay ; within ten, her winches were clat-
tering and bucking as they warped her across to the
black, straddling coal-shoots at the other side of the
dock ; and within half an hour the cargo was roaring
down her hatches as fast as. the railway waggons on
the grimy trestle overhead could disgorge.
The halo of coal dust made day into dusk ; the
grit of it filled every cranny, and settled as an amor-
phous scum on the water of the dock ; and labourers
hired by the hour toiled at piece-work pace through
sheer terror at their employer.
6 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
If his other failings could have been eliminated,
this little skipper, with the red peaked beard, would
certainly have been, from an owner's point of view,
the best commander sailing out of any English port.
No man ever wrenched such a magnificent amount
of work from his hands. But it was those other fail-
ings which kept him what he was, the pitiful knock-
about ship-master, living from hand to mouth, never
certain of his berth from one month's end to another.
That afternoon Captain Kettle signed on his crew,
got them on board, and with the help of his two
mates kicked the majority of them into sobriety ;
he received a visit and final instructions from Mr.
Gedge at six o'clock ; and by nightfall he had filled
in his papers, warped out of dock, and stood anx-
iously on the bridge watching the pilot as he took
the steamboat down through the crowded shipping
of the river. His wife stood under the glow of an
arc lamp on the dockhead and waved him good-bye
through the gloom.
Captain Kettle received his first fright as he
dropped his pilot just outside the Tyne pierheads.
A man-of-war's launch steamed up out of the night,
and the boarding officer examined his papers and
asked questions. The little captain, conscious of
having no contraband of war on board just then, was
brutally rude ; but the naval officer remained stolid,
and refused to see the insults which were pitched at
him. He had an unpalatable duty to perform ; he
quite sympathised with Kettle's feelings over the
matter ; and he got back to his launch thanking many
stars that the affair had ended so easily.
\ But Kettle rang on his engines again with very
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 7
unpleasant feelings. It was clear to him that the
secret was oozing out somewhere ; that the Sultan
of Borneo was suspected ; that his course to Cuba
would be beset with many well-armed obstacles ; and
he forthwith made his first ruse out of the long suc-
cession which were to follow.
He had been instructed by Gedge to steam off
straight from the Tyne to a point deep in the North
Sea, where a yacht would meet him to hand over
the consignment of smuggled arms. But he felt
the night to be full of eyes, and for a Havana-bound
ship to leave the usual steam-lane which leads to
the English Channel was equivalent to a confession
of her purpose from the outset. So he took the
parallel rulers and pencilled off on his chart the ste-
reotyped course, which just clears Whitby Rock and
Flamboro' Head ; and the Sultan of Borneo was held
steadily along this, steaming at her normal nine
knots ; and it was not till she was out of sight of
land off Humber mouth, and the sea chanced to be
desolate, that he starboarded his helm and stood off
for the ocean rendezvous.
A hand on the foretopsail yard picked up the yacht
out of the grey mists of dawn, and by eight bells
they were lying hove-to in the trough, with a hun-
dred yards of cold grey water tumbling between
them. The transhipment was made in two lifeboats,
and Kettle went across and enjoyed an extravagant
breakfast in the yacht's cabin. The talk was all
upon the Cuban revolution. Carnforth, the yacht's
owner, brimmed with it.
" If you can run the blockade. Captain," said he,
" and land these rifles, and the Maxims, and the
8 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
cartridges, they'll be grateful enough to put up a
statue to you. The revolution will end in a snap.
The Spanish troops are half of them fever-ridden,
and all of them discouraged. With these guns you
are carrying, the patriots can shoot their enemies
over the edges of the island into the Caribbean Sea.
And there is no reason why you should get
stopped. There are filibustering expeditions fitted
out every week from Key West, and Tampa, and
the other Florida pofts, and one or two have even
started from New York itself."
" But they haven't got through ? " suggested Cap-
"Not all of them," Mr. Carnforth admitted.
" But then you see they sailed in schooners, and
you have got steam. Besides, they started from the
States, where the newspapers knew all about them,
and so their arrival was cabled on to Cuba ahead ;
and you have the advantage of sailing from an
" I don't see where the pull comes in," said Kettle
gloomily. " There isn't a blessed country on the
face of the globe more interfering with her own
people than England. A Yankee can do as he darn
well pleases in the filibustering line ; but if a Brit-
isher makes a move that way, the blessed law here
stretches out twenty hands and plucks him back by
the tail before he's half started. No, Mr. Carnforth,
I'm not sweet on the chances. I'm a poor man, and
this means a lot to me: that's why I'm anxious.
You're rich ; you only stand to lose the cost of the
consignment ; and if that gets confiscated it won't
mean much to you."
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 9
. Carnforth grinned. " You pay my business quali-
ties a poor compliment, Captain. You can bet
your life I had money down in hard cash before I
stirred foot in the matter. The weapons and the
ammunition were paid for at fifty per cent, above
list prices, so as to cover the trouble of secrecy, and
I got a charter for the yacht to bring the stuff out
here which would astonish you if you saw the
figures. No, I'm clear on the matter from this
moment, Captain, but Fll not deny that I shall take
an interest in your future adventures with the cargo.
Help yourself to a cigarette."
" Then it seems to me," said Kettle acidly, " that
you'll look at me just as a hare set on to run for
your amusement ? "
The yacht-owner laughed. " You put it brutally,"
he said, " but that's about the size of it. And if
you want further truths, here's one : I shouldn't
particularly mind if you were caught."
"Because, my dear skipper, if the Spanish
captured this consignment, the patriots would want
another, and I should get the order. Whereas, if
you land the stuff safely, it will see them through
to the end of the war, and my chance of making
further profit will be at an end."
" You have a very clear way of putting it," said
" Haven't I ? Which will you take, green char-
treuse or yellow ? "
" And Mr. Gedge ? Can you tell me, sir, how he
stands over this business? "
" Oh, you bet, Gedge knows when to come in out
lO ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
of the wet. He's got the old Sultan underwritten
by the insurance and by the Cuban agents up to
double her value, and nothing would suit his books
better than for a Spanish cruiser to drop upon you."
Captain Kettle got up, reached for his cap, and
swung it aggressively on to one side of his head.
" Very well," he said, " that's your side of the
question. Now hear mine. That cargo's going
through, and those rebels or patriots, or whatever
they are, shall have their guns if half the Spanish
navy was there to try and stop me. You and Mr.
Gedge have started about this business the wrong
way. Treat me on the square, and I'm a man a
child might handle ; but I'd not be driven by the
Queen of England, no, not with the Emperor of
Germany to help her."
" Oh, look here. Captain," said Carnforth, '* don't
get your back up."
" I'll not trade with you," replied Kettle.
" You're a fool to your own interests."
" I know it," said the sailor grimly. " I've known
it all my life. If I'd not been that, I'd not have
found myself in such shady company as there is
" Look here, you ruffian, if you insult me I'll
kick you out of this cabin, and over the side into
your own boat."
" All right," said Kettle ; " start in."
Carnforth half rose from his seat and measured
Captain Kettle with his eye. Apparently the
scrutiny impressed him, for he sank back to his seat
again with an embarrassed laugh. *' You're an ugly
little devil," he said.
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. II
" Vm all that," said Kettle.
" And Fm not going to play at rough and tumble
with you here. We've neither of us anything to
gain by it, and Tve a lot to lose. I believe you'll
run that cargo through now that you're put on your
mettle, but I guess there'll be trouble for somebody
before it's dealt out to the patriot troops. Gad,
I'd like to be somewhere on hand to watch you
" I don't object to an audience," said Kettle.
"By Jove, I've half a mind to come with you."
" You'd better not," said the little sailor with glib
contempt. " You're not the sort that cares to risk
his skin, and I can't be bothered with dead-head
"That settles it," said Carnforth. "I'm coming
with you to run that blockade ; and if the chance
comes, my cantankerous friend, I'll show you I can
be useful. Always supposing, that is, we don't
murder one another before we get there."
A white mist shut the Channel sea into a ring,
and the air was noisy with the grunts and screams
of steamers' syrens. Captain Kettle was standing
on the Sultan of Borneo's upper bridge, with his
hand on the engine-room telegraph, which was
pointed at " Full speed astern ; " Carnforth and the
old second mate stood with their chins over the top
of the starboard dodger ; and all three of them peered
into the opalescent banks of the fog.
They had reason for their anxiety. Not five
minutes before, a long lean torpedo-catcher had
raced up out of the thickness, and slowed down
12 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
alongside with the Channel spindrift blowing over
her low superstructure in white hail-storms. An
officer on the upper bridge in glistening oilskins had
sent across a sharp authoritative hail, and had been
answered: ^* Sultan of Borneo; Kettle, master;
from South Shields to the Havana."
** What cargo ? " came the next question.
" Then Mr. Tyne Coal for the Havana, just heave
to whilst I send away a boat to look at you. I
fancy you will be the steamboat Tm sent to find
and fetch back."
The decks of the uncomfortable warship had
hummed with men, a pair of boat davits had swung
outboard, and the boat had been armed and manned
with naval noise and quickness. But just then a
billow of the fog had driven down upon them,
blanket-like in its thickness, which closed all human
vision beyond the range of a dozen yards, and Cap-
tain Kettle jumped like a terrier on his opportunity.
He sent his steamer hard astern with a slightly
ported helm, and whilst the torpedo-catcher's boat
was searching for him towards the French shore,
and sending vain hails into the white banks of the
mist, he was circling slowly and silently round to-
wards the English coast.
So long as the mist held, the Sultan of Borneo was
as hard to find as a needle in a cargo of hay. Did
the air clear for so much as a single instant, she
would be noticed and stand self-confessed by her
attempt to escape; and as a result, the suspense
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 1 3
was Vivid enough to make Carnforth feel physical
nausea. He had not reckoned on this complication.
He was quite prepared to risk capture in Cuban
waters, where the glamour of distance and the dazzle
of helping insurrectionists would cast a glow of
romance over whatever occurred. But to be caught
in the English Channel as a vulgar smuggler for the
sake of commercial profit, and to be haled back for
hard labour in an English gaol, was a different matter.
He was a member of Parliament, and he understood
these details in all their niceties.
But Captain Kettle took the situation differently.
The sight of the torpedo-catcher stiffened all the
doubt and limpness out of his composition ; his eye
brightened and his lips grew stiff ; the scheming to
escape acted on him like a tonic ; and when an hour
later the Sultan of Borneo was steaming merrily
down Channel at top speed through the same im-
penetrable fog, the little skipper whistled dance
music on the upper bridge, and caught the notion
for a most pleasing sonnet. That evening the crew
came aft in a state of mild mutiny, and Kettle
attended to their needs with gusto.
He prefaced his remarks by a slight exhibition
of marksmanship. He cut away the vane which
showed dimly on the fore-topmast truck with a
single bullet, and then, after dexterously reloading
his revolver, lounged over the white rail of the upper
bridge with the weapon in his hand.
He told the malcontents he was glad of the oppor-
tunity to give them his views on matters generally.
He informed them genially that for their personal
wishes he cared not one decimal of a jot. He stated
14 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
plainly that he had got them on board, and intended
by their help to carry out his owner's instructions
whether they hated them or not. And finally he
gave them his candid assurance that if any cur
amongst them presumed to disobey the least of his
orders, he would shoot that man neatly through the
head without further preamble.
This elegant harangue did not go home to all
hands at once, because being a British ship, the
Sultan of Borneo s crew naturally spoke in five dif-
ferent languages, and few of them had even a work-
ing knowledge of English. But the look of Kettle's
savage little face as he talked, and the red torpedo
beard which wagged beneath it, conveyed to them
the tone of his speech, and for the time they did not
require a more accurate translation. They had come
off big with the intention of forcing him (if neces-
sary with violence) to run the steamer there and
then into an English port ; they went forward again
like a pack of sheep, merely because one man had
let them hear the virulence of his bark, and had
shown them with what accuracy he could bite if
necessary. " And that's the beauty of a mongrel
crew," said Kettle complacently. " If they'd been
English, I'd have had to shoot at least two of the
beasts to keep my end up like that."
" You're a marvel," Carnforth admitted. " I'm a
bit of a speaker myself, but I never heard a man
with a gift of tongue like you have got."
" I am poisonous when I spread myself," said
" I wish I was clear of you," said Carnforth, with
an awkward laugh. ** Whatever possessed me to
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 1 5
leave the yacht and come on this cruise I can't
" Some people never do know when they're well
off," said Kettle. " Well, sir, you're in for it now,
and you may see things which will be of service to
you afterwards. You ought to make your mark in
Parliament if you do get back from this trip. You'll
have something to talk about that men will like to
listen to, instead of merely chattering wind, which
is what most of them are put to, so far as I can see
from the papers. And now, sir, here's the steward
come to tell us tea's ready. You go below and tuck
in. I'll take mine on the bridge here. It won't do
for me to turn my back yet awhile, or else those
beasts forrard will jump on us from behind and
murder the whole lot whilst we aren't looking."
The voyage from that time onwards was for Cap-
tain Kettle a period of constant watchfulness. It
would not be true to say that he never took off his
clothes or never slept ; but whether he was in pyja-
mas in the chart-house, or whether he was sitting on
an upturned ginger-beer case under the shelter of
one of the upper bridge canvas dodgers, with his
tired eyes shut and the red peaked beard upon his
chest, it was always the same, he was ever ready to
spring instantly upon the alert.
One dark night an iron belaying-pin flew out of
the blackness of the forecastle and whizzed within
an inch of his sleeping head ; but he roused so
quickly that he was able to shoot the thrower
through the shoulder before he could dive back
again through the forecastle door. And another
l6 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
time when a powdering gale had kept him on the
bridge for forty-eight consecutive hours, and a depu-
tation of the deck hands raided him in the chart-
house on the supposition that exhaustion would
have laid him out in a dead sleep, he woke before
their fingers touched him, broke the jaw of one with
a camp-stool, and so maltreated the others with the
same weapon, that they were glad enough to run
away even with the exasperating knowledge that
they left their taskmaster undamaged behind them.
So, although this all-nation crew of the Sultan of
Borneo dreaded the Spaniards much, they feared
Captain Kettle far more, and by the time the steamer
had closed up with the island of Cuba, they had con-
cluded to follow out their skipper's orders, as being
the least of the two evils which lay before them.
Carnforth's way of looking at the matter was
peculiar. He had all a healthy man's appetite for
adventure, and all a prosperous man's distaste for
being wrecked. He had taken a strong personal liking
for the truculent little skipper, and, other things being
equal, would have cheerfully helped him ; but on
the other hand, he could not avoid seeing that it
was to his own interests that the crew should get
their way, and keep the steamer out of dangerous
waters. And so, when finally he decided to stand
by non-interferent, he prided himself a good deal on
his forbearance, and said so to Kettle in as many
That worthy mariner quite agreed with him.
" It's the very best thing you could do, sir," he
answered. " It would have annoyed me terribly to
have had to shoot you out of mischief's way, because
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. IJ
you've been kind enough to say you like my poetry,
and because Fve come to see, sir, you're a gentleman."
They came to this arrangement on the morning
of the day they opened out the secluded bay in the
southern Cuban shore where the contraband of war
was to be run. Kettle calculated his whereabouts
with niceness, and, after the midday observation,
lay the steamer to for a couple of hours, and him-
self supervised his engineers whilst they gave a good
overhaul to the machinery. Then he gave her
steam again, and made his landfall four hours after
They saw the coast first as a black line running
across the dim grey of the night. It rose as they
neared it, and showed a crest fringed with trees, and
a foot steeped in white mist, from out of which
came the faint bellow of surf. Captain Kettle, after
a cast or two, picked up his marks and steamed in
confidently, with his side-lights dowsed, and three
red lanterns in a triangle at his foremast head. He
was feeling pleasantly surprised with the easiness of
But when the steamer had got well into the bight
of the bay, and all the glasses on the bridge were peer-
ing at the shore in search of answering lights, a blaze
of radiance suddenly flickered on to her from astern,
and was as suddenly eclipsed, leaving them for a
moment blinded by its dazzle. It was a long trun-
cheon of light which sprouted from a glowing centre
away between the heads of the bay, and they watched
it sweep past them over the surface of the water,
and then sweep back again. Finally, after a little
more dalliance, it settled on the steamer and lit her,
1 8 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
and the ring of water on which she swam, like a
ship in a lantern picture.
Carnforth swore aloud, and Captain Kettle lit a
fresh cigar. Those of the mongrel crew who were
on the deck went below to pack their bags.
" Well, sir," said Kettle cheerfully, " here we are.
That's a Spanish gunboat with searchlight, all com-
plete " — he screwed up his eyes and gazed astern
meditatively. " She's got the heels of us too ; by
about five knots I should say. Just look at the
flames coming out of her funnels. Aren't they just
giving her ginger down in the stokehold ? Shoot-
ing will begin directly, and the other blackguards
ashore have apparently forgotten all about us.
There isn't a light anywhere."
" What are you going to do ? " asked Carnforth.
** Follow out Mr. Gedge's instructions, sir, and
put this cargo on the beach. Whether the old
Sultan goes there too, remains to be seen."
" That gunboat will cut you off in a quarter of an
hour if you keep on this course."
" With that extra five knots she can do as she
likes with us, so I sha'n't shift my helm. It would
only look suspicious."
" Good Lord ! " said Carnforth, " as if our being
here at all isn't suspicion itself."
But Kettle did not answer. He had, to use his
own expression, " got his wits working under forced
draught," and he could not afford time for idle specu-
lation and chatter. It was the want of the an-
sweriilg signal ashore which upset him. Had that
showed against the black background of hills, he
would have known what to do.
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. I9
Meanwhile the Spanish warship was closing up
with him hand over fist, and decision was necessary.
Anyway, the choice was a poor one. If he surren-
dered he would be searched, and with that damning
cargo of rifles and machine guns and ammunition
under his hatches, it was not at all improbable that
his captors might string him up out of hand. They
would have right on their side for doing so.
The insurrectionists were not " recognised belli-
gerents '* ; he would stand as a filibuster confessed ;
and as such would be due to sufifer under that rough
and ready martial law which cannot spare time to
feed and gaol prisoners.
On the other hand, if he refused to heave to the
result would be equally simple ; the warship would
sink him with her guns inside a dozen minutes;
and reckless dare-devil though he might be. Kettle
knew quite well there was no chance of avoiding this.
With another crew he might have been tempted
to lay his old steamer alongside the other, and try
to carry her by boarding and sheer hand-to-hand
fighting ; but, excepting for those on watch in the
stokehold, his present set of men were all below
packing their belongings into portable shape, and
he knew quite well that nothing would please them
better than to see him discomfited. Carnforth was
neutral ; he had only his three mates and the en-
gineer officers, to depend upon in all the available
world ; and he recognised between deep draughts
at his cigar that he was in a very tight place.
Still the dark shore ahead remained unbeaconed,
and the Spaniard was racing up astern, lit for battle,
with her crew at quarters, and guns run out and
20 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
loaded. She leapt nearer by fathoms to the second,
till Kettle could hear the panting of her engines as
she chased him down. His teeth chewed on the
cigar butt, and dark rings grew under his eyes. He
could have raged aloud at his impotence.
The war steamer ranged up alongside, slowed to
some forty revolutions so as to keep her place, and
an officer on the top of her chart-house hailed in
"Gunboat ahoy," Kettle bawled back; "you
must speak English or I can't be civil to you."
" What ship is that ? "
" Sultan of Borneo^ Kettle, master. Out of
Promptly the query came back : " Then what are
you doing in here ? "
Carnforth whispered a suggestion. " Fresh water
run out ; condenser water given all hands dysentery ;
put in here to fill up tanks."
" I thank you, sir," said Kettle in the same under-
tone, " Fm no hand at lying myself, or I might
have thought of that before." And he shouted the
excuse across to the spokesman on the chart-house
To his surprise they seemed to give weight to it.
There was a short consultation, and the steamers
slipped along over the smooth black waters of the
bay on parallel courses.
" Have you got dysentery bad aboard ? " came
the next question.
Once more Carnforth prompted, and Kettle re-
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 21
peated his words : " Look at my decks/* said he.
"All my crew are below. I've hardly a man to
stand by me."
There was more consultation among the gunboat's
officers, and then came the fatal inquiry : *' What's
your cargo, Captain ? "
" Oh, coals," said Kettle resignedly.
"What? You're bringing Tyne coal to the
Havana ? "
"Just coals," said Captain Kettle with a bitter
The tone of the Spaniard changed. " Heave to
at once," he ordered, " whilst I send a boat to search
you. Refuse, and I'll blow you out of water."
On the Sultan of Borneo's upper bridge Carnforth
swore. " Eh-ho, Skipper," he said, " the game's
up, and there's no way out of it. You won't be a
fool, will you, and sacrifice the ship and the whole
lot of us ? Come, I say, man, ring off your engines,
or that fellow will shoot, and we shall all be murdered
uselessly. I tell you, the game's up."
" By James ! " said Kettle, " is it ? Look there "
— and he pointed with outstretched arm to the hills
on the shore ahead. " Three fires ! " he cried. " Two
above one in a triangle, burning like Elswick fur-
naces amongst the trees. They're ready for us over
yonder, Mr. Carnforth, and that's their welcome.
Do you think I'm going to let my cargo be stopped
after getting it this far ? " He turned to the Danish
quarter-master at the wheel, with his savage face
close to the man's ear.
" Starboard," he said. " Hard over, you bung-
eyed Dutchman. Starboard as far as she'll go."
22 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
The wheel engines clattered briskly in the house
underneath, and the Sultan of Borneo' s head swung
off quickly to port. For eight seconds the officer
commanding the gunboat did not see what was hap-
pening, and that eight seconds was fatal to his vessel.
When the inspiration came, he bubbled with orders,
he starboarded his own helm, he rang " full speed
ahead " to his engines, and ordered every rifle and
machine gun on his ship to sweep the British
steamer's bridge. But the space of time was too
small. The gunboat could not turn with enough
quickness ; on so short a notice the engines could
not get her into her stride again ; and the shooting,
though well intentioned and prodigious in quantity,
was poor in aim. The bullets whisped through the
air, and pelted on the plating like a hailstorm, and
one of them flicked out the brains of the Danish
quarter-master on the bridge ; but Kettle took the
wheel from his hands, and a moment later the Sultan
of Borneo's stem crashed into the gunboat's unpro-
tected side just abaft the sponson of her starboard
The steamers thrilled like kicked biscuit-boxes,
and a noise went up into the hot night sky as of ten
thousand boiler makers, all heading up their rivets
On both ships the propellers stopped as if by in-
stinct, and then in answer to the telegraph, the
grimy collier backed astern. But the war-steamer
did not move. Her machinery was broken down.
She had already got a heavy list towards her
wounded side, and every second the list was increas-
ing as the sea water poured in through the shat-
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 23
tered plates. Her crew was buzzing with disorder.
It was evident that the vessel had but a short time
longer to swim, and their lives were sweet to them.
They had no thought of vengeance. Their weapons
lay deserted on the sloping decks. The grimy crews
from the stokeholds poured up from below, and
one and all they clustered about the boats with
frenzied haste to see them floating in the water.
There was no more to be feared at their hands for
Carnforth clapped Kettle on the shoulder in
involuntary admiration. " By George," he cried,
" what a daring little scoundrel you are ! Look here.
I'm on your side now if I can be of any help. Can
you give me a job ? '*
" Tm afraid, sir,*' said Captain Kettle, " that the
old Sultatis work is about done. She's settling
down by the head already. Didn't you see those
rats of men scuttling up from forrard directly after
we'd rammed the Don ? I guess that was a bit of a
surprise packet for them anyway. They thought
they'd get down there to be clear of the shooting,
and they found themselves in the most ticklish part
of the ship."
" There's humour in the situation," said Carnforth.
" But that will keep. For the present, it strikes me
that this old steamboat is swamping fast."
"She's doing that," Kettle admitted. "She'll
have a lot of plates started forrard, I guess. But I
think she's come out of it very creditably, sir. I
didn't spare her, and she's not exactly built for a ram."
" I suppose it's a case of putting her on the
24 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" There's nothing else for it," said Kettle with a
sigh. " I should like to have carried those blessed
coals in to the Havana if it could have been done, just
to show people ours was a bond fide contract, as Mr.
Gedge said, in spite of its fishy look. But this old
steamboat's done her whack, and that's the square
truth. It will take her all she can manage to reach
shore with dry decks. Look, she's in now nearly to
her forecastle head. Lucky the shore's not steep-to
here, or else "
From beneath there came a bump and a rattle, and
the steamer for a moment halted in her progress,
and a white-crested wave surged past her rusty
flanks. Then she lifted again and swooped further
in, with the propeller still squattering astern ; and
then once more she thundered down again into the
sand ; and so lifting and striking, made her way in
through the surf.
More than one of the hands was swept from her
decks, and reached the shore by swimming ; but as
the ebb made, the hungry seas left her stranded dry
under the morning's light, and a crowd of insurrec-
tionists waded out and climbed on board by ropes
which were thrown to them.
They were men of every tint, from the grey black
of the pure negro to the sallow lemon tint of the
blue-blooded Spaniard. They were streaked with
wounds, thin as skeletons, and clad more with naked-
ness than with rags ; and so wolfish did they look
that even Kettle, callous little ruffian though he
was, half regretted bringing arms for such a crew to
wreak vengeance on their neighbours.
But they gave him small time for sentiment of
THE GUNS FOR CUBA. 2$
this brand. They clustered round him with leap-
ing hands, till the morning sea-fowl fled affrighted
from the beach. El Sefior Capitan Inglese was the
saviour of Cuba, and let every one remember it.
Alone, with his unarmed vessel, he had sunk a war-
ship of their hated enemies ; and they prayed him
(in their florid compliment) to stay on the island and
rule over them as king.
But the little sailor took them literally. " What's
this ? ** he said ; " you want me to be your blooming
" El rey ! " they shouted. " El rey de los Cuba-
" By James," said Kettle, " 1*11 do it. I was never
asked to be a king before, and the chance may never
come again. Besides, Tm out of a berth just now,
and England will be too hot to hold me yet awhile.
Yes, I'll stay and boss you, and if you can act half
as ugly as you look, we'll give the Dons a lively
time. Only remember there's no tomfoolery about
me. If I'm king of this show, I'm going to carry
a full king's ticket, and if there's any man tries to
meddle without being invited, that man will go to
his own funeral before he can think twice. And
now we'll just begin business at once. Off with
those hatches and break out that cargo. I've been
at some pains to run these guns out here, so be care-
ful in carrying them up the beach. Jump lively
now, you black-faced scum."
Camforth listened with staring eyes. What sort
of broil was this truculent little scamp going to mix
in next ? He knew enough of Spanish character to
understand clearly that the offer of the crown was
26 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
merely an empty civility ; he understood enough of
Kettle to be sure that he had not taken it as such,
and would assert his rights to the bitter end. And
when he thought of what that end must inevitably
be, he sighed over Owen Kettle's fate.
CROWN AND GAROTTE.
" We will garotte el Sefior Kettle with due form
and ceremony/* said the mulatto, with an ugly-
smile. " The saints must have sent us this machine
He threw away the cigarette stump from his yel-
low fingers, and began to knot a running bowline on
the end of a rawhide rope. " I will do myself the
honour of capturing him. He covered me with that
revolver of his this morning, and put me to shame
before the men. I have not forgotten."
" And the other Englishman ? " said the ex-priest.
** He fought well for us in the morning. He is
" And so is far too dangerous to be left alive,
padre, after we garotte the sailor."
" My dear Cuchillo/* said the ecclesiastic, " you
are so abominably bloodthirsty. But I suppose
you are right. I will come with you, and if the man
shows trouble, I will shoot him where he sits." He
and the mulatto got up as he spoke, and the other
men rose also, and the six of them left the ingenio
silently on the side away from the camp. The
jungle growths of the ruined plantation swallowed
them out of sight. They held along their way si-
28 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
lently and confidently, like men well skilled in wood-
craft. With primitive cunning they had arranged
to make their attack from the rear.
The noise of their chatter ceased, and from the
distance there went up into the hot, tropical night
faint snatches of the ** Swanee River," sung by a
Louisiana negro, who had grown delirious from a
In the meanwhile the two Englishmen were tak-
ing their tobacco barely a couple of hundred yards
away. They had built a small fire of green wood,
and were sitting in the alley of smoke as some refuge
from the swarming mosquitos, and the conversation
ran upon themselves and their own prospects.
" I don't want to mess about with a crown," Cap-
tain Kettle was saying. "A cheese-cutter cap's
good enough for me ; or, seeing that Cuba's hot, a
pith helmet might be preferable, if we are going in
for luxury." He peered through the smoke wreaths
at the camp of the revolutionists, a naked bivouac
chopped from amongst the canes, and strewn with
sleeping men who moaned in their dreams. The
ruined ingenio at the further side had its white walls
smeared with smoke. The place ached with poverty
" Not that there seems much luxury here," he
went on. " These beauties haven't a sound pair of
breeches amongst them, and if it wasn't for the
rifles and ammunition we brought ashore from the
poor old Sultan, sir, I'd say they'd just starve to
death before they kicked the Spaniards out of the
island. But if ugliness means pluck, there should
be none better as fighting men ; and when we get
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 29
to bossing them properly, you'll see we shall just
make this revolutionary business hum. You are
going to stay on and help, Mr. Carnforth?"
The big man in the shooting coat gave a rueful
laugh. " You've got my promise, Kettle. I don't
see any way of backing out of it."
" I thank you for that, sir," said the sailor with a
bow. " When I come to be formally made King of
these Cubans, you shall find I am not ungrateful.
I am not a man to neglect either my friends or my
'* You shall sign on as Prime Minister, Mr. Cam-
forth, when we get the show regularly in commission,
and I'll see you make a good thing out of it. Don't
you get the notion it'll be a bit like the dreary busi-
ness you were used to in Parliament in England.
Empty talk is not to my taste, and I'll not set up a
Parliament here to encourage it. I'm going to hold
a full King's ticket myself, and it won't do for any-
one to forget it."
" You seem very anxious for power, Captain."
" It's a fact, sir," said the other with a sigh, " I
do like to have the ordering of men. But don't you
think that's the only reason I'm taking on with this
racket. I'm a man with an income to make, and I'm
out of a berth elsewhere. I'm a man with a family,
"I am a bachelor," said Carnforth, "and I'm
thanking heaven for it this minute. Doesn't it
strike you, Captain, that this is no sort of job for
a married man? Can't you see it's far too
** Big pay, big risk ; that's always the way, sir, and
30 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
as I've faced ugly places before and come out top
side, there's no reason why I shouldn't do it again
here. Indeed, it's the thought of my wife that's
principally pushing me on. During all the time
we've been together, Mr. Carnforth, I've never been
able to give Mrs. Kettle the place I'd wish.
" She was brought up, sir, as the daughter of a
minister of religion, and splendidly educated ; she
can play the harmonium and do crewel-work ; and,
though I'll not deny I married her from behind a
bar, I may tell you she only took to business from
a liking to see society." He looked out dreamily
through the smoke at the fireflies which were wink-
ing across the black rim of the forest.
" I'd like to see her, Mr. Carnforth, with gold
brooches and chains, and a black satin dress, and a
bonnet that cost 20j., sitting in Government House,
with the British Consul on the mat before her, wait-
ing till she chose to ask him to take a chair and
talk. She'd fill the position splendidly, and I've
just got to wade in and get it for her."
The little man broke off and stared out at the
fireflies, and Carnforth coughed the wood-smoke
from his lungs and rammed fresh tobacco into his
pipe. He was a man with a fine sense of humour,
and he appreciated to the full the ludicrousness of
Kettle's pretensions. The sailor had run a cargo of
much wanted contraband of war on to the Cuban
beach, had sunk a Spanish cruiser in the process,
and had received effusive thanks.
But he had taken the florid metaphor of the coun-
try to mean a literal offer, and when in their com-
plimentary phrase they shouted that he should be
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 3 1
king, a king from that moment he intended to be.
The comedy of the situation was irresistible.
But at the same time Mr. Martin Carnforth was
a man of wealth, and a man (in England) of assured
position ; and he could not avoid seeing that by his
present association with Captain Owen Kettle he
was flirting with ugly tragedy every moment that
he lived. Yet here he was pinned, not only to keep
in the man's society, but to help him in his mad en-
He would gladly have forfeited half his fortune
to be snugly back in St. Stephen's, Westminster,
clear of the mess ; but escape was out of the ques-
ion ; and, moreover, he knew quite well that trying
to make Kettle appreciate his true position would
be like an attempt to reason with the winds or the
surf on an ocean beach. So he held his tongue, and
did as he was bidden. He was a man of physical
bravery, and the rush of actual fighting that morn-
ing had come pleasantly to him.
It was only when he thought of the certain and
treacherous dangers of the future, and the cosy
niche that awaited him at home in England, that
his throat tickled with apprehension, and he caressed
with affectionate fingers the region of his carotids.
And if he had known that at that precise moment
the ex-priest, and the mulatto they called el Cuchillo,
and the others of the insurgent leaders, were stalk-
ing him with a view to capture and execution, it is
probable that he would have felt even still more
" We did well in that fight this morning," said
Kettle presently, as he drew his eyes away from the
32 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
light-snaps of the fireflies, and shut them to keep
out the sting of the wood-smoke. "You've been
shot at before, sir?"
" Never,** said Carnforth.
"You couldn't have been cooler, sir, if you'd
been at sea all your life, and seen pins flying every
watch. Do you know, I've been thinking it over,
and I'm beginning to fancy that perhaps our black
and yellow mongrels weren't quite such cowards as
I said. I know they did scuttle to the bushes like
rabbits so soon as ever a gun was fired ; but then
their business is to shoot these Spanish soldiers and
not get shot back, and so, perhaps, they were right
to keep to their own way.
" Anyway, we licked them, and that means get-
ting on towards Mrs. Kettle's being a queen. But
that murdering the wounded afterwards was more
than I can stand, and it has got to be put a stop to."
" You didn't make yourself popular over it."
" I am not usually liked when I am captain," said
'* Well, Skipper, I don't, as a rule, agree with your
methods, as you know, but here I'm with you all
the way. Your excellent subjects are a great deal
too barbarous for my taste."
** They are wholly brutes, and that's a fact," said
Captain Kettle, " and I expect a good many of them
will be hurt whilst I'm teaching them manners.
But they've got to learn this lesson first of all :
they're to treat their prisoners decently, or else let
them go, or else shoot them clean and dead in the
first instance whilst they're still on the run. I'm a
man myself, Mr. Carnforth, that can do a deal in
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 33
hot blood; but afterwards, when the poor brutes
are on the ground, I want to go round with sticking
plaster, and not a knife to slit their throats."
** It will take a tolerable amount of trouble to
drum that into this crew. A Spaniard on the war-
path is not merciful ; an African is a barbarian ; but
make a cross of the two (as you get here) and you
turn out the most unutterable savage on the face of
" They will not be taught by kindness alone,"
said Captain Kettle suggestively. ** IVe got heavy
hands, and I sha'n't be afraid to use them. It's a
job," he added with a sigh, " which will not come
new to me. IVe put to sea with some of the worst
toughs that ever wrote their crosses before a ship-
ping master, and none of them can ever say they got
the top side of me yet."
He was about to say more, but at that moment
speech was taken from him. A long rawhide rope
suddenly flicked out into the air like a slim, black
snake ; the noose at its end for an instant poised
open-mouthed above him ; and then it descended
around his elbows, and was as simultaneously
plucked taut by unseen hands behind the shelter of
the jungle. Captain Kettle struggled like a wild-
cat to release himself, but four lithe, bony men
threw themselves upon him, twisted his arms behind
his back, and made them fast there with other
thongs of rawhide.
Carnforth did nothing to help. At the first
alarm that burly gentleman had looked up and dis-
covered a rifle muzzle, not ten feet off, pointed
squarely at his breast. The voice of the ex-priest
34 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
came from behind the rifle, and assured him fn mild,
unctuous tones that the least movement would
secure him a quick and instant passage to one or
other of the next worlds. And Martin Carnforth
surrendered without terms. When the four men
had finished their other business, they came and
roped him up also.
The mulatto strode out from the cover and flicked
the ashes of a cigarette into Kettle's face. " El rey,"
he said, " de los Cubafios must have his power
limited. He has come where he was not wanted, he
has done what was forbidden, and shortly he will
taste the consequences."
" You ginger-bread coloured beast," retorted Cap-
tain Kettle, " you shame of your mother, I made a
big mistake when I did not shoot you in the morn-
The mulatto pressed the lighted end of his ciga-
rette against Kettle's forehead. " I will trouble
you," he said, " to keep silence for the present.
At dawn you will be put upon trial, and then you
may speak. But till then (and the sun will not rise
for another three hours yet), if you talk, you will
earn a painful burn for each sentence.
" You are a man accustomed to having your own
way, SeHor ; I am another ; and as at present I pos-
sess the upper hand, your will has got to bend to
mine. The process, I can well imagine, will be dis-
tasteful to you. It was distasteful tb me when I
looked down your revolver muzzle over the affair of
those prisoners. But I do not think you will be
foolish enough to earn torture uselessly,"
Kettle glared, but with an effort held his tongue.
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 35
He understood he was in a very tight place. And
for the present the only thing remaining for him was
to bide his time. He quite recognised that he was
in dangerous hands. The mulatto was a man of
education, who had been brought up in an Ameri-
can college, and who had learned in the States to
hate his white father and loathe his black mother
with a ferocity which nothing but that atmosphere
He was a fellow living on the borderland of the
two primitive colours, and his whole life was soured
by the pigment in his skin. As a white man he
would have been a genius ; as a black he would have
become a star ; but as a mulatto he was merely a
suave and brilliant savage, thirsting for vengeance
against the whole of the human race. He had entered
this Cuban revolution through no taint of patriotism,
but merely from the lust for cruelty. By sheer
daring and ability he had raised himself from the
ranks to supreme command of the revolutionists,
and he was not likely to let so appetising a situation
slip from his fingers for even a few short hours with-
out exacting a bitter retribution when the chance
was put in his way.
Carnforth lifted up his voice in expostulation, but
was quickly silenced by the promise of branding
from the cigarette end if he did not choose to hold
his tongue. Quiet fell over the group. The only
sounds were scraps of the " Swanee River **sung by
the wounded negro in his delirium from somewhere
in the distance —
" Still longing for the old plantation,
And for the old folks at home,"
36 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
came the words in a thin quavering tenor, and Carn-
forth, with a sigh, thought how well he could en-
The first glow of morning saw the camp aroused,
and half an hour later the Court was ranged. The
self-styled judges sat under the whitewashed piazza
of the ruined house ; the motley troops faced them
in an irregular ring twenty yards away; and the
two prisoners, with an armed man to guard each,
stood on the open ground between.
El Cuchillo was himself principal spokesman, and
proceedings were carried on in Spanish and English
alternately. The crime of Captain Kettle was set
forth in a dozen words. He had stopped the right-
ful execution of prisoners, and had let them go
" You had no place to gaol them," said Carnforth
The mulatto pointed a thin yellow finger at the
sun-baked ground in front of the piazza. " We have
the earth," he said. " Give them to the earth, and
she will keep them gaoled so fast that they will never
fight against us more. It is a war here to the knife
on both sides. The Spanish troops kill us when
they catch, and we do the like by them. It is right
that it should be so. We do not want quarter at
their hands; neither do we wish them to remain
alive upon Cuba. Three Spanish soldiers were ours
a few hours ago. Our cause demanded that their
lives should have been taken away. And yet they
were set free."
"Yes," broke in Kettle, " and, by James, that's a
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 37
thing you ought to sing small about. Here's you :
six officers and a hundred and fifty men, all armed.
Here's me: a common low-down, foul-of-his-luck
Britisher, with a vinegar tongue and a thirty-shilling
pistol. You said the beggars should be hanged ;
I said they shouldn't ; and, by James, I scared the
whole caboodle of you with just one-half an ugly
look, and got my own blessed way. Oh, I do say
you ^re a holy crowd."
Carnforth stamped in anger. It seemed to him
that this truculent little sailor was deliberately in-
viting their captors to murder the pair of them out
of hand. He understood that Kettle was bitterly
disappointed at having his bubble about the king-
ship so ruthlessly pricked, but with this recklessness
which was snatching away their only chance of es-
cape, he could have no sympathy. He was unpre-
pared, however, for his comrade's next remark.
" Don't think I'd any help from Mr. Carnforth
here. .He's a Member of Parliament in London,
and is far too much of a gentleman to concern him-
self with your fourpenny-ha'penny matters here. He
warned me before I began that being king of the
whole of your rotten island wasn't worth a dish of
beans ; but I wouldn't believe him till I'd seen how
it was for myself.
" I'm here now through my own fault ; I ought
to have remembered that niggers, and yellow-bellies,
and white men who have forgotten their colour,
could have no spark of gratitude. I'll not deny,
too, that I got to thinking about those fireflies, and
so wasn't keeping a proper watch ; but here I am,
lashed up snug, and I guess you're going to make
38 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
the most of your chance. By James, though, if you
weren't a pack of cowards, you'd cast me adrift, and
give me my gun again ! "
" Speaking as a man of peace," said the ex-priest,
" I fancy you are safest as you are, amigo^
" rd be king of this crowd again inside three
minutes if I was loose,** retorted Kettle.
El Cuchillo snapped his yellow fingers impatiently.
" We are wasting time," he said. " Captain Kettle
seems still to dispute my supreme authority. He
shall taste of it within the next dozen minutes ; and
if he can see his way to resisting it, and asserting
his own kingship, he has my full permission to do so.
Here, you : go into the ingenio, and bring out that
A dozen ragged fellows detached themselves from
the onlookers, and went through a low stone door-
way into the ruined sugar house. In a couple of
minutes they reappeared, dragging with noisy
laughter a dusty, cumbersome erection, which they
set down in the open space before the piazza.
It was made up of a wooden platform on which
was fastened a chair and an upright. On the upright
was a hinged iron ring immediately above the chair.
A screw passed through the upright into the ring,
with a long lever at its outside end, on either ex-
tremity of which was a heavy sphere of iron. If
once that lever was set on the twirl, it would drive
the screw's point into whatever the iron ring con-
tained with a force that was irresistible.
The mulatto introduced the machine with a wave
of his yellow fingers. ^^ El garotte,* he said. "A
mediaeval survival which I did not dream of finding
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 39
here. Of its previous history I can form no idea.
Of its future use I can give a simple account. It will
serve to ease us of the society of this objectionable
" Great heavens, man," Carnforth broke out, "this
" Ah," said el Cuchillo, " I will attend to your
case at the same time. You shall have the honour
of turning the screw which gives your friend his exit.
In that way we shall secure your silence afterwards
as to what has occurred."
** You foul brute," said Carnforth, with a shout,
" do you think I am an assassin like yourself? "
The mulatto took a long draught at his cigarette.
" What a horrible country England must be to live
in, if all the people there have tongues as long as
you two. Seftor, if you do not choose to accept my
suggestion for pinning you to silence, I can offer you
another. Refuse to take your place at the screw,
and I promise that you shall be stood up against
the wall of this ingenio and be shot inside the
minut&. The choice stands open before you."
" Mr. Carnforth," said Captain Kettle, " you
mustn't be foolish. You must officiate over me
exactly as you are asked, or otherwise you'll get
shot uselessly. Gingerbread and his friends mean
business. And if you still think you're taking a
liberty in handling the screw (in spite of what I say)
you may fine yourself a matter of ten shillings
weekly, and hand it across to Mrs. Kettle. I make
no doubt she would find that sum very useful."
" This is horrible," said Carnforth.
" It will be horrible for Mrs. Kettle and my young-
40 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
sters, sir, if you don't act sensibly and man the lever
as Gingerbread asks. If you get planted here along-
side of me, I don't know any one at all likely to
give them a pension. It would afford me a great
deal of pleasure just now, Mr. Carnforth, if I knew
my family could still keep to windward of parish
" Of course," said Carnforth, with a white face,
" I will see your wife and children are all right if I
get clear; but it is too ghastly to think of purchas-
ing even my life on these terms."
" You seem slow to make up your mind, Seftor,"
broke in the mulatto. " Allow me to hasten your
decision." He gave some directions, and the men
who had brought out the garotte took Captain
Kettle and sat him on the chair. They opened the
iron ring, which screeched noisily with its rusted
hinge, and they clasped it, collar-fashion, about his
neck. Then they led Carnforth up to the back
of the upright, and cast off the lashing from his
"Now, Seftor Carnforth," said the yellow man.
** I want that person garotted. If you do it for me,
I will give you a safe-conduct down to any seaport
in Cuba which you may choose. If I have to set on
one of my own men to do the work, you will not
have sight to witness it. I will stick you up against
that white wall, yonder, and have you shot, out of
hand. Now, SeHor, I have the honour to ask for
" Come, sir, don't hesitate," said Captain Kettle.
" If you don't handle the screw, remember some one
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 4 1
" That will be a flimsy excuse to remember after-
" You will be paying a weekly fine, and can recol-
lect that carries a full pardon with it.**
" Pah/* said Carnforth, " what is ten shillings a
" Exactly,*' said Kettle. " Make it twelve, sir,
and that will hold you clear of everything.*'
" What feeble, dilatory people you English are,**
said el Cuchillo. " I must trouble you to make up
your mind at once, Senor Carnforth.**
" He has made it up,** said Kettle, " and I shall go
smiling, because I shall get my clearance at the
hands of a decent man. I*d have taken it as a dis-
grace to be shoved out of this world by a yellow
beast like you, you shame of your mother.'*
The mulatto blazed out with fury. " By heaven,**
he cried, " Fve a mind to take you out of that
garotte even now and have you burnt.**
" And we should lose a pleasant little comedy,*'
said the ex-priest. " No, amigo ; let us see the pair
of them perform together.**
" Go on," said the mulatto to Carnforth.
" Yes," said Kettle in a lower voice. " For God's
sake go on and get it over. It isn't very pleasant
work for me, this waiting. And you will make it
twelve shillings a week, sir ? "
" I will give your wife a thousand a year, my poor
fellow. I will give her five thousand. No, I am
murdering her husband, and I will give her all I
have, and go away to start life afresh elsewhere. I
shall never dare to show my face again in England
or carry my own name." He gripped one of the
42 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
iron spheres and threw his weight upon the lever.
The bar buckled and sprang under his effort, but the
screw did not budge.
" Quick, man, quick," said Kettle in a low, fierce
voice. " This is cruel. If you don't get me finished
directly, I shall go white or something, and those
brutes will think Tm afraid."
Carnforth wrenched at the lever with a tremen-
dous effort. One arm of the bar bent slowly into a
semicircle, but the lethal screw remained fast in
its socket. . It was glued there with the rust of
Carnforth flung away from the machine. " I
have done my best," he said sullenly to the men
on the piazza, " and I can do no more. You have
the satisfaction of knowing that you have made me
a murderer in intent, if not in actual fact ; and now,
if you choose, you can stick me up against that wall
and have me shot. Tm sure I don*t care. Vm sick
of it all here."
" You shall have fair treatment," said el Cuchillo,
" and neither more or less. You have tried to obey
my orders, and Captain Kettle is at present alive
because of the garotte's deficiency, and not by your
intention." He gave a command, and the men re-
leased the iron collar from Kettle's neck. " I will
have the machine repaired by my armourer," he said,
" and in the meanwhile you may await my pleasure
out of the sunshine."
He gave another order, and the men laid hands
upon their shoulders and led them away, and thrust
them into a small arched room of whitened stone,
under the boiler-house of the ingenio. The window
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 43
was a mere arrow-slit ; the door was a ponderous
thing of Spanish oak, barred with iron bolts which
ran into the stonework ; the place was absolutely
The silence had lasted a dozen hours, although it
was plain that each of the prisoners was busily think-
ing. At last Kettle spoke.
" If I could only get a rhyme to * brow/ " he
said, " I believe I could manage the rest."
" What? '' asked Carnforth.
" I want a word to rhyme with * brow/ sir, if you
can help me."
" What in the world are you up to now ? "
*' Fve been filling up time, sir, whilst weVe been
here by hammering out a bit of poetry about those
fireflies. I got the idea of it last night, when we
saw them flashing in and out against the black of
" You don't owe them much gratitude that I can
see, Skipper. According to what you said, if you
hadn't been looking at them, you'd have been more
on the watch, and wouldn't have got caught."
" Perfectly right, sir. And so this poem should be
all the more valuable when it's put together. Fm
running it to the tune of * Greenland's icy mountains,'
my favourite air, Mr. Carnforth. I'm trying to work
a parallel between those fireflies switching their
lights in and out, and a soul, sir. Do you catch the
•' I can't say I do quite."
Captain Kettle rubbed thoughtfully at his beard.
" Well, I'm a trifle misty about it myself," he ad-
44 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
mitted ; " but it will make none the worse poetry
for being a bit that way, if I can get the rhymes all
" * Plough ' might suit you," Carnforth suggested.
"That's just the word I want, sir. 'The fields of
heaven to plough.* That would be the very occupa-
tion the soul of the man I'm thinking about would
delight in ; something restful and in the agricultural
line. I wanted to give him a good time up there.
He was due for it," he added thoughtfully, and then
he closed his eyes and fell to making further poetry.
Martin Carnforth knew the little ruffian's taste
for this form of exercise, but it seemed to him jar-
ringly out of place just then. " I am in no mood
for verse now," he commented with ^ frown.
" I am," said Kettle, and tapped out the metre of
a new line with a finger-tip upon his knee. " It
always takes a set-to with the hands, or a gale of
wind, or a tight corner of some kind, to work me
up to poetry at all. And the worse the fix has been,
the better I can rhyme. I find it very restful and
pleasant, sir, to send my thoughts over a bit of a
sonnet after times like these."
"Then you ought to turn out a masterpiece now,"
said Carnforth, "and enjoy the making of it."
Kettle took him seriously. " I quite agree with
you there, sir," he said, and puckered his forehead
and went on with his work.
Carnforth did not say anymore, but turned again
to brooding. Every time he looked at the matter,
the more he cursed himself for leaving his snug pin-
nacle in England. The utmost boon he could have
gained in Captain Kettle's society was not to be
i:ROWN AND GAROTTE. 45
caught. Dangers, hardships, and exposures he was
discovering are much pleasanter to hear of from a
distance, or to read about in a well-stuffed chair
by a warm fireside. The actual items themselves
had turned out terribly squalid when viewed at first
At last he broke out again. " Look here, Skipper,**
he said, " I'm fond enough of life, but I don*t think
I want to earn it by playing executioner. Fd prefer
to let this rebel fellow parade me and bring out his
Kettle woke up from his work. " Tm not sweet
on wearing the iron collar again, and that's a fact.
It*s horrible work waiting to have your backbone
snapped without being able to raise a finger to inter-
fere. I*m not a coward, Mr. Carnforth, but I tell
you it took all the nerve Fd got to sit quiet in that
chair without squirming whilst you were getting
ready the ceremonial.
" It*s no new thing for me to expect b"eing killed
before the hour was through. I*ve had trouble of
all kinds with all sorts of crews, but Tve always had
my hands free and been able to use them, and I will
say Tve *most always had a gun of some sort to help
me. I might even go so far as to tell you, sir (and
you may kick me for saying it if you like), I*ve felt
a kind of joy regularly glow inside me during some
of those kind of scuffles. Yes, sir, that*s the kind
of animal I am in hot blood I think no more of
being killed than a terrier dog does.**
" If there was only a chance of being knocked on
the head in hot blood,** said Carnforth, " I'd fight
like a cornered thief till I got my quietus.**
46 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" And Mrs. Kettle would lose her twelve shillings
a week if By James, sir, here they come for
He leapt up from the bench on which he had sat,
and whirled it above his head. With a crash he
brought it down against the whitened wall of the
cell, and the bench split down its length into two
staves. He gave one to Carnforth, and hefted the
other himself like a connoisseur.
" Now, sir, you on one side of the door, and me
on the other. They can't reach us from the out-
side there. And if they want us out of here, we've
got to be fetched."
Carnforth took up his stand, and shifted his fingers
knowingly along his weapon. He was a big man
and a powerful one, and the hunger for fighting lit
in his eye.
" Horatius Cockles and the other Johnnie holding
the bridge," quoth he. " We can bag the first two,
and the others will fall over them if they try a rush.
What fools they were to untie our wrists and shins !
But our fun won't last long. As soon as they find
we are awkward, they will go around to the window-
slit, and shoot us down from there."
" We aren't shot yet," said Kettle grimly, " and
I'm wanting to do a lot of damage before they get
me. Look out ! "
The bolts grated back in the rusty staples, and
the heavy door screamed outwards on its hinges. A
negro came in, whistling merrily. The two halves
of the bench flew down upon his head from either
side with a simultaneous crash.
A white man's skull would have crunched like an
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 47
eggshell under that impact, but the African cranium
is stout. The fellow toppled to the ground undeV
the sheer tonnage of the blows, and he lay there
with the whistle half-frozen on his lips, and such a
ludicrous look of surprise growing over his features
that Carnforth burst into an involuntary laugh.
Kettle, however, was more business-like. The negro
had a machete dangling from his hip, and the little
sailor darted out and snatched it from its sheath.
He jumped back again to cover with slim activity,
and a couple of pistol bullets which followed him
made harmless grey splashes on the opposite wall.
Then there was a pause in the proceedings, and
Carnforth felt his heart thumping noisily against
his watch as he waited.
Presently a brisk footstep made itself heard on
the flagging outside, and the voice of the mulatto
leader spoke through the doorway.
" If you come out now, one of you shall be garot-
ted, and the other shall go free. If I have more
trouble to fetch you, you shall both be roasted to
death over slow fires.'*
" If— if— if ! '' retorted Kettle. " If your mother
had stuck to her laundry work and married a nigger,
she'd have kept a very great rascal out of the world.
If I'd the sense of a sheep I'd come to you at once^
and my poor wife would have twelve bob a week
for life. If you want to talk, you frightened lump
of gingerbread, come in here and do it, and don't
squall out there like a cat on a garden wall."
The suave voice of the ex-priest made a com-
ment. " Saints deliver us from these Englishmen's
tongues. Truly they are not fit to live ; but why
48 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
should we send our terriers into the rat pit ? A little
careful shooting through the window yonder will
soon limit their capers, and if the shooting is care-
fully done, neither will beany the worse as a roast."
El Cuchillo answered him savagely. ** Then do
you see to it. The big man you may shoot as you
please, but if you kill the sailor, look to yourself.
That man is in my debt, and I want him in my
hands alive, so that I may pay it.**
'' AmigOj' said the unfrocked priest, ** you may
trust to my shooting. I will pink him most scien-
tifically in one leg and the right arm, and I will guar-
antee that you shall get him in perfect condition to
have your satisfaction on.'*
" Do so," said the mulatto, and the other marched
briskly away on his rope-soled sandals. But in the
meantime Kettle's active brain had formed a plan,
and in dumb show he had telegraphed it across to
Carnforth at the opposite flank of the doorway.
Of a sudden the pair of them rushed out simul-
taneously. Kettle handed the machete to his
companion, and sprang upon the yellow man with
greedy fingers. His feet he kicked away from be-
neath him, and at the same instant grappled him
by the throat. It was a trick he had many a time
before played upon mutinous seamen, and he had
dragged the mulatto back into the cell almost be-
fore the man had time to struggle. Carnforth
followed closely upon their heels, leaving signatures
behind him written redly with the machete.
Captain Kettle bumped the mulatto's head
against the wall as a way of quietening him, and
keeping his fingers away from dangerous weapons,
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 49
and then threw him on to the floor. He extracted
a revolver and a knife from the man's belt, and,
looked up to see the face of the ex-priest staring
at him from the window. Then he sat himself on
the chest of his prisoner, and prepared to treat for
A shot rang out across the bivouac outside, and
then another. The man at the window-slit turned
away his face. There was a minute's pause, and
then a dropping fire began, the sound of it coming
from two distinct quarters.
The ex-priest's head went out of sight. It was
the last they ever saw of him. Some one outside
the doorway shouted " Los Espanoles ! " and there
was the scuffle of bare feet running away and fad-
ing into the distance. And, meanwhile, outside the
windows the crackle of rifles grew more noisy, and
cries rose up of men in pain. The light in the
vaulted room grew faintly blue, and the aif was
soured with powder smoke.
" By James," said Kettle, " the Spanish regular
troops have raided the camp, and the whole lot of
them are fighting like a parcel of cats. Hark to the
racket. Here's a slice of luck."
" I don't see it," said Carnforth. " If we're out
of the fire, we're into the frying-pan. Sinking that
Spanish warship was an act of piracy, and we shall
be strung up if the Dons catch us, without the pre-
lude of a trial. Listen ! There's a Maxim come
into action. Listen! I wonder which way the
fight's going. They're making row enough over
it. I'm going to get to the window and have a
50 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" It's tempting," said the little sailor wistfully,
" but I think, sir, you'd better not. If you're seen
we shall be gastados^ as they say, anyway. Where-
as, if the rebels are licked, the Dons may march
off again without knowing we are here. It's a
chance. By James, though, I'd like to have a look.
Hark to that. They're at hand-grips now. Hear
'em swear. And hear 'em scream.
" Some of them are beginning to run. Hark to
that crashing as they're making their way through
"And hark to those shouts. It's like a lot of
cockneys at a foxhunt."
** These Dagos always yell blue murder when
they're in a fight," said Kettle contemptuously.
" The Maxim's stopped," said Carnforth, with a
They listened on for awhile with straining ears,
and then : " Perhaps that means the rebels have
" They may have run. But the Dons ought to
be browning the cover if they've cleared the camp.
The fools ! A Maxim would shoot through half a
mile of that cane-jungle."
" Short of ammunition," said Kettle, " or perhaps
it's jammed." A bugle shrilled out through the
hot air, and its noise came to them there in the hot,
dark room. " That means cease fire, and the Span-
iards have won. Our mongrels had no bugles.
Well, it's been a quick thing. I wonder what
There was a dull murmur of many voices. Then
orders were shouted, and noise came as of moving
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 5 1
men, and a few more scattered shots rang out,
most of them answered by cries or groans.
" Hullo ? " said Kettle.
A weak voice from beneath him made explana-
tion. " They are shooting their prisoners, Sefiores —
the men who were my comrades. It is the custom —
the custom of Cuba."
" So you have concluded to come to life again,
have you ? ** asked the little sailor. " I thought Fd
bumped you harder. What do you expect to be
done with, eh ? **
" I am in your hands,** said the mulatto sullenly.
" That's no lie," said Kettle, " and I've a perfect
right to kill you if I wish. But I don't choose to
dirty my hands further. You've only acted accord-
ing to your nature. And — when it came to me
being able to move, I've beaten you every time.
But now we'll have silence, please, for all hands.
If those Spaniards are going to search this old
sugar house, they'll do it, and up on a string we go
the three of us ; but there's no need to entice them
here by chattering."
Their voices stopped, and the noises from with-
out buzzed on. Of all the trials he had gone
through, Carnforth felt that waiting to be the most
intolerable of all. The Spanish soldiery were look-
ing to their wounds and hunting through the
bivouac. Some (to judge from their talk) had
gathered round the rusted garotte and were exam-
ining it with interest. And a few strolled up to the
ruined ingenioy and smoked their cigarettes under its
piazza. Any moment the room beneath the boiler
house might be peeped upon.
52 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
The sun beat down upon the stonework and the
heat grew. The voices gradually drew away, till
only the hum of the insects remained. And so an
Another hour came and went without disturbance,
and still another ; and then there came the sound
of a quavering tenor voice singing a scrap from the
" Swanee River ** from close outside the walls :
" Oh, take me to my kind ole mudder !
Dere let me live and die.**
" That Yankee nigger/* said Kettle, in a whisper.
" He was wounded and delirious before we came,
and he's been hidden amongst the cane. They
can't have seen him before ; but, poor devil, they'll
shoot him now."
But no quietening rifle-shot rang out, and wonder
grew on the faces of all three, They waited on
with straining ears, and Carnforth raised his eye-
brows in an unspoken question. Kettle nodded,
and the big man rose gingerly to his feet, and
peeped from the corner of the window-slit. He
turned round with rather a harsh laugh. " The
place is empty," he said. " I believe they've been
gone these three hours."
Captain Kettle leapt to his feet and made for the
door. " Quick," he cried, " or we shall have the
rebels back again, and I'll own that I don't want to
fight the whole lot of them again just now. We'll
leave Gingerbread in here till his friends come to
fetch him ; and you and I, sir, will slip down to the
beach, and get off in one of the old Sultans quarter-
CROWN AND GAROTTE. 53
They passed outside the door, and closed and
bolted it after them.
"By the way/* said Captain Kettle, " you
couldn't happen to think of a rhyme to * gleam,*
could you ? "
" No," said Carnforth.
" Well, 1*11 hammer it out on the road down, and
then 1*11 have finished that sonnet, sir. But never
mind poetry just now. 1*11 say the piece to you
when we've got to sea. For the present, Mr. Carn-
forth, we must just pick up our feet and run.**
And so they went off to the quarter-boat, and ten
minutes later they were running her down the
beach and into the sea.
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE.
I THINK it may be taken as one of the most remark-
able attributes of Captain Owen Kettle that, what-
ever circumstances might betide, he was always neat
and trim in his personal appearance. Even in most
affluent hours he had never been able to afford an
expensive tailor ; indeed, it is much to be doubted if,
during all his life, he ever bought a scrap of raiment
any where except at a ready-made establishment ;
but, in spite of this, his clothes were always conspicu-
ously well-fitting, carried the creases in exactly the
right place, and seemed to the critical onlooker to be
capable of improvement in no one point whatso-
ever. He looked spruce even in oilskins and thigh
Of course, being a sailor, he was handy with his
needle. I have seen him take a white drill jacket,
torn to ribands in a rough and tumble with mutinous
members of his crew, and fine-draw the rents so won-
derfully that all traces of the disaster were completely
lost. I believe, too, he was capable of taking a roll
of material and cutting it out with his knife upon
the deck planks, and fabricating garments ab initio ;
and though I never actually saw him do this with my
own eyes, I did hear that the clothes he appeared in
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE, 55
at Valparaiso were so made, and I marvelled at their
It was just after his disastrous adventure in Cuba ;
he trod the streets in a state of utter pecuniary desti-
tution ; his cheeks were sunk and his eyes were hag-
gard : but the red torpedo beard was as trim as ever ;
his cap was spic and span ; the white drill clothes with
their brass buttons were the usual miracle of per-
fection ; and even his tiny canvas shoes had not as
much as a smudge upon their pipe-clay. Indeed, in
the first instance I think it must have been this
spruceness, and nothing else, which made him find
favour in the eyes of so fastidious a person as Clo-
tilde La Touche.
But be this as it may, it is a fact that Donna Clotilde
just saw the man from her carriage as he walked
along the Paseo de Colon, promptly asked his name,
and, getting no immediate reply, despatched one of
her admirers there and then to make his acquaintance,
The envoy was instructed to find out who he was,
and contrive that Donna Clotilde should meet the
little sailor at dinner in the Caf6 of the Lion d*Or
that very evening.
The dinner was given in the patio of the caf^
where palm-fronds filtered the moonbeams, and fire-
flies competed with the electric lights ; and at a mod-
erate computation the cost of the viands would have
kept Captain Kettle supplied with his average rations
for ten months or a year. He was quite aware of this
and appreciated the entertainment none the worse
in consequence. Even the champagne, highly sweet-
ened to suit the South American palate, came most
pleasantly to him. He liked champagne according
$6 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
to its lack of dryness, and this was the sweetest wine
that had ever passed his lips.
The conversation during that curious meal ran in
phases. With the hors d'ceuvres came a course of
ordinary civilities ; then for a space there rolled out
an autobiographical account of some of Kettle's ex-
ploits, skilfully and painlessly extracted by Donna
Clotilde's naive questions ; and then, with the cognac
and cigarettes, a spasm of politics shook the diners
like an ague.
Of a sudden one of the men recollected himself,
looked to this side and that with a scared face, and
rapped the table with his knuckles.
" Ladies,*' he said imploringly, " and Senores, the
heat is great. It may be dangerous."
" Pah ! " said Donna Clotilde, " we are talking in
" Which other people besides ourselves under-
stand, even in Valparaiso."
" Let them listen," said Captain Kettle. " I hold
the same opinions on politics as Miss La Touche
here, since she has explained to me how things
really are, and I don't care who knows that I think
the present Government, and the whole system,
rotten. I am not in the habit of putting my opin-
ions in words, Mr. Silva, and being frightened of
people hearing them."
" You," said the cautious man drily, " have little
to lose here. Captain. Donna Clotilde has much.
I should be very sorry to read in my morning paper
that she had died from apoplexy — the arsenical
variety — during the course of the preceding night."
" Pooh," said Kettle, ** they could never do that."
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 57
" As a resident in Chili/* returned Silva, " let me
venture to disagree with you, Captain. It is a dis-
ease to which the opponents of President Quijarra
are singularly addicted whenever they show any
marked political activity. The palm trees in this
patio have a reputation, too, for being phenomenally
long-eared. So, if it pleases you all, suppose we go
out on the roof? The moon will afford us a fine
prospect — and — the air up there is reputed healthy."
He picked up Donna Clotilde's fan and mantilla.
The other two ladies rose to their feet ; Donna Clo-
tilde, with a slight frown of reluctance, did the
same ; and they all moved off towards the stairway,
Silva laid detaining fingers upon Captain Kettle's
" Captain,** he said, " if I may give you a friendly
hint, slip away now and go to your quarters.**
"I fancy, sir,** said Captain Kettle, **that Miss
La Touche has employment to offer me.**
"If she has,** retorted Silva, "which I doubt, it
will not be employment you will care about.**
" I am what they call here * on the beach,* ** said
Kettle, " and I cannot afford to miss chances. I
am a married man, Mr. Silva, with children to think
" Ah ! '* the Chillian murmured thoughtfully. " I
wonder if she knows he's married ? Well, Captain,
if you will go up, come along, and I*m sure I wish
The flat roof of the Caf^ of the Lion d*Or is set
out as a garden, with orange trees growing against
the parapets, and elephants* ears and other tropical
foliage plants stood here and there in round green
58 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
tubs. Around it are the other roofs of the city,
which, with the streets between, look like some
white rocky plain cut up by steep caflons. A glow
comes from these depths below, and with it the
blurred hum of people. But nothing articulate gets
up to the Lion d'Or, and in the very mistiness of
the noise there is something indescribably fascinat-
Moreover, it is a place where the fireflies of Val-
paraiso most do congregate. Saving for the lamps
of heaven, they have no other lighting on that roof.
The owners (who are Israelites) pride themselves
on this : it gives the garden an air of mystery ; it
has made it the natural birthplace of plots above
numbering ; and it has brought them profits almost
beyond belief. Your true plotter, when his ecstasy
comes upon him, is not the man to be niggardly with
the purse. He is alive and glowing then ; he may
very possibly be dead to-morrow ; and in the mean-
while money is useless, and the things money can
buy — and the very best of their sort — are most de-
One more whispered hint did Mr. Silva give to
Captain Kettle as they made their way together up
the white stone steps.
" Do you know who and what our hostess is ? "
** A very nice young lady," replied the mariner
promptly, " with a fine taste in suppers."
" She is all that," said Silva ; " but she also hap-
pens to be the richest woman in Chili. Her father
owned mines innumerable, and when he came by
his end in our last revolution, he left every dollar he
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLO TILDE. 59
had at Donna Clotilde's entire disposal. By some
unfortunate oversight, personal fear has been left
out of her composition, and she seems anxious to
add it to the list of her acquirements.'*
Captain Kettle puckered his brows. " I don't
seem to understand you," he said.
"I say this," Silva murmured, "because there
seems no other way to explain the keenness with
which she hunts after personal danger. At present
she is intriguing against President Quijarra's Gov-
ernment. Well, we all know that Quijarra is a bri-
gand, just as his predecessor was before him. The
man who succeeds him in the Presidency of Chili
will be a brigand also. It is the custom of my coun-
try. But interfering with brigandage is a ticklish
operation, and Quijarra is always scrupulous to
wring the necks of anyone whom he thinks at all
likely to interfere with his peculiar methods."
" I should say that from his point of view," said
Kettle, " he was acting quite rightly, sir."
" I thought you'd look at it sensibly," said Silva.
" Well, Captain, here we are at the top of the stair.
Don't you think you had better change your mind,
and slip away now, and go back to your quarters?"
" Why, no, sir," said Captain Kettle. " From
what you tell me, it seems possible that Miss La
Touche may shortly be seeing trouble, and it would
give me pleasure to be near and ready to bear a
hand. She is a lady for whom I have got consider-
able regard. That supper, sir, which we have just
eaten, and the wine, are things which will live in my
He stepped out on to the roof, and Donna Clotilde
6o ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
came to meet him. She linked her fingers upon
his arm, and led him apart from the rest. At the
further angle of the gardens they leaned their elbows
upon the parapet, and talked, whilst the glow from
the street below faintly lit their faces, and the fire-
flies winked behind their backs.
" I thank you. Captain, for your offer," she said at
length, " and I accept it as freely as it was given.
I have had proposals of similar service before, but
they came from the wrong sort. I wanted a man,
and I found out that you were that before you had
been at the dinner table five minutes."
Captain Kettle bowed to the compliment.
" But," said he, " if I am that, I have all a man's
" I like them better," said the lady, " than a half-
man's virtues. And as a proof I offer you command
of my navy."
" Your navy, Miss ? "
" It has yet to be formed," said Donna Clotilde,
" and you must form it. But, once we make the
nucleus, other ships of the existing force will desert
to us, and with those we must fight and beat the
rest. Once we have the navy, we can bombard the
ports into submission till the country thrusts out
President Quijarra of its own accord, and sets me up
in his place."
" Oh," said Kettle, ** I didn't understand. Then
you want to be Queen of Chili ? "
" But a president is a man, isn't he ? "
" Why ? Answer me that."
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 6l
" Because — well, because they always have been,
" Because men up to now have always taken the
best things to themselves. Well, Captain, all that
is changing; the world is moving on ; and women
are forcing their way in, and taking their proper
place. You say that no state has had a woman-
president. You are quite right. I shall be the first."
Captain Kettle frowned a little, and looked
thoughtfully down into the lighted street beneath.
But presently he made up his mind, and spoke again.
" ril accept your offer, Miss, to command the
navy, and FU do the work well. You ^ay rely on
that. Although I say it myself, you'd find it hard
to get a better man. I know the kind of brutes one
has to ship as seamen along this South American
coast, and Fm the sort of brute to handle them.
By James, yes, and you shall see me make them do
most things, short of miracles.
"But there's one other thing. Miss, I ought to
say, and I must apologise for mentioning it, seeing
that you're not a business person. I must have my
twelve pound a month, and all found. I know it's
a lot, and I know you'll tell me wages are down just
now. But I couldn't do it for less. Miss. Com-
manding a navy's a strong order, and, besides,
there's considerable risk to be counted in as well."
Donna Clotilde took his hand in both hers.
" I thank you. Captain," she said, " for your offer,
and I begin to see success ahead from this moment.
You need have no fear on the question of remunera-
" I hope you didn't mind my mentioning it," said
62 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Kettle nervously. " I know it's not a thing gener-
ally spoken of to ladies. But you see, Miss, Fm a
poor man, and feel the need of money sometimes.
Of course, twelve pound a month is high, but "
" My dear Captain,** the lady broke in, " what you
ask is moderation itself ; and, believe me, I respect
you for it, and will not forget. Knowing who I am,
no other man in Chili would have hesitated to ask **
— she had on her tongue to say *' a hundred times
as much,** but suppressed that and said — "more.
But in the meantime,'* said she, " will you accept
this hundred-pound note for any current expenses
which may occur to you ? *'
A little old green-painted barque lay hove-to under
sail, disseminating the scent of guano through the
sweet tropical day. Under her square counter the
name El Almirante Cochrane appeared in clean
white lettering. The long South Pacific swells lifted
her lazily from hill to valley of the blue water, to
the accompaniment of squealing gear and a certain
groaning of fabric. The Chilian coast lay afar off,
as a white feathery line against one fragment of the
The green-painted barque was old. For many a
weary year had she carried guano from rainless
Chilian islands to the ports of Europe ; and though
none of that unsavoury cargo at present festered
beneath her hatches, though, indeed, she was in
shingle ballast and had her holds scrubbed down and
fitted with bunks for men, the aroma of it had
entered into the very soul of her fabric, and not all
the washings of the sea could remove it.
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 63
A white whaleboat lay astern, riding to a grass-
rope painter, and Senor Carlos Silva, whom the
whaleboat had brought off from the Chilian beach,
sat in the barque's deck-house talking to Captain
** The Senorita will be very disappointed," said
" I can imagine her disappointment,'* returned the
sailor. " I can measure it by my own. I can tell
you, sir, when I saw this filthy, stinking, old wind-
jammer waiting for me in Callao, I could have sat
down right where I was and cried. Fd got my men
together, and I guess Fd talked big about El AhnU
rante Cochrane^ the fine new armoured cruiser we
were to do wonders in. The only thing I knew
about her was her name, but Miss La Touche had
promised me the finest ship that could be got, and
I only described what I thought a really fine ship
would be. And, then, when the agent stuck out his
finger and pointed out this foul old violet-bed, I tell
you it was a bit of a let down."
" There's been some desperate robbery some-
where," said Silva.
" It didn't take me long to guess that," said
Kettle, " and I concluded the agent was the thief,
and started in to take it out of him without further
talk. He hadn't a pistol, so I only used my hands
to him, but I guess I fingered him enough in three
minutes to stop his dancing for another month. He
swore by all the saints he was innocent, and that he
was only the tool of other men ; and perhaps that
was so. But he deserved what he got for being in
such shady employment."
64 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Still, that didn't procure you another ship ? *'
" Hammering the agent couldn't make him do an
impossibility, sir. There wasn't such a vessel as I
wanted in all the ports of Peru. So I just took
this nosegay that was offered, lured my crew aboard,
and put out past San Lorenzo island, and got to
sea. It's a bit of a come down, sir, for a steamer-
sailor like me," the little man added with a sigh,
" to put an old wind-jammer through her gymnas-
tics again. I thought I'd done with * mainsail haul'
and rawhide chafing gear, and all the white wings
nonsense, for good and always."
" But, Captain, what did you come out for ?
What earthly good can you do with an old wreck
" Why, sir, I shall carry out what was arranged
with Miss La Touche. I shall come up with one of
President Quijarra's Government vessels, capture her
and then start in to collar the rest. There's no
alteration in the programme. It's only made more
difficult, that's all."
" I rowed out here to the rendezvous to tell you
the Cancelario is at moorings in Tampique Bay,
and that the Seflorita would like to see you make
your beginning upon her. But what's the good of
that news, now ? The Cancelario is a fine new war-
ship of 3000 tons. She's fitted with everything
modern in guns and machinery, she's three hundred
men of a crew, and she lays always with steam up
and an armed watch set. To go near her in this
clumsy little barque would be to make yourself
a laughing-stock. Why, your English Cochrane
wouldn't have done it."
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 65
" I know nothing about Lord Cochrane, Mr. Silva.
He was dead before my time. But whatever people
may have done to him, I can tell anyone who cares
to hear, that the man who's talking to you now is a
bit of an awkward handful to laugh at. No, sir,
I expect there'll be trouble over it, but you may
tell Miss La Touche we shall have the Cancelario,
if she'll stay in Tampique Bay till I can drive this
old lavender-box up to her."
For a minute Silva stared in silent wonder.
" Then, Captain," said he, " all I can think is, that
you must have enormous trust in your crew."
Captain Kettle bit the end from a fresh cigar.
" You should go and look at them for yourself,"
said he, " and hear their talk, and then you'd know.
The beasts are fit to eat me already."
" How did you get them on board ? "
" Well, you see, sir, I collected them by promises
— fine pay, fine ship, fine cruise, fine chances, and
so on ; and, when I'd only this smelling bottle here
to show them, they hung back a bit. If there'd been
only twenty of them, I don't say but what I could
have hustled them on board with a gun and some
ugly words. But sixty were too many to tackle ; so
I just said to them that El Alntirante Cochrane was
only a ferry to take us across to a fine war steamer
that was lying out of sight elsewhere ; and they
swallowed the yarn, and stepped in over the side.
"I can't say they've behaved like lambs since.
The grub's not been to their fancy, and I must say
the biscuit was crawling ; and it seems that as a
bedroom the hold hurt their delicate noses; and,
between one thing and another, I've had to shoot
66 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
six of them before they understood I was skipper
here. You see, sir, they were most of them living
in Callao before they shipped, because there's no
extradition there ; and so they're rather a toughish
crowd to handle."
" What a horrible time you must have had ! "
" There has been no kid-glove work for me, sir,
since I got to sea with this rose garden ; and I must
say it would have knocked the poetry right out of
most men. But, personally, I can't say it has done
that to me. You'd hardly believe it, sir, but once
or twice, when the whole lot of the brutes have been
raging against me, I've been very nearly happy. ^
And afterwards, when I've got a spell of rest, I've
picked up pen and paper and knocked off one or
two of the prettiest sonnets a man could wish to see
in print. If you like, sir, I'll read you a couple be-
fore you go back to your whaleboat."
" I thank you. Skipper, but not now. Time is on
the move, and Donna Clotilde is waiting for me.
What am I to tell her?"
" Say, of course, that her orders are being carried
out, and her pay being earned."
"My poor fellow," said Silva, with a sudden gush
of remorse, " you are only sacrificing yourself use-
lessly. What can you, in a small sailing vessel like
this, do with your rifles against a splendidly armed
vessel like the Cancelario ? "
" Not much in the shooting line, that's certain,"
said Kettle cheerfully. " That beautiful agent sold
us even over the ammunition. There were kegs put
on board marked ' cartridges,' but when I came to
break one or two so as to serve out a little ammuni-
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 67
tion, for practice, be hanged if the kegs weren't full
of powder. And it wasn't the stuff for guns even ; it
was blasting powder, same as they use in the mines.
Oh, sir, that agent was the holiest kind of fraud."
Silva wrung his hands. " Captain," he cried, " you
must not go on with this mad cruise. It would be
sheer suicide for you to find the Cancelario'*
" You shall give me news of it again after IVe
met her," said Captain Kettle. " For the present,
sir, I follow out Miss La Touche's orders, and earn
my £12 3L month. But if you're my friend, Mr.
Silva, and want to do me a good turn, you might
hint that if things go well, I could do with a rise to
;^I4 a month when I'm sailing the Cancelario for her."
The outline of Tampique Bay stood out clearly
in bright moonshine, and the sea down the path
of the moon's rays showed a canal of silver, cut
through rolling fields of purple. The green-painted
barque was heading into the bay on the port tack ;
and at moorings, before the town, in the curve of
the shore, the grotesque spars of a modern warship
showed in black silhouette against the moonbeams.
A slate-coloured naphtha-launch was sliding out over
the swells towards the barque.
Captain Kettle came up from below, and watched
the naphtha-launch with throbbing interest. He
had hatched a scheme for capturing the Cancelario^
and had made his preparations ; and here was an
interruption coming which might very well upset
everything most ruinously. Nor was he alone in his
regard. The barque's topgallant rail was lined with
faces; all her complement were wondering who
68 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
these folk might be who were so confidently coming
out to meet them.
A Jacob's ladder was thrown over the side ; the
slate-coloured launch swept up, and emitted — a
woman. Captain Kettle started, and went down
into the waist to meet her. A minute later he was
wondering whether he dreamed, or whether he was
really walking his quarterdeck in company with
Donna Clotilde La Touche. But meanwhile the
barque held steadily along her course.
The talk between them was not for long.
" I must beseech you, Miss, to go back from
where you came," said Kettle. "You must trust
me to carry out this business without your super-
" Is your method very dangerous ? " she asked.
" I couldn't recommend it to an Insurance Com-
pany," said Kettle thoughtfully.
" Tell me your scheme."
Kettle did so in some forty words. He was pithy,
and Donna Clotilde was cool. She heard him with-
out change of colour.
"Ah," she said, " I think you will do it."
"You will know one way or another within an
hour from now. Miss. But I must ask you to take
your launch to a distance. As I tell you, I have
made all my own boats so that they won't swim ;
but, if your little craft was handy, my crew would
jump overboard and risk the sharks, and try to reach
her in spite of all I could do to stop them. They
won't be anxious to fight that Cancelario when
the time comes, if there's any way of wriggling out
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 69
" You are quite right, Captain ; the launch must
go ; only I do not. I must be your guest here till
you can put me on the Cancelarioy
Captain Kettle frowned. " What's coming is no
job for a woman to be in at, Miss."
" You must leave me to my own opinion about
that. You see, we differ upon what a woman
should do. Captain. You say a woman should not
be president of a republic ; you think a woman
should not be sharer in a fight : I am going to show
you how a woman can be both." She leant her
shoulders over the rail, and hailed the naptha-launch
with a sharp command. A man in the bows cast
off the line with which it towed ; the man aft put
over his tiller, and set the engines a-going; and,
like a slim, grey ghost, the launch slid quietly away
into the gloom. '* You see,*' she said, " I'm bound
to stay with you now." And she looked upon him
with a burning glance.
But Kettle replied coldly. " You are my owner,
Miss," he said, ** and can do as you wish. It is not
for me now to say that you are foolish. Do I un-
derstand you still wish me to carry out my original
plan ? "
" Yes," she said curtly.
" Very well, Miss, then we shall be aboard of that
war-steamer in less than fifteen minutes." He bade
his second mate call aft the crew ; but instead of
remaining to meet them, he took a keen glance at
the barque's canvas, another at her wake, another
at the moored cruiser ahead, and then, after peering
thoughtfully at the clouds which sailed in the sky,
he went to the companion-way and dived below.
^0 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
The crew trooped aft and stood at the break of the
quarterdeck waiting for him. And in the mean-
while they feasted their eyes with many different
thoughts on Donna Clotilde La Touche.
Presently Captain Kettle returned to deck, ag-
gressive and cheerful, and faced the men with hands
in his jacket pockets. Each pocket bulged with
something heavy, and the men, who by this time
had come to understand Captain Kettle's ways, be-
gan to grow quiet and nervous. He came to the
point without any showy oratory.
" Now, my lads," said he, " I told you when you
shipped aboard this lavender-box in Callao, that
she was merely a ferry to carry you to a fine war-
steamer which was lying elsewhere. Well, there's
the steamer, just off the starboard bow yonder.
Her name's the Cancelarioy and at present she seems
to belong to President Quijarra's Government.
But Miss La Touche here (who is employing both
me and you, just for the present) intends to set up
a Government of her own ; and, as a preliminary,
she wants that ship. We've to grab it for her."
Captain Kettle broke off, and for a full minute
there was silence. Then some one amongst the men
laughed, and a dozen others joined in.
" That's right," said Kettle. " Cackle away, you
scum. You'd be singing a different tune if you knew
what was beneath you."
A voice from the gloom — an educated voice — an-
swered him : " Don't be foolish, Skipper. We're
not going to ram our heads against a brick wall
like that. We set some value on our lives."
" Do you ? " said Kettle. " Then pray that this
THE war-steam5:r of donna clotilde. 71
breeze doesn't drop (as it seems likely to do), or
you'll lose them. Shall I tell you what I was up
to below just now ? You remember those kegs of
blasting powder? Well, they're in the lazaret,
where some of you stowed them ; but they're all of
them unheaded, and one of them carries the end
of a fuse. That fuse is cut to burn just twenty
minutes, and the end's lighted.
" Wait a bit. It's no use going to try and douse
it. There's a pistol fixed to the lazaret hatch, and
if you try to lift it that pistol will shoot into the
powder, we'll all go up together without further
palaver. Steady now there, and hear me out.
You can't lower away boats, and get clear that way.
The boat's bottoms will tumble away so soon as
you try to hoist them off the skids. I saw to that
last night. And you can't require any telling to
know there are far too many sharks about, to make
a swim healthy exercise."
The men began to rustle and talk.
"Now, don't spoil your only chance," said Kettle,
"by singing out. If on the cruiser yonder they
think there's anything wrong, they'll run out a gun
or two, and blow us out of the water before we can
come near them. I've got no arms to give you ;
but you have your knives, and I guess you
shouldn't want more. Get in the shadow of the
rail there, and keep hid till you hear her bump.
Then jump on board, knock everybody you see
over the side, and keep the rest below."
"They'll see us coming," whimpered a voice.
** They'll never let us board."
" They'll hear us," the Captain retorted, " if you
72 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
gallows-ornaments bellow like that, and then all
we'll have to do will be to sit tight where we are
till that powder blows us like a thin kind of spray-
up against the stars. Now, get to cover with you,
all hands, and not another sound. It's your only
The men crept away, shaking, and Captain Kettle
himself took the wheel, and appeared to drowse
over it. He gave her half a spoke at a time, and
by invisible degrees the barque fell off till she
headed dead on for the cruiser. Save for the faint
creaking of her gear, no sound came from her, and
she slunk on through the night like some patched
and tattered phantom. Far down in her lazaret
the glowing end of the fuse crept nearer to the
powder barrels, and in imagination every mind on
board was following its race.
Nearer and nearer she drew to the Cancelario,
and ever nearer. The waiting men felt as though
the hearts of them would leap from their breasts.
Two of them fainted. Then came a hail from the
cruiser : " Barque, ahoy, are you all asleep there ? "
Captain Kettle drowsed on over the wheel.
Donna Clotilde, from the shadow of the house,
could see him nodding like a man in deep sleep,
" Carrajo ! you barque, there ! Put down your
helm. You'll be aboard of us in a minute."
Kettle made no reply : his hands sawed automati-
cally at the spokes, and the glow from the pin-
nacle fell upon close-shut eyes. It was a fine bit of
The Chilians shouted, but they could not prevent
the collision, and when it came there broke out a
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 73
yell as though the gates of the pit had been sud-
The barque's crew of human refuse, mad with ter-
ror, rose up in a flock from behind the bulwarks.
As one man they clambered over the cruiser's side
and spread about her decks.
Ill provided with weapons though they might be,
the Chilians were scarcely better armed. A sentry
squibbed off his rifle, but that was the only shot
fired. Knives did the greater part of the work, —
knives and belaying pins, and whatever else came
to hand. Those of the watch on deck who did not
run below were cleared into the sea ; the berth deck
was stormed ; and the waking men surrendered to
the pistol nose.
A couple of desperate fellows went below, and
cowed the firemen and engineer on watch. The
mooring was slipped, steam was given to the engines,
and whilst her former crew were being drafted down
into an empty iiold, the Cancelario was standing out
at a sixteen-knot speed towards the open sea under
full command of the raiders. Then from behind
them came the roar of an explosion and a spurt of
dazzling light, and the men shuddered to think of
what they had so narrowly missed. And as it was
some smelling fragments of the old guano barque
lit upon the afterdeck, as they fell headlong from
the dark sky above.
Donna Clotilde went on to the upper bridge, and
took Captain Kettle by the hand.
" My friend," she said, " I shall never forget this.**
And she looked at him with eyes that spoke of more
than admiration for his success.
74 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" I am earning my pay/* said Kettle.
" Pah ! ** she said, ** don't let money come between
us. I cannot bear to think of you in connection
with sordid things like that. I put you on a higher
plane. Captain/* she said, and turned her head
away, " I shall choose a man like you for husband."
" Heaven mend your taste. Miss,** said Kettle ;
" but — there may be others like me.**
" There are not.**
" Then you must be content with the nearest you
Donna Clotilde stamped her foot upon the plank-
ing of the bridge.
" You are dull,** she cried.
** No,** he said, ** I have got clear sight, Miss.
Won*t you go below now and get a spell of sleep ?
Or will you give me your orders first ? **
" No,** she answered, " 'I will not. We must settle
this matter first. You have a wife in England, I
know, but that is nothing. Divorce is simple here.
I have influence with the Church ; you could be set
free in a day. Am I not the woman you would
" Miss La Touche, you are my employer.**
" Answer my question.*'
" Then, Miss, if you will have it, you are not.**
" But why ? Why ? Give me your reasons ?
You are brave. Surely I have shown courage too ?
Surely you •must admire that ? '*
" I like men for men*s work. Miss.**
" But that is an exploded notion. Women have
got to take their place. They must show themselves
the equals of men in everything.**
THE WAR-STEAMER OF DONNA CUOTILDE. 75
" But you see, Miss,'* said Kettle, " I prefer to be
linked to a lady who is my superior — as I am linked
at present. If it pleases you, we had better end
" No," said Donna Clotilde, " it has got to be
settled one way or the other. You know what I
want. Marry me as soon as you are set free, and
there shall be no end of your power. I will make
you rich ; I will make you famous. Chili shall be at
our feet ; the world shall bow to us."
" It could be done," said Kettle with a sigh.
" Then marry me."
" With due respect, I will not," said the little
'* You know you are speaking to a woman who is
not accustomed to be thwarted?"
Captain Kettle bowed.
*' Then you will either do as I wish, or leave this
ship. I give you an hour to consider it in."
" You will find my second mate the best navigat-
ing officer left," said Kettle, and Donna Clotilde,
without further words, left the bridge.
The little shipmaster waited for a decent interval,
and then sighed, and gave orders. The men on
deck obeyed him with quickness. A pair of boat
davits were swung out-board, and the boat plenti-
fully victualled and its water-breakers filled. The
Cancelario's engines were stopped, and the tackles
screamed as the boat was lowered to the water, and
rode there at the end of its painter. Captain Kettle
left the bridge in charge of his first officer, and went
below. He found the lady sitting in the com-
mander's cabin, with head pillowed upon her arms.
^6 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" You still Wish me to go, Miss ? " he saiii.
" If you will not accept what is ofTered."
" I am sorry/* said the little sailor, ." very sorry.
If I'd met you. Miss, before I saw Mrs. Kettle, and
if you'd been a bit different, I believe I could have
liked you. But as it is "
She leaped to her feet, with eyes that blazed,
" Go ! *' she cried. ** Go, or I will call upon some
of those fellows to shoot you."
"They will do it cheerfully, if you ask them," said
Kettle, and did not budge.
She sank down on the sofa again with a wail.
"Oh, go," she cried. " If you are a man go, and
never let me see you again."
Captain Kettle bowed, and went on deck.
A little later he was alone in the quarter-boat.
The Cancelario was drawing fast away from him
into the night, and the boat danced in the cream of
" Ah, well," he said to himself, " there's another
good chance gone for good and always. What a
cantankerous beggar I am." And then for a mo-
ment his thoughts went elsewhere, and he got out
paper and a stump of pencil, and busily scribbled an
elegy to some poppies in a cornfield. The lines had
just flitted gracefully across his mind, and they
seemed far too comely to be allowed a chance of
escape. It was a movement characteristic of his
queerly ordered brain. After the more ugly mo-
ments of his life. Captain Owen Kettle always turned
to the making of verse as an instinctive relief.
THE PILGRIM SHIP.
Even before he left Jeddah, Captain Kettle was
quite aware that by shipping pilgrims on the iron
deck of the Saigon for transit across the Red Sea, he
was trangressing the laws of several nations, espe-
cially those of Great Britain and her Dependencies.
But what else could the poor man do ? Situated as
he was, with such a tempting opportunity ready to
his hand, he would have been less than human if he
had neglected to take the bargain which was offered.
And though the list of things that has been said
against Captain Owen Kettle is both black and long,
I am not aware that anyone has yet alleged that the
little sailor was anything more or less than human
in all his many frailties.
Cortolvin came to the chart-house and put this
matter of illegality to him in plain words when the
engines chose to break down two days out of Jeddah,
and the Saigon lolled helpless in the blazing Red
Cortolvin up to that time had not made himself
remarked. He had marched on board from the new
Jeddah quay where the railway is, and posed as an
Arab of the Sahara who was glorying in the newly-
acquired green turban of a Hadji ; he was nicked on
78 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
the mate's tally as a " nigger," along with some three
hundred and forty dark-skinned followers of the
Prophet ; and he had spent those two days upon an
orthodox square of ragged carpet, spread on the
rusted iron plating of the lower fore deck.
When the pilgrims had mustered for victualling,
he had filed in with the rest, and held out a brass
lotah for his ration of water, and a tattered square of
canvas for his dole of steamed rice. You could
count his ribs twenty yards away ; but he*d the look
of a healthy man ; and when on mornings he helped
to throw overboard those of his fellow-pilgrims who
had died during the night, it was plain to see that
he was a fellow of more than ordinary muscular
He came to Captain Kettle in the chart-house to
report that the pilgrims contemplated seizing the Sau
gon so soon as ever the engines were once more put
in running order. " They've declared ayVAarf against
you, if you know what that is," said Cortolvin.
" A holy war, or some such skittles, isn't it ? " said
*' That's about the size of it," said the Hadji ;
" you'll have to look out if you intend to remain
master of this steamboat."
" I don't require any teaching of my business from
passengers," said Captain Kettle stiffly.
" All right," said Cortolvin, " have it your own
way. But I think you might be decently grateful.
I've risked my life by coming to give you news of
what was in the wind. And you can't pretend that
the information is not useful. You've a coolie crew
who will be absolutely foolish if trouble comes —
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 79
these Lascars always are that way. You've just your
two white engineers and two white mates to back
you up, and the five of you wouldn't have a show.
You've three hundred and forty fanatics to deal
with, who are all fighting bred, and fighting fit.
They're all well armed, and they wouldn't a bit
object to die scrimmaging in such a cause.
"You know it's part of their creed that if
they peg-out whilst fighting giaours^ they go slick
to paradise by lightning express. That wily old
camel-driver of Mecca painted his heaven as just
the sort of dandy place to suit this kind of cattle,
and as most of them have a beast of a time on
this earth, they're anxious to move along upstairs
whenever a decent opportunity offers to get there."
" They'll be an ugly crowd to tackle : I grant that."
" They are so, and don't you forget it. I might
point out, Captain, that, personally speaking, I'd
been a lot safer if I'd stayed down on the lower fore
deck yonder, and held my tongue. They'd have
got you to an absolute certainty if they'd ambushed
you as was intended, and I could have kept out of
the actual throat-cutting and preserved a sound skin.
They've all got profound respect forme: I'm a very
"And as it is?"
Hadji Cortolvin shrugged his shoulders. " Oh,
I chip in with you."
"Will you tell me why?"
" Cousinship of the skin I suppose. You're white
by birth, and I believe I should turn out to be white
also if I kept out of the sun for awhile, and had sev-
eral Turkish baths. Of course I've a snuff-coloured
80 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
hide on me now, and during this last two years I've
been living with men of colour, and following their
ways, and thinking their thoughts. Funny isn't it?
I come across you ; I don't know you from Adam ; I
can't say I particularly like what I've seen of you ; and
yet here am I, rounding on my former mates, and
chipping in with you on the clear knowledge that I
shall probably get killed during the next few hours
for my pains."
" May I ask your name ? " said Kettle. ** I believe,
sir," he added with a bow, " that you are a gentle-
The Hadji laughed. " So far as I recollect, I was
that once, Captain. Sorry I haven't a card on me,
but my name's W. H. Cortolvin, and I lived near
Richmond, in Yorkshire, before I was idiot enough
to go wandering off the Cook's tourist routes into
the middle of Arabia."
" I'm Welsh myself," said Kettle," but I've known
men from Yorkshire. Shake hands, sir, please. Will
you have a whisky-peg ? "
** Pour it out. Captain. I haven't tasted a Chris-
tian drink for thirty weary months. And you've
got a chattie hung up in the draught of a port ! Cool
water, ye gods ! Bismillah ! But it is good to be
Captain Kettle looked with distaste at the Hadji's
" Won't you sling that filthy night-gown thing of
yours overboard," he asked, " and have a wash ? I
can rig you out with some pyjamas from the slop
But Cortolvin would not change his dirt and
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 8 1
squalor just then. He had worn it too long to be af-
fected by it ; ** and/' said he, " I don't want to adver-
tise the fact that I'm an Englishman just at present.
If my dear friends down yonder on the lower deck
knew it, they'd not wait for the engines to be repaired.
They'd fizzle up just like gunpowder there and then,
and the whole lot of us white men would be pulled
into tassels before we'd time to think."
'' I don't know about that," said Kettle. " I've
faced some of the ugliest crowds that have floated
on the seas before this, and they thought they were
going to have it all their own way, but they found
that when it came to shooting that I could keep my
end up very handily."
He waved his guest to a deck chair, placed a box
of cheroots hospitably open on the chart-table, and
then he went outside the chart-house, and leant over
the bridge deck rail. The awning above him threw
a clean-cut shade which swung to and fro as the
Saigon rolled over the faint oily swell ; and outside
its shelter the sun's rays fell like molten brass, and
the metal-work was hot enough to raise a blister.
The air was motionless and stagnant, and greasy
with the smell of humanity. The whole fabric of the
steamer shimmered in the dancing heat.
For the dense mass of pilgrims below the situa-
tion approached the intolerable. Left to itself, the
rusted iron deck beneath their bare skins would
have grown hot enough to char them. Nothing but
a constant sluicing with water made it in any way to
be endured. And as the water from alongside came
up to them as warm as tea, it did but little to refresh.
The African can withstand most temperatures
82 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
which are thrown from above on to the face of this
planet, but even the African can at times die from
heat as glibly as his betters. Even as Kettle
watched, one of the pilgrims, a grizzle-headed Haiisa
from the Western Soudan, was contorted with heat
apoplexy ; breathed stertorously for a minute or so ;
and then lay still, and immediately became a prey
to flies innumerable. Two of his nearest comrades
bestirred themselves to look at him, pronounced that
life was extinct, stood up, and with an effort carried
the body out of the press, and heaved it over the
hot iron bulwark into the oily sea beneath. It is
not good that the dead should remain with the quick
even for minutes in circumstances such as those.
And whilst the bearers carried him away, an old
white-haired negro from Sokoto stood upon his feet
swaying to the roll of the ship, and faced the heat-
blurred East with bowed head. Aloud he bore
witness that God was great ; and that Mahomet was
the Prophet of God ; and that of mortals, each
man's fate was writ big upon his forehead. And
then the rest of the pilgrims bent their foreheads to
the torturing deck plates, and made profession of
the faith, following his words.
Captain Kettle from his stand against the rail of
the bridge deck pitied the heathen, and thought with
a complacent sigh of a certain obscure chapel in
South Shields ; but at the same time he could not
avoid being impressed by the heathen's constancy.
They might die, but they forebore to curse God in
doing it, and the omission gave him an insight into
the workings of fatalism which made him think
more of what Cortolvin had said.
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 83
Every man amongst the pilgrims had sword, or
spear, or mace, or rifle within grip of his fist ; and
as a fighting force — with fatalism to back them — he
began to realise that they could make a very ugly
company to manoeuvre against. A regulation of the
pilgrim trade requires that all weapons shall be
taken from this class of passengers during the voy-
age, but Kettle had omitted to disarm them through
sheer contempt for what they could do. If they
chose to fight amongst themselves, that was their
own concern ; it never even occurred to him as they
came off Jeddah quay, noisy and odorous, that they
would dare to contend against his imperial will ; but
now he sincerely wished that the means of serious
offence were not so handy to their fingers.
I do not say that he was afraid, for, knowing him
well, I honestly believe that the little ruffian has
never yet feared man that was born of woman ; but
the safety of the Saigon was a matter just then very
near to his heart, and he had forebodings as to
what might happen to her.
He went back again inside the chart-house, sat
himself upon the sofa, and ran a finger round inside
the collar of his white drill coat.
" Do you like the cheroots, sir ? " he said to his
" Nice cheroots,*' said Cortolvin : " wonder how
many I'll smoke. Those True Believers are a pretty
tough crowd, aren't they ? There's one Soudanese
fellow in a Darfur suit of mail. Did you notice
him ? He's been a big war sheik in his day. He
helped to smash up Hicks Pasha's army, and com-
manded a thousand men at the storming of Khar-
84 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
toum ; but he got sick of Mahdiism about a year
back, and set out to perform the Hadj. When
it comes to fighting, you'll see that man will
" He shall have my first shot," said Kettle.
" It surprises me,** said Cortolvin, " that you ever
went in for this pilgrim-carrying business at all. You
must have been pretty hard pushed, Captain.**
" Hard wasn't the word for it,** said the ship-
master with a sigh. " I met misfortune, sir, in Chili.
I disagreed with my employer, who was a lady, and
went off cruising in a boat by myself. A tea steamer
picked me up and put me in Colombo. I got from
there to Bombay as second mate of a tramp, but I
couldn't stand the old man's tongue, and went ashore
without my wages. I guess, sir, I'm no good except
in command ; I can't take an order civilly.
" Well, in Bombay I'd a regular nip-gut time of
it. I bummed round the agents' offices till I almost
blushed to look at their punkah-coolies ; but I'd no
papers to show that would do me any good ; and
none of them would give me a ship the size of a
** At last, when I was getting desperate, and pretty
near put to going to sea before the mast, a Cardiff
man I once knew came to the lodgings, and gave
me a tip. He'd been master of a country steamer ;
he'd been sacked (he didn't deny it) for drunkenness ;
he'd not drawn a sober breath for months, and didn't
see any prospect of changing his habits ; and there
was the berth vacant, and I might have it for the
" The pay wasn't much ; only lOO rupees a month
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 8$
and percentage on profits; and the owner was a
Parsee. I'd never been low enough down to sign
on under a black man before, but I guess I was past
being very nice in my tastes just then. The owner
was fat and oldish, and wore a thing on his head
like a top hat turned upside down, and I will say I
did not give him much politeness. But he knew
his place ; he sahib' d me quite respectfully ; and he
said he*d be honoured if Fd take his steamer under
my charge. * She was all he'd got,* he said ; * he
loved her like his life, and he'd not trust her to any-
one except dL pukka sahib.'
" Of course he lied a good deal — all natives do
that — and he fixed up our bargain so that I'd little
to win and he'd a good deal, which is those Parsees'
way. But I will say he was always most respectful,
and in the matter of victualling he really surprised
me. Why, he actually put Bass's ale on board at
four annas the bottle !
" We cleared from Bombay in corn, and cottons,
and earthenware, consigned to Jeddah, and the
owner told me I'd have no trouble in getting a cargo
of dates and coffee to bring back. But the Jeddah
merchants seemed to think different. I cut down
freights to near vanishing point, but they wouldn't
look at them anyhow. I couldn't get a ton of cargo
on board for any spot in the known globe, no, not if
I'd offered to carry it for nothing. The Saigon
might have swung there at moorings till the bottom
rotted out of her ; and expenses were running up all
" The climate was sickly too ; I lost my serang
before I'd been there a week, and two more of the
86 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
coolies died in the next ten days. So when this
cargo of pilgrims offered, I tell you I just jumped
at it. Of course this old wreck was not fitted for
the trade. She's small, she's iron decks, she's only
two boats, and she's not near enough water tanks.
There'd be big penalties if she was caught. But I
shipped a second rice steamer, and signed that
" It wasn't as if I'd got to go through the Ditch
to one of the Morocco ports ; the pilgrims had only
to be taken across to Kosseir ; and squaring an
Egyptian custom officer is only a case of how much
" You do know your trade," said Cortolvin.
" The under side of it," said Kettle, with a sigh.
"A man with luck like mine has to. He never gets
on with the decent steamboat lines, where every-
thing is square and above board. He can only get
the little hole-and-corner owners, who you've got to
make dividends for somehow and no questions asked
or else just up and take the dirty sack.
" I'm a man," he added with a frown, " that can
do the job well, and they know it, and keep me to
it. But I despise myself all the time. It isn't in
my nature, Mr, Cortolvin. Put me ashore, give me
a farm, and let me bend yellow gaiters and a large-
pattern coat, and there wouldn't be a straighter,
sweeter-natured man between here and heaven."
The Hadji swept the perspiration from his fore-
head with the back of a grimy knuckle.
" There's no accounting for taste. Captain. I'm
the owner of acres near Richmond, and if I chose I
could ride about my park, and see the farms, and
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 8/
live the life of a country gentleman just in the way
you think you'd like. But I tired of it.'*
" Perhaps you have no wife, sir/* suggested the
His guest gave a short laugh.
" Oh, Lord, yes,*' he said, " I've a wife."
He paused a minute and then threw his half-
smoked cheroot savagely out into the sunshine.
" You can take it from me that I have a wife,
Captain. But — well, you see, I've always been an
Arabic scholar, and I thought Fd come out to the
Hedjaz to study dialects for a year or so. It would
be a pleasant change after the milk and honey of a
country life. I don*t seem to have got killed, and
I think Fve liked it on the whole. It's been excit-
ing, and I know more about bastard Arabic than
any European living now that poor Palmer's dead,
if that's any satisfaction. If I chose to go home
now, I could pose as no end of a big boss in that
line. The only thing is, I can't quite make my
mind up whether to risk it. By God, yes," he added,
with a stare out into the baking sunshine beyond
the doorway, " oh, yes, I've a wife."
Captain Kettle did not quite follow all this, so he
said politely and vaguely : " Well, of course, you
know your own affairs best, sir." Then he took a
long and steady look at his guest. " You'll excuse
me, sir, but your name seems familiar. I wonder
if you'd got that beard and some of your hair off
whether I should recognise you."
" I fancy not."
" Cortolvin," the little man mused. " I'm sure
I've seen that name before somewhere."
88 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
The Hadji laughed. " rm afraid that neither I
nor any of my people have been celebrated enough
to have come into public notice, Skipper ; but we
had a namesake some years back who was famous.
A horse named Cortolvin won the Grand National
in '67. That's what you'll have got in your mind."
Captain Kettle stiffened. " I beg your pardon,
3ir," he said with acid politeness, " but I don't see
you've earned a right to insult me. When I am at
sea I am what circumstances make me. When I
am ashore in England, I would have you know I am
a different person. I am a regular attender at chapel,
and a man who (outside business matters) tries to
keep entirely straight. In England, sir, I take an
interest in neither pocket-picking, horse-racing, nor
sacrilege ; and I have it on the word of a minister I
sit under, that there is very little to choose between
Cortolvin faced the situation with ready tact.
That this truculent little ruffian who could flirt with
homicide without a second thought should so
strongly resent the imputation of being interested
in a horse race did not surprise him much. He had
met others of the breed before. And he smoothed
down Captain Kettle's ruffled feelings with the easy
glibness of a man of the world. But the needs of
the moment were again recurring to him with vio-
lence, and he broke off artistically to refer to them.
" Don't you think," he said, " my fellow pilgrims
will bear a little attention now. Skipper ? "
" I will be off and make up a bit of a surprise
packet for them," said Kettle. ** Excuse me, sir,
for two minutes, whilst I go and give instructions to
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 89
my chief." And he swung on his pith helmet and
left the chart-house.
The sun climbed higher into the fleckless sky,
and lolled above the Saigon in insolent cruelty. The
Red Sea heat grew, if anything, yet more dreadful.
The men's veins stood out in ropes upon their
streaming bodies, and it scorched them to draw in a
breath. Drink, too, was scarce. The Hedaz is a
region almost waterless; the desert at the back
drains up all the moisture, and the Saigon had left
Jeddah with her tanks only half filled. She had to
depend upon her condenser, and this was small. And
in the tropics, condenser-water must be dealt out in a
sparing ration, or a dozen hours may easily see a
whole ship's company down with raging dysentery.
The Saigon carried a spar-deck amidships, and the
pilgrims were grouped in two bodies forward and
aft of this on the iron plating of the fore and main
decks. The spar-deck was officially reached from
these lower levels by a couple of slender iron ladders,
but it was not unscaleable to a fairly active climber.
There was an alley-way passing beneath the spar-
deck, but this could easily be closed by the iron
doors in the two bulk-heads, which fastened inside
with heavy, clamping screws.
The chief engineer came into the chart-house, and
hitched up his grimy pyjamas, and mopped his face
with a wad of cotton waste. He looked meaningly
at the whisky-bottle, but Kettle ignored his glance.
" Well, Mr. McTodd ? " said he.
" I'm a* ready for the pagans, sir, when ye're will-
ing to gi* the worrd."
90 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE. > •
" What are your engines like now ? '*
" A wee bittee less fit for the scrap-heap than they
were a dozen hours back, but no* very much to boast
of." Mr. McTodd spat out into the sunshine.
" They're the rottenist engines ever I fingered,** said
he, " and that's what I think of them. A man ought
to have double my pay to be near theni. They're
" You knew she wasn't the P. and O. when you
" We're neither of us here, Captain Kettle, be-
cause we were offered fatter berths."
Kettle frowned. " I'll trouble you, Mr. McTodd,
to attend to the matter in hand. You have those
steam pipes ranged ? "
" Both forrard and aft."
" Commanding both ladders ? "
" Just like that."
" And you've plenty of steam ? "
" Ye can hear it burring through the escape this
minute if ye'U use your ears. It's been vara ex-
hausting work toiling down yonder in that a'ful
" Well, Mr. Cortolvin here assures me that the
niggers will begin to play up the minute we get un-
der weigh, so you see we know where we are, and
must be ready for them. I shall want you and the
second engineer on deck of course, so you must ar-
range for one of your crew to run the engines till
we've got the business settled."
" I've a greaser down yonder who can open the
throttle," said McTodd gloomily, " but he's got no
notion of nursing sick engines like these, and as like
' THE PILGRIM SHIP. 9I
as not he'll drive them off their bedplates in a score
of revolutions. Ye'd better let me keep the engine-
room myself, Captain. Fm a sick man, and Tm no*
fit for fighting with my throat as dry as it is now.'*
Captain Kettle poured out a liberal two fingers
of whisky and handed it across. " Now, Mac,*' said
he, " wet your neck, and let's have no more of this
nonsense. You'll have to fight for your life inside
ten minutes, and you'll do it better sober."
The engineer eyed the whisky and poured it
slowly down its appointed path.
" Mon," he said, " ye've an a'ful poor opinion o*
my capaacity. I'll jiist be off and give yon coolie
greaser some instructions, and get my side-arms, and
be with you again in forty clock-ticks."
" I pity the nigger that comes to hand grips with
McTodd," said Kettle, when the grimy man in the
grey pyjamas had left the chart-house, " He's an
ugly beggar to handle when he's sober as he is now.
We'll get ready now, sir, if you please. You go to
the after end of the bridge deck with McTodd and
the second mate, and I'll look after the forrard end
with the old mate and the second engineer. When
they try to rush the ladder, McTodd will give them
the steam, and they'll never be able to face it. All
you and the second mate have to do is to see they
don't climb up over the rail."
" I wish it could be avoided,' said Cortolvin sadly.
" That high-pressure steam will scald some of them
" It will do more than that," said Kettle. " It
will strip the meat clean off their bones."
" I have lived amongst those men or their sort for
92 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
two solid years, and many of them have shown me
" You should have thought of that, sir, before you
came to me here in the chart-house."
" I did think of it ; but I couldn't be a renegade
to my colour ; and so I came. But, Captain, will you
let me speak to them ? Will you let me tell them
that their scheme is known and prepared for?
Will you let me explain to them what they will
have to face if they start an outbreak ? "
Captain Kettle frowned. "You will understand
that I am not frightened of the beasts?" he said.
" I quite know that," said Cortolvin, " and I am
sorry to spoil a fight. But it is their lives I am
" Very well," said Kettle, " you can fire away. I
don't speak their bat^ and it's as well they should
know from someone what they have to look forward
to. Here's a life-preserver which you may find use-
ful. It's the only weapon I have to offer you. My
own pistol is the only gun we have in the ship."
The pair of them went outside the chart-house
and walked to the head of the forward ladder. A
newly-fitted steam pipe, with the joints all greasy
with white lead, lay on the deck planks, and the
second engineer stood beside it with thumbs in his
waist-strap. On the deck below, the pilgrims no
longer squatted on their carpets, but stood together
in knots, and talked excitedly. Cortolvin clapped
his hands, and the sea of savage faces turned towards
There were representatives in that mob from
half the Mahommedan peoples of Northern Africa.
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 93
There were lean Arab camel-breeders of the desert,
jet-black farmers from the Great Lakes and the
upper Nile, Hausas from the Western Soudan, limp
Fellaheen from Lower Egypt, an Egba who had
served in the British Police Force at Lagos, mer-
chants from the back of the Barbary States, workers
in metal from Sokoto, and weavers from Timbukhtu.
They were not all holders of the title of Hadji ;
for though by the Mahommedan law every male
must make the Mecca pilgrimage at least once in a
lifetime, unless debarred by poverty or lameness,
the journey may be done by deputy. And these
deputies, fierce, truculent ruffians, who had lived
their lives amongst incessant wars and travel, were
perhaps the most dangerous of all the lot.
The black men listened to their late associate
with a momentary hush of surprise. He spoke to
them in fluent Arabic. He did not appeal to their
better feelings : he knew his audience. He said it
was written that if they tried this thing, if they at-
tempted to capture the steamer, they should surely
fail; that all things were prepared to give them
battle ; and that a horrible death awaited those who
persisted in their design.
And then he tried to point out the nature of the
Saigon's defences, but there he failed. It is ill work
to explain the properties of high-pressure steam to
savages. A murmur rose amongst them which grew.
They let out their voices, and roared defiance. And
then the great black mass of them rushed for the
Captain Kettle clapped a whistle to his lips and
blew it shrilly.
94 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Now then, Mr. Cortolvin," he cried, " away with
you aft to help McTodd. These cattle here want
something more than talk, and Fm going to give it
In answer to his whistle, steam had been turned
on from below. The second engineer unhitched his
thumbs from his waistbelt, took a lump of waste in
each grimy hand, and lifted the iron pipe. It was
well-jointed, and moved easily, and he turned the
nozzle of it to sweep the ladder. In that baking
air, the steam did not condense readily ; it travelled
three yards from the nozzle of the pipe before it
became even thinly visible ; and it impinged upon
the black naked bodies, and burned horribly without
At first they did not flinch. With a dreadful
valour they faced the torment, and fought with each
other to be first upon the rungs, and then when those
in front would have held back, the mob behind pressed
them irresistibly onwards. In a moment or so the
first rank began to go down before that withering
blast, and then others trod on them and fell also, till
the hill of writhing black humanity grew to half the
height of the iron ladder.
And in the meantime others of the pilgrims were
trying to storm the bridge deck at other points ;
but on the port side, the grey-headed old man fight-
ing baresark with an axe, and to starboard. Captain
Kettle, with pistol and knuckleduster, battled like
wild-cats to keep the sacred planking inviolate.
What was going on at the after end of the Saigon
they could not tell. From behind them came the
roar of the fighting Hailsa, and the savage war-cries
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 95
of the desert, just as they rose up from before their
faces. But in its first flush the fight was too close
for any man's thoughts to wander from his own im-
It seemed, however, that the battle was over first
in the after part of the steamer, and whether this
was because the attack there was less heartful, or
because Mr. McTodd's artillery was more terrible,
cannot now be known. The question was debated
much afterwards without coming to a decision. But,
anyway, by the time Captain Kettle's adversaries
had ceased to rage against him, Cortolvin was free
to come and stand by his side as interpreter.
The wounded lay sprawling and writhing about
the iron decks; below them the survivors — and
scarcely one of these was without his scald — hud-
dled against the doors of the forecastle ; and the
grimy second engineer held the belching steam
pipe upwards, so that a grey pall hung between the
Saigon and the sun.
** Now, sir," said Kettle, " kindly translate for me.
Tell those animals to chuck all their hardware over
the side, or Til cook the whole lot of them like so
Cortolvin lifted up his voice in sonorous Arabic.
" It was written," he cried, " that the^/^^«r should
prevail. It is written also that those amongst you
having wit shall cast your weapons into the sea.
It is written, moreover, that those others of you who
do not on this instant disarm shall taste again of
the scorching breath of Eblis."
A stream of weapons leapt up through the air and
fell into the swells alongside with tinkling splashes.
96 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" It would be a weariness to guard you," Cortol-
vin went on. " Swear by the beard of the Prophet
to make no further attempt against this ship, or
we shall gaol you fast in death."
A forest of trembling black hands shot up before
"We swear! " they cried.
" Then it is written that you keep your vow," said
Cortolvin. " God is great ! See now to your sick."
He turned to Kettle and touched his ragged turban,
after the manner of an officer reporting. " The mu-
tiny is ended, sir," he said.
Captain Kettle swung himself lightly on to the
upper bridge and telegraphed " Full speed ahead "
to the engine-room ; the propeller splashed in the
oily swells, and the Saigon gathered way. Sullen and
trembling, the pilgrims began to tend their hurts, and
presently McTodd with a large copper kettle in his
hand descended amongst them, and distributed oil
and surgical advice.
" There were none actually killed at my end," said
" I dropped four," said Kettle. " I had to. It was
either me or them. And my old mate axed half-a-
dozen before they let him be. We'd a tight time
here whilst it lasted."
" It will require a good lunp of backshish to ex-
plain it all satisfactorily at Kosseir."
" Oh, I can't go near there now after this. No
custom house for me, sir. I shall just run in-shore
a dozen miles short of it, and put the beggars on the
beach in my boats, and let them get into Kosseir as
best they can. I suppose you'll come back with me ? "
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 97
" I suppose SO. Anyway, I can't go on with them.
It is the first time any of them have discovered I
was not a genuine Arab."
" I can imagine," said Kettle drily, " they'd give
you a lively time, if they had you to themselves
for five minutes. The Sons of the Prophet don't
admire having Europeans messing about the Kaaba
But I owe you something, sir, and I shall be happy to
go out of my way to serve you. I will drop you
at Suakim, or at Aden, or at Perim, where I am
going to coal, whichever you please."
" But what about yourself ? "
" Oh, I shall be all right. I am seldom in need of
a nursery-maid, sir."
" But if this affair gets into the newspapers, in-
quiries will be made, and you'll very possibly find
yourself in an ugly hole."
"It won't get in the newspapers," said Kettle
thoughtfully. " The pilgrims can't tell, my officers
daren't for their own sakes, and you leave me to
see my coolies don't. Newspapers," he repeated
dreamily ; " queer the hint should have come like
" What hint ? What are you talking about? "
" I remembered then where I'd seen your name,
sir. It was in the Times of India *s general news
" What was said ? "
" Well, sir, I suppose you'd better be told. But
you must hold up for a hardish knock. Will you
come into the chart-house for a minute, and have
a peg ? "
" No, get along, man, get along."
98 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" I think it was about your wife, sir. Does she
" All the season."
" Then it will be her. I remember now it said
Richmond in Yorkshire, and the name was Mrs.
W. H. Cortolvin. She's broken her neck, sir."
Cortolvin clutched at the white rail of the bridge.
" My God ! " he cried, " dead ! Julia dead ! Is that
all. Captain ? *'
" It was only a two-line paragraph. You'll please
understand how sorry I am to carry such sad news,
** Thanks, Skipper, thanks." He turned away and
walked to the end of the bridge and stayed there for
a while, leaning against an awning stanchion, and
staring at the baking levels of the Red Sea which
were slipping past the Saigon's rusty flanks. And
then he came back again and stood at Kettle's side,
looking down at the pilgrims anointing their scalds
" I have learned to be something of a fatalist. Cap-
tain," he said, " when I was amongst these people.
This is how I sum the situation. It was written
that my wife should die whilst I was away. It was
written also that I should live. God ordered it all.
God is great."
Captain Kettle gripped his hand in sympathy.
" I'm sorry for you, sir; believe me, I am truly sorry.
If you think a bit of poetry about the occasion would
help you at all, just you say, and I'll do it. I'm in
the mood for poetry now. All things put together,
we've been through a pretty heavy time during
these last few hours."
THE PILGRIM SHIP. 99
" Thanks, Skipper, thanks," said Cortolvin. " I
know you mean well. And now if you don't mind
rU leave you. I think Fd like to be alone for a
" You do, sir. Go and He down on my bunk. Fll
have you a beautiful elegy written by the time
you're back on deck again. It will comfort you."
CORTOLVIN came out under the bridge deck awn-
ing up through the baking heat of the companion-
way, and dropped listlessly into a deck chair. He
was dressed in slop-chest pyjamas of a vivid pattern,
and had a newly-shaven chin, which stood out re-
freshingly white against the rest of his sun-darkened
** Well,** said Captain Kettle, as he shoved across
the box of cheroots, " are we any nearer getting
under way ? *'
" I looked in at the engine-room as I came past,*'
said the tall man with a laugh, " and the Chief had
a good deal to say. I gathered it was his idea that
the fellow who last had charge of those engines ought
to die a cruel and lingering death."
" It*s a sore point with McTodd when she breaks
down. But did he say how long it would be before
he could give her steam again? Tm a bit anxious.
The glass is tumbling, hand over fist ; and what with
that, and this heat, there*s small doubt but what
we'll have a tornado clattering about our ears di-
rectly. There's the shore close aboard, as you can
see for yourself, and if the wind comes away any-
where from the east*ard, it'll blow this old steam-
boat half way into the middle of Africa before we
FORTUNES ADRIFT. lOI
can look round us. It*s a bad season just now for
The clattering of iron boot-plates made itself heard
on the brass-bound steps of the companion-way.
" That'll be the Chief coming to answer for him-
self," said Cortolvin.
Mr. Neil Angus McTodd always advertised his
calling in the attire of the outward man, and the eye
of an expert could tell with sureness at any given
moment whether Mr. McTodd was in employment
or not, and, if so, what type of steamboat he was on,
what was his official position, what was his pay, and
what was the last bit of work on which he had been
The present was the fourth occasion on which the
Saigon* s machinery had chosen to break down during
Captain Kettle's two months of command, and after
his herculean efforts in making repairs with insuf-
ficient staff and materials, Mr. McTodd was un-
pleasant both to look upon and associate with. He
was attired in moist black boots, grey flannel pyjama
trousers stuffed into his socks, a weird garment of
flannel upon his upper man, a clout round his neck,
and a peaked cap upon his grizzled red hair, anointed
with years of spraying oil. His elbows and his fore-
head shone like dull mirrors of steel, and he carried
one of his thumbs wrapped up in a grimy, crimson rag.
His conversation was full of unnecessary adjectives,
and he was inclined to take a cantankerous view of
" They'd disgrace the scrap-heap of any decent
yard, would the things they miscall engines on this
rotten tub," said he, by way of preface.
I02 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" They are holy engines, and that's a fact," said
Kettle. " How long can you guarantee them for
this time ? "
The engineer mopped his neck with a wad of
cotton waste. " Ten revolutions, if you wish me to
be certain. It's a verra dry ship, this."
" And how many more ? We shall want them.
There's a tornado coming on."
" Tm no* anxious to perjure mysel'. Captain, but
they might run on for a full minute, or they might
run on for a day. There's a capreciousness about
the rattle-traps that might amuse some people, but
it does not appeal to me. I'm in fear of my life
every minute I stand on the foot-plates."
" I'd not have taken you for a frightened man."
** I'm no* that as a usual thing, but the temperature
of yon engine-room varies between a hundred and
twenty and hundred and thirty of the Fahrenheit
scale, and it's destroying to the nerves. All the
aqueous vapour leaves the system, and I'm verra
badly in need of a tonic. Is yon whusky in the
black bottle. Captain ? **
" Take a peg, Mac.*'
*' I'll just have a sma' three fingers, now ye men-
tion it." He laid the thickest part of his knotty
knuckles^gainst the side of the tumbler, and poured
out some half a gill of spirit. "Weel,** said he,
" may we get as good whusky where we are going
to,** and enveloped the dose with a dextrous turn of
the wrist. After which ambiguous toast, he wiped
his lips with the cotton waste, and took himself
off again to the baking regions below ; and pre-
sently a dull rumbling, and a tremor of her fabric,
FORTUNES ADRTFT. IO3
announced that the ^Saigon was once more under
The little steamer had coaled at Perim Island, in
the southern mouth of the Red Sea, had come out
into the Indian Ocean through the straits of Bab-el-
Mandeb, had rounded Cape Guardafui, and was on
her way down to Zanzibar in response to the cabled
orders of her Parsee owner in Bombay. Cortolvin
was still on board as passenger. His excuse was
that he wanted to inspect the Island and City of
Zanzibar before returning to England and respecta-
bility ; his real reason was that he had taken a fancy
to the little ruffian of a skipper, and wished to see
more of him.
"Cheerful toast, that of McTodd's," said Cor-
" Those engines are enough to discourage any man,"
said Kettle, " and the heat down there would sour
the temper of an archangel."
Cortolvin loosened a couple more buttons of his
pyjamas and bared his chest. " It's hard to breathe
even here, and I thought Td learnt what heat was
out in those Arabian deserts. There's a tornado
coming on, that's certain."
" It will clear the air," said Kettle. " But it will
be a sneezer when we get it. Mr. Murgatroyd ! " he
The old, grizzle-headed mate thrust down a purple
face from the head of the upper bridge ladder —
" Aye, aye ? "
" Get all the awnings off her," the shipmaster
ordered ; " put extra grips on the boats, and see
104 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
everything lashed fast that a steam crane could
move. We're in for a bad breeze directly."
" Aye, aye/' rumbled the mate, and clapped a
leaden whistle to his mouth, and blew it shrilly. A
minute later he reported : " A big steamer lying-to
just a point or two off the starboard bow, Captain.
I haven't seen her before because of the haze." He
examined her carefully through the bridge binocu-
lars, and gave his observations with heavy delibera-
tion. " She's square-rigged forrard, and has a black
funnel with a red band — no, two red bands. Seems
to me like one of the German mail-boats, and I
should say she was broke down."
Captain Kettle rose springily from his deck chair,
and swung himself onto the upper deck bridge.
A mist of heat shut the sea in a narrow ring.
Overhead was a heavy, purply darkness, impenetra-
ble as a ceiling of brick. The only light that crept
in came from the mysterious unseen plain of the
horizon. From every point of the compass uneasy
thunder gave forth now and then a stifled bellow,
and, though the lightning splashes never showed,
sudden thinnings of the gloom would hint at their
nearness. The air shimmered and danced with the
baking heat, and though lurid greys and pinks pre-
dominated, the glow which filled it was constantly
changing in hue.
The scene was terrifying, but Kettle regarded it
with a satisfied smile. The one commercial prayer
of the shipmaster is to meet with a passenger steamer
at sea, broken down, and requiring a tow ; and here
was one of the plums of the ocean ready to his
FORTUNES ADRIFT. I05
hand and anxious to be plucked. The worse the
weather, the greater would be the salvage, and Cap-
tain Kettle could have hugged himself with joy
when he thought of the tropical hurricane's near-
He had changed the Saigon's course the instant
he came on the bridge, and had pulled the syren
string and hooted cheerfully into the throbbing air
to announce his coming. The spectral steamer grew
every moment more clear, and presently a string of
barbaric colours jerked up to the wire span between
her masts. There was no breath of wind to make
the flags blow out ; they hung in dejected cowls ;
but to Kettle they read like the page of an open
" Urgent signal H. B. ! *' he cried, and clapped
the binocular back in the box, and snapped down
the lid. ** H. B., Mr. Cortolvin, and don't you for-
get having seen it. * Want immediate assist ance^
"You seem to know it by heart," said Cortolvin.
** There's not a steamboat officer on all the seas
that doesn't. When things are down with us, we
take out the signal book, and hunt up H. B. amongst
the urgent signals, and tell ourselves that some day
we may come across a Cunarder with a broken tail-
shaft, and be able to give up the sea and be living
politely on £200 a year well invested, within the
fortnight. It's the steamboat officer's dream, sir,
but there's few of us it ever comes true for."
" Skipper," said Cortolvin, " I needn't tell you
how pleased I'll be if you come into a competence
over this business. In the meanwhile, if there's any-
I06 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
thing I can do, from coal-trimming upwards, Tm
your most obedient servant/*
*• I thank you, sir," said Kettle. " And if you'd
go and carry the news to the chief, FU be obliged. I
know he'll say his engines can't hold out. Tell him
they must. Tell him to use up anything he has
sooner than get another breakdown. Tell him to
rip up his soul for struts and backstays if he thinks
it'll keep them running. It's the one chance of my
life, Mr. Cortolvin, and the one chance of his, and
he's got to know it, and see we aren't robbed of
what is put before us. Show him where the siller
comes in, sir, and then stand by and you'll see Mr.
McTodd work miracles."
Cortolvin went below, and Kettle turned to the
old mate. ** Mr. Murgatroyd," said he, " get a dozen
hands to rouse up that new manilla out of the store.
I take you from the foredeck, and give you the
afterdeck to yourself. I'll have to bargain with that
fellow over there before we do anything, and there'll
be little enough time left after we've fixed upon
prices. So have everything ready to begin to tow.
We'll use their wire."
" Aye, aye," said the mate. ** But it won't do to
tow with wire. Captain, through what's coming.
There's no give in wire. A wire hawser would jerk
the guts out of her in fifteen minutes."
Kettle tightened his lips. " Mr. Murgatroyd,"
said he, " I am not a blame' fool. Neither do I want
dictation from my officers. I told you to rouse up
the manilla. You will back the wire with a double
bridle of that."
" Aye, aye," grunted the mate ; " but what am I to
FORTUNES ADRIFT. lO/
make fast to ? Them bollards aft might be stepped
in putty for all the use they are. They'd not tow
a row-boat through what's coming. I believe
they'd draw if they'd a fishing line made fast to
" I should have thought you'd been long enough
at sea to have known your business by this time,"
said Kettle unpleasantly. " D'ye think that every
steamboat that trades is a bran new ' Harland and
" Well," said the mate sullenly, " I'm waiting to
" Pass the manilla round the coaming of the after-
hatch, and you won't come and tell me that's drawn
while this steamboat stays on the water-top."
" Aye, aye," said the mate, and stepped into his
slippers and shuffled away. Captain Kettle walked
briskly to the centre of the upper bridge and laid a
hand on the telegraph. He gave crisp orders to
the Lascar at the wheel, and the Saigon moved in
perfect obedience to his will.
Ahead of him the great slate-coloured liner lay
motionless on the oily sea. Her rail was peopled
with the anxious faces of passengers. Busy deck-
hands were stripping away the awnings. On the
high upper bridge were three officers in peaked caps
and trim uniforms of white drill, talking together
The little Saigon curved up from astern, stopped
her engines, and then, with reversed propeller,
brought up dead, so that the bridges of the two
steamers were level, and not more than twenty
yards apart. It was smartly done, and (as Kettle
I08 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
had intended) the Germans noticed it, and com-
mented. Then began the barter of words.
" Howdy, Captain,** said Kettle, " I hope it's not
a funeral you've brought up for ? This heat's been
very great. Has it knocked over one of your pas-
sengers ? "
A large-bearded man made reply : " We haf seen
a slight mishap mit der machinery, Captain. My
ingeneers will mend."
" Oh, that's all right. Thought it might be worse.
Well, I wish you luck, Captain. But I'd hurry and
get steam on her again, if I were you. The breeze
may come away any minute now, and you've the
shore close aboard, and you'll be on it if you don't
get your steamboat under command again by then,
and have a big loss of life. If you get on the
beach, it'll surprise me if you don't drown all hands."
Captain Kettle put a hand on the telegraph, as
though to ring on his engines again, but the bearded
German, after a preliminary stamp of passion, held
up his hand for further parley. But for the mo-
ment the opportunity of speech was taken from
him. The passengers were either English, or for the
most part understood that tongue when spoken ;
and they had drunk in every word that was said,
as Kettle had intended; and now they surged in
a writhing, yelling mob at the foot of the two
bridge ladders, and demanded that assistance should
be hired, let that cost what it might.
There was no making a hail carry above that
frightened uproar, and the German shipmaster raved,
and explained, and reasoned for full a dozen mo-
ments before he quelled it. Then, panting, he
FORTUNES ADRIFT. IO9
came once more to the end of his bridge, and ad-
dressed the other steamer.
" Dose bassengers vas nervous/* said he, " because
dey thought dere might come some leetle rain
squall ; so I ask you how mooch vould you take my
rope and tow me to Aden or Perim ? "
'* Phew ! ** said Kettle. " Aden ! That's wrong
way for me, Captain. Red Sea's where I've come
from, and my owner cabled me to hurry and get to
" Veil, how mooch ? "
"We'll say ;f 100,000, as your passengers seem so
•' Hondred tousand teufels ! Herr Gott, I haf not
Rhodes on der sheep ! "
" Well, Captain, take the offer or leave it. I'm
not a tow-boat, and I'm in a hurry to make my
passage. If you keep me waiting here five minutes
longer, it'll cost you ;f 120,000 to be plucked in
The shipmaster on the other bridge went into a
frenzy of expostulation ; he appealed to all Captain
Kettle's better feelings ; he dared him to do his
worst, he prayed him to do his best. But Kettle
gazed upon the man's gesticulating arms, and
listened to his frantic oratory unmoved. He lit a
cheroot, and leant his elbows on the white railing
of the bridge, and did not reply by so much as a
When the other halted through breathlessness,
even then he did not speak. He waved his hand
towards the fearsome heavens with their lurid lights,
and pointed to the bumping thunder, which made
no ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
both steamers vaguely tremble, and he let those
argue for him. The clamour of the passengers rose
again in the breathless, baking air, and the Captain
of the liner had to yield. He threw up his arms
in token of surrender, and a hush fell upon the
scene like the silence of death.
" My gompany shall pay you hondred tousand
pound, Captain, und — you haf der satisfaction dot
you make me ruined man."
" I have been ruined myself," said Kettle, " heaps
of times, and my turn for the other thing seems to
be come now. Til run down closer to you, Captain,
or do you bid your hands heave me a line from the
fo'c's'le head as I come past. You've cut it pretty
fine. You've no time left to get a boat in the water.
The wind may come away any moment now.
Captain Kettle was changing into another man.
All the insouciance had gone from him. He gave
his orders with crispness and decision, and the mates
and the Lascars jumped to obey them. The horrible
danger that was to come lay as an open advertise-
ment, and they knew that their only way to pass
safely through it — and even then the chances were
slim — was to obey the man who commanded them
to the uttermost tittle.
The connection between the steamers had been
made, the snaky steel-wire hawser had been hauled
in through a stern fair-lead by the Saigon s winch,
and the old mate stood ready with the shackle which
would link it on to the manilla.
The heavens yielded up an overture like the echo
of a Titan's groan. " Hurry there, you slow-footed
dogs ! " came Kettle's voice from the bridge.
FORTUNES ADRIFT. Ill
The Lascars brought up the eye of the hawser,
and Murgatroyd threaded it on the pin of the
shackle. ' Then he cried, " All fast,'* and picked up
a spike, and screwed home the pin in its socket.
Already the engines were on the move again, and
the Saigon was steaming ahead on the tow-line. It
was a time for hurry.
The air thickened and grew for the moment if
anything more hot, and the tornado raced down
upon them as a black wall stretching far across the
sea, with white water gleaming and churning at its
foot. It hit the steamers like a solid avalanche, and
the spindrift in it cut the faces of the men who tried
to withstand it, as though whips had lashed them.
The coolie quarter-master clung on to the Saigon* s
wheel-spokes, a mere wisp of limp humanity, inca-
pable of steering or of doing anything else that re-
quired a modicum of rational thought. The little
steamer fell away before the blast like a shaving in
a dry street ; the tonnage of the tornado heeled her
till her lee-scuppers spouted green water in-board ;
and she might well have been overturned at the very
outset. But Kettle beat the helpless Lascar from
his hold, and spoked the wheel hard down ; and the
engines, working strongly, brought her round again
in a wallowing circle to face the torrent of hurricane.
She took five minutes to make that recovery, and
when she was steaming on again, head to the thun-
derous gusts, the tale of what she had endured was
written in easy lettering. On both fore and main
decks the bulwarks were gone level with the cover-
ing boards : the raffle of crates, harness casks, gang
planks, and so on, that a small trader carries in view
112 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
to the sky, had departed beyond the ken of man ;
and, indeed, those lower decks were scoured clean to
the naked rusted iron. The port life-boat hung stove
from bent davits, and three of the coolie crew had
been swept from life into the grip of the eternal
Cortolvin fought his way up on to the upper bridge
step by step against the frantic beating of the wind,
and, without being bidden, relieved at the lee spokes
of the wheel. Captain Kettle nodded his thanks.
The Saigon had no steam steering gear, and in some
of the heavier squalls the wheel threatened to take
charge, and pitch the little shipmaster clean over
Amid the bellowing roar of the tornado, speech,
of course, was impossible, and vision, too, was limited.
No human eye could look into the wind, and even
to let it strike the face was a torture. The sea did
not get up. The crest of any wave which tried to
rise was cut off remorselessly by the knives of the
hurricane, and spread as a stinging mist throughout
the wind. It was hard indeed to tell where ocean
ceased and air began. The whole sea was spread in a
blurr of white and green.
The big helpless liner astern plucked savagely at
the Saigon* s tail, and the pair of them were moving
coast-wards with speed. Left to herself, and steam-
ing full-speed into the gale, the little Saigon would
have been able to maintain her position, neither
losing ground nor gaining any. With the heavy tow
in charge, she was being driven towards the roaring
surf of the African beach with perilous speed.
It was possible to see dimly down the wind, and
FORTUNES ADRIFT. II3
when Cortolvin turned his face away from the sting-
ing blast of the tornado, he could understand with
clearness their exact position. Close astern was the
plunging German liner, with her decks stripped and
deserted, and only the bridge officers exposed. Be-
yond was cotton-white sea ; and beyond again were
great leaping fountains of whiteness where the tor-
tured ocean roared against the yellow beach.
Thirty minutes passed, each second of them
brimmed with frenzied struggle for both man and
machinery. The tornado raged, and boomed, and
roared, and the backward drift was a thing which
could be measured with the eye.
Then the old mate heaved himself up the bridge
ladder by laborious inches. His clothes were whip-
ping from him in tattered ribbons ; his hat was gone ;
and the grizzled hair stood out from the back of his
head like the bristles of a broom. He clawed his
way along the rail, and put his great red face close
to Kettle's ear.
** We can't hold her,'* he roared. " She's taking
us ashore. We shall be there in a dozen minutes,
and then it will be * Jones' for the lot of us."
Captain Kettle glared, but made no articulate
reply. If he could have spared a hand from the
wheelspokes, it is probable that Mr. Murgatroyd
would have felt the weight of it.
The old fellow bawled at him again. " The hands
know it as well as me, and they say they're not going
to be drowned for anybody. They say they're going
to cast off the hawser."
This time Captain Kettle yelled back a reply.
" You thing ! " he cried. " You putty man, get back
114 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
to your post ! If you want to live, keep those
niggers* fingers off the shackle. By James, if that
tow is cast off, rU turn the Saigon for the beach,
and drown the whole crew of you inside three
minutes. By James ! yes, and you know me, and
you know TU do it too. You ham-faced jelly-fish,
away aft with you, and save your blooming life ! "
The man winced under the little captain's tongue,
and went away, and Captain Kettle looked across
the wheel at his assistant.
Cortolvin shrugged his shoulders, and glanced
backward at the beach, and nodded. Kettle leant
across and shouted :
" I know it, sir, as well as you do. I know it as
well as they do. But IVe got a fortune in tow yon-
der, and rd rather die than set it adrift. It isn't* one
fortune, either; it's a dozen fortunes, and I have
just got to grab one of them. I'm a married man,
sir, with a family, and I've known what it was to
watch and see 'em hungry. You'll stand by me, Mr.
Cortolvin ? "
" It seems I promised. You know I've been long
enough with Mohammedans, Skipper, to be some-
what a fatalist. So I say : * God is great ! and our
fates are written on our foreheads, and no man can
change by an inch the path which it is foreordained
he should tread.' But they are queer fates, some of
them. I went away from England because of my
wife ; I step out of the middle of Arabia, and stumble
across you, and hear that she is dead ; I look forward
to going home and living a peaceful country life ; and
now it appears I'm to be drowned obscurely, out of
the touch of newspapers. However, I'll be con-
FORTUNES ADRIFT. II5
sistent, I won't grumble, and you may hear me say
it aloud : * La Allah illah Allah ! ' "
Captain Kettle made no reply. Through the
infernal uproar of the tornado he did not hear
much of what was said, and part of what did reach
his ears was beyond his comprehension. Besides,
his mind was, not unnaturally, occupied with more
Astern of him, in the German liner, were some
thousand passengers, who were all assets for sal-
vage. The detail of human life did not enter much
into his calculations. He had been brought up in a
school where life is cheap, and not so pleasant and
savory a thing that it is set much store on. The
passengers were part of the ship, just as much as
were her engines, and the bullion which he hoped
The company which owned her was responsible
for all ; their credit would be damaged if all or a
part of her was lost ; and he, Owen Kettle, would
reap a proportionate reward if he could drag her
into any civilized port. And when he thought of
the roaring beach so terribly close astern, he bit
his beard in an agony of apprehension lest the fates
should steal this fortune from him.
And, meanwhile, the line of surf was growing evef
nearer. So close, indeed, were they to the hateful
shore that, when for a moment the fountains of white
water subsided where the breakers raged upon the
beach, they could see dimly beyond through the
sea smoke, palm trees, and ceibas and great silk
cotton-woods, whipping and crashing before the in-
sane blast of the tornado.
Il6 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
All hands on the Saigon* s deck had many minutes
before given themselves up for as good as dead.
Their only chance of salvation lay in casting off
the tow-rope, and no one dared touch the linking
shackle. They quite knew that their savage little
skipper would fulfil his threat if they disobeyed his
orders. Indeed, old purple-faced Murgatroyd him-
self sat on the hatch-coaming with an opened clasp
knife, and vowed death on any one who tampered
with either shackle or manilla. The clumsy mate
had swallowed rough words once, but he preferred
drowning to living on and hearing Captain Kettle
address him as coward.
The shore lay steep-to, but the back-wash creamed
far out into the sea. Already the stern of the Ger-
man liner was plunging in the whitened water, and
destruction seemed a question of seconds.
Then a strange thing happend. It seemed as
though the Finger of God had touched the wind ;
it abated by visible graduations, and the drift of
the steamer grew more slow ; it eased to a mere gale,
and they held their place on the lip of the boiling
surf ; and then with a gasp it sank into quietude,
and a great oily swell rose up as if by magic from
the bowels of the deep, and the little Saigon forged
ahead and drew the helpless passenger liner away
from the perilous beach. Those tropical hurricanes
of the Eastern Seas progress in circles, and this one
had spurned them from its clutch, and let them
float on a charmed ring of calm.
Cortolvin bowed over the wheel in silent thank-
fulness, but the shipmaster rejoiced aloud.
**How*s that, umpire ? "said he. " By James, wasn't
FORTUNES ADRIFT. 11/
it worth hanging on for ? I've got a wife, sir, and
kids, and Fm remembering this moment that they'll
always have full bellies from now onwards, and good
clothes and no more cheap lodgings, but a decent
house semi-detached, and money to plank down in
the plate when they go to chapel on Sundays. The
skipper of that Dutchman will be ruined over this
last half-hour's job, but I can't help that. It's my-
self I have to think of first ; one has to in this world,
or no one else will ; and, Mr. Cortolvin, I'm a made
man. Thanks to McTodd "
From below there came a sudden whirr of machin-
ery, as though the engines had momentarily gone
mad, and then a bumping and a banging which jarred
every plate of the Saigon's fabric, and then a silence,
broken only by the thin distant scream of a hurt
man. Presently the boom of steam broke out from
the escape-pipe beside the funnel, and a minute
later the chief engineer made his way leisurely up
on to the bridge.
He was bleeding from a cut on the forehead and
another gash showed red amongst the grime on his
stubby cheek. He was shredding tobacco with a
clasp-knife as he walked, and seemed from his man-
ner to be a man quite divorced from all responsible
occupations. He halted a minute at the head of
the bridge ladder, replaced the tobacco cake in the
pocket of his pyjama coat, and rolled up the shred-
dings in the palms of his crackled hands. Then he
filled a short briar pipe, lit it, and surveyed the avail-
" Yon'll be the tornado, 'way ahead there, I'm
thinking ? " said he.
Il8 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Are those blame' engines broke down again ? "
asked Kettle sharply.
" Aye, ye may put it they're broke down."
" Then away with you below again, Mr. McTodd,
and get them running again. You may smoke when
we bring up in Aden.**
McTodd puffed twice more at his pipe, and spat
on the wheel grating.
" By James ! " said Kettle, " do you hear me ? *'
" My lugs are a bit muzzy, but I can hear ye
for a* that, captain. Only thing is, I can't dp as
Captain Kettle stiffened ominously. ** Mr. Mc-
Todd," he said, " if you force me to take you in hand,
and show you how to set about your work, you'll
" Man," said the engineer, " I can do some kind
of impossibeelities. Ye've seen me do them. Ye've
seen me keep them palsied rattle-traps running all
through that blow. But if ye ask me to make a new
propeller out of rod iron and packing cases, I'll have
to tell you that yon kind of meeracle's beyond me."
" My great James ! " said Kettle, " you don't
mean to tell me the propeller's gone?"
" Either that, or else all the blades have stripped
off the boss. If ye'd been below on my foot-plates,
ye'd have kenned it fine. When it went, those puir
engines raced like an auld cab-horse tryin' to gallop,
and they just got tied in knots, and tumbled down,
and sprawled fifteen ways at once. I was on the
platform, oiling, when they jumped, and that nigger
second of mine tried to get at the throttle to close
FORTUNES ADRIFT. II9
" Well, get on man, get."
" Weel, he didn't, that's all ; he's lying in the low
pressure crank pit this minute, and the top of his
skuirU be to seek somewhere by the ash lift.
Mon, I tell ye, yon second o' mine's an uncanny
sight. So I had to do his work for him, and then I
blew off my boilers, and came up here.
" It would have been verra comforting to my pro-
fessional conscience if I could have steamed her into
Aden. But I'm no* as sorry as I might be for what's
happened. I have it in mind that yon Parsee
owner of ours in Bombay '11 lose siller over this
breakdown, and I want that beggar punishing for all
the work he's given me to do on a small wage. Mr.
Cortolvin, ha* ye a match ? "
A hail came from the liner astern.
" Saigon ahoy ! Keep our hawser taut."
** You're all right for the present," Kettle shouted
" Der vind might return onless you get in the
middle of him."
"Then if it does," retorted Kettle, " you'd better
tell your passengers to say their prayers. You'll
get no further help from me. I'm broken down
myself. Lost my propeller, if you want to
" Herr lieber Gott ! "
** I shouldn't swear if I were you," said Kettle.
" If the breeze comes this way again, you'll be toe-
ing the mark in the other place inside five minutes."
He turned and gave an order : " After deck, there.
Mr. Murgatroyd, you may cast off their rope ; we've
120 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Now after this, a variety of things might have
happened. Amongst them it was quite possible
that both steamers, and all in them, might have been
spewed up as battered refuse high upon the African
beach. But as Providence ordered it, the tornado
circled down on them no more ; a light air came off
the shore which filled their scanty canvas, and gave
them just steerage way ; and they rode over the
swells in company, as dry as a pair of bridge-pon-
toons, and about as helpless. All immediate danger
was swept away ; nothing but another steamer could
relieve them ; and in the meantime it was a time for
Captain Kettle did not grumble ; his fortune was
once more adrift and beyond his grasp ; the Parsee
in Bombay would for a certainty dismiss him from
employment ; and Mrs. Kettle and her family must
continue to drag along on such scanty doles as he
could contrive to send them. All these were dis-
tressing thoughts, but they were things not to be
remedied ; and he took down the accordion and
made sweet music, which spread far over the moving
plains of ocean.
But Mr. McTodd had visions of more immediate
profit. He washed with soap until his face was
brilliant, put on a full suit of slop-chest serge, took
boat, and rowed over to the rolling German liner.
It was midnight when he returned, affluent in pocket
and rather deep in liquor. He went into the chart-
house, without invitation, smiled benignly, and took
a camp stool.
" They thought they would get me down into the
mess-room over yonder," said he, " and I'll no' deny
FORTUNES ADRIFT. 121
it was a temptation. I could ha* telled those Dutch
engineers a thing or two. But I'm a* for business
first when there is siller ahead. So I went aft to
the saloon. They were at dinner, and there were
puir appetites among them. But someone spied
me standing by the door and lugged me into a seat,
and gave me meat and drink — champagne, no less !
— and set me on to talk. Lord ! once I got my
tongue wagging, you should have seen them.
There was no more eating done. They wanted to
know how near death they'd been, and I telled'em ;
and there was the Old Man and all the brass-edged
officers at the ends of the tables fit to eat me for
giving the yarn away. But a (Jtic) fat lot I cared.
I set on the music, and they sent round the hat.
Losh ! There was twenty-four pound English when
they handed it over to me. Skipper, ye should go
and try it for yourself."
" Mr. McTodd," said the little sailor, " I am not
a dashed mendicant ! "
The engineer stared with a boiled eye, and swayed
on his camp-stool. He had not quite grasped the
" I'm Scotch mysel' ! " exclaimed he, at length.
" Same thing," said Kettle ; " I'm neither. I'm
a common, low-down Englishman, with the pride of
the Prince of Wales, and a darned ugly tongue ; and
don't you forget it either."
McTodd pulled a charred cigar stump from his
waistcoat pocket and lit it with care. He nodded
to the accordion.
" Go on with your noise," said he.
Captain Kettle's fingers began to twitch sugges-
122 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
lively ; and Cortolvin, in order to keep the peace,
offered to escort McTodd to his room.
" I thank ye/* said the engineer : " it's the cli-
mate. I have maleria in the system, and it stays
there in spite of all that drugs can do, and affects
the perambulatory muscles of the lower extremities.
Speakin* of which, ye'U na doot have seen for your-
** Oh, you'd better come along to bed," said Cor-
" Bide a wee, sonny," said the man in the blue
serge, solemnly. " There's a thought come to me
that IVe a message to give. Do ye ken anybody
called Calvert ? "
" Archie Calvert, by any chance ?"
" * Erchie' was the name he gave. He said he
kenned ye weel."
" We were at Cambridge together."
" Cambridge, were ye ? Weel, I should have
been a D.D. of A-berdeen mysel* if I'd done as my
father wished. He was Free Kirk meenister of Bal-
"Yes, but about Calvert ? "
*' Ou ay, Calvert ! Erchie Calvert, as ye say.
Weel, I said we'd you aboard, and this Calvert —
Erchie Calvert — said he'd news for you about your
" All right, never mind that now. She's dead, I
know, poor woman. Let me help you down to
" Dinna be so offensive, man, and bide a wee to
hear ma news. Ye' re no a widow after all — widow-
maCn that is. Your guid wife didna dee as ye think.
FORTUNES ADRIFT. 1 23
She'd a fall from a horse, which'U probably teach
her to leave horse-riding alone to men in the future ;
and it got in the papers she was killed ; but it seems
a shaking was all she earned. And, talking of horses
now, when I was a bairn in Ballindrochater "
Cortolvin shook him savagely by the arm.
" My God ! " he cried ; " do you mean to say
she's not dead ? **
" Aren't I telling you ? "
Cortolvin passed a hand wearily over his eyes.
" And a minute ago," he whispered, ** I thought I
was going home." His hand dropped limply to his
side, and his head slid to the chart-house deck in a
McTodd swayed on the camp-stool and regarded
him with a puzzled eye. " Losh ! " he said, " here's
him drunk as well as me. Two of us, and I never
kenned it. It's a sad, immoral world, skipper.
Verra sad, skipper, I say. Here's Mr. Cortolvin
been — Oh Lord, and he isn't listening either."
Captain Kettle had gone out of the chart-house.
The thud of a propeller had fallen upon his ear, and
he leant over the Saigon's rail and sadly watched a
triangle of lights draw up through the cool, purple
night. A cargo steamer freighted with rails for the
Beira railway was coming gleefully towards them
from out of the north, to pick up the rich gleanings
which the ocean offered,
"You've struck the wrong man/' said Captain
Kettle. " Vm most kinds of idiot, but I'm not the
sort to go ramming my head against the French
Government for the mere sport of the thing.*'
** I was told," said Carnegie wearily, " that you
were a man that feared nothing on this earth, or I
would not have asked you to call upon me."
" You were told right," said Kettle. " But those
that spoke about me should have added that I'm not
a man who'll take a ticket to land myself in an ugly
mess unless some one pays my train fare and gives
me something to spend at the other end. I'm a
sailor, sir, by trade or profession, whichever you like
to name it, and on a steamboat, when a row has been
started, I'll not say but what I've seen it through
more than once out of sheer delight in wrestling with
an ugly scrape. Yes, sir, that's the kind of brute I
am at sea.
" But what you propose is different ; it's out of
my line ; it's gaol-breaking, no less ; with a spell of
seven years in the jug if I don't succeed, and no kind
of credit to wear, or dollars to jingle, if I do carry
it through as you wish. And may I ask, sir, why I
should interest myself in this Mr. Clare? I never
THE ESCAPE. 1 25
heard of him till I came in this room half-an-hour
ago in answer to your advertisement."
" He is unjustly condemned," Carnegie repeated,
as though he were quoting from a lesson. " He is
suffering imprisonment in this pestilential place — er
— Cayenne for a fault which some one else has
committed ; and unless he is rescued he will die
there horribly. I am appealing to your humanity,
Captain. Would you see a fellow-countryman
wronged ? "
" I have only to look in the glass for that," retorted
Kettle. " Most people's kicks come to me when I
am anywhere within hail. And you'll kindly observe,
sir, that IVe nothing but your bare word to go on
for Mr. Clare's innocence. The French Courts and
the French people, by your own admitting, took a
very different view of the matter. They said with
clearness that he did sell those plans of fortresses to
the Germans, and, knowing their way of looking at
such a matter, it only surprises me he wasn't guil-
lotined out of hand."
" It is my daughter who is sure of his guiltlessness
in the matter," said Carnegie with a flush. " And,"
he added, ** I may say that she is the chief person
who wishes for his escape."
Captain Kettle bowed, and fingered the tarnished
badge on his cap. He had a chivalrous respect for
the other sex.
" And it was she who made me advertise vaguely
for a seafaring man who had got daring and the
skill to carry out so delicate a matter. We had two
hundred answers in four posts : can you credit such
a thing ? "
126 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Easily," said Kettle. " I am not the only poor
devil of a skipper who's out of a job. But a hundred
pounds is not enough, and that's the beginning and
the end of it. There's two ways of doing this busi-
ness, I guess, and one of them's fighting, and the
other's bribery. Well, sir, a man can't collect much
of an army for twenty five-pun' notes ; and as for
bribery, why it's hardly enough to buy up a deputy
Customs inspector in the ordinary way of business,
let alone a whole squad of Cayenne warders with a
big idea of their own value and importance.
" Then there's getting out to French Guiana, and
geting back, and steamer fare for the pair of us
would come to more than a couple of postage stamps.
And then where do I come in? You say I can
pocket the balance. But I'm hanged if I see where
the balance is going to be squeezed from. No, sir ;
a hundred pounds is mere foolishness, and the
kindest thing I can do is to go away without further
talk. By James, sir, I can say that if you'd given
me this precious scheme as your own, there's a man
ifi this room who would have had a smashed face
for his impudence ; but, as you tell me there's a lady
in the case, I'll say no more."
Captain Kettle stood up, thrust out his chin ag^
gressively, and swung on his cap. Then he took
it off again, and coughed with politeness. The door
opened, and the girl they had been speaking about
came into the room. She stepped quickly across
and took his hand.
" Captain Kettle," she said, " I could not leave
you alone with my father any longer. I just had
to come in and thank you for myself. I knew you
THE ESCAPE. 12/
would be the man to help us in our trouble.. I knew
it from your letter.*'
The little sailor coughed again, and reddened
slightly under the tan. " I'm afraid, miss," he said,
" I am useless. As I was explaining to your — to
Mr. Carnegie, before you came in, the job is a bit out-
side my weight. You see, when I answered that
advertisement, I thought it was something with a
steamboat that was wanted, and for that sort of
thing, with any kind of crew that signs on, I am
fitted, and no man better. But this "
" Oh, do not say it is beyond you. Other pris-
oners have escaped from the French penal settle-
ments. It only requires a strong, determined man
to arrange matters from the outside, and the thing
Kettle fidgeted with the badge on his cap. " With
respect, miss," said he, ** what any other man could
do, I would not shy at ; but the thing youVe got
here's impossible ; and the gentleman will just have
to stay where he is and serve out the time he's
"But, sir," the girl broke out passionately, "he
has not earned it. He was accused unjustly. He
was condemned as a scapegoat to shield others.
They were powerful — he was without interest ; and
all France was shrieking for a victim. Mr. Clare
was a subordinate in a Government office through
which these plans of fortresses had passed. He was
by birth half an Englishman, and so it was easy to
raise suspicion against him. They forged great
sheaves of evidence ; they drew off attention from
the real thieves ; they shamed him horribly ; and then
128 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
they sent him off to those awful Isles de Salut for life.
Yes, for life — till age or the diseases of the place
should free him by death. Can you think of any-
thing more frightful ? "
" Mr. Clare is fortunate in having such a friend."
" A friend ! '* she repeated. " Has not my father
told you ? I am his promised wife. Fancy the
irony of it ! We were to have been married the very
day he was condemned. It was my money and my
father's which defended him at the trial, and it
nearly beggared us. And now I will spend the last
penny I can touch to get him free again."
Captain Kettle coughed once more. " It was
upon a question of money that Mr. Carnegie and I
split, miss. I said to him a hundred pounds would
not work it, and there's the naked truth."
" But it must," she cried, " it must ! You think us
mean — niggardly. But it is not that ; we can raise
no more. We are at the end of our funds. Look
around at this room ; does this look like riches ? "
It did not. They were in a grimy Newcastle lodg-
ing, au trozsz^me, and at one side of the room the
flank of a bedstead showed itself in outline against
a curtain. The paper was torn and the carpet was
absent, and from the shaft of the stairway came
that mingled scent of clothes and fried onion which
is native to this type of dwelling.
Carnegie himself was a faded man of fifty. His
daughter carried the recent traces of beauty, but
anxiety had lined her face, and the pinch of res
angustcB had frayed her gown. All went to adver-
*tise the truth of what the girl had been saying, and
Kettle's heart warmed towards her. He knew right
THE ESCAPE. 1 29
well the nip of poverty himself. But still, he did
not see his way to perform impossibilities, and he
lifted up his voice and said so with glum frankness.
" I am not remembering for a minute, miss," he ex-
plained, " that I am a fellow with a wife and children
dependent on my earnings. I am looking at the
matter as though I might be Mr. Clare's relative,
and I have got nothing new to tell you. A hun-
dred pounds will not do it, and that is the end of the
The girl wrung her hands and looked pitifully
across at her father.
" Well," said Carnegie with a heavy sigh, " I will
scrape up a hundred and twenty, though that will
force us to go hungry. And that is final. Captain.
If my own neck depended upon it, I could not lay
hands on more."
Captain Owen Kettle's face wore a look of pain.
He was a man of chivalrous instincts ; it irked him
to disoblige a lady ; but the means they offered him
were so terribly insufficient. He did not repeat his
refusal aloud, but his face spoke with eloquent
The girl sank into one of the shabby chairs de-
spairingly. "If you fail me, sir," she said, " then I
have no hope."
Kettle turned away, still fingering the tarnished
badge on his cap, and stared drearily through the
grimy window-panes. A silence filled the room.
Carnegie broke it.
" Other men answered the advertisement," he
" I know they did," his daughter said ; " and I
130 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
read their letters, and I read Captain Kettle's and if
there is one man who could help us out of all those
that answered, he is here now in this room. My
heart went out to him at once when I saw his ap-
plication. I had never heard of him before, but,
when I read the few pages he sent, it came to me that
I knew him intimately from then onwards, and that
he and no other in all the world could do the service
which we want. Sir," she said, addressing the little
sailor directly, " I learnt from that letter that you
made poetry, and I felt that the romance of this
matter would carry you on where any other man
with merely commercial instincts would fail.**
" Then you like poetry, miss ? *'
** I write it," she said, " for the magazines, and
sometimes it gets into print."
" Would you mind shaking hands with me ? " asked
" I want to do so," she answered, *' if you will let
that mean the signing of our contract."
Captain Kettle held out his fist. " Put it there,
miss," said he. " The French Government is a lump-
ing big concern, but I've bucked against a Govern-
ment before and come out top side, and, by James,
ril do it again. You stay at home, miss, and write
poetry, and get the magazines to print it, instead of
those rotten adventure yarns they're so fond of, and
you'll be doing Great Britain a large service. What
the people in this country need is nice rural poetry
to tell them what sunsets are lik^^and how corn
grows, and all that, and not cut-throat stories they
might fill out for themselves from the morning news-
papers if they only knew the men and the ground.
THE ESCAPE. I31
" If I can only know you're at home here, miss,
doing that, I can set about this other matter with a
cheerful heart. I don't think the money will be of
much good ; but you may trust me to get out to
French Guiana somehow, even if I have to work my
way there before the mast ; and Til collar hold of
Mr. Clare for you and deliver him on board a British
ship in the best repair which circumstances will per-
mit. You mustn't expect me to do impossibilities,
miss; but I'm working now for a lady who writes
poetry for the magazines, and you'll see me go that
near to them you'll probably be astonished."
Turn now to another scene. There is a certain
turtle-backed isle in the Caribbean Sea sufficiently
small and naked to be nameless on the charts. The
Admiralty hydrographers mark it merely by a tiny
black dot ; the American chartmaker has gone
further and branded it as " shoal," which seems to
hint (and quite incorrectly) that there is water over
it at least during spring tides.
The patch of land, which is egg-shaped, measures
some 180 yards across its longer diameter, and, al-
though no green seas can roll across its face, it is
sufficiently low in the water for the spindrift to whip
every inch of its surface during even the mildest of
gales. On these occasions the wind lifts great layers
of sand from off the roof of the isle, but ever the sea
spews up more sand against the beaches ; and so
the bulk of the place remains a constant quantity,
although the material whereof it is built is no two
months the same.
As a residence the place is singularly undesirable.
132 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
and it is probable that, until Captain Owen Kettle
scraped for himself a shelter-trench in the middle
of the turtle back of sand, the isle had been left
severely alone by man throughout all the centuries.
Still human breath was hourly drawn in the
immediate neighborhood, and when the airs blew
towards the isle, or the breezes lay stagnant, sharp,
human cries fell dimly on Kettle's ear to tell him
that men near at hand were alive, and awake, and
plying their appointed occupations. The larger
wooded island, which lay a long rifle shot away,
was part of the French penal settlement of Cayenne ;
and the cries were the higher notes of its tragic
opera. But they affected Captain Kettle not at all.
He was there on business ; he had been at much
pains to arrive at his present situation, and had
earned a bullet scar across the temple during the
process ; and, as some time was to elapse before his
next move became due, he was filling up the inter-
vening hours by the absorbing pursuit of literature.
He squatted on the floor of his sandpit, with his
teeth set in the butt of a cold cigar, and rapped out
the lines of sonnets, and transferred them to a sheet
of sea-stained paper. He used the stubby bullet of a
revolver cartridge from lack of a more refined pencil,
and his muse worked with lusty pace — ^as, indeed, it
was always wont to do when the world went more
than usually awry with him.
To even catalogue the little scamp's adventures
since his parting with Miss Carnegie in that Tyne-
side lodging, would be to write a lengthy book ;
and they are omitted here in totOy because to detail
them would of necessity compromise worthy men,
THE ESCAPE. 1 33
both French and English, who do not wish their
traffic with Kettle to be publicly advertised.
Suffice it to say, then, that he made his way out
to French Guiana by ways best known to himself ;
pervaded Cayenne under an alias, which the local
gendarmerie laid bare ; exchanged pistol shots with
those in authority to avoid arrest ; and, in fact, put
the entire penal colony, from the governor down to
the meanest convict, into a fever of unrest entirely
on his especial behalf.
He was put to making temporary headquarters
in a mangrove swamp, and completing his prepara-
tions from there, and, to say the least of it, matters
went hardly with him. But at last he got his pre-
liminaries settled, and left his bivouac among the
maddening mosquitos, and the slime, and the snaky
tree roots, and took to the seas again in a lugsail
boat, which he annexed by force of arms from its
four original owners.
A cold-minded person might say that the taking
of that boat was an act of glaring piracy ; but Kettle
told himself that, so far as the French of Cayenne
were concerned, he was a " recognised belligerent,'*
and so all the manoeuvres of war were candidly open
to him. He had no more qualms in capturing that
lugsail boat from a superior force than Nelson once
had about taking large ships from the French in the
Bay of Aboukir.
He had a depot of tinned meats cached by one of
his agents up a mangrove creek, and under cover of
night he sailed up and got these on board, and
built them in tightly under the thwarts of his boat
so that they would not shift in the seaway. And
134 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
finally, again cloaked by friendly darkness, he ran
on to the beach of the turtle-backed isle, hid his
boat in a gully of the sand, scooped out a personal
residence where he would be visible only to God
and the sea-fowl, and sat himself down to wait for
an appointed hour.
By day the sun grilled him, by night the sea-
mists drenched him to the skin, and at times gales
lifted the surface from the Caribbean and sent it
whistling across the roof of the isle in volleys of
stinging spindrift. Moreover, he was constantly
pestered by that local ailment, chills-and-fever, partly
as a result of two or three trifling wounds bestowed
by the gendarmerie, and partly as payment for resi-
dence in the miasmatic mangrove swamps ; so that,
on the whole, life was not very tolerable to him, and
he might have been pardoned had he cursed Miss
Carnegie for sending him on so troublesome an
errand. But he did not do this. He remembered
that she was occupying herself at home in New-
castle with the creation of poetry for the British
magazines according to their agreement, and he for-
got his discomforts in the glow of a Maecenas. It
was the first time he had been a bond fide patron of
letters, and the pleasure of it intoxicated him.
A fortnight passed by — he had given Clare a fort-
night in the message he smuggled into the convict
station for him to make certain preparations — and
at the end of that space of time Captain Kettle
rolled his MSS. inside an oilskin cover, and addressed
it to Miss Carnegie — in case of accidents. He put
beckets on the top of his cap, slipped his revolver
into these, and put the cap on his head ; and then.
THE ESCAPE. 1 35
stripping to the buff, he left his form and got up on
to the sand, and walked down its milk-warm surface
to the water's edge.
The ripples rang like a million of the tiniest bells
upon the fine shingle, and the stars in the velvet
night above were reflected in the water. It was far
too still a night for his purpose — far too dangerously
clear. He would have preferred rain, or even half
a gale of wind. But he had fixed his appointment,
and he was not the man to let any detail of added
danger make him break a tryst. So he waded down
into the lonely sea, and struck out at a steady
breast stroke for the Isle de Salut, which loomed in
low black outline across the waters before him.
A more hazardous business than this part of the
man's expedition it would be hard to conceive.
There were no prisoners in the world more jealously
guarded than those in the pestilential settlement
ahead of him. They were forgers, murderers, or,
what the French hate still more, traitors and foreign
spies ; and once they stepped ashore upon the beach
they were there for always. They were all life-sen-
tence men. Until ferocious labor or the batterings
of the climate sent them to rest below the soil, they
were doomed to pain with every breath they
Desperate gaoling like this makes desperate men,
and did any of the prisoners — even the most cow-
ardly of them — see the glimmer of a chance to
escape, he would leap to take it, even though he
knew that a certain hailstorm of lead would pelt
along his trail. And as a consequence the rim of
the isle bristled with armed warders, all of them
136 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
marksmen, who shot at anything that moved, and
who had as little compunction in dropping a pris-
oner as any other sportsman would have in knock-
ing over a partridge.
To add to Captain Kettle's tally of dangers, the
phosphorescence that night was peculiarly vivid ;
the sea glowed where he breasted it ; his wake was
lit with streams of silver fire ; his whole body stood
out like a smoulder of flame on a cloth of black vel-
vet. His presence moved upon the face of the
waters as an open advertisement. He was an illumi-
nated target for every rifle that chose to sight him,
and, far worse, he was a fiery bait bright enough to
draw every shark in the Caribbean. And sharks
swarmed there. His limbs crept as he swam with
To move fast was to increase the phosphorescence ;
to move slow was to linger in that horrible suspense ;
and I think it is one of the highest testimonials to
Kettle's indomitable courage when I can say that
not once during that ghastly voyage did he either
hurry, or scurry, or splash. He was a prey to the
most abominable dread ; he expended an hour and
a half over an hour's swim, and it seemed to him a
space of years ; and when he grounded on the beach
of the Isle de Salut he was almost fainting from the
strain of his emotions, and for awhile lay on the
sand sobbing like a hysterical schoolgirl.
But a sound revived him and sent full energy into
his limbs again without a prelude. From the dis-
tance there came to him the noise of shod feet crunch-
ing with regulation tread along the shingle. He
was lying in the track of a sentry's beat.
THE ESCAPE. 1 37
By instinct his hand dragged the revolver from
its beckets on his cap, and then he rose to his feet
and darted away like some slim pink ghost across
the beach into the shelter of the thickets. He lay
there holding his breath, and watched the sentry
pace upon his patrol. It was evident that the man
had not seen him ; the fellow neither glanced towards
the cover nor searched the beach for foot-tracks ;
and yet he carried his rifle in the crook of his arm
ready for a snap shot, and flickered his eyes to this
side and to that like a man habitually trained to
sudden alarms and a quick trigger finger. His every
movement was eloquent of the care with which the
Isle de Salut was warded.
Kettle waited till the man had gone off into the
dark again and the soundless distance, and then
stepped out from his ambush, and ran at speed
along the dim, starlit beach. The sand-pats sprang
backwards from his flying toes, and the birds in the
forest rim moved uneasily as he passed. The little
man was sea-bred first and last ; he had no knowledge
of woodcraft ; a silent stalk was a flight far beyond
him ; and he raced along his way, revolver in hand,
confident that he could shoot any intruding sentry
before a rifle could be brought to bear.
Of course, the discharge of weapons would have
waked the isle, and brought the whole wasps' nest
about his ears. But this was a state of things he
could have faced out brazenly. Throughout all his
stormy life he had never yet shirked a miUe^ and
perhaps immunity from serious harm had given him
an over-estimate of the percentage of bullets which
go astray. At any rate, the thrill of brisk fighting
138 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
was a pleasure he well knew, and he never went far
out of his way to avoid it.
But, as it was, he sped along his path unnoticed.
The blunders of chance threaded him through the
shadows and the chain of sentries so that no living
soul picked up the alarm, till at last he pulled up
panting at the edge of the open space which edged
in the grim convict barrack itself.
And now began a hateful tedium of waiting. The
day he had fixed with Clare was the right one ; the
hour of the rendezvous was vague. He had said
" as near midnight as may be '* in his message ; but
he was only able to guess at the time himself, and
he expected that Clare was in a similar plight. Any-
way, the man was not there, and Kettle gnawed his
fingers with impatience as he awaited him.
The night under the winking stars was full of
noise. In the forest trees the jarflies and the tree-
crickets and the katydids kept up their maddening
chorus. The drumming mosquitoes scented the
naked man from afar and put everj^ inch of his body
to the torment. The moist, damp heat of the place
made him pant to get his breath. The prison itself
was full of the uneasy rustling of men sleeping in
discomfort, and at regular intervals some crazy
wretch within the walls cried out ** Dieu, DieUy
Dieu ! " as though he were a human cuckoo clock
condemned to chime after stated lapses of minutes.
An hour passed, and still the uneasy night dozed
on without notice that a prisoner was trying to es-
cape. Another hour went by, and Captain Kettle
began to contemplate the possibilities of attacking
the grim building with his own itching fingers, and
THE ESCAPE. 1 39
dragging Clare forth in the teeth of whatever op-
position might befall. " Dieu^ DieUy Dieu I ** rang
out the tormented man within the walls, and then
from round the further angle of the place a figure
came running, who stared wildly about him as
though in search of some one.
Kettle stepped out from his nook of concealment,
a clear, pale mark in the starlight. The runner
swerved, stopped, and hesitated. Kettle beckoned
him, and the man threw away his doubt and raced
up. The little sailor thrust out a moist hand.
** You'll be Mr. Clare, sir, I presume ? "
" I'm very pleased to have the honor of meeting
you. I'm Captain Kettle, that was asked as a favor
by Miss Carnegie "
" Let us get away, quick. They will be after me
directly, and if they catch me I shall be shot. Mr.
Kettle, quick, where is your boat ? "
But the little naked man did not budge. " I am
accustomed, sir," he said stiffly, " to having my
" I don't understand. Oh, afterwards ; but let us
get away now at once."
" Captain Kettle, sir."
** Captain Kettle, certainly. But this waiting may
cost us our lives."
" I am not anxious to take root here, sir, but, as
for the boat, you've a good swim ahead of you be-
fore we reach that." And he told of the way he had
come. " There was no other plan for it, Mr. Clare.
It would have been sheer foolishness to have brought
my boat to this island with all these busy people
I40 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
with guns prowling about. I had just got to leave
her at my headquarters, and you must make up
your mind to swim and risk the sharks if you wish
to join her."
" I am open to risking anything," said Clare.
" It's neck or nothing with me after what I did five
minutes back in that hell over yonder. One of the
warders " he broke off and dragged a hand across
his eyes. " Look here, Captain, we are bound to
be seen if we go back round by the beach. Come
with me and I'll show you a track through the
He started off into the cover without waiting for
a reply, and Kettle with a frown turned and fol-
lowed at his heels. Captain Kettle preferred to do
the ordering himself, and this young man seemed
apt to assert command. However, the moment
was one for hurry. The night was beginning to
thin. So he got up speed again, and the trees and
the undergrowth closed behind him.
" DieUy Dieu^ Dieu ! " cried out the tormented pris-
oner within the walls as a parting benediction.
Some men, like the historical Dr. Fell, have the
knack, unknown to themselves, of inspiring dislike
in others, and Clare had this effect upon Captain
Owen Kettle. The little sailor's dislike was born
at the first moment of their meeting. It grew as
he ran through the forest of the Isle de Salut ; and
even when Clare fell upon a sentry and beat the
sense out of him as neatly as he could have done it
himself, Kettle failed to admire or sympathise with
THE ESCAPE. I4I
On the return swim to the turtle-backed island
he came very near to wishing that a shark would
get the man, although such a calaniity would have
meant his own almost certain destruction ; and when
they lay together, packed like a pair of sardines, in
the shelter pit, under the intolerable sunshine of
the succeeding day, it was with difficulty he could
keep his hands off this fellow whom he had gone
through so much to help.
Clare put in what of talking was done ; the sailor
preserved a sour, glum silence. He felt that if he
gave his vinegary tongue the freedom it wished for,
nothing could prevent a collison.
He argued out with himself the cause for this
dislike during the succeeding night. They had got
the boat in the water, had mastheaded the lug, and
were running northwest before a snoring breeze to-
wards the British West Indian Islands. He himself,
with main-sheet in one hand and tiller in the other,
was in solitary command. Clare was occupied in
baling back the seas to their appointed place.
For a long time the utmost he could discover
against the man was that on occasions he " was too
bossy," and with bitter satire he ridiculed himself
for a childish weakness. But then another thought
drifted into his mind, and he picked it up, and
weighed it, and balanced it, and valued it, till under
the fostering care it grew, and the little sailor felt
with a glow and a tightening of the lips that he had
now indeed a real and legitimate cause for hate.
What mention had this fellow Clare made of
Miss Carnegie ? Practically none. He, Kettle, had
stated by whom he was sent to the rescue, and Clare
142 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
had received the news with a casual " Oh ! " and a
yawn. He had oflFered further information (when
the first scurry of the escape was over, and they
were cached in the sandpit) upon Miss Carnegie's
movements and her condition as last viewed in New-
castle, and Clare had pleaded tiredness and suggested
another hour for the recital. Was this the proper
attitude for a lover? It was not. Was this meet
behaviour for the future husband of such a woman as
Miss Carnegie, who was not only herself, but who
also wrote poetry for the magazines ? Ten thousand
times over, it was not.
He sheeted home the lug a couple of inches in re-
sponse to a shift of the breeze, and opened his lips
" Miss Carnegie, sir," he began, " is a lady I esteem
" She is a nice girl,** assented the man with the
" She is willing to beggar herself to do you ser-
" Yes, I know she is very fond of me.**
" And I should like to know if you are equally
fond of her?*'
" Steady, Captain, steady. I don't quite see what
you have got to do with it.** He paused and looked
at the sailor curiously. " Look here, I say, you seem
to talk a deuce of a deal about Miss Carnegie. Are
you sweet on her yourself? "
Captain Kettle glared, and it is probable that, if
such an action would not have swamped the boat,
he would have dropped the tiller and left the marks
of his displeasure upon Clare's person without
THE ESCAPE. 1 43
further barter of words. But, as it was, he deigned
" You dog,'* he said, " if you make a suggestion
like that again, FU kill you. YouVe no right to say
such a thing. I just honor Miss Carnegie as though
she were the Queen, or even more, because she writes
verse for the magazines, and the Queen only writes
diaries. And, besides, there could be nothing more
between us; I'm a married man, sir, with a family.
But about this other matter. It seems to me I'm
the party that kind of holds your fate just at present,
young man. If I shove this tiller across, the boat '11
broach to and swamp, and, whatever happens to me
— and I don't vastly care — it's a sure thing you will
go to the place where there's weeping and gnashing
of teeth. How'd you like that ? "
" Not a bit. I want to live. I've gone through
the worst time a human being can endure on that
ghastly island astern there, and Tm due for a great
lot of the sweets of life to make up for it. And if
it interests you to know it, Captain — I do owe you
something personally, I suppose, and you have some
right to be in my confidence — if it interests you to
hear such a thing, I may tell you I shall probably
marry Miss Carnegie as soon as I get back to her."
" Then you do love her?"
" I don't quite know what love is. But I like her
well enough, if that will do for you. Hadn't we
better take down a reef in the lug ? I can hardly
keep the water under."
** By James, you leave me to sail this boat," said
Kettle, " and attend to your blessed baling, or I'll
knock you out of her."
144 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
The conversation languished for some hours after
this, and Kettle, with every nerve on the strain,
humored the boat as she raced before the heavy fol-
lowing seas, whilst the ex-convict scooped back the
water which eternally slopped in green streams over
her gunwale. It was Clare who set up the talk
** Did she know anything about those plans of the
French fortresses ? '*
" Miss Carnegie had the most definite ideas on
" I suppose she'd found out by that time that I
really did get hold of them out of the office myself,
and sell them to the Germans ? "
For one of the few times in his life Captain Kettle
lied. " She knew the whole yarn from start to
" Well, I was a fool to muddle it. With any
decent luck I ought to have brought off the coup
without anybody being the wiser. I could have
laid quiet a year or two till the fuss blew over, and
then had a tidy fortune to go upon, and been able
to marry whom I pleased, or not marry at all. Eh —
well, skipper, that bubble's cracked, and I suppose
the best thing I can do now is to marry old Car-
negie's girl after all."
** Then you've quite made up your mind to marry
" That's what you say," retorted Kettle. " Now
you hear me. Miss Carnegie thinks you are in love
with her, and you are not that by many a long
fathom ; so there goes item the first. In the second
THE ESCAPE. 145
place, she thought you were sent to Cayenne un-
justly, whereas by your own showing, you're a dirty
thief, and deserved all you got. And, thirdly, I
don't approve of squeezing fathers-in-law as an in-
dustry for young men newly out of gaol."
" You truculent little ruffian, do you dare to
threaten me ? "
" I'd threaten the Emperor of Germany if I was
close to him and didn't like what he was doing.
Here, you ! Don't you lift that baler at me, or I'll
slip some lead through your mangy hide before you
can wink. Now you'll just understand, for the rest
of this cruise, till we make our port, you stay forrard,
and I'm on the quarter-deck. If you move aft I'll
shoot you dead, and thank you for giving me the
chance. But if you get ashore all in one piece, I'll
spike your guns in another way."
" How ? " asked the man sullenly.
" You'll find out when you get there," said Kettle
grimly. " And now don't you speak to me again.
You aren't wholesome. Get on with your baling.
D'ye hear me, there ? Get on with that baling ; I
don't want my boat to be swamped through your
Now, to which port it was of the British West
India Islands that the lugsail boat and its occupants
arrived, I never quite made out, and indeed the
method in which Captain Kettle •* spiked " Mr.
Clare's " guns " was hidden from me till quite re-
cently. A week ago, however, a letter of his drifted
into my hands, and, as it seems to explain all that
146 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
is necessary, I give it here exactly as it left his
WEST India Isi,ands.
To Miss Carnegie,
Am please to report have carried out p€Ut of y^ esteemed com-
mands. Went to Cayenne, as per instruction, and took Mr.
Clare away from French Government, they not consenting.
Landed him in good condition at this place. Having learnt
that he did steal those plans, and, moreover, he saying he did
not care for you the way he ought, have taken liberty to guard
lest he should trouble you in future. To do this, found old
coloured washerwoman here (widow) who was proud to have
white husband. Him objecting, I swore to tell French Consul
if he did not marry, and get him sent back to Cayenne. So he
married. She weighs 250 lbs. I enclose copy of their marriage
lines, so you can see all is correct.
Trust you will excuse liberty. He has made one escape ; you
have made another.
The weather is very sultry here, but they say there is fine
Shall get English magazines some day, when things blow
over a bit, and I can come that way again, to look for your
Hoping this finds you in good health as it leaves me at present.
O. Ketti,E (Master).
THE PEARL POACHERS.
" No, Mr. Carnforth/* said Kettle ; " it would be
lying if Iwastosay I knew anything about pearl-fish-
ing. IVe heard of it of course ; who hasn't ? And,
for the matter of that, Tve had on a diving-suit my-
self, and gone down and examined a ship's bottom to
see if the divers that had been sent down to look at
some started plates had brought up a true report.
But Tve never done more than pass through those
North Australian seas. They tell me the pearl-fish-
ing's done from small luggers of some ten or four-
teen tons, sailing out of Thursday Island.**
" It is," said the big man. " And "
" Well, sir, you'd better get another captain. I'm
a steamer sailor by bringing up, and on a steamer I
know my business, and can do it with any other man
alive. But you'd not find me much good on a little
wind-jammer like a Thursday Island pearler. I'm a
hard-up man, Mr. Carnforth, and desperately in want
of a berth ; I hope, too, you'll not think it undue
familiarity when I say that I like you personally ;
but, honestly, I don't think you'd better engage me
as your skipper for this trip. You could get a so
much better man for your money."
Carnforth laughed. " My dear Kettle," he said,
" I don't think I ever came across a fellow with less
148 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
real notion of looking after his own interests. As
you are aware, I know your peculiar qualifications
pretty thoroughly ; Vm an eminently practical busi-
ness man : I offer you a handsome salary with both
eyes open ; and yet you refuse because you are afraid
of robbing me of my money.'*
" Mr. Carnforth/* said the little sailor stiffly, " I
have my own ideas of what's right. You have seen
me at sea using violence and ugly words. But you
will kindly remember that I was in service of an em-
ployer then, and was earning his pay by driving his
crew. It's another thing now ; we are ashore here,
and I would have you know that ashore I am a strict
chapel member, with a high-pressure conscience, and
a soul that requires careful looking after. I could
never forgive myself if I thought I was taking your
pay without earning it thoroughly."
" If you'll let me get a word in edgeways," said
the other irritably, " and not be so beastly cocksure
that you can rob me — which you could no more do
than fly — perhaps you'd understand what I'm offer-
ing, and not sneeze at a good chance. The lugger
is your own invention, and so is the idea that I'm
merely going pearl-fishing in the ordinary way. My
notion is to go pearl-poaching, which is a very dif-
ferent matter ; to get rich quick, and take the risks,
and climb over them and to go at the business in a
steamer with a strong enough crew to — ar — do
"And you're already a rich man," said Kettle,
"with a fine position in the country, and a seat in
Parliament. Some people never do know when
they're well off."
THE PEARL POACHERS, 1 49
" Some people don't," said Carnforth, " and you're
another of them, skipper. For myself, I do a mad
thing now and again because — oh, because I like
the excitement and flurry of it. But you ! — You go
and refuse a profitable billet that would fit you
down to the boots, merely for the sake of a whim.
A quarter of an hour ago you told me you were
practically destitute — ar — ' on the streets* your own
words were ; and here you are chucking up a certain
twenty pounds a month, and a possible ninety, when
it's ready to your hand."
" I didn't know about the steamer," said Kettle,
" and that's a fact."
" Well, I'm telling you now. Captain, and if you
don't take charge of her upper bridge, it will be
your own fault. Why, man, there isn't a job be-
tween here and New Jerusalem that would suit you
better ; and besides, I'm keen to go there myself,
and you are the one man in the world I want to
have as a shipmate, and I ask you to come as a per-
" I'm sick of this smug, orderly, frock-coated life
here. Nature intended me for a pirate, and fate has
made me a successful manufacturer. I've tasted
the wild unregenerate life of the open air once under
your auspices, and rubbed against men who were
men, and I want to be there again. I'm tired of
fiddling amongst men and women who are merely
dollar-millers and dress-pegs. I'm sick of what they
call success. I'm sick of the whole blessed busi-
Captain Kettle thought of Mrs. Kettle and her
children in the squalid house in South Shields, with
ISO ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE,
the slender income and the slim prospects, and he
sighed drearily. But he did not utter those thoughts
aloud. He said, instead, that he was very grateful
to Mr. Carnforth for his magnificent offer, and would
do his best to earn thoroughly the lavish income
which was held out to him.
Carnforth reached out and gripped his hand.
" Thanky, Kettle,'* he said ; " and mind, Tm going
to try and lug you into a competency over this.
You might just as well have given way before. I
always get my own way over this sort of thing. And
now probably you'd like to hear a bit more about
the poaching ground ? "
"If you please, sir."
" Well, I can't quote you latitude and longitude
oflf-hand, but I'll show you the whereabouts of the
place marked on the ch'art afterwards. It's Japan
way, and the Japs have chosen to claim all the bits
of reefs thereabouts, and to proclaim a sort of close
season against all foreign pearlers. Now the place
I've got news of is in their area, but so far it has
never been fished. It's enormously rich, and it's
absolutely virgin. Why, man, if we can put in six
months' work there undisturbed, we can easily carry
off a million pounds' worth of shells and pearls."
" Six months ! " said Kettle. ** That's a big order.
I've no doubt that with a decent steamer and a few
rifles we could beat off one of their gunboats when
we get there, and do, say, a week's fishing. But if
that gunboat steams back to Nagasaki, or wherever
her port is, and brings out a whole blessed navy at
her heels, we may find the contract outside our size.
Of course, if you are going to fit out a real big
THE PEARL POACHERS. IJI
steamboat, with a gun or two, and a hundred
Carnforth laughed. "Wait a bit," said he.
" You're going ahead too fast. There's no question
of fighting a whole navy. In fact we mustn't fight
at all if there's any means of wriggling out of it. I
believe fighting would amount to piracy, and piracy's
too lively even for my tastes. Besides, if we got
very noisy, we'd have some cruiser of the British
China Squadron poking her ugly nose in, and that's
a thing we couldn't aflFord to risk at any price."
" Then how are you going to manage it ? "
** What we must hope for is to be left undisturbed.
There's every chance of it. The reef is out of all
the steam-lanes and circle tracks, and the Japs' gun-
boat patrol is not very close. In fact the place has
only been newly charted. It was found quite by
accident by the skipper of a sea-sealing schooner,
and he missed the plum because he happened to
have been a brute to one of his hands."
" But I thought you said this reef was out of all
ship tracks ? "
** Don't hustle me. The schooner had been seal-
ing off the Commander Islands. She was coming
home, and got into heavy weather. She was blown
away three days by a gale, and picked up the surf
of this reef one morning at daybreak, ran down in-
to the lee, and lay there till the breeze was over.
The reef wasn't charted and the skipper, who was
*on the make,' wondered how he could gather
dividends out of it. In the off-sealing season he
was in the Thursday Island trade, and his thoughts
naturally ran upon pearls and shell. He'd a diving
152 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
suit on board, and he rowed into the lagoon, made
one of his crew put on the suit, and sent him
"Now observe the result," said Carnforth with
sly relish, " of being too severe on one's hands.
This sailor, who was sent down in the diving-suit,
had been having a dog's time of it on the seah'ng
schooner, and when he got on the floor of the la-
goon and saw the place round him literally packed
with shell that had never been touched by hu-
man fingers, he made up his mind that the time
had come to repay old scores. So when he came
up out of the water again, he said, sulkily enough,
that there was nothing below but seaweed and
mud ; and the boat rowed back out of the lagoon ;
and the schooner let draw her forestay-sail sheet and
ran away on her course.
" The skipper reported the new reef, and in due
course it got on the charts ; and the sailor kept
holding his tongue till he could find a market for
his information. He didn't find one at once ; he had
to wait two years, in fact ; and then he found me.
I guess that skipper would be easier on his hands in
future if he only knew what he'd lost, eh. Kettle ? "
The sailor frowned.
" A shipmaster, sir, has to get the full amount of
work out of his hands, or he's neglecting his duty.
I can picture that schooner, Mr. Carnforth, arid I
picture her Old Man hearing what he's missed, and
still carrying on the driving game. The things we
have to ship as sailors are beasts, and you have to
treat them as such ; and if you can show me a mas-
ter who's popular in the forecastle, I can show you
THE PEARL POACHERS. 1 53
a man who's letting his hands shirk work, and not
earning his owner's pay."
" H'm ! *' said Carnforth. " Fve seen you handle
a crew, and I know your theories and little ways,
and I know also that you're far too obstinate an
animal to change your opinions in a hurry. Fve a
pretty strong will myself, and so I can sympathise
with you. However, we'll let that matter of ethics
slide for the present, and go into the question of
ways and means " — and on the dry detail of this
they talked till far into the night.
Here, however, the historian may for awhile with-
hold his pen, since those in the shipping interest
can fill the gap for themselves, whilst to all others,
these small questions of ways and means would be
The yacht's voyage out to Japanese waters may
also be omitted. The English papers announced
its commencement in one of the usual formal para-
graphs: ^^ Mr. Martin Carnforth^ M. P. for the
Munro division of Yorkshire^ has started in his fine
steam yacht ^ the Vestris, for a lengthened tour in
China seas to study Oriental questions on the spot, and
will probably be absent some considerable time'*
The official log kept on board was meagre and
scanty, being confined to arid statements of dis-
tances run, and the ordinary meteorological happen-
ings of the ocean ; and towards the latter entries,
even these were skilfully fictitious. Indeed, when
the vessel neared the scene of action, her yellow
funnel changed to black with a crimson band, a
couple of squarish yards were crossed on her fore-
154 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
mast, her dainty gaff-sails vanished and were re-
placed by serviceable trysails, and the midship house
was soiled by the addition of a coat of crude white
lead above the trimly polished teak, and straddled
over by a clumsy iron bridge defended by ill fitting
canvas dodgers and awnings.
There was no making the expert believe, of course,
that she was a mere trader that had always been a
trader. But to the nautical eye she was unsuspi-
cious: she looked one of those ex-yachts that have
been sold out of the petticoat-cruising service of
Cowes, and been adapted to the more homely needs
of the mercantile marine ; and in the Mediterranean,
the Australian seas, and China waters, there are
many of this breed of craft making a humble living
for their owners. A couple of weeks* neglect will
make any brass-work look un-yachtlike, and a little
withholding of the paint-brush soon makes all small
traders wonderfully kin.
Re-christening of course is but a clumsy device,
and one which is (the gentle novelist notwithstand-
ing) most seldom used. A ship at her birth is given
a name, and endowed with a passport in the shape
of " papers." Without her papers she cannot enter
a civilised port ; she could not " clear " at any cus-
tom house ; and to attempt doing so would be a
blatant confession of '* something wrong." So when
the paint brushes went round, and the name Vestris
on counter, boats, and lifebuoys was exchanged for
Governor L. C. Walthrop (which seemed to carry a
slight American flavor) a half sigh went up from
some of the ship's company, and a queer little thrill
passed through the rest, according to their tempera-
THE PEARL POACHERS. 15$
ments. They were making themselves sea pariahs
from that moment onwards, until they should deem
fit to discard the alias.
Captain Kettle himself finished lettering the last
of the lifebuoys and put down his brush, and shook
Carnforth was watching him from a deck chair.
" You don't like it ? ** he said.
" I never did such a thing before," said Kettle,
" and I never heard of it being done and come to
any good. We're nobodies now, and it*s every one's
business to meddle with a nobody. If you're a
somebody, only the proper people can interfere."
" I can't help it," said Carnforth. " The Vestris
is well-known at home, and I'm well-known too ;
and we've just got to see this business through one
way or the other, under pursers' names. She's the
Governor L. C. Walthrop^ and I'm Mr. Martin, and
you can be what you like."
" I'll still use my own name, sir. I've carried it
a good many years now, through most kinds of
weather ; and it's had so many stones thrown at it
that a few more won't hurt. If we get through
with this little game, all right; if we get interrupted,
I guess the only thing left will be to attend our
own funerals. I'm not going to taste the inside of
a Japanese gaol at any price."-
" I never saw such a fellow as you for looking at
the gloomy side of things," said Carnforth irritably.
"It's the gloomy side that's mostly come my
*' I wish to goodness I'd never been idiot enough
to come out here on this harebrained scheme."
156 ADVENTURES OP CAPTAIN KETTLE.
." Why ! " said Kettle in surprise, " youVe got the
remedy to your hand. You give your orders, Mr.
Carnforth, and I'll bout-ship this minute and take
"And don't you want to go through with it,
** I don't see my tastes need be mentioned," said
the sailor stiffly. "You are my owner, sir. I'm
here to do as I'm bid."
" Captain Owen Kettle," said the other, with a
laugh that had got some sour earnest at the back of
it, "you're a cantankerous little beggar. I sailed
with you before, and found you the most delightful
of shipmates. I sail with you now, and you keep
me always at boat-hook's length away from you.
Be hanged if I see what I've done to stiffen you."
" Sir," said Kettle, " on the Sultan of Borneo you
were my guest ; on this yacht you are my owner ;
there's all the difference in the world."
"You wish to point out, I suppose, that a ship-
master looks upon an owner as his natural enemy,
as he does the Board of Trade. Still, I don't think
I personally have deserved that."
" I am as I have been made, sir, and I suppose I
can't help it."
" You are a man with some wonderfully developed
weaknesses. However, as to going back, I'm not
going to stultify myself by doing that now. We'll
see the thing through now, whatever happens."
Martin Carnforth nodded curtly, and got up and
walked the deck. He was conscious of a fine sense
of disappointment and disillusionment. He had
started off on this expedition filled with a warm
THE PEARL POACHERS, 1 57
glow of romance. He had been grubbing along at
distasteful business pursuits for the larger part of
his life, and adventure, as looked at from the out-
side, had always lured him strongly. Once in Ket-
tle's company he had tasted of the realities of ad-
venture amongst Cuban revolutionists ; had got
back safely, and settled down to business again for
a time ; and then once more had grown restless.
He had the virus of adventure in his blood, and he
was beginning to learn that it was a cumulative
So, once more he had started off, but this time
he was being chilled from the outside. Properly
treated, the prospects of the trip would have been
rosy enough. Handled by Captain Owen Kettle,
the whole affair was made to assume the aspect of a
commercial speculation of more than doubtful sanity.
And, as he walked, he cursed Kettle from his in-
most heart for bringing him to earth and keeping
him there amongst sordid considerations.
The little mariner himself was seated in a deck-
chair under an awning, turning in the frayed sleeve
of a white drill jacket. His sewing tackle stood in a
pictured tin biscuit box on the deck beside him.
He unripped the old stitches with a pocket-knife,
and resewed the sleeve with exquisite accuracy and
neatness. His fierce eyes were intent on the work.
To look at his nimble fingers, one would think that
they had never held anything more deadly than the
ordinary utensils xof tailoring. Carnforth broke off
his walk, and stood for a moment beside him.
" Skipper," he said, " you're a queer mixture.
You've lived one of the most exciting lives any man's
158 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
ever gone through, and yet you seem to turn your
more peaceful moments to tailoring or poetry indif-
ferently, and enjoy them with gusto."
" Mr. Carnforth," said the little sailor, " I guess
we're all discontented animals. We always like most
what we get least of."
" Well, I suppose that's intended to sum up my
character as well as your own," said Carnforth, and
sat down and watched the sewing.
The mate on the yacht's upper bridge picked up
the reef with his glasses that evening a couple of
hours after sundown. The night was velvet-black,
with only a few stars showing. A sullen ground-
swell rolled the seas into oily hills and valleys, and
the reefs ahead showed themselves in a blaze of
phosphorescence where the swell broke into thun-
derous surf. It seemed as though the yacht was
steaming towards the glow and din of some distant
marine volcano. The watch below were all on deck,
drawn there by curiosity, and along one bulwark
the watch on duty were handling the deep-sea lead.
At intervals came the report, trolled in a minor key,
of " No bottom."
The engines were running half speed ahead, and
presently they stopped, and the order was given for
the yacht to lay-to where she was till daybreak. A
light breeze had sprung up, bringing with it a queer
slender taint into the sweet sea air.
For a long time Carnforth had been snuffling dili-
gently, " I'm sure I smell something," he said at
" It's there," said Kettle. *' Have you ever been
in a north country. Norwegian port, sir ? "
THE PEARL POACHERS. 1 59
** By Jove ! yes, skipper. It's just the same.
" There's not another stink like it on this earth.
You know what it means here ? "
" I suppose some other fellows are in the lagoon
before us and they're rotting out shell."
" That's it,"said Kettle ; " and we're going to have
our work cut out to get a cargo. But we'll do it,
Mr. Carnforth, never you fear, I suppose there'll
be trouble, but that'll have to be got over. We've
not come all this way to go back with empty
Carnforth looked at the little man slily. Here
was a very different Captain Kettle from the fellow
who had been mending the white drill coat half-a-
dozen hours before. He was rubbing his hands, his
eye was bright, his whole frame had stiffened. He
was whistling a jaunty tune, and was staring keenly
out at the phosphorescent blaze of the breakers, as
though he could see what was behind them, and was
planning to overcome all obstacles. An hour before
Martin Carnforth had been cursing the tedium of
his expedition. A little chill went through him
now. Before many more hours were past he had a
strong notion he would be scared at its liveliness.
He had seen Captain Kettle's methods before when
things went contrary to his plans and wishes.
Slowly the night dragged through, and by degrees
the blackness thinned. The Eastern waters grew
grey, and the sky above them changed to dull sul-
phur yellow. Then a coal of crimson fire burned out
on the horizon, and grew quickly to a great half-dish
of scarlet ; and then the rest of the sun was shot up,
l6o ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
as an orange pip is slipped from the fingers ; and it
was brilliant, staring, tropical day.
For full an hour the yacht had been under weigh
at half steam with lead going, circling round the
noisy reefs. The place was alive with the shout of
breakers and the scream of seafowl. Inside, beyond
the hedge of spouting waters, were three small turtle-
backs of yellow sand, and a lugger at anchor.
The water outside was clear as bottle-green glass,
and of enormous depth. The only entrance to the
lagoon was a narrow canal between the reefs, shown
up vividly by the gap in the ring of creaming ^urf.
It was not likely that any one from the lugger would
lend a hand for pilotage — or be trusted if they
offered. So Kettle steamed the yacht to some half-
mile off the entrance, called away the whale-boat, and
went off in her himself with a crew and a couple of
leadsmen to survey the channel. He did it with all
deliberation ; returned ; took his perch in the fore-
crosstrees, where he could see the coral floor through
the clear water beneath, and conned the yacht in
himself. Carnforth leant over the bridge-end and
The coral floor with its wondrous growths came
up towards him out of the deep water. The yacht
rolled into the pass on the backs of the great ocean
swells, and the reef-ends on either side boomed like
a salute of heavy guns. The white froth of the
surges spewed up against her sides, and the spindrift
pattered in showers upon her deck planks. The
stink of the place grew stronger every minute.
Then she shot through into a mirror of still,
smooth water, slowed to half-speed, and with hand
THE PEARL POACHERS. l6l
lead going diligently, steamed up to an anchorage in
sixteen fathoms oflf one of the sandy islets. A white
whale-boat put off from the lugger, rowed by three
Kanakas, and by the time the yacht's cable was bit-
ted, a man from her had stepped up the accommo-
dation ladder, and was looking about him on deck.
He was a biggish man in striped pyjamas, bare-
footed, roughly-bearded, and wearing a crumpled
pith helmet well down on the back of his head. His
face was burnt to a fine mahogany colour by the
sun, and, dangling over his chest at the end of a
piece of fine sinnet, was a gold-rimmed eyeglass
which glittered like a diamond when it caught
the sun. He touched his helmet to Kettle.
"You've brought a fine day with you. Cap-
tain," said he.
" Rather warm," said Kettle. " I haven't looked
at the glass this morning. I hope it's going to keep
The visitor glanced round and sized up the yacht
and its resources. " Oh, I should say it's likely to
for the present. You've a nice little boat here, and
a likely looking lot of men. You'll be having ten of
a crew all-told. Captain, eh ? "
" Thirteen," said Kettle.
" Humph, it's an unlucky number. Well, Captain,
if I were you I wouldn't stay here too long. The
weather's a bit uncertain, you know, in these seas."
" We want some pearls and shell before we
" I might have guessed that. Well, it's a nuisance
from our point of view, because we thought we'd
the lagoon to ourselves, and intended to skim it
l6z ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
clear ourselves if the Japs didn't interrupt. But,
take the tip, Captain, and don't be too greedy. If
you stay too long, the glass may fall suddenly
" Take care, my lad," snapped Kettle, ** I'm a man
that accepts threats from no man living."
" Oh, all right," said the stranger carelessly. " But
who have we here ? " And he stuck the glass into
his eye and whistled.
. Captain Kettle made a formal introduction. " My
owner, sir, Mr. Martin, of New York."
" Humph," said the visitor : " you used to be
Carnforth up at Cambridge, didn't you ? M. Carn-
forth, I remember, and M. might possibly stand
Captain Kettle smiled grimly, and Carnforth
" Bit of a surprise to find you pearl-poaching, Carn-
forth. I see your name in the Australian papers
now and again, and got a notion you were something
big at home. Had a bust-up ? "
" No," said Carnforth. " I'm all right there.
Come below and have a drink and a talk. By the
way, it's awfully rude of me ; I haven't tumbled
yet to who you are."
** Never mind my name," said the visitor coolly.
" I don't suppose you'd remember me. I was a
reading man up there, and you weren't. You did
your best to torment my life out. I took a big
degree and made a fizzle of after-life. You got
ploughed and became a commercial success. So
you see we've little enough in common ; and, besides,
I was here first, and I resent your coming."
THE PEARL POACHERS. 1 63
" Oh, rubbish, man ! Come below and have a
"Thanks, no. I prefer not to be under the
tie of bread and salt with — er — trade rivals." He
dropped his eyeglass, and walked to the head of
the accommodation ladder. " Look here, Master
Carnforth," he said, " TU give you a useful tip.
Clear out ! " Then he went down into his whale-
boat, and the brown men pulled him back to the
"Curse that beggar's impudence,** said Carnforth
hotly. " I wonder who the deuce he is ? "
" Maybe we'll find out,** said Kettle. " I tried to
catch your eye whilst he was speaking. If I had
my way, he*d be on board now, kept snug till^ we
were through with our business here. He*d have
been a lot safer that way.**
" Oh, no ! " said Carnforth, " We couldn*t have
done the high-handed like that on the little he said.
» Wonder who he can be, though ? Some poor
beggar whose corns I trod on up at Cambridge.
Well, anyway twenty years and that beard have
completely changed him out of memory. However,
if he chooses to come round and be civil, he can ; and
if he doesn't, I won't worry. And now, Captain,
— pearls. The sooner we get to work, the more
chance we have of getting a cargo under hatches
and slipping away undisturbed."
" Right-o,*' said Captain Kettle. " They've got
the other two sandbanks, and, by the stink, they're
doing a roaring business. We'll bag this empty
one near us, and set about fishing this very hour,
and plant our shell to rot there. It'll smell a bit
164 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
different to a rose-garden, Mr. Carnforth, but it'll be
a sight more valuable."
Then began a period of frantic toil and labour.
Every man on board was " on shares," for it had
pleased Carnforth's whim to use this old buccaneer's
incentive. Half of the profits went to the ship, and
the rest to the crew. Each man had so many shares,
according to his rating. Carnforth himself, in addi-
tion to his earnings as owner, earned also as an ordi-
nary seaman, and sweated, and strained like any of
the hands. From an hour before daybreak to an hour
after sunset he was away in the boats, under the dews
of morn and eve, or the blazing torrent of midday
sunshine. Every night he tumbled into his bed-place
dog-tired, and exulting in his tiredness. Every
morning he woke eager for the fierce toil. He was
unshaven, sun-burned, blood-smeared from the
scratches of the shell, filthy with rank sea mud. But
withal he was entirely happy.
Kettle toiled with equal vigour, working violently
himself, and violently exhorting the others. Neither
his arms nor his tongue were ever tired. But he was
always neat, and seldom unclean. Dirt seemed to
have an antipathy for the man, and against his dis-
hevelled owner, he looked like a park dandy beside
a rag picker.
At the other side of the lagoon the white man
from Cambridge, and a white friend, and their crew
of ten Kanakas, worked with similar industry. The
ring of the lagoon was some half mile in diameter,
with lanes of deep water running through its floor
where divers could not work. There was no clashing
of the two parties. One of these water lanes seemed
THE PEARL POACHERS. 165
to set out a natural boundary, and neither trans-
gressed it. On each submarine territory there was
enough shell to work on for the present, and each
party toiled with the same frantic energy, and spread
out the shell on the sun-baked sandbanks, and
poisoned heaven with the scent of decay. But
there was no further intercourse between the two
bodies of men, nor indeed any attempt at it. How
the others were doing, the yacht's party neither knew
nor cared. Theirs was a race against time for wealth,
and not one striver amongst them all had leisure to
be curious about his neighbors.
In a nicer life, the smells of the place would have
offended them monstrously ; here they were a matter
for congratulation. The more the putrefaction, the
more the profit. They ripped the shells from the
sea, and spread them upon the beaches. The
roasting sun beat upon the spread-out shell-fish,
and melted away their soft tissues in horrible de-
The value was all a gamble. There might be
merely so much mother-o '-pearl for inlay work ; or
seed pearls, such as the Chinese grind up for medi-
cine; or larger pearls of any size and colour and shape,
from the humble opalescent sphere worth its meagre
half-a-crown, to the black pearl worth its score of
pounds, or the great pear-shaped pink pearl worth a
prince's ransom. It was all a gamble, but none the
less fascinating for that. Carn forth was mad over
the work ; Kettle, with all his nonchalance gone, was
nearly as bad.
But the process of realising their wealth was none
too fast, and, in fact, seemed to them tedious beyond
l66 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
words. Every filled shell, with its latent possibilities
of treasure lying out there upon the sand, was so
much capital left in a perilously insecure investment.
They were so bitterly afraid of interruptions. The
dark shadow of Japan was always before their eyes.
Still at last came the first moment of realisation.
They had toiled a month, and they had collected
that day the fruits of their first day's labour. The
mother-o '-pearl shell was packed in the hold ; the
little crop of pearls stood in a basin on the cabin
table, and they gloated over them as they supped.
Carnforth stirred them lovingly with the butt of
his fork. ." Pretty little peas, aren't they, skipper? "
" For those they amuse, though I like to see a
bit more colour in a woman's ornaments myself."
" Matter of taste and matter of fasion. Pearls are
all the rage just now. Diamonds are slightly com-
monplace ; but women will spend their money on
something, and so the price of pearls is up."
" So much the better for us, sir. It's a pity,
though, that some of them seem a bit off colour, like
that big grey chap for instance."
" Grey, man ! Why, that's a black pearl, and prob-
ably worth any ten of the rest put together."
" Well," said Kettle, " I don't set up for being a
pearl merchant. Poaching them's trouble enough
"Pass the biscuit, will you?" said Carnforth,
yawning. "I suppose that little lot — is worth —
worth — anything over — a thousand pounds," and
with that he dropped back dead asleep in his chair
with a forkful of food in mid-air. Captain Kettle
THE PEARL POACHERS. 1 67
finished his meal, but he, too, man of wire though
he was, suddenly tumbled forward and went to sleep
with his head on the table. It was no new thing for
them to do. They had dropped off like this into
unconsciousness more than once during that month
of savage toil.
The next day they had a smaller crop ready to
glean — a bare five hundred pounds* worth, in fact.
But they did not lament. There would be an enor-
mous quantity ready for the morrow.
That further realisation of their wealth, however,
never came. During the night another lugger sailed
into the lagoon, and upset all their plans. She was
the consort of the lugger commanded by the Cam-
bridge man, and she had taken away to a safe place
their first crop of pearls and shell. Further, she was
manned by fourteen whites, all armed, and all quite
ready to defend what they considered their poachers*
monopoly. As a consequence, they pulled across
to the yacht some two hours before daybreak, and
Carnforth and Captain Kettle found themselves
waked by three men who carried Marlin repeating
rifles, and were quite ready to use them if pressed.
But the little sailor was not easily cowed. " By
James ! " he cried, " this is piracy ! **
" It'll be a funeral," said the man with the eye-
glass, "if you don't bring your hand out from under
that pillow, and bring it out empty. Now, don't
risk it, skipper. I'm a good snap shot myself, and
this is only a two-pound trigger."
Captain Kettle did not chuck his life away use-
lessly. He let go his revolver and drew out his hand.
" Well," he said, " what are you grimy pirates going
l68 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
to do next ? By the look of you, you've come here
to steal our soap and hairbrushes."
" Camforth/* shouted the man with the eyeglass,
" come in here and be told what's going to happen.
I say, you fellows, bring Carnforth into the skipper's
Martin Carnforth came into Kettle's room sullenly
enough, with his hands in his pockets.
" Now I'll give you the whole case packed small,"
said the spokesman. " A crowd of us found this
place, and discovered the pearls and the shell. We
were all badly in want of a pile, and we took the
risks, and started in to get it. Most of us went
away with the first cargo, and only two white men
were left with a few Kanakas. Then you came.
You were told you're not wanted, but you gently
hinted 2X force majeure^ and were allowed to stay.
Finally the rest of our crowd comes back, and it's
force majeure on the other side, and now you've got
to go. If you've the sense of oysters, you'll go
peacefully. There isn't enough for all of us ; at any
rate we don't intend to share."
" Mr. Carnforth," said Kettle, " I told you we'd
better have bottled that dirty man with the window-
pane eye who's been talking."
•' Look here," said Carnforth hotly. " This is all
nonsense. We've got as much right here as
" Right ! " said the pearler. " Right had better
not enter into the question. We're all a blooming
lot of poachers, if it comes to that. You know that,
Mr. Martin, or Carnforth, or whatever you choose
to call yourself for the time being. You come here
THE PEARL POACHERS. 169
under a purser's name, your yacht is guyed out like
a Mediterranean tunny fisher ; and I guess you look
upon the thing much as you did bagging knockers
and brass door-plates in the old days at Cambridge —
half the fun's in dodging the bobby."
"You're taking the wrong sort of tone," inter-
rupted Carnfoth. " I'm not used to being hectored
at like this."
" I can believe it," said the pearler drily. " You
are a successful man."
** And let me tell you this. You've got the up-
per hand for the present, that I admit. You may
even force us out of the lagoon. But what then ? I
guess the account would not be closed ; and when
a man chooses to make me his enemy, I always see
that he gets payment in full sooner or later."
"All right," said the man with the eyeglass, " pay
away. Don't mind us."
" A hint at one of the Japanese ports as to what
was goin' on would soon upset your little game."
" Not being fools," said the pearler coolly, " of
course we've thought of that. We've "
A hail came down the saloon skylight outside,
from the deck above. " Scoot, boys, scoot ! The
Philistines be upon us."
" What's that?" shouted the man with the eye-
" Well, it's one of those confounded Jap gunboats,
if you want to know. Hurry, and we shall just get
off. We'll leave these fools to pay the bill."
"Humph!" said the pearler, "that settles the
matter another way. I must go, and I suppose
you'll try to hook it too. Ta, ta, skipper ; you're
I/O ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
a good sort — I like you. By-bye Carnforth, can't
recommend the Jap gaols. Hope you get caught,
and that'll square up for your giving me a bad time
He followed the others out on deck, and a mo-
ment later their whale-boat was pulling hard for
where the luggers rode lazily at their anchors.
Carnforth and Kettle went after him, and the en-
gineers and the yacht's crew, who had been held
down in the forecastle at rifle's muzzle, came on deck
It did not require any pressing to get the engine
room staff to their work. The boilers were cold ;
but never were fires lit quicker. Paraffin, wood,
small coal, grease, anything that would burn, was
coaxed into the furnace doors. The cold gauges
began to quiver, but as every man on board well
knew, no human means could get a working steam
pressure under half-an-hour.
On deck the crew had run the boats up to davits,
had hove short by hand, and then stood like men
on the drop, waiting their fate. The luggers had
mastheaded their yards, and were beating down the
lagoon against a spanking breeze. One after the
other they tumbled out through the passage, and
swung on the outer swell ; and then, with their lugs
goose-winged, fled like some scared seafowl out
over the blue sun-scorched waters.
But though the yacht had canvas, Kettle knew
that she could not beat to windward, and so dare
not break his anchor out of the ground till the en-
gineers had given her steam. There was nothing
for it but to wait with what patience they could.
THE PEARL POACHERS. 171
The Japanese gunboat had been sighted far enough
off, and, as she was coming up from the farther side
of the ring of reefs, she had to circle round them
before she could gain the only entrance. Moreover
her utmost paper pace was eight knots, and she
happened to be foul, and so her advance was slow.
But still to the watching men it seemed that she
raced up like a Western Ocean greyhound.
The sun rose higher. The stink of the rotting
shell-fish came to them in poisonous whiffs. At
another time it would have spoken of wealth
in sweet abundance. But now they disregarded
it. Prison and disgrace were the only things before
them, and these filled the mind.
Then the chief engineer called up to the bridge
through the voice-tube that he could give her enough
steam for steerage way in another minute.
" Foredeck there ! ** cried Kettle. " Break out
that anchor ! By hand ! " And the men laboured
with the hand gear, so as to save the precious steam.
Then a thought flashed across Captain Kettle's brain
and he quickly gave it to Carnforth. " It's only a
beggarly chance, sir, but we'd better try it, I sup-
pose ? "
"Yes," said Carnforth.
" If only we hadn't painted out those names, we
might have done it more safely. As it is, we must
risk it. Off with you below, sir, and get into some
decent clothes. You'd give the whole show away
if you stayed up on the bridge here in those filthy
rags. You may be a yacht owner, sir, but, by James,
you look far more like an out-of-work coal trim-
i^2 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Carnforth ran down the ladder, and Kettle gave
crisp orders to the hands on deck, who disappeared
also, and presently came back dressed as spruce
yachtsmen, in white trousers, white drill jumpers,
and straw hats ; and by that time the yacht was
under way, and steaming slowly to the pass.
The gunboat was coming in with her crew at
quarters, officers with swords on, and everything
cleared for action. The Japanese flag ran up to her
Promptly an English royal yacht club burgee
broke out at the poacher's main truck, and a British
blue ensign fluttered up to her poopstaff, and dipped
three times in salute.
Carnforth came up on to the bridge. " Now, sir,"
said Kettle, " you must do the talking. I guess it's
got to be lies, and lying's a thing I can't do."
"What shall I say?"
" Say what's needed," replied Kettle concisely ;
" and don't say it wrong. Remember, sir, you're
lying for your liberty. It's neck or nothing. She's
got two big guns trained on us, and a shot from
either would send us to Jones before we could get
in a smack in return."
" What ship's that ? " came the hail in perfect
" Steam yacht Vestris. Lord Martin, owner,"
said Carnforth, who knew the value of titles on the
foreigners. " I am Lord Martin."
^* What are you doing in here ? "
" Been watching those poachers."
" Heave to and explain."
" I shall do nothing of the sort, and if you dare
THE PEARL POACHERS. 1 73
to fire on me I will bring the British fleet about your
The Japanese spokesman gasped, and consulted
with a superior, and the steamers drew abreast.
" But you must heave to."
" I shall do nothing of the kind."
" But you are in forbidden waters."
** Then you should put up a notice to say so. I
shall report this to my Admiralty fn London."
" Go it," said Kettle, soiio voce. " For blooming
cheek, give me an M. P."
" But you must stop," said the Japanese, " or I
shall be compelled to fire."
" You can do as you please," said Carnforth. " I
shall report you to your commander-in-chief at
Nagasaki. I never came across such insolence.
You heard my name — Lord Martin. You'll hear
more of it before long."
Steam was rising in the gauges, and the yacht was
getting into her stride of twelve knots. She sped
out through the passage, and rolled in the trough of
the glistening swells beyond. The crew of the war-
ship still stood to their guns, but the officers were in
a dilemma. These pestilential Britishers always did
make such a row if any of their vessels were fired
on; and this, apparently, was a yacht, though
grotesquely unkempt, and tricked out with a black
and red funnel ; and, moreover, she was owned by a
peer of the realm.
A last despairing hail came over the waters:
" Are you noble ? "
** Yes, haven't I told you ? Lord Martin. You'll
know it better when you're next in port."
174 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
And that was the last word. The gunboat turned
and steamed out after them, but her turning circle
was large, and her speed slow. By midday she was
hull down astern ; by evening her mast trucks were
under the water.
Carnforth strutted the deck complacently.
" Rather a gorgeous bluff, eh, Skipper ? " he said at
" You're the only man on this ship that could have
done it," said Kettle admiringly. " It takes a parli-
amentary education to lie like that."
Again the silence grew between them, and then
Carnforth said, musingly: "I wonder who that
Cambridge man was.'*
" He seemed to hate you pretty tenderly."
" He did that. I suppose I must have played
some practical joke on him. Well, I know I used
to be up to all sorts of larks in those days. Skipper,
but that's long enough ago now, and all that sort of
foolishness is past."
Captain Kettle laughed. " Have you done with
pearl-poaching, sir? Or are you going to have
another try at it ? But don't paint out the name of
your ship next time. If that Jap had had the eyes
of a mole he'd have seen the change, and he'd have
taken his chances and fired. Governor i. C. Wal-
throp is no name for an English milord's yacht."
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG.
Captain Kettle had been thanking Carnfoth for
getting him command of the Atlantic liner Armenia,
" But/* he went on, " qualifications, sir, are all my
eye. Interest's the thing that shoves a ship-master
along. Yes, Mr. Carnforth, interest and luck. I've
got qualifications by the fathom, and you know
pretty well what they've ever done for me. But
you're a rich man and an M. P. ; you've got interest ;
you come up and give me a good word with an owner,
and look, the thing's done."
"Well, I sincerely wish you a long reign," said
Carnforth. ** The Armenians the slowest and oldest
ship on the line, but she was the best I could get the
firm to give you. It's seldom they change their cap-
tains, and they promote from the bottom, upwards.
You've got all the line before you. Kettle, and the
rest must depend on yourself. I'd sincerely like to
see you commodore of the firm's fleet, but you'll
have to do the climbing to that berth by your own
wit. I've done all I can."
"You've done more for me, sir, than any other
creature living's done, and believe me, I'm a very
grateful fellow. And you can bet I shall do my best
to stick to a snug berth now I've got it. I'm a married
176 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
man, Mr. Carnforth, with children ; Tve them always
at the back of my memory ; and IVe known what
it is to try all the wretched jobs that the knock-about
ship-master's put to if he doesn't choose his belong-
ings to starve. The only thing IVe got to be fright-
ened of now, is luck, and that's a thing which is
outside my hands, and outside yours, and outside
the hands of every one else on this earth. I guess
that God above keeps the engineering of luck as His
own private department ; and He deals it out accord-
ing to His good pleasure ; and we get what's best
Now the S.S. Armenia^ or the old Atrocity^ as she
was more familiarly named, with other qualifying
adjectives according to taste, was more known than
respected in the Western Ocean passenger trade. In
her day she had been a flier, and had cut a record ;
but her day was past. Ship-building and engine-
building are for ever on the improve, and with com-
petition, and the rush of trade, the older vessels are
constantly getting outclassed in speed and economy.
So heavy stoke-hold crews and extravagant coal
consumption no longer made the Armenia tremble
along at her topmost speed. The firm had built
newer and faster boats to do the showy trips which
got spoken about in the newspapers ; and in these
they carried the actresses, and the drummers, and
the other people who run up heavy wine bills and
insist on expensive state-rooms ; and they had
lengthened the Armenia s scheduled time of passage
between ports to what was most economical for coal
consumption, and made her other arrangements to
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. \^^
match. They advertised first-class bookings from
Liverpool to New York for £\\ and upwards, and
passengers who economised and bought £\\ tickets,
fondly imagining that they were going to cross in
one of the show boats, were wont to find themselves
consigned to berths in inside cabins on the Armenia.
The present writer (before Captain Kettle took
over command) knew the Armenia well. A certain
class of passengers had grown native to her. On
outward trips she was a favourite boat for Mormon
missionaries and their converts. The saints them-
selves voyaged first-class, and made a very nasty ex-
hibition of manners ; their wives were in the second
cabin ; and the ruck of the converts — Poles, Slavs,
Armenians, and other noisome riff-raff — reposed in
stuffy barracks far below the water-line, and got the
best that could be given them for their contract
transport price of three-pound-ten a head. Besides
the Mormons (and shunning them as oil does water)
there were civilized passengers who shipped by the
Armenia either because the cheap tariff suited their
purses, or because an extra couple of days at sea did
not matter to them, and they preferred her quiet
regime to the hurry, and noise, and dazzle, and vibra-
tion of the crowded and more popular greyhounds.
On to the head of this queer family party, then,
Captain Owen Kettle was pitchforked by the Fates
and Mr. Carnforth, and at first he found the position
bewilderingly strange. He was thirty-seven years
of age, and it was his ddbut as an officer on a passenger
boat. The whole routine was new to him. Even
the deckhands were of a class strange to his experi-
ence, and did as they were bidden smartly and effi-
178 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
ciently, and showed no disposition to simmer to a
state of constant mutiny. But newest of all, he
came for the first time in contact with an official
called a Purser (in the person of one Mr. Reginald
Horrocks) at whose powers and position he was in-
clined to look very much askance.
It was Mr. Horrocks who welcomed him on board,
and the pair of them sized one another up with dili-
gence. Kettle was suspicious, brusque, and inclined
to assert his position. But the Purser was more a
man of the world, and, besides, he was by profession
urbane, and a cultivator of other people's likings.
He made it his boast that he could in ten minutes
get on terms of civility with the sourest passenger
who was ever put into an undesirable room ; and he
was resolved to get on a footing of geniality with the
new skipper if his art could manage it. Mr. Hor-
rocks had sailed on bad terms with a captain once in
the days of his novitiate, and he did not wish to re-
peat the experience.
But Kettle was by nature an autocrat, and could
not shake down into the new order of things all at
once. The Armenia was in dock, noisy with steve-
dores working cargo, when the new captain paid his
first preliminary visit of inspection. Horrocks was
in attendance, voluble and friendly, and they went
through every part of her, from the sodden shaft-
tunnel, to the glory-hole where the stewards live.
The Purser was all affability, but Kettle resented his
' tone, and at last, when they had ended their excur-
sion, and walked together into the chart-house on
the lower bridge, the little sailor turned round and
faced the other, and put the case to him significantly.
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. 1 79
** You will kindly remember that I am Captain of
this ferry," he said.
" You're Captain all the way, sir," said Horrocks
genially. ** My department is the care of the passen-
gers as your deputy, and the receiving in of stores
from the superintendent purser ashore ; and I wish
to handle them all according to your orders."
" Oh," said Kettle, " you'll have a pretty free hand
here. I don't mind telling you I'm new to this
hotel-keeping business. I've been in cargo boats up
" Well, of course. Captain, a Purser's work is a
profession to itself, and the details are not likely to
have come in your way. I suppose I'd better run
things on much as before to start with, and when
you see a detail you want changed, you tell me, and
I'll see it changed right away. That's where I come
in ; I'm a very capable man at carrying out orders.
And there's another thing. Captain ; I know my
place; I'm just your assistant."
Captain Kettle pressed the bell. " Purser," said
he, ** I believe we shall get on well. I hope we shall ;
it's most comfortable that way." A bareheaded
man in a short jacket knocked, and came in through
the chart-house door. " Steward, bring a bottle of
whisky, and put my name on it, and keep it in the
rack yonder ; and bring some fresh water and two
glasses — Purser, you'll have a drink with me ? "
" Well, here's plenty of cargo," said Kettle, when
the whisky came.
** Here's plenty of passengers and a popular ship,"
said the Purser.
But if Mr. Horrocks was civil and submissive in
l8o ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
words on the Armenia^ it was because he had mas-
tered the art of only saying those things which are
profitable, and keeping his private thoughts for dis-
closure on more fitting occasions. When he sat at
tea that night with his wife across in their little
house in New Brighton, he mentioned that the new
captain did not altogether meet with his august ap-
proval. " He's a queer savage they've got hold of,
and no mistake this time," said he ; " a fellow that's
lived on freighters all his life, and never seen a ser-
viette, and doesn't know what to do with his enter-
" Tell the firm," suggested Mrs. Horrocks.
" Not much. At least, not yet. He's new, and
so naturally they think he's a jewel. I'm not going
to make myself unpopular by complaining too soon.
Give this new old man string enough, and he'll hang
himself neatly without my help."
" Like the last ? "
" Oh, this one's worse than him. In fact I'm be-
ginning to be sorry I ever did get our last old man
the push. He was all right so long as I didn't
make my perquisites too big. But as for this one,
I don't suppose he'll understand I've a right to per-
quisites at all."
" But," said Mrs. Horrocks, " you're Purser.
What does he suppose you live on ? He must know
that the pay don't go far."
" Well, he didn't seem to know what a Purser
was, and when I tried to hint it to him, he just
snapped out that he was Captain of this blooming
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. l8l
Mr. Horrocks shrugged his shoulders. " Oh, I
agreed right away. May as well tickle a fool as tease
him, my dear. He thinks because he's a splendid
seaman — and he may be that, Til admit — he's fit to
skipper a Western Ocean passenger boat. He's a
lot to learn yet, and Vm the man that's going to
Now the exasperating part of it was, that not
only did this process of " education " promptly be-
gin, but Captain Kettle knew it. Never before had
he had any one beneath him on board ship who had
dared to dispute his imperial will, and done it suc-
cessfully. There was no holding this affable purser,
no pinning him down to a specific offence. If he
mapped out a plan of action, and Captain Kettle
objected to it, he was all civility, and would give it
up without argument. " Certainly, sir," he would
say. " You're captain on this boat, as you say, and
I'm Purser, and I just know my place." And then
afterwards would invariably come a back thrust
which Captain Kettle could never parry.
There were three long tables in the saloon, headed
by the Captain, the Purser, and the Doctor ; and
when the passengers came on board at Liverpool or
New York, it was Mr. Horrocks who arranged their
meal places. He had a nice discrimination, this
Purser, and from long habit could sum up a passen-
ger's general conversational qualities at a glance.
He knew also Captain Kettle's tastes and limitations,
and when that redoubtable mariner had been mak-
ing things unpleasant, he rewarded him with dinner
companions for the next run who kept him in a
state of subdued frenzy. It was quite an easy thing
l82 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
to do, and managed craftily, it was a species of tor-
ture impossible to resent.
In fact it may be owned at once that as a con-
versational head to a liner's table, Captain Kettle
did not shine. The situation was new and strange
to him. Up till then he had fought his way about
the seas in cargo tramps, with only here and there
a stray passenger ; and, at table, professional topics
had made up the talk, or, what was more common,
glum, scowling silence had prevailed.
Here, on this steam hotel, he suddenly found
himself looked up to as a head of society. His own
real reminiscences of the sea he kept back ; he felt
them to be vastly impolite ; he never dreamed that
they might be interesting.
His power of extracting sweet music from the ac-
cordion he kept rigidly in the background. Accor-
dions seemed out of place somehow with these finick-
ing passengers. He felt that his one genteel taste
was for poetry, but only once did he let it slip out.
It was half-way across the Atlantic on a homeward
trip, and conversation had lagged. The Purser's and
the Doctor's tables were in a rattle of cheerful talk:
Kettle's was in a state of boredom. In desperation
he brought out his sacred topic.
At once every ear within range started to listen :
he saw that at once. But he mistook the motive.
The men around him — they were mostly Americans
— thought that the whole thing was an effort of
humor. It never occurred to them that this vine-
gary-faced little sailor actually himself made the sen-
timental rhymes he quoted to them ; and when it
dawned upon them that this was no joke, and the
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. 1 83
man was speaking in sober, solemn earnest, the fun-
niness of it swept over them like a wave. The table
yelped with inextinguishable laughter.
Of a sudden Captain Kettle realised that he was
his passengers* butt, and sat back in his chair as
though he was getting ready for a spring.
In his first torrent of rage he could with gusto
have shot the lot of them ; but to begin with he was
unarmed, and, in the second place, passengers are not
crew ; and moreover, after the first explosion, the
laughter began to die away. One by one the diners
looked at the grim, savage, little face glaring at them
from the end of the table, and their mirth seemed to
chill. The laughter ended, and an uncomfortable
silence grew, and remained to the finish of the meal.
During the succeeding meals moreover up till the
end of the voyage, that silence was very little en-
croached upon at the Captain's end of the middle
table. Any one who ventured to speak, had the
benefit of Captain Kettle's full gaze, and found it
disconcerting. Even to passengers on a modern
steam ferry, the Captain is a person of some majesty,
and this one had a look about him that did not invite
That batch of passengers dispersed to the four
corners of the earth from Queenstown and Liverpool,
and the Armenia saw them no more ; but news of
the fracas somehow or another reached the head-
quarters* office, and a kindly hint was given to Cap-
tain Kettle that such scenes would be better avoided .
for the future.
*' I quite know that passengers are awkward cattle
to deal with," said the partner who put it to him,
1 84 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" but you see, Captain, we make our living by carry-
ing them, and we can't afford to have our boats made
unpopular. You should use more tact, my dear
skipper. Tact ; that's what you want. Stand *em
champagne out of your entertainment allowance,
and they'll stand it back, and run up bigger bills
with the wine steward. It all means profit. Cap-
tain, and those are the ways you must get it for us.
We aren't asking ydu to drum round for cargo now.
Your game is to make the boat cheery and comfort-
able for passengers, so that they'll spend a lot of
money on board, and like it and come again and
spend some more. Tumble ? "
The Captain of the Armenia heard, and intended
to conform. But, admirer of his though I must con-
scientiously write myself, I cannot even hope that
in time he would have shaken down fitly into the
berth ; for to tell the truth, I do not think a more
unsuitable man to govern one of these modern steam
hotels could be found on the seas of either hemi-
sphere. However, as it happened, the concession
was not demanded of him. His luck, that cruel, evil
fortune, got up and hit him again, and his ship was
cast away, and he saw himself once more that painful
thing, a shipmaster without employ. More cruel
still, he found himself at the same time in intimate
touch with a great temptation.
The fatal voyage was from New York horne, and it
was in the cold, raw spring-time when passenger lists
• are thin. The day before sailing a letter addressed
" Captain Kettle, S^S^Artnenia^*' made its appearance
on the chart-house table. How it got there no one
seemed to know, but with the crowd of stevedores
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. 1 8$
and others working cargo, it would have been very
easy for a messenger from the wharf to slip it
on board unobserved. The letter was typewritten,
and carried the address of an obscure saloon in the
Bowery. It said :
** There is a matter of |5o»ooo (;f 10,000) waiting for you to
earn with a little pluck and exertion. You can either take the
game or leave it, but if you conclude to hear more, come here
and ask the barman for a five-dollar cocktail and he will show
you right inside. If you are frightened, don't come. We got
no use for frightened men, we can easy find a man with more
sand in him somewhere else. * *
The little sailor considered over this precious
document for the full of an hour. ** Some smug-
gling lay," was his first conclusion, but the sum of
money appeared too big for this ; then he was half
minded to put down the whole thing as a joke ; then
as a lure to rob him. The final paragraph and the
address given, which was in the worst part of New
York city, seemed to point shrewdly to this last.
And I believe the prospect of a scrimmage was
really the thing that in the end sent him off. But
any way, that evening he went, and after some
difficulty found the ruffianly drinking shop to which
he had been directed.
He went inside and looked inquiringly across the
The shirt-sleeved barman shifted his cigar. " Well,
Mister, what can I set up for you ? **
" You're a bit proud of your five-dollar cocktails
here, aren't you ? **
The man lowered his voice. " Say, are you Cap*
tain Cuttle ? "
1 86 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Kettle ! confound you." ' , . ,
" Same thing, I guess. Watk right through that
door yonder and up the stair.*'
Captain Kettle patted a jacket pocket that bulged
with the outline of a revolver. " If any one thinks
they are going to play larks on me here, I pity
The barman shrugged his shoulders. " Don't
blame you for coming * heeled,* boss. Guess a gun
sometimes chips in handy round here. But I think
the gents upstairs mean square biz."
" Well," said Kettle. " Vm going to see ; ** and
opened the door and stumped briskly up the stair-
He stepped into a room, barely furnished, and
lit by one grimy window. There was no one to re-
ceive him, so he drummed the table to make his
Promptly a voice said to him : ** Howdy, Captain ?
" Will ye mind shuttin* the door ? "
Now Kettle was not a man given to starting, but
he started then. The place was in the worst slum
in New York. Except for a flimsy table and two
battered chairs, the room was stark empty, and this
voice seemed to come from close beside him. In-
stinctively his fingers gripped on the weapon in his
He slewed sharply round to make sure he was
alone, and even kicked his foot under the table to
see that there was no jugglery about that, and then
the voice spoke to him again, with Irish brogue
and Yankee idiom quaintly intermingled.
" Sure, Captain, I have to ask yer pardon for
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. 1 8/
keeping* 4 brick' wall right here between us. But
Fve me health to consider, an' I reckon our biz will
be safest done this way."
The little sailor's grim face relaxed into a smile.
His eye had caught the end of a funnel which lay
flush with the wall.
" Ho? " he said. " That's your game, is it? A
speaking-tube. Then I suppose you've got some-
thing to say you are ashamed of ? "
" Faith, I'm proud of it. A pathriot is never
ashamed of his cause."
" Get to business," said Kettle. " My time's
short, and this waiting-room of yours is not over
" It's just a little removal we wish you to under-
take for us, Captain. You have gotten a Mr. Grim-
shaw on your passenger list for this run to Liver-
pool ? "
" It's so. He's one of the big bosses of your
** Well, supposing I have ? "
" He's been out here as a sort of commission, and
he's found out more than is good for him. He sails
by the Armenia to-morrow, and if you can — well —
so contrive that he doesn't land at the other side,
it means you are set up for life."
Captain Kettle's face stiffened, and he was about
to break out with something sharp. But he re-
strained himself and asked instead : " What's the
figure ? "
" $50,000 — say 10,000 of your English sovereigns."
" And how do I know that I should get paid ? "
1 88 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
The answer was somewhat astounding.
" You can pocket the money here, right now/*
said the voice.
" And once I got paid, what hold would you have
on me ? How do you know Vd shove this Grimshaw
over the side ? That I suppose is what you want ? '*
The voice chuckled. " We've agents everywhere,
Captain. We'd have you removed pretty sharp if
you tried to diddle us.**
" Oh, would you ? ** snapped Kettle. " I've bucked
against some tolerably ugly toughs in my time and
come out topside, and shouldn't mind tackling your
crowd for the sheer sport of the thing. But look
here, Mr. Paddy Fenian, you've got hold of the
wrong man when you came to me. By James, yes,
you skulking, cowardly swine ! You face behind a
wall ! Come out here and talk. I won't lift my
hands. I'll use my feet to you and kick your back-
bone through your hat. You'd dare to ask me to
murder a man, would you ? "
Captain Kettle's eloquence had an unlooked for
effect. The voice from the speaking tube laughed.
The sailor went on afresh, and spoke of the unseen
one's ancestors on both sides of the house, his per-
sonal habits, and probable future. He had acquired
a goodly flow of this kind of vituperation during
his professional career, and had been compelled to
keep it bottled up before the passengers on the
liner. He felt a kind of gusto in letting his tongue
run loose again, and had the proud consciousness
that each of his phrases would cut like the lash of a
But the unseen man apparently heard him un-
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. 1 89
ruffled. " Blow off steam, skipper," said he ; " don't
Kettle looked round the empty room dejectedly.
" You thing ! " he said. " I could make a man with
more spirit than you out of putty."
" Of course you could, skipper," said the voice
with the brogue ; " of course you could. I don't
really exist. I'm only a name, as your beastly
Saxon papers say when they abuse me. But I can
hit, as they know, and I can draw cheques as you
can find out if you choose. You can have your pay
yet if you see fit to change your mind, and * remove '
spy Grimshaw between here and Liverpool. We've
plenty of money, and you may as well have it as
any one else. It's got to be spent somehow."
" I'd give a lot to wring your neck," said Kettle.
He tapped the wall to test its thickness.
" You tire me," said the voice. " Why can't you
drop that ? You can't get at me ; and if you go out-
side and set on all the police in New York city, you'll
do no good. The police of this city know which
side their bread's margarined. I'm the man with
the cheque-book, sonny, and you bet they're not
the sample of fools that'd go and try to snuff me
" This is no place for me," said Kettle. " It seems
I can't lug you out of the drain where you live, and
if I stay in touch of your breath any longer, I shall
be poisoned. I've told you who I consider your
mother to be. Don't forget." — And the little
bearded sailor strode off down the stair again and
into the street. He had no inclination to go to the
police, having a pious horror of the law, and so he
igO ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
got a trolley car which took him down to the East
River, and a ferry which carried him across to his
The time was 2 a.m., and the glow of the arc lamps
and the rattle of winch chains, and the roar of work-
ing cargo, went up far into the night. But noise
made little difference to him, and even the episode
he had just gone through was not sufficient to keep
The master of a Western Ocean ferry gets little
enough of sleep when he is on the voyage, and so
on the night before sailing he stores up as much as
As it chanced Mr. Grimshaw took steps to im-
press himself on Captain Kettle's notice at an early
stage of the next day's proceedings. The ship was
warping out of dock with the help of a walking-beam
tug, and a passenger attempted to pass the quarter-
master at the foot of the upper bridge ladder. The
sailor was stubborn, but the passenger was impera-
tive, and at last pushed his way up, and was met by
Kettle himself at the head of the ladder.
" Well, sir?" said that official.
" I've come to see you take your steamer out into
New York Bay, Captain."
" Oh, have you ? " said Kettle. " Are you the
Emperor of Germany, by any chance? "
" I am Mr. Robert Grimshaw."
"Same thing. Neither you nor he is Captain
here. I am. So I'll trouble you to get to Halifax
out of this before you're put. Quarter-master, I'll
log you for neglect of duty."
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. I9I
Grimshaw turned and went down the ladder with
a flushed cheek. " Thank you, Captain/* he said
over his shoulder. " IVe got influence with your
owners. Fll not neglect to use it."
It chanced also that Captain Kettle had been cut-
ting down his Purser's perquisites more ruthlessly
than usual in New York, and that worthy man
thirsted for revenge. He had taken Mr. Grimshaw's
measure pretty accurately at first sight, and was tol-
erably sure that eight days of his conversation would
irritate his skipper into a state approaching frenzy.
So he portioned off the commissioner to the end
right-hand chair at the Captain's table, and promised
himself pleasant revenge in overlooking the result.
Captain Kettle worked the Armenia outside the
bar and came down to dinner. Horrocks whispered
in his ear as he came down the companion, " Mr.
Grimshaw's the man on your right, sir. Had to give
him to you. He's some sort of a big bug in the gov-
ernment at home ; been over in New York inquiring
into the organization of those Pat-lander rebels."
Kettle nodded curtly and went on to his seat.
The meal began, and went on. Mr. Grimshaw made
no allusion to the previous encounter. He had made
up his mind to exact retaliation in full, and started
at once to procure it. He had the reputation in
London of being a " most superior person," and he
possessed in a high degree the art of being cour-
teously offensive. He was a clever man with his
tongue, and never overstepped the bounds of sua-
How the wretched Kettle sat through that meal
he did not know. Under this polished attack he
192 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
was impotent of defence. Not a chance was given
him for retort. And all the thrusts went home.
He retired from the dinner-table with a moist per-
spiration on his face, and an earnest prayer that
the Armenia would carry foul weather with her all
the way up to Prince's landing stage, so that he
might be forced to spend the next seven or eight
days on the chilly eminence of the upper bridge.
And now we come to the story of how Captain
Owen Kettle's luck again buflfeted him.
The Armenia was steaming along through the
night, to the accompaniment of deep and dismal
hootings from the syren. A fog spread over the
Atlantic, and the bridge telegraph pointed to " Half
speed ahead " as the Board of Trade directs. The
engine-room, however, had private instructions as
usual, and kept up the normal speed.
On the forecastle head four lookout men peered
solemnly into the fog and knew that for all the prac-
tical good they were doing they might just as well
be in their bunks.
On the bridge, in glistening oilskins, Kettle and
two mates stared before them into the thickness,
but could not see as far as the foremast. And the
Armenia surged along at her comfortable fourteen
knots, with five hundred people asleep beneath her
deck. The landsman fancies that on these occasions
steamships slow down or stop ; the liner captain
knows that if once he did so, he would have little
chance of taking his ship across the Atlantic again.
A day lost to one of these ocean ferries means in
coal, and food, and wages, and so on, a matter of
;^i,ooo or so out of the pockets of her owners, and
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. I93
this is a little sum they do not care to forfeit with-
out strong reason. They expect their captains to
drive the boats along as usual, and make up for the
added risk by increased watchfulness and precaution,
and a keen noting of the thermometer for any sud-
den fall which should foretell the neighbourhood of
Now the Armenia was skirting the edge of the
Banks, on the recognized steam lane to the East-
ward, which differs from that leading West ; and by
all the laws of navigation there should have been
nothing in the way. Nothing, that is, except fish-
ing schooners, which do not matter, as they are the
only sufferers if they haven't the sense to get out of
But, suddenly, through the fog ahead there loomed
out a vast shape, and almost before the telegraph
rung its message to the engine-room, and certainly
before steam could be shut off, the Armenia's bow
was clashing and clanging and ripping and buckling
as though it had charged full tilt against a solid
The engines stopped, and the awful tearing noises
ceased, save for a tinkling rattle as of a cascade of
glass, and, " There goes my blooming ticket," said
Kettle bitterly. " Who'd have thought of an ice-
berg as far south as here this time of year." But
he was prompt to act on the emergency.
"Now, Mr. Mate, away forward with you, and
get the carpenter, and go down and find out how
big the damage is." The crew were crowding out
on deck. " All hands to boat stations. See all
clear for lowering away, and then hold on all. Now
194 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
keep your heads, men. There's no damage, and if
there was damage, there's no hurry. Put a couple
of hands at each of the companion-ways, and keep
all passengers below. We can't have them messing
round here yet awhile."
The Purser was standing at the bottom of the up-
per bridge ladder half-clad, cool, and expectant.
" Ah, Mr. Horrocks, come here."
The Armenia had slipped back from the berg by
this time and lay still, with the fog dense all around
her. " Now it's all up with the old Atrocity, Pur-
ser, look how she's by the head already. Get your
crew of stewards together, and victual the boats.
Keep *em in hand well, or else we shall have a stam-
pede and a lot of drowning. I'll have the boats in
the water by the time you're ready, and then you
must hand up the passengers, women first."
" Aye, aye, sir."
" Wait a minute. If any one won't do as he's bid,
shoot. We must keep order."
The Purser showed a pistol. " I put that in my
pocket," said he, " when I heard her hit. Good-
bye, skipper, I'm sorry I haven't been a better ship-
mate to you."
" Good-bye, Purser," said Kettle, " you aren't a
Mr. Horrocks ran off below, and the chief officer
came back with his report, which he whispered
quietly in the shipmaster's ear. " It's fairly scratch-
ed the bottom off her. There's sixty feet gone,
clean. Collision bulkhead's nowhere. There's half
the Atlantic on board already."
" How long will she swim ? "
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. I95
** The carpenter said twenty minutes, but I doubt
" Well, away with you, Mr. Mate, and stand by
your boat. Take plenty of rockets and distress
lights, and if the fog lifts we ought to get picked up
by the Georgic before morning. She's close on our
heels somewhere. If you miss her and get separated
make for St. John's."
"Aye, aye, sir."
" So long, Mr. Mate. Good luck to you."
" Good-bye, skipper. Get to the inquiry if you
can. ril swear till all's blue that it wasn't your
fault, and you may save your ticket yet."
" All right, Matey. I see what you mean. But
I'll not going to shoot myself this journey. I've got
the missis and the kids to think about."
The mate ran off down the ladder, and Kettle
had the upper bridge to himself. The decks of the
steamer glowed with flares and blue-lights. A con-
tinuous steam of rockets spouted from her su-
perstructure, far into the inky sky. The main fore-
deck was already flush with the water, and on the
hurricane deck aft, thrust up high into the air, fright
ened human beings bustled about like the inhabi-
tants of some disturbed ant-hill.
Pair by pair the davit tackles screamed out, and
the liner's boats kissed the water, rode there for a
minute to their painters as they were loaded with
the dense human freight, and then pushed off out
of suction reach, and lay to. Dozen by dozen the
passengers left the luxurious steam hotel, and got
into the frail open craft which danced so danger-
ously in the clammy fog of that Atlantic night.
196 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Deeper the Armenia s fore part sank beneath the cold
waters as her forward compartments swamped.
From far beneath him in the hull, Kettle could
hear the hum of the bilge pumps as they fought the
incoming sluices ; and then at last those stopped,
and a gush of steam burred from the twin funnels to
tell that the engineers had been forced to blow off
their boilers to save an explosion.
A knot of three men stood at the head of the port
gangway ladder shouting for Kettle. He went
gloomily down and joined them. They were the
Purser, the second mate, and Mr. Grimshaw.
Kettle turned with a blaze of fury on his suave
tormenter. " Into the boat with you, sir. How do
you dare to disobey my orders and stay behind when
the passengers were ordered to go? Into the boat
with you, or by James, 1*11 throw you there."
Mr. Robert Grimshaw opened his lips for speech.
" If you answer me back," said Kettle, " I'll shoot
Mr. Grimshaw went. He had a tolerable knowl-
edge of men, and he understood that this ruined
shipmaster would be as good as his word. He
picked his way down the swaying ladder to where
the white-painted lifeboat plunged beneath, finding
footsteps with clumsy landsman's diffidence. He
reached the grating at the foot of the ladder, and
paused. The lifeboat surged up violently towards
him over the sea, and then swooped down again in
" Jump, you blame* fool," the second mate yelled
in his ear, " or the steamer will be down under us."
And Grimshaw jumped, cannoned heavily against
THE LINER AND THE ICEBERG. I97
the boat's white gunwale, and sank like a stone into
the black water.
At a gallop there flashed through Captain Kettle's
brain a string of facts. He was offered ;£" 10,000 if
this man did not reach Liverpool ; he himself would
be out of employ, and back on the streets again ;
his wife and children would go hungry. Moreover,
he had endured cruel humiliation from this man,
and hated him poisonously. Even by letting him
passively drown he would procure revenge and
future financial easement. But then the memory of
that Irish-American at the speaking-tube in the
Bowery came back to him, and the thought of oblig-
ing a cowardly assassin like that drove all other
thoughts from his mind. He thrust Horrocks and
the second-mate aside, and dived into the waters
after this passenger.
It is no easy thing to find a man in a rough sea
and an inky night like that, and for long enough
neither returned to the surface. The men in the
lifeboat, fearing that the Armenia would founder
and drag them down in her wash, were beginning to
shove off, when the two bodies showed on the
waves, and were dragged on board with boat-
Both were insensible, and in the press of the mo-
ment were allowed to remain so on the bottom grat-
ings of the boat. Oars straggled out from her sides,
frantically labouring, and the boat fled over the seas
like some uncouth insect.
But they were not without a mark to steer for.
Rockets were streaming up out of another part of
the night, and presently, as they rowed on over that
198 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
bleak watery desert, the outline of a great steamer
shone out, lit up like some vast stage picture. The
other boats had delivered up their freights, and been
sent adrift. The second mate's boat rowed to the
foot of her gangway ladder.
" This is the Georgic^' said a smart officer, who
received them. " You are the last boat. We've got
all your other people unless you've lost any."
" No," said the second mate. " We're all right.
That's the Old Man down there with his fingers in
that passenger's hair."
" No, I saw 'em both move as we came along-
** Well, pass 'em up and lets get 'em down to our
doctor. Hurry now. We wanted to break the
record this passage, and we've lost a lot of time
already over you."
" Right-o," said the Armenia s second mate
drearily, " though I don't suppose our poor old
skipper will thank us for keeping him alive. After
piling up the old Atrocity ^ he isn't likely to ever get
" Man has to take luck as he finds it at sea," said
the Georgians officer, and shouted to the rail above
him, " All aboard, sir."
" Cast off that boat ! " " Up gangway," came the
orders, and the Georgic continued her race to the
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE.
If any one had announced in the Captains* Room
at Hallett's that a man could leave that sanctum
shortly before turning-out time, and be forthwith kid-
napped in the open streets of South Shields, every
master-mariner within hearing would have put him
down contemptuously as a gratuitous liar. All
opinions in the Captains* Room were expressed
strongly, and with due maritime force of lan-
The place seemed to its frequenters the embodi-
ment of homeliness and security. There was a
faint smell of varnish in the atmosphere, and always
had been within the memory of the oldest habitu6
and shipmasters came back to the odour with a
sigh of pleasure, as men do return to the neighbour-
hood of an old and unobtrusive friend. Captains
met in that room who traded to all parts of the
globe, talked, and soon found acquaintances in com-
mon. It was a sort of informal club, with no sub-
scription, and an unlimited membership. The hold-
ing of a master*s " ticket ** was the only entrance
qualification, and it was not considered polite to ask
your neighbour whether he was at that moment in
or out of employment.
200 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
If you were a genuine master mariner, but of an
unclubable disposition, you did not go to the Cap-
tains' Room at Hallett's a second time and always
made a point of getting rather red and speaking of
it contemptuously when the place was mentioned
afterwards. If you did not hold a master's ticket,
even if you were that dashing thing, a newly fledged
mate, the barmaiden on guard spotted you on the
instant, and said " that door was private," and
directed you to the smoke-room down the passage.
Into this exclusive chamber Captain Owen Kettle
had made his way that day after tea, and over two
modest half pints of bitter beer had done his share
in the talk and the listening, from 8 till 10.30 of the
clock. He had exchanged views with other ship-
masters on cargoes, crews, insurances, climates, and
those other professional matters which the profane
world (not in the shipping interest) finds so dreary ;
and had been listened to with deference. He was
a man who commanded attention, and though you
might not like what he said, you would not dream
of refusing to listen to it.
That special night, however. Captain Kettle's
personal views on maritime affairs were listened to
with even more deference than usual. A large red-
haired man swung into the Captains' Room some
few minutes after Kettle had seated himself, and
after ordering his beverage and a cigar, nodded with
a whimsical smile in Kettle's direction, and asked
him how he liked the neighbourhood of Valparaiso
as a residence.
" I forget," said the little sailor, drily enough.
" All right, Captain," said the red-haired man,
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 20I
" don't you mind me. I never remember too much
myself either. Only you did me a good turn out
there, although you probably don't know it, and I'd
be proud if you'd have a drink or a smoke with me
now in remembrance."
" You're very polite, Captain."
" Don't mention it, Captain," said the red-haired
man, and struck the bell. "Same? Half-a-pint of
bitter, please. Miss, and one of your best fourpenny
The general talk of the Captains' Room, which
had halted for the moment, went on again. One
worthy mariner had recently failed to show a clean
bill of health in Barcelona, and had been sent to do
twenty days penance at the quarantine station,
which is in Port Mahon, Minorca. As a natural
consequence, he wanted to give his views on Spain
and Spanish government with length and bitterness,
but somehow the opportunity was denied him.
The red-haired man put in a sentence or two, and a
question, and it was Kettle's views on the matter to
which the Captain's Room found itself listening.
A salvage point was brought up by a stout gentle-
man in the Baltic timber trade who was anxious to
air his sentiments ; but the red-haired man skilfully
intervened, and " Kettle on Salvage " was asked for
and heard. And so on all through the evening.
The red-haired man did his work cleverly, and no
one resented it.
Now, Kettle was a man who liked being listened
to, and there is no doubt that his vanity was tickled
by all this deference from his professional equals.
There is no doubt also that the smug security of
202 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Hallett's lulled his usual sense of wariness, which
may in part account for what happened afterwards.
And so, without further excuse for him, it is my
painful duty to record that an hour after he left the
Captains' Room, the little sailor was entrapped and
kidnapped by what, to a man of his knowledge,
was one of the most vulgar of artifices.
He emptied his tumbler, stood up, and said he
must be going. The red-haired man looked at the
round cabin clock on the wall and mentioned that
it was his time also ; and together they went out-
side into the damp, dark main street of South
" Going back to your ship. Captain ? " asked the
** Why, no. Captain,** said Kettle. " I live here,
and Fm off home."
" Then I suppose I must say good-night. Hope
to meet you again, though. What boat are you on
now, Captain ? "
" Well, Tm putting in a bit of a spell ashore just
now. Captain. Fact is, I haven't come across any
employment quite to my taste lately. 'Tisn't every
shipowner I care to serve under."
" No," said the red-haired man. " They are
brutes, most of them. But look here. Captain,
there'd be no offence in my getting you the refusal
of a berth, would there ? "
Kettle flushed. " Captain," he said, "you're
very good. You see I'm married, with children,
and I've never earned enough to put anything by.
Between men, I don't mind telling you I'm on my
beam ends. If I can't get hold of an advance note
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 203
this week, it will mean going to the pawnshop for
Mrs. Kettle's next Sunday's dinner."
The red-haired man sighed. " Well, Captain," he
said, "you needn't thank me. It's just my duty to
my employers to put this thing in your way. But
we'll not speak of it here in the open. Come along
off to my steamboat."
" Right," said Kettle. " Where have you got
*' She's lying at a buoy in the river. We can get
a boat from the steps."
Nothing much more was said between them then,
the big, red-haired man seemed indisposed for fur-
ther talk, and Kettle was too proud to ask questions.
Together they walked with their short seaman's
stride down the wet, new streets of the seaport, and
Captain Kettle made his brain ache by hoping that
this would not be another item to add to his long
list of disappointments. He had not earned a day's
wage for six months, and he was in such straits for
want of money that he was growing desperate.
They got down to the steps and took a water-
man's boat, turned up the piece of plank which lay
in the stern sheets, and sat on the dry side, and then
pushed off into the dark river. The red-haired man
picked up the yoke lines, and steered the boat
amongst the dense shipping ; past tiers of coasting
schooners, and timber droghers, and out-of-work
clinker-built tugs ; past ungainly iron steam tramps,
fishing craft, dredges, and the other resting traffic of
the Tyne ; and finally rounded up under a frieze of
sterns, and ran alongside the gangway of a 200-ton
204 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Hullo," said Kettle, " pleasure ? "
" Well, hardly that," said the red-haired man.
"Step aboard, Captain, and I'll pay off the water-
" He'd better wait to take me ashore again."
" No, let him go. We may have a long talk. I'll
put you ashore in one of my own boats when you
go. Now, Captain, here we are. Come below to
" You've got steam up, I see," said Kettle as they
walked aft along the white, wet decks.
" My orders," said the red-haired man.
" May start any minute. We never know. My
owner's a rare one for changing mind."
" Huh," said Kettle, " might be a woman."
" Devilish like a woman," said the red-haired man
drily. He opened a door at the foot of the compan-
ion-way, and turned an electric-light switch. This
is my room, Captain. Step right in. A drop of
whisky would be a good thing to keep out the cold
whilst we talk. Excuse me a minute while I go get
a couple of tumblers. I guess the steward's turned
Kettle seated himself on a velvet-covered sofa, and
looked round at the elaborate fittings of the cabin.
" Satin-wood panels," he commented, " nickel battens
to put the charts on, glass backed book-case, and silk
bunk-curtains ; no expense spared anywhere. Lord !
who wouldn't sell a farm and go to sea ? But the
old man said she wasn't pleasure ! I wonder what
the game is ? Contraband, I guess ; many a yacht's
great on that. Well, anyway, I've got to hear."
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 20$
The red-haired man came back with two half-filled
tumblers and a water jug. " Here's the poison/*
said he ; " mix it according to your own weight."
" That's rather more than my usual whack," said
Kettle eyeing the tumbler ; " but it's a cold, wet
night, so here's — By the way. Captain, I'm afraid
I've forgotten your name? "
"My name?" said the red haired man. "Oh,
yes. I'm Douglas, Captain Douglas."
" Captain Douglas," said Kettle thoughtfully.
" No, I can't say I recall it at present. Well, sir, any-
way, here's your very good health and prosperity."
" Same," said the red-haired man, and absorbed his
whisky and water with the dexterity of an artist.
Out of politeness Captain Kettle finished his tumbler
also ; there is an etiquette about these matters.
Silence filled the cabin for a minute or so, broken
only by the distant clatter of a shovel on a firebar,
and Kettle looked at the cabin clock. It was half-
past eleven, and Mrs. Kettle would be expecting him
home. " Hullo," he said,. " firing up ? Oh, I sup-
pose you've got to keep steam in the donkey boiler,
whilst you're in harbour, to run your dynamo. By
the way, you were talking about some employment
you could put in my way, Captain ? " he added
" Employment ! " said Douglas uneasily. " Oh,
was I ? Employment ! Yes, to be sure. Well, you
see, Captain, it was my owner I was speaking for,
and I've been thinking it over, and perhaps on the
whole you'd better see her for yourself."
" Her! " said Kettle. " Is there a woman at the
head of this concern ? "
206 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" A lady, call her. But look here, Captain, you're
getting sleepy. Why not turn in here for the night,
and see her yourself in the morning?"
Kettle yawned, and his head nodded. " I am
sleepy and that's a fact, though I don't know why I
should be. But it wouldn't do for me to turn in
here for the night. Mrs. Kettle's expecting me at
home, and I've never broken word to her since I was
married. I should take it as kind. Captain, if you
could give me some notion about this piece of em-
ployment now, so that I could see whether it's
worth — " He yawned again, and struggled with his
heavy eyelids — " You must understand, please, Cap-
tain, that time is scarce with me ; I must get em.
ployment at once. I can't stand by and see my
missus and youngsters hungry."
Captain Douglas swore, and hit the table with his
fist. " It's beastly hard," he said, " and I hate my-
self for bringing you here.'^
" What's that noise overhead ? " said Kettle.
" What are your crew doing on deck? " He tried
to rise, but fell back stupidly on the sofa. A harsh
bell clanged from somewhere beneath, and the slop-
slop of water came to him through the yacht's side.
" She's swinging round in the stream, and some-
one's rung * stand-by ' to the engine room."
" Sounds like it," the red-haired man admitted.
Again Kettle tried to rise, and with an immense
effort tottered to his feet ; but he had been given a
drug too powerful for even his iron will to fight
against ; and he swayed, and then pitched helplessly
sideways on to the carpet.
The last flickering gleams of consciousness were
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 20/
passing away from him, but the truth of what had
happened had flashed upon him at last. " Shang-
haied/* he murmured ; " by James, yes, Shanghaied,
that's what this means. Well, I pity the man — that
Shanghaied me. By — James — yes." He breathed
stertorously a time or two more, as though trying
to get out other words, and then dropped off into a
Then the door of the state-room creaked slyly
open, and the red-haired man started violently.
He turned and saw a tall, dark woman just crossing
the threshold. " Donna Clotilde ! " he said ner-
vously. " I thought you were ashore. Then it was
by your orders **
" That the yacht was got under way ! 5/, Senor.
I saw you coming on board with the man we have
been hunting for these last two years, and as soon
as the pair of you got below, I sent word to the
mate to call all hands, and get out of the Tyne as
soon as the pilot could manage it." She knelt be-
side Kettle's prostrate body, and passed her hand
caressingly over his damp forehead. " You are sure
you have not overdone it ? " she asked.
" I am sure of nothing like that," he answered
grimly. " But I gave him the dose you measured
out yourself, so what's done is your own affair. I
only added enough whisky to drown the taste, and
the poor little beggar drank it all down at one
** I don't see that you need pity him much. He
will be all right when he wakes."
"When he wakes it will be at sea, and I have
heard him speak of his wife and kids. That's why
208 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
I pity him, Donna Clotilde. Incidentally Tm a bit
sorry for myself." He stooped over the prostrate
man, and took a revolver from the back pocket
of his trousers. " Look there ! You see the fellow
took a gun with him even to Hallett's. It's grown
to be a habit with him. He*s a dead shot, too, and
doesn't mind shooting."
** I didn't think you were a coward."
" You know quite well I'm not, Sefiorita. But
this Captain Kettle will remember that I was the fel-
low that decoyed him on board, and he'll be pretty
anxious to square up the account when he wakes."
" You are well paid on purpose to cover all risks,"
said the woman with some contempt.
"And I shall be earning my pay," said the red-
haired man doggedly. " This small person here's a
holy terror. Well, I must be getting on deck to see
the pilot take her down the river. Here, I'll put
him on the bed before I go. He'll sleep it off more
" You shall not touch him," said Donna Clotilde.
" I will do all that's needful. I have waited for this
moment for three long years."
" You must be pretty keen on him if you can sit
by him when he does not know you."
" I have loved him since the first moment we met,
and he knows it ; and I do not mind who else knows
it also. I am entirely without shame in the..matter :
I glory in it. I am not one of your cold-blooded
" Well," he said, " you're paying me to run this
yacht, and I must be off up to see the pilot take her
out of the river without losing us any paint." And
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 209
he went out of his room, and left Donna Clotilde La
Touche alone with this man by whom she was so
The yacht steamed out between Tyne pier heads,
and the pilot left her in the coble which had been
towing stern-first alongside. Her destination was
the Mediterranean, but she did not port her helm
at once. Instead, she held on straight out into the
North Sea, and then turned off to make the Medit-
erranean, north about ; that is, through the Pent-
land, and round Scotland. She kept clear of Ireland
also, making a course for herself through the deeper
wildernesses of the North Atlantic, avoiding the
north-and-south traffic of the Bay, and in fact
sighting scarcely a single vessel till the red-haired
man at last starboarded his helm and put her east
for the Straits.
The voyage was not one of monotony. Captain
Kettle lay for the first twenty-four hours in a state
of snoring unconsciousness, and when he did come
to his wits again, found himself in a cabin alone.
He got up and stretched. His limbs were heavy
and languid, but he was not conscious of having re-
ceived any hurt. He clapped a hand to the region
of his loins and nodded his grim head significantly.
His pistol was missing.
He looked in the glass and saw that his face
above the red torpedo beard was drawn and white,
and that his eyes were framed in black, dissipated-
looking rings. There was an evil taste in his mouth,
too, which even a bottleful of water did not allay.
However, all of these were minor details ; they might
2IO ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
be repaired afterwards. His first requirement was
revenge on the man who had lured him aboard.
His natural instincts of tidiness made him go
through the ceremony of toilette, and then he put
on his cap, and, spruce and pale, went out through
the luxurious cabin and passageways of the yacht,
and found his way on deck.
The time was night ; the cold air was full of moon-
shine ; and fortune favoured him insomuch that the
red-haired man whom he sought was himself stand-
ing a watch. He walked up to him without any
concealment, and then, swift as light, slung out his
right fist, sending every ounce of his weight after it,
and caught the red-haired man squarely on the peak
of the jaw.
The fellow went down as if he had been pole-axed,
and Kettle was promptly on top of him. The three
other hands of the watch on deck were coming fast
to their big captain's assistance, and Kettle made
the most of his time. He had been brought up in
a school where he was taught to hit hard, and hit
first, and keep on hitting, and moreover he was
anatomically skilled enough to know where to hit
with most effect. He had no time then for punctil-
ious fighting ; he intended to mark his man in return
for value received ; and he did it. Then the three
lusty deck hands of the watch came up and wrenched
him off, and held him for their officer in turn to take
Kettle stood in their grip, panting, and pale,' and
" You great ugly red-polled beggar ! *' he said,
" IVe made your face match your head, but you
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 211
needn't thank me for it. You'd dare to Shanghai
me, would you ? By James, Til make your ship a
perfect hell till I'm off it/'
" You hit a man when he's not looking."
" Liar ! " said Kettle. " You saw me plain enough.
If you were half a sailor you'd never have been hit."
" You're half my size. I couldn't fight you."
" Tell your hands to set me adrift, and try."
The big man was tempted, but he swallowed down
his inclination. He ordered the men who were
holding Captain Kettle to set him free and go away
forward again, and then he thrust his own fists res-
olutely in his pockets.
** Now," he said, when they were alone, " I own
up to having earned what you've given me, and I
hope that'll suit you, for if it is doesn't, I'll shoot you
like a rat with your own gun. You've handled me
in a way no other man has done before, and so you
can tickle your pride with that, and simmer down.
If you want to know, I was a man like yourself,
hard up ; and I was paid to kidnap you, and I'd have
kidnapped the devil for money just then."
" I know nothing about the devil," said Kettle
acidly ; " but you've got me, and you couldn't very
well find a worse bargain. If you are not a fool,
you will set me ashore at once."
** I shall act entirely by my owner's orders."
" Then trot out your owner, and I'll pass the time
of day with him next. I'm not particular. I'll kill
the whole blooming ship's company if I don't get
my own way."
" Man, don't you be a fool. You can't hit a
212 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" A woman ? *'
** Yes, I told you before — Donna Clotilde. You
know her well enough."
" Donna Clotilde, who?"
" La Touche."
The stiffening seemed suddenly to go out of the
little man. He stepped wearily across the deck, and
leant his elbows on the yacht's polished topgallant
rail. " By James ! " he murmured to the purple
arch of the night. " By James ! that — that woman.
What a ruddy mess." And then he broke off into
dreary musing. He had known this Donna Clotilde
La Touche before ; had entered her employ in Val-
paraiso ; had helped her revolutionary schemes by
capturing a warship for her. In return she had con-
ceived a mad infatuation for him. But all the while
he regarded her merely as his employer. In the end
he had been practically set adrift at sea in an open
boat as a penance for not divorcing his own wife
and marrying her. And now she was come to add
to his other troubles by beginning to persecute him
again. It was hard, bitterly hard.
By some subtle transference of thought, the
woman in her berth below became conscious of his
regard, grew restless, woke, got more restless, dressed,
came on deck, and saw this man with whom she was
so fiercely enamoured, staring gloomily over the bul-
warks. With her lithe, silent walk she stepped across
the dewy decks under the moonlight, and. without
his hearing her, leant on the rail at his side and flung
an arm across his shoulders.
Captain Kettle woke from his musing with a start,
stepped coldly aside, and saluted formally. He had
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 213
an eye for a good-looking woman, and this one was
deliciously handsome. He was always chivalrous
toward the other sex, whatever might be their char-
acters ; but the fact of his own kidnapping at the
moment of Mrs. Kettle's pressing need, made him
almost as hard as though a man stood before him as
" Miss La Touche," he said, ** do you wish me to
remember you with hatred ? "
" I do not wish you to have need to remember me at
all. As you know^ I wish you to stay with me always.*'
" That, as I have told you before, Miss, is impossi-
ble for more reasons than one. You have done me
infinite mischief already. I might have found em-
ployment by this time had I stayed in South Shields,
and meanwhile my wife and children are hungry.
Be content with that, and set me ashore."
** I repeat the offer I made you in South America.
Come with me, get a divorce, and your wife shall
have an income such as she never dreamed of, and
such as you never could have got her in all your life
otherwise. You know I am not boasting. As you
must know by this, I am one of the richest women
in the world."
" Thank you, but I do not accept the terms.
Money is not everything."
" And meanwhile, remember, I keep you on board
here, whether you like it or not ; and, until you give
way to what I want, your wife may starve. So if
she and your children are in painful straits, you
must recollect that it is entirely your fault."
" Quite so," said Kettle. ** She will be content to
starve when she knows the reason."
214 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Donna Clotilde's eyes began to glitter.
" There are not many men who would refuse if I
offered them myself."
** Then, Miss, I must remain curious."
She stamped her foot. " I have hungered for you
all this time, and I will not give you up for mere
words. You will come to love me in time as I love
you. I tell you you will, you must, you shall. I
have got you now, and I will not let you go again."
" Then, Miss," said Kettle grimly, " I shall have
to show you that I am too hot to hold."
She faced him with heaving breast. ** We will
see who wins," she cried.
" Probably," said Captain Kettle, and took off his
cap. " Good-night, Miss, for the present. We know
how we stand : the game appears to begin between
us from now." He turned deliberately away from
her, walked forward, and went below ; and, after a
little waiting. Donna Clotilde shivered and went back
to her own luxurious state-room.
But if she was content to spend the rest of the
night in mere empty longing, Captain Kettle was
putting his time to more practical use. He was
essentially a man of action.
Cautiously, he found his way to the steward's
store-room, filled a case with meat tins and biscuit,
and then coming on deck again, stowed it away in
the lifeboat, which hung in davits out-board, without
being noticed. With equal success he took the
boat's breaker forward, filled it from a water tank,
and got it fixed on its chocks again, still without
being seen. The moon was behind clouds, and
the darkness favoured him. He threw down the
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 215
coils of the davit falls on deck, cast off one from
where it was belayed, took a turn and carried the
bight to the other davit so that he could lower away
both tackles at once.
But he was not allowed to get much further. The
disused blocks screamed like a parcel of cats as the
ropes rended through them ; there was a shrill
whistle from the officer of the watch ; and half-a-
dozen men from various parts of the deck came
bounding along to interfere.
Captain Kettle let go both falls to overhaul as
they chose, picked up a greenheart belaying-pin out
of the pin rail, and stood on the defensive. But the
forward fall kinked and jammed, and though the
little man fought like a demon to keep off the watch
till he got it clear, they were too many for him, and
drove him to the deck by sheer weight of numbers.
He had cracked one man's forearm in the scuffle,
laid open another's face, and smashed in the front
teeth of a third, and they were rather inclined to
treat him roughly, but the red-haired skipper came
up, and by sheer superior strength picked him up,
kicking and struggling, and hustled him off below
whether he liked it or no.
The lifeboat dangled half-swamped from the for-
ward davit tackle, and all hands had to be piped be-
fore they could get her on board again ; and by the
time they had completed this job, there was another
matter handy to occupy their attention. A fireman
came up from below, white-faced and trembling :
" The yacht's half full of water," he said.
Now that their attention was called to it, they
noticed the sluggish way she rode the water.
2l6 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" She must have started a plate or something,*'
the fireman went on excitedly. *' We've got both
bilge pumps running, and they won't look at it."
The water's coming in like a sluice."
" Carpenter," sang out the red-haired man, ** come
below with me and see if we can find anything," and
he led the way to the companion. Between decks
they could hear the water slopping about under the
flooring. It seemed a bad, almost a hopeless case.
Instinctively the red-haired man went to his own
room to pocket his valuables, and by a chance he
was moved to lift up the door in the floor which cov-
ered the bath beneath it. Ah, there was the mis-
chief. The sea cock which filled the bath was turned
on to the full, and the iron tub was gushing water
on every side. The next state-room was empty, but
the bath cock there was also turned on to the full ;
and after going round the ship, and finally entering
Kettle's room (and covering him with a revolver),
and turning off his water supply, he found that the
sea had been pouring inboard from no fewer than
eight separate apertures.
** And this is your work, you little fiend, I sup-
pose ? " said the red-haired man savagely.
" Certainly," said Captain Kettle. ** Shoot me if
you like, put me ashore if you choose, but don't
grumble if you find me a deuced ugly passenger.
I'm not in the habit of being made to travel where
I don't wish."
That afternoon Kettle contrived to set the yacht
afire in three separate places, and a good deal of
damage was done (and night had fallen again) before
the scared crew managed to extinguish the flames ;
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 21/
and this time Donna Clotilde intervened. She asked
for Kettle's parole that he would attempt no further
mischief ; and when this was flatly refused, inconti-
nently put him in irons. The lady was somewhat
tigerish in her affections.
A second time Captain Kettle managed to get the
yacht in a blaze, at the imminent peril of immolat-
ing himself, and then, from lack of further oppor-
tunity to make himself obnoxious, lay quiet in his
lair till such time as the yacht would of necessity go
into harbour to coal. The exasperated crew would
cheerfully have murdered him if they had been given
the chance, but Donna Clotilde would not permit
him to be harmed. She was a young woman who,
up to this, had always contrived to have her own
way, and she firmly believed that she would tame
Kettle in time.
When the yacht passed the Straits she had only
four days* more coal on board, and the executive
(and Kettle) expected that she would go into Gib-
raltar and lay alongside a hulk to rebunker. But
Donna Clotilde had other notions. She had the
yacht run down theMorrocco coast, and brought to
an anchor. So long as she had Captain Kettle in
her company upon the waters, she did not vastly
care whether she was moving or at a standstill.
" You cannot escape me here,*' she said to him
when the cable had roared from the hawse pipe, and
the dandy steamer had swung to a rest. ** The yacht
is victualled for a year, and I can stay here as long as
you choose. You had far better be philosophical
and give in. Marry me now, and liking will come
21 8 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Kettle looked at the tigerish love and resentment
which blazed from her black eyes, and answered with
cold politeness that time would show what happened;
though, to tell the truth, indomitable though he was
as a general thing, he was at that time feeling that
escape was almost impossible. And so for the while
he more or less resigned himself to captivity.
Under the baking blue of a Mediterranean sky this
one-sided courtship progressed. Donna Clotilde alter-
nating her ecstasies of fierce endearment by parox-
ysms of invective, and Kettle enduring both in equal
coldness and immobility. The crew of the yacht
looked on, stolidly non-interferent, and were kept by
their officers at cleaning and painting, as necessary
occupiers to the mind. But one or other of them,
of their own free will, always kept an eye on their
guest, whether he was on deck or below. He had
given them a wholesome taste of his quality, and
they had an abject dread of what he might be up to
next if he was left alone. They quite understood
that he would destroy the yacht and all hands if, by
doing so, he could regain his personal liberty.
But others, it seems, besides those already men-
tioned in this narrative, were taking a lively interest
in the smart yacht and her people. She was at an-
chor in the bay of the Riff coast, and the gentry who
inhabited the beach villages, and the villages in the
hills behind the beach, had always looked upon any-
body and anything they could grab as their just
and lawful prey. The Sultan of Morocco, the war
ships of France, Spain, and elsewhere, and the
emissaries of other powers had time after time en-
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 219
deavoured to school them in the science of civiliza-
tion without effect, and so they still remain to-day,
the only regularly practising pirates in the Western
The yacht was sighted first from the hills; was
reported to the beach villages ; and was reconnoitred
under cover of night by a tiny fishing-boat. The
report was pleasing, and word went round. Bearded
brown men collected at an appointed spot, each with
the arms to which he was best accustomed ; and
when darkness fell, four large boats were run down
to the feather edge of the surf. There was no inde-
cent hurry. They did their work with method and
carefulness, like men who are used to it ; and they
arrived alongside the yacht at 3 A. M., confidently
expecting to take her by surprise.
But the crew of the yacht, thanks to Captain
Kettle's vagaries, were not in the habit of sleeping
over soundly ; they never knew what piece of dan-
gerous mischief their little captive might turn his
willing hand to next ; and, as a consequence, when
the anchor watch sang out his first alarm, not many
seconds elapsed before every hand aboard was on
deck. The yacht was well supplied with revolvers
and cutlasses, and half aminute sufficed to get these
up from below and distributed, so that when the
Riffians attempted to board, the defenders were
quite ready to do them battle.
Be this how it may, however, there is no doubt as
to which side got the first advantage. The yacht's
low freeboard made but a small obstacle to a climber
from the large boats alongside, and neither the deck-
hands, nor the stockhold crew, were any of them
±iO ADVENTURES Ot CAPTAIN ICETTLE,
trained fighting men. In their 'prentice hands the
kicking revolvers threw high, and were only useful
as knuckledusters, and till they had thrown them
down, and got their cutlasses into play, they did
hardly any execution to speak about. The Riff men,
on the other hand, had been bred and born in an
atmosphere of skirmish, and made ground steadily.
At an early point of the scuffle. Captain Kettle
came on deck with a cigar in his mouth, and hands
in his pockets, and looked on upon matters with a
critical interest, but did not offer to interfere one
way or the other. It was quite a new sensation to
him, to watch an active fight without being called
upon to assist or arbitrate.
And then up came from below Donna Clotilde
La Touche, dressed and weaponed, and, without a
bit of hesitation, flung herself into the turmoil. She
saw Kettle standing on one side, but neither be-
sought nor commanded him. She would have died
sooner than ask for his help then, and be met with
Into the m^l6e she went, knife and pistol, and
there is no doubt that her example, and the fury of
her rush, animated the yacht's crew, and made them
stronger to drive the wall of their assailants back. To
give Donna Clotilde her due, she was as brave as the
bravest man, and, moreover, she was a certain shot
at moderate range. But, after her revolver was
empty and the press closed round her, it was not
long before an expert hand twisted the knife from
her grasp, and then the end came quickly. An evil-
smelling man noted her glorious beauty, and marked
her out as his special loot. He clapped a couple of
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 221
Sinewy arms around her, and bore her away towards
the bulwarks, and his boat.
Some one had switched on the electric deck lights,
and the fight was in aglow of radiance. Everything
was to be clearly seen. Donna Clotilde was being
dragged resisting along the decks, and Kettle looked
on placidly smoking his cigar. She was heaved up
on the bulwarks ; in another moment she would be
gone from his path forever.
Still her lips made no sound, though her great,
black eyes were full of wild entreaty. But the eyes
were more than Kettle could stand. He stooped
and picked up a weapon from amongst the litter on
deck, and rushed forward and gave a blow, and the
Riffian dropped limply, and Donna Clotilde stood by
the yacht's bulwark, breathless and gasping.
" Now you get away below," he ordered curtly.
" rU soon clear this rabble over the side."
He watched to see her obey him, and she did it
meekly. Then he gave his attention to the fight.
He broke a packet of cartridges which lay on the
deck planks, picked up and loaded a revolver, and
commenced to make himself useful to the yacht's
crew ; and from that moment the fortune of the battle
Captain Owen Kettle was (and is) a beautiful
fighter, and this was just his fight. Against his cool-
headed ferocity the Riffians gave way like sand be-
fore waves. He did not miss a blow, he did not
waste a shot ; all his efforts went home with the
deadliest effect. His voice, too, was a splendid ally.
The yacht's crew had been doing their utmost al-
ready : they had been fighting for their bare lives.
222 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
But with Kettle's poisonous tongue to lash them
they did far more ; they raged like wild beasts at the
brown men who had invaded their sacred decking,
and drove them back with resistless fury.
" Hump yourselves, you lazy dogs ! " Kettle
shouted. " Keep them on the move. Drive them
over the bows. Murder those you can reach. Am
I to do all this job myself ? Come on, you mongrels."
The red cutlasses stabbed and hacked, and the
shrieks and yells and curses of the fight grew to a
climax ; and then the Riffians with a sudden panic
gave way, and ran for the side, and tumbled over
into their boats. There was no quarter asked or
given. The exasperated yachtsmen cut down all
they could reach even whilst they were escaping ;
and when the sound had gone, they threw after them
the killed and wounded, to be rescued or lost as they
chose. Afterwards, having a moment's respite,
they picked up their revolvers again, loaded them,
and kept up a spattering, ill-aimed fire till the boats
were out of reach. Then when they turned to look
to their own killed and hurt, they found a new crisis
Captain Kettle was on the top of the deck house
which served as a navigating bridge, ostentatiously
closing up the breech of the revolver after reloading
it. He wished for a hearing, and after what they
had seen of his deadly marksmanship, they gave it
to him without demur. His needs were simple.
He wanted steam as soon as the engineers could
give it him, and he intended to take the yacht into
Gibraltar right away. Had anybody an objection
to raise ?
THE RAIDING OF DONNA CLOTILDE. 223
The red-haired man made himself spokesman.
" We should have to go to Gib anyway/' said he,
"Some of us want a doctor badly,. and three of us
want a parson to read the funeral service. Whether
you can get ashore once we do run into Gib, Captain,
is your own concern."
" You can leave that to me safely," said Captain
Kettle. " It will be something big that stops me
from having my own way now."
The men dispersed about their duties, the decks
were hosed down, and the deck lights switched off.
After awhile Donna Clotilde came gliding up out of
the darkness, and stepped up the ladder to the top
of the deck house. Kettle regarded her uneasily.
To his surprise she knelt down, took his hand, and
smothered it with burning kisses. Then she went
back to the head of the ladder. ** My dear," she
said, " I will never see you again. I made you hate
me, and yet you saved my life. I wish I thought I
could ever forget you."
" Miss La Touche," said Kettle, "you will find a
man in your own station one of these days to
make you a proper husband, and then you will look
back at this cruise and think how lucky it was you
so soon sickened, and kicked me away from you."
She shook her head and smiled through her tears.
"You are generous," she said. "Good-by.
Good-bye, my darling. Good-bye." Then she went
down the ladder, and Kettle never saw her again.
A quartermaster came up and took the wheel.
The windlass engine had been clacking, and the red-
haired man called out from forward, " All gone."
" Quartermaster," said Kettle.
224 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Yessir/* said the quartermaster.
" Nor* nor* west and by west.**
" Nor* no* west n*b* west it is, sir," said the
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW.
Captain Owen Kettle folded the letter-card,
put it in his pocket, and relit his cigar. He drew
paper towards him, and took out a stub of pencil
and tried to make verse, which was his habit when
things were shaping themselves awry, but the rhymes
refused to come. He changed the metre : he gave
up labouring to fit the words to the air of " Swanee
River," and started fresh lines which would go to the
tune of " Greenland's Icy Mountains,'* a metre with
which at other times he had been notoriously suc-
cessful. But it failed him now. He could not get
the jingle ; spare feet bristled at every turn ; and the
field of poppies, on which his muse was engaged,
became every moment more and more elusive.
It was no use. He put down the pencil and
sighed, and then, frowning at himself for his indeci-
sion, took out the letter-card again, and deliberately
re-read it, front and back.
Captain Kettle was a man who made up his mind
over most matters with the quickness of a pistol-
shot ; and once settled, rightly or wrongly, he always
stuck to his decision. But here, on the letter-card,
was a matter he could not get the balance of at all ;
it refused to be dismissed, even temporarily, from
his mind ; it involved interests far too large to be
226 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
hazarded by a hasty verdict either one way or the
other ; and the difficulty in coming to any satis-
factory conclusion irritated him heavily.
The letter-card was anonymous, and seemed to
present no clue to its authorship. It was type-
written; it was posted, as the stamp showed, in
Newcastle ; it committed its writer in no degree what-
ever. But it made statements which, if true, ought
to have sent somebody to penal servitude ; and it
threw out hints, which, true or untrue, made Captain
Kettle heir to a whole world of anxiety and trouble.
It is an excellent academic rule to entirely disre-
gard anonymous letters, but it is by no means always
an easy rule to follow. And there are times when
a friendly warning must be conveyed anonymously
or not at all. But Kettle did not worry his head
about the ethics of anonymous letter-writing as a
profession ; his attention was taken up by this type-
written card from ** Well-wisher," which he held in
his hand :
** Your ship goes to sea never to reach port. There
is an insurance robbery cleverly rigged. You think
yourself very smarts I know, but this time you are
being made a common gull of.*'
And the writer wound up by saying: '^ Ican^t give
you any hint of how ifs going to be done. Only I
know the game's fixed. So keep your weather eye
skinned^ and take the Sultan of Labuan safely out
and backy and maybe you II get something more solid
than a drink.
" Your Well-wisherr
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 22/
Captain Kettle was torn, as he read, by many
conflicting sentiments. Loyalty to Mr. Gedge, his
owner, was one of them. Gedge had sold him be-
fore, but that was in a way condoned by this pres-
ent appointment to the Sultan of Labuan. And
he wanted very much to know what were Mr.
Gedge's wishes over the matter.
His own code of morality on this subject was
peculiar. Ashore in South Shields he was as honest
as a bishop ; he was a strict chapel member ; he did
not even steal matches from the Captains* Room at
Hallett's, his house of call, which has always been
a recognised peculation. At sea he conceived him-
self to be bought, body and soul, by his owner for
the time being, and was perfectly ready to risk body
and soul in earning his pay.
But the question was, how was this pay to be
Up till then he would have said : " By driving the
Sultan of Labuan over the seas as fast as could be
done on a given coal consumption ; by ruthlessly
keeping down expense ; and, in fact, by making the
steamer earn the largest possible dividend in the
ordinary way of commerce.** But this typewritten
letter-card hinted at other purposes, which he knew
were quite within the bounds of possibility, and if
he was being made into a catspaw
He hit the unfinished poems on the table a blow
with his fist. ** By James ! ** he muttered, " a cats-
paw? I didn't think of it in that light before.
Well, we*d better have a clear understanding about
228 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
He got up, crammed the blue letter-card into his
pocket, and took his cap.
" My dear," he called down to Mrs. Kettle, who
was engaged on the family wash in the kitchen be-
low, " I've got to run up to the office to see Mr.
Gedge. I don't think I quite understand his wishes
about running the boat. Get your tea when it's
ready. I don't want to keep you and the youngsters
Captain Kettle thought out many things as he
journeyed from South Shields to the grimy office of
his employer in Newcastle, but his data were in-
sufficient, and he was unable to get hold of any
scheme by which he could safely approach what was,
to say the very least of it, a very delicate subject.
Mr. Gedge had hired him as captain of the Sultan
of Labuan^ had said no word about losing her, and
how was he to force the man's confidence ? It
looked the most unpromising enterprise in the
world. Moreover, although in the outer world he
was as brave a fellow as ever lived, he had all a ship-
master's timidity at tackling a ship-owner in his lair,
and this, of course, handicapped him.
In this mood, then, he was ushered upon Gedge
in his office, and saw him signing letters and casting
occasional sentences to a young woman who flicked
them down in shorthand.
The ship-owner frowned. He was very busy.
" Well, Captain," he said, *' what is it ? Talk ahead.
I can listen whilst I sign these letters."
" It's a private question I'd like to ask you about
running the boat."
" Want Miss Payne to go out ? "
MR. GEDGE S CATSPAW. 229
" If I might trouble her so far."
Gedge jerked his head towards the door, " Type
out what you've got," he said. The shorthand
writer went out and closed the glass door after her.
Captain Kettle hesitated. It was an awkward
subject to begin upon.
" Now then. Captain, out with it quick. I'm in
the dickens of a hurry."
" I wish you'd let me know a little more exactly
— in confidence, of course — how you wish me to run
this steamboat. Do you want me to — I mean "
" Well, get on, get on."
" When do you want her back ? "
Gedge leant back in his chair, tapped his teeth
with the end of his pen. " Look here, Captain,"
he said, " you didn't come here to talk rot like this.
You've had your orders already. You aren't a
drinking man, or I'd say you were screwed. So
there's something else behind. Come, out with it."
" I hardly know how to begin."
" I don't want rhetoric. If you've got a tale tell
it, if not " Mr. Gedge leant over his desk again
and went on signing his letters.
Captain Kettle stood the rudeness without so
much as a flush. He sighed a little, and then, after
another few moments' thought, took the letter-card
from his pocket and laid it on his employer's table.
After Gedge had conned through and signed a
couple more sheets, he took the card up in his
fingers and skimmed it over.
As he read the color deepened in his face, and
Kettle saw that he was moved, but said nothing.
230 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
For a moment there was silence between them, and
Gedge tapped at his teeth and was apparently lost
in thought. Then he said : " Where did you get
" Through the post."
" And why did you bring it to me ? "
"I thought you might have something to say
" Shown it to any one else ? "
" No, sir ; I'm in your service, and earning your
" Yes ; I pulled you out of the gutter again quite
recently, and you said you'd be able to get your
wife's clothes out of pawn with your advance note."
" Tm very grateful to you for giving me the berth,
sir, and I shall be a faithful servant to you as long
as Fm in your employ. But if there's anything on,
rd like to be in your confidence. I know she isn't
an old ship, but "
" But what ? "
" She's uneconomical. Her engines are old-fash-
ioned. It wouldn't pay to fit her with triple expan-
sions and new boilers."
" I see. You appear to know a lot about the
ship. Captain — more than I do myself, in fact. I
know you're a small tin saint when you're within
hail of that Ebenezer, or Bethel, or whatever you
call it here ashore, but at sea you've got the name
for not being over particular."
" At sea," said the little sailor with a sigh, " I am
what I have to be. But I couldn't do that. I'm a
poor man, sir ; I'm pretty nearly a desperate man ;
but there are some kinds of things that are beyond
MR, GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 23 1
me. I know it's done often enough, but — you'll
have to excuse me. I can't lose her for you.**
" Who*s asking you ? ** said Gedge cheerily. " Fm
not. Don*t jump at conclusions, man. I don*t
want the Sultan of Labuan lost. She's not my best
ship, I'll grant ; but I can run her at a profit for all
that ; and even if I couldn't I am not the sort of
man to try and make my dividends out of Lloyd*s.
No, not by any means. Captain ; Tve got my name
to keep up."
Captain Kettle brought up a sigh of relief. " Glad
to hear it, sir; I'm glad to hear it. But I thought
it best to have it out with you. That beastly letter
Gedge laughed slily. " Well, if you want to know
who wrote the letter, I did myself."
Kettle started. He was obviously incredulous.
" Well, to be accurate, I did it by deputy. You
hae yer doots, eh ? Hang it, man ; what an un-
believing Jew you are." He pressed one of the
electric pushes by the side of his desk, and the
shorthand writer came in and stood at the doorway.
" Miss Payne, you typed this letter-card, didn't
you ? " he asked, and Miss Payne dutifully answered :
" Thank you. That'll do. Well, Kettle, I hope
you're satisfied now ? I sent this blessed card be-
cause I wanted to see how deep this shore-going
honesty of yours went, which I've heard so much
about and now I know, and you may take it from
me that you'll profit by it financially in the very
near future. The shipmasters I've had to do with
have been mostly rogues, and when I get hold of a
232 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
straight man I know how to appreciate him. Now,
good-by, Captain, and a prosperous voyage to you.
If you catch the midnight mail to-night from here,
you'll just get down to Newport to-morrow in time
to see her come into dock. Take her over at once,
you know ; we can't have any time wasted. Here
good-bye. Fm frantically busy."
But busy though he might be, Mr. Gedge did not
immediately return to signing his letters after Cap-
tain Kettle's departure. Instead, he took out a
handkerchief and wiped his forehead and wiped his
hands, which for some reason seemed to have grown
unaccountably clammy ; and for awhile he lay back
in his writing-chair like a man who feels physically
Captain Kettle, however, went his ways humming
a cheerful air, and as the twelve o'clock mail roared
out that night across the high-level bridge, he settled
himself to sleep in his corner of a third-class carriage
and to dream the dreams of a man who, after many
vicissitudes, has at last found righteous employment.
It was a new experience for him, and he permitted
himself the luxury of enjoying it to the full.
A train clattered him into Monmouthshire some
twelve hours later, and he stepped out on Newport
platform into a fog raw and fresh from the Bristol
Channel. His small, worn portmanteau he could
easily have carried in his hand, but there is an eti-
quette about these matters which even hard-up ship-
masters, to whom a shilling is a financial rarity, must
observe ; and so he took a four-wheeler down to the
agent's office, and made himself known. The Sultan
of Labuan^ it seemed, had come up the Usk and
Mr. gedge s catspaw. 233
gone into dock barely an hour before, and so Kettle,
obedient to his orders, went down at once to take
It was not a pleasant operation, this ousting
another man from his livelihood, and as Kettle had
been supplanted a weary number of times himself,
he thought he knew pretty well the feelings of the
man whom he had come to replace. His reception,
however, surprised him. Williams, the former mas-
ter of the Sultan of Labuatiy handed over his charge
with an air of obvious and sincere relief, and Kettle
felt that he was being eyed with a certain embarrass-
ing curiosity. The man was not disposed to be
" You look knocked up,*' said Kettle.
" Might well be,** retorted Captain Williams. " I
haven't had a blessed wink of sleep since I pulled
my anchors out of Thames mud."
" Not had bad weather, have you ? "
" No, weather's been right enough. Bit thickish,
" What's kept you from having a watch below,
" 'Fraid of losing the ship. Captain. I never been
up before the Board of Trade yet, and don't want
to try what it feels like."
" Oh ! " said Kettle with a sigh, " it's horrible ;
they're brutes. I know. I have been there."
" So I might have guessed," said Williams drily.
" Look here," said Kettle, " what are you driving
" No offence. Captain, no offence. I'll just shut
my head now. Guess I've been talking too much
234 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
already. Result of being over-tired, I suppose.
Let's get on with the ship's papers. They are all
in this tin box."
" But Fd rather you said out what you got to
" Thanks, Captain, but no. This is the first time
we've met, I think ? "
" So far as I remember."
" Well, there you are then ; personally you no
doubt are a very nice pleasant gentleman, but still
there's no getting over the fact that you're a stran-
ger to me ; and anyway, you're in Gedge's employ,
and I'm not ; and there's a law of libel in this country
which gets up and hits you whether you are talking
truth or lies."
" English laws are beastly, and that's a fact."
" Reading about them in the paper's quite enough
for me. Now, Captain, suppose we go ashore with
these papers and I can sign off and you can sign on.
Afterwards we'll have a drop of whisky together if
you like just to show there's no ill-will."
"You are very polite. Captain," said Kettle.
" I'm sure I don't like the notion of stepping in to
take away your employment. But if it hadn't been
me, he'd have got some one else."
The other turned on him quickly.
" Don't think you're doing me a bad turn. Captain
because you aren*t. I was never so pleased to step
out of a chart-house in my life. Only thing is, I
hope I aren't doing you a bad turn by letting you
" By James," said Kettle, ** do speak plain, Cap-
tain ; don't go on hinting like this."
MK, GEi>GE's catspaW. ^3^
'* I sifil ftScturtdering on too mueh,^ Captain, and
that's a fact. Result of being about tired-out, I
suppose. But you must excuse me speaking fur-
ther: there's that confounded libel law to think
about. Now, Captain, here's the key of the chart-
house door, and if you'll let me, I'll go out first and
you can lock it behind you. You'll find one of the
tumblers beside the water-bottle broken ; it fell out
of my hand this morning just after I'd docked her ;
but all the rest is according to the inventory ; and
I'll knock off threepence for the tumbler when we
They plunged straightway into the aridities of
business, and kept at it till the captaincy had
been formally laid down and handed over, and
then the opportunity for further revelations was
Captain Williams was clearly worn out with
weariness; responsibility had kept him going till
then, but now that responsibility had ended he was
iiks a man in a trance. His eyes drooped, his
Iknees failed drunkenly ; he was past speech ; and
df Kettle had not by main force dragged him off to
a bed at a temperance hotel, he would have toppled
•down incontinently and slept in the gutter like one
•dead. As it was he lay on the counterpane in the
heaviest of sleep, the picture of a strong man worn
out with watching and labour, and for a minute or
so Kettle stood beside the bed and gazed upon him
" By James," he muttered, " if I could make you
speak, Captain, I believe you could tell a queerish
236 ADVENTURES OI^ CAPTAIN KETTLE.
But Kettle did not loiter by this taciturn bedside.
He had signed on as master of the Sultan of
Labuan ; he was in Mr. Gedge's employ, and earn-
ing Mr. Gedge's pay ; and every minute wasted
on a steamer means money lost. He went briskly
across to the South dock and set the machinery of
business to work without delay. There was grum-
bling from mates, engineers, and crew that they had
been given leisure for scarcely a breath of shore air,
but Kettle was not a man who courted popularity
from his underlings by offering them indulgences.
He stated that their duty was to get the water bal-
last out and the coal under hatches in the shortest
time on record, and mentioned that he was the man
who would see it done.
The men grumbled of course ; behind their driver's
back they swore ; two deck hands and three of the
stokehold crew deserted, leaving their wages, and
were replaced by others from the shipping office ;
and still the work went remorselessly on under the
grey glow of the fog so long as daylight lasted, and
then under the glare of raw electric arc lamps. The
air was full of gritty dust and the roar of falling
coal. A waggon was shunted up, dangled aloft in
hydraulic arms, ignominiously emptied end first, and
then put to ground again and petulantly sent away
to find a fresh load, whilst its successor was being
nursed and relieved. Two hundred tons to the hour
was what that hydraulic staith could handle, but for
all that it did not break the coal unduly.
In the forehold the trimmers gasped and choked
as they steered the black avalanches into place ; and
presently another of the huge staithes crawled up
MR. GEDGE S CATSPAW. 237
along the dock wall, with a gasping tank-loco and a
train of waggons in attendance, and then the Sultan
of Labuan was being loaded through the after hatch
also. It was a triumph of machinery and organisa-
tion, and tired men in a dozen departments cursed
Kettle for keeping them at such a remorseless pres-
sure over their tasks.
Down to her fresh-water plimsol the steamer was
sunk, and then the loading ceased. Even Kettle
did not dare to overload. He knew quite well that
there were the jealous eyes of a Seamen and Fire-
men's Unidn official watching him from somewhere
on the quays, and if she was trimmed an inch above
her marks the Sultan of Labuan would never be let
go through the outer dock-gate. So the burden
was limited to its legal bounds, and Kettle got his
clearance papers with the same fierce, business-like
bustle ; and came back and stepped lightly up on
to the tramp's upper bridge.
The pilot was there waiting for him, half admir-
ing, half repelled : the old blue-faced mate and the
carpenter were on the forecastle-head ; the second
mate was aft ; the chief himself and the third en-
gineer were at the throttle and the reversing gear
below. The ship's entire complement had quite
surrendered to the sway of this new task-master,
and stood in their coal-grime and their tiredness
ready to jump at his bidding.
Bristol Channel tides are high, and the current of
the Usk is swift. It was going to be quick work if
they did not miss the tide, and the pilot, who had
no special stake in the matter, said it could not be
done. Kettle, however, thought otherwise, and the
238 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
pilot in consequence saw some seamanship which
gave him chills down the back.
" By gum, Captain," he said, when they were
fairly out of the river, " you can handle her.**
" Wait till I know her, pilot, and then Til show
" Haven't got nerves enough. Look you. Captain,
you'll be having a bad crumple-up if you bustle a
big loaded steamboat about docks at that rate."
" Never bent a plate in my life."
" Well, I hope you never will. Look you, now,
you're a little tin wonder in the way of seaman-
" Quartermaster," said Kettle, ** tell my steward
to bring two goes of whisky up here on the bridge.
Pilot, if you say such things to me, you make me
feel like a girl with a new dress, and I want a drop
of Dutch courage to keep my blushes back."
" Well," said the pilot when the whisky came,
" here's lots of cargo. Captain, and good bonuses."
" Here's deep-draught steamers for you, pilot, and
plenty of water under *em."
The whisky drained down its appointed channels,
and the pilot said : " By the by, I've this for you,
Captain," and brought out a letter-card.
"Typewritten address," said Kettle. " No post-
mark on the stamp. Who's it from ? "
" Man I came across. Look you, though, I didn't
know him ; but he said there was a useful tip in the
letter which it would please you to have after you
Kettle tore off the perforated edges, and looked
inside the card. Here was another anoymous com-
MR. GEDGES'CATSPAW, 239
munication, also from "Well-wisher/* and, as before
warning him against the machinations of Gedge.
" Got no idea who the man was who gave it you ? **
** Well, I did have a bit of talk with him and a
drink, and I rather gathered he might have had
something to do with insurance ; but he didn't say
his name. Why, isn't he a friend of yours? '*
•* I rather think he is,'* said Kettle ; " but I can't
be quite sure yet." He did not add that the anon}'^-
mous writer guaranteed him a present of ^^50 if the
Sultan of Labuan drew no insurance money till he
had moored her in Port Said.
From the very outset, the voyage of the Sultan
of Labuan was unpropitious. Before she was clear
of the Usk it was found that three more of her crew
had managed to slip away ashore, and so were gone
beyond replacement. Whilst she was still in the
brown, muddy waters of the Bristol Channel, there
were two several breakdowns in the engine-room
which necessitated stoppages and anxious repairs.
The engines of the Sultan of Labuan were her weak
spot, for otherwise her hull was sound enough. But
these machines were old, and wasteful in steam, and
made all the difference in economy which divides a
profit from a loss in these modern days of fierce sea
With Murgatroyd, the old blue-face mate. Kettle
had been shipmates before, and there existed
between the two men a strong dislike and a certain
mutual esteem. They interviewed over duty matters
when the pilot left. " Mr. Murgatroyd," said the
little skipper, " you'll keep hatches off, and do every-
240 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
thing for ventilation. This Welsh coal's as gassy
*' Aye, aye/' rumbled the mate ; " but how about
when heavy weather comes, and the decks are full
of water ? "
** You'll have fresh orders from me before then.
Get hoses to work now and sluice down. The ship's
" Aye, aye ; but the hands are dog-tired."
" Then it's your place to drive them, I should
have thought you'd been long enough at sea to
know that. But if you aren't up to your business,
just say, and I'll swop you over with the second
mate right now."
The old mate's face grew purpler. " If you want
a driver," he said, "you shall have one; " and with
that he went his ways and roused the tired deck-
hands to work, after the time-honoured methods.
But if Captain Kettle did not spare his crew, he
was equally hard on himself. He was at sea now
and wearing his sea-going conscience, which was an
entirely diflferent piece of mental mechanism to that
which regulated his actions ashore. He had re-
ceived Mr. Gedge's precise instructions to run the
coal boat in the ordinary method, and he intended
to do it relentlessly and to the letter.
He had had his doubts about Mr. Gedge's real
wishes before, and even the episode of Miss Payne,
the typewriter, had not altogether deceived him ;
but the second letter from "Well-wisher," which
the pilot brought on board, cleared the matter up
beyond a doubt. There was not the faintest chance
that Gedge had written that ; there was not the faint-
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 24I
est reason to disbelieve now that Gedge wished his
uneconomical steamboat off his hands, and had ar-
ranged for her never again to come into port.
Now, properly approached — say with sealed orders
to be opened only at sea — I think there is very little
doubt but what Captain Kettle would have under-
taken to carry out this piece of nefarious business
himself. The average mariner thinks no more of
" making the insurance pay '* than the average
traveller does of robbing his fellow countrymen by
the importation of Belgian cigars and Tauchnitz
novels from a Channel packet. And with Kettle»
too, loyalty to an employer, so long as that employer
treated him squarely, ranked high. But for a second
time " Well-wisher " had repeated the word " cats-
paw," and for his purpose he could not have used a
The little captain's face grew grim as he read it.
" By James ! " he muttered, " if that's the game he's
trying to play, I'll make him rue it."
However, though at the beginning of a voyage it
may be easy to make a resolve like this, it is not so
easy to carry it into practical effect. If the machinery
was on board, human or otherwise, for making the
Sultan of Labuan fail to reach port, it was not at all
probable that Kettle would find it before he saw it
in working order. When arrangements for a bit of
barratry of this kind are gone about nowadays,
they are performed with shrewdness. Your inge-
nious gentlemen, who makes a devil of clockwork and
guncotton to blow out a steamer's bottom, or makes
a compact with one of her crew to open the bilge-
cocks, is dexterous enough to cover up his trail very
242 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
completely, having a wholesome awe of the law of
the land, and a large distjiste for penal servitude.
Moreover, Captain Owen Kettle was not the man
to receive gratuitous information on such a point
from his underlings. To begin with, he was the
Sultan of Labuaiis captain, and, by the immemorial
etiquette on the sea, a ship's captain is always a man
socially apart. He is a dictator for the time being,
with supreme power of life and death ; is addressed
as " Sir *'; and would be regarded with social awe
and coldness by his own brother, if the said brother
were on board as one of the mates or one of the
With the chief engineer alone, although he does
not sit at meat with him, may a merchant captain
unbend, and with the chief of the Sultan of Labuan
Kettle had picked a difference over a commission on
bunkering not ten minutes after he had first stepped
on board. He had the undoubted knack of command-
ing men ; he could look exactly after his employer's
property ; but he had an unfortunate habit of making
himself hated in the process.
Over that initial episode of washing the coal-grime
from the ship's outer fabric, he had already come
into intimate contact with his crew. The tired deck-
hands had refused duty : clumsy old Murgatroyd
had endeavoured to force them into it by the time-
honoured methods, and had been knocked down in
the scuffle and trampled on ; when up came Kettle,
already spruce and clean, and laid impartially into the
whole grimy gang of them with a deck-scrubber.
They were new to their little skipper's virtues, and
thought at first that they would treat him as they
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 243
had already treated the fat old mate, and as a conse-
quence bleeding faces and cracked heads were plenti-
ful, and curses went up, bitter and deep, in half the
tongues of Europe. But Kettle still remained spruce
and clean, and aggressive and untouched.
It takes some art to thoroughly thrash a dozen
savage, full-grown men with a light broom without
breaking the stick or knocking off the head, and the
crew of the Sultan of Labuan were not slow to rec-
ognise their Captain's ability. But at the same
time they were not inspired with any overpowering
love for him.
In the course of that night an iron belaying-pin
whisked up out of the darkness, and knocked off his
cap as he stood on the upper bridge, and just before
the dawn a chunk of coal whizzed up and smashed
itself into splinters on the wheelhouse wall, not an
inch from his ear. But as Kettle replied to the first
of these compliments by three prompt revolver
shots almost before the thrower had time to think,
and rushed out and caught the second assailant by
the neck-scruff and forced him to eat up every scrap
of coal that had been thrown, the all-nation crew de-
cided that he was too ugly to tackle usefully, and
tacitly agreed to let him alone for the future, and to
do their lawful work. The which, of course, was ex-
actly what Kettle desired.
By this time the Sultan of Labuan had run down
the Cornish coast, had rounded Land's End, and was
standing off on a course which would make Finis-
terre her next landfall. The glass was sinking
steadily ; the sea-scape was made up of blacks and
whites and lurid greys ; but though the air was cold
244 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
and raw, the weather was not any worse than need
have been expected for the time of year. The
hatches were off, and a good strong smell of coal-gas
billowed up from below and mingled with the sea
With all a northern sailor's distrust for a "Dago,"
Kettle had spotted his spruce young Italian second
mate as Gedge's probable tool, and watched him
like the apple of his eye. No man's actions could
have been more innocent and normal, and this of
course, made things all the more suspicious. The
engineer staff, who had access to the bilge-cocks, and
could arrange disasters to machinery, were likewise,
ex officio^ suspicious persons, but as it was quite im-
possible to overlook them at all hours and on all
occasions, he had regretfully to take them very
largely on trust.
Blundering, incompetent old Murgatroyd, the
mate, was the only man on board in whose hon-
esty Kettle had the least faith, simply because
he considered him too stupid to be intrusted
with any operation so delicate as barratry, and
to Murgatroyd he more or less confided his inten-
" I hear there's a scheme on board to scuttle this
steamboat," he said, " because she's too expensive to
run. Well, Mr. Gedge, the owner, gave me orders
to run her, and he told me he made a profit on her.
I'm going by Mr. Gedge's words, and I'm going to
take her to Port Said. And let me tell you this, if she
stops anywhere on the road, and goes down, all hands
go down with her, even if I have to shoot them my-
self. So they'd better hear what's in the wind, and
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 245
have a chance to save their own skins. You under-
stand what I mean ? *'
" Aye," grunted the mate.
" Well, just let word of it slip out — in the right
way, you understand."
" Aye, aye. Hadn't we better get the hatches on
and battened down ? She's shipping in green pretty
often now, and the weather's worsening. There's a
good slop of water getting down below, and they
say it's all the bilge pumps can do to keep it under."
" Mr, Meddle Murgatroyd," Kettle snapped, "are
you master of this blamed ship, or am I? You
leave me to give my orders when I think fit, and get
down off this bridge."
" Aye," grunted the mate, and waddled clumsily
The old man's suggestion about the hatches had
touched upon a sore point. Kettle knew quite well
that it was dangerous to leave the great gaps in the
decks undefended by planking and tarpaulin. A
high sea was running, and the heavy-laden coal-boat
rode both deep and sodden. Already he had put
her a point and a half to westward of her course, so
as to take the oncoming seas more fairly on the
But still he hung on to the open hatches. The coal
below was gassy to a degree, and if the ventilation
was stopped it would be terribly liable to explosion.
The engine and boiler rooms were bulkheaded off,
and there was no danger from these ; but the subtle
coal-gas would spread over all the rest of the vessel's
living quarters — as the smell hinted — and a carelessly
lit match might very comfortably send the whole of
246 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
her decks hurtling into the air. Kettle had no wish
to meet Mr. Gedge's unspoken wishes by an accident
of this sort.
However, it began to be plain that as they drew
nearer to the Bay the weather worsened steadily,
and at last it came to be a choice between battening
down the hatches both forward and aft, or being in-
continently swamped. Hour after hour Kettle in his
glistening oilskins had been stumping backwards and
forwards across the upper bridge, watching his steam-
boat like a cat, and holding on with his order to the
very furthest moment. But at last he gave the
command to batten down, and both watches rushed
to help the carpenter carry it out. The men were
horribly frightened. It seemed to them that in that
gale, and with that sea running, it was insane not to
have battened her down long before.
The hands clustered on the lurching iron decks
with the water swirling against them waist-high, and
shipped the heavy hatch covers, and got the tarpau-
lins over ; and then the Norwegian carpenter keyed
all fast with the wedges, working like some amphi-
bious animal half his time under water.
The Sultan of Labuan was fitted with no cowl
ventilators to her holds, and even if these had been
fitted they would have been carried away. So from
the moment of battening down, the gas which oozed
from the coal mixed with the air till the whole ship
became one huge explosive bomb, which the merest
spark would touch off. Captain Kettle called his
mate to him and gave explicit orders.
** You know what a powder hulk is like, Mr.
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 247
" Aye/* said Murgatroyd.
" Well, this ship is a sight more dangerous, and
we have got to take care if we do not want to go to
Heaven quick. It's got to be ' all lights out * aboard
this ship till the weather eases and we can get
hatches off again. Go round now and see it done
yourself, Mr. Murgatroyd, please. Watch the doc-
tor dowse the galley fire, and then go and take away
all the forecastle matches so the men can't smoke.
Put out the side lights, the masthead light, and the
binnacle lamps. Quartermasters must steer as best
they can from the unlit card."
" Aye, aye. But you don't mean the side lights
too, do ye ? There's a big lot of shipping here in
the Bay, and we might easy get run down — " The
old man caught an ugly look from Kettle's face and
broke off. And grumbling some ancient saw about
" obeying orders if you break owners," he shuffled
off down the ladder.
Heavier and heavier grew the squalls, carrying
with them spindrift which beat like gravel against
the two oilskinned tenants of the collier's upper
bridge ; worse and worse grew the sea. Great, green
waves reared up like walls, crashed on board, and
filled the lower decks with boiling, yeasty surge.
The funnel-stays and the scanty rigging hummed
like harp strings to the gale.
Deep though she was in the water, there were
times when her stern heaved up clear, and the pro-
peller raced in a noisy catherine-wheel of fire and
foam. On every side, ahead, abeam, and astern,
were nodding yellow lights, jerked about by unseen
ships over thunderous, unseen waves. It was a
248 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
regular Biscay gale, such as all vessels may count
on in that corner of the seas one voyage out of eight,
a gale with heavy seas in the midst of a dense crowd
of shipping. But there was nothing in it which sea-
manship under ordinary circumstances could not
Captain Kettle hung on hour after hour under
shelter of the dodgers on the upper bridge, a small,
wind-brushed figure in yellow oilskins and black rub-
ber thigh-boots. About such a *' breeze ** in an or-
dinary way he would have thought little. Taking
his vessel through it with the minimum of danger
was only part of the daily mechanical routine. But
he stood there a prey to the liveliest anxiety.
The thousand-and-one dangers in the Bay ap-
peared befofe him magnified. If the ship for any
sudden and unavoidable reason went down, the odds
were that he himself and all hands would be drowned ;
but at the same time Gedge would be gratified in so
easily touching the coveted insurance money. The
fear of death did not worry the little skipper in the
very least degree whatever, but he had a most
thorough objection to being in any way Mr. Gedge's
Twice they had near escapes from being run
down. The first time was from a sodden blunder-
ing Cardiff ore steamer, which was driving north
through the thick of it, with very little of herself
showing except two stumpy masts and a brine-
washed smokestack. She would have obviously
drowned out any lookout on her fore deck, and the
bridge officers got too much spindrift in their eyes
to see with any clearness. But time is money, and
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 249
even Cardiflf ore steamers must make passages, and
so her master drove her blindly ahead full steam,
slap-slop-wallow, and trusted that other people
would get out of his way.
Kettle's keen eyes picked her up out of the sea
mists just in time, and ported his own helm, and
missed her sheering bow with the Sultan of Labuans
quarter by a short two fathoms. A touch in that
insane turmoil of sea would have sent both steamers
down to the shells and the flickering weed below ;
but there was no touch, and so each went her way
with merely a perfunctory interchange of curses,
which were blown into nothingness by the gale.
Escapes on these occasions didn't count, and it is
etiquette not to speak about them ashore afterwards.
The second shave came from a big white-painted
Cape liner, which came up from astern, lit like a
theatre, and almost defying the very gale itself.
Her lookouts and officers were on the watch for
lights. But the unlit collier, which was half her
time masked by the seas like a half-tide rock, never
struck their notice.
Kettle, with all a shipmaster's sturdy dislike for
shifting his helm when he legally had the right of
the road, held on till the great knife-like bow was
not a score of yards from his taffrail. But then he
gave way, roared out an order to the quartermaster
at the wheel, and the Sultan of Labuan fell away to
starboard. As if the coal-boat had been a magnet,
the Cape liner followed, drawing nearer hand over
Changing direction further was as dangerous as
keeping on as he was, so Kettle bawled to the
250 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
quartermaster to " Steady on that," and then the
great, white steam-hotel suddenly seemed to wake
to her danger, and swerved oflf on her old course
again. So close were they, that Kettle fancied he
could hear the quick, agitated rattle of her wheel
engines as they gave her a " hard down ** helm.
And he certainly saw officers on her high upper-
bridge peering at him through the drifting sea-
smoke with a curiosity that was more than pleasant.
"Trying to pick out the old tub's name,** he
mused grimly, "so as to report me for carrying no
lights. By James, I wish some of those dandy pas-
senger-boat officers could try this low-down end of
the tramping trade for a bit."
Night went and day came, gray, and wet, and
desolate. The heavier squalls had passed away,
but a whole gale still remained, and the sea was, if
anything, heavier. The coal-boat rarely showed all
of herself at once above the waters. Her progress
was a succession of dives, her decoration (when she
was visible) a fringe of spouting scuppers. Watch
had succeeded watch with the dogged patience of
sailor men ; but watch after watch Kettle hung on
behind the canvas dodgers at the weather end of
the bridge. He was red-eyed and white-cheeked,
his torpedo beard was foul with sea salt, he was un-
pleasant to look upon, but he was undeniably very
much awake, and when the accident came (which he
concluded was Mr. Gedge*s effort to realise the coal-
boat's insurance), he was quite ready to cope with
From somewhere in the bowels of the ship there
came the muffled boom of an explosion ; the bridge
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 2$ I
buckled up beneath his feet, so that he was very
nearly wrenched from his hold ; and the iron main
deck, which at that moment happened to be free of
water, rippled and heaved like a tin biscuit-box
moves when it is kicked. There was a tinkle of
broken glass as some blown-out skylights crashed
back upon the deck.
He looked forward and he looked aft, and to his
surprise saw that both hatches were still in place
and that very little actual damage was visible, and
then he had his attention occupied by another mat-
ter. From the stoke-hold, from the forecastle, and
from the engine-room the frightened crew poured
out into the open, and some scared wretch cried
out to " lower away zem boats.**
Here was a situation that needed dealing with at
once, and Kettle was the man to do it. From be-
neath his oilskins he lugged out the revolver which
they knew so painfully already, and showed it with
ostentation. " By James,** he shouted, " do you
want to be taught who*s captain here ? 1*11 give
cheap lessons if you ask.**
His words reached them above the hooting and
brawl of the gale, and they were cowed into sullen
" Carpenter, take a couple of men and away be-
low with you and see what*s broke. You blessed,
split-trousered mechanics, away down to your en-
gine-room or ril come and kick you there. The
second mate and his watch get tarpaulins over those
broken skylights. Where*s Mr. Murgatroyd? In
his bunk, I suppose, as usual ; not his watch : no
affair of his if the ship*s blown to Heaven when he*s
252 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
off duty. Here, you steward, go and turn out Mr.
The men bustled about after their errands, and
the engines which had stopped for a minute, began
to rumble on again. Captain Kettle paraded the
swaying bridge and awaited developments.
Presently the bareheaded steward fought his way
up the bridge-ladder against the tearing wind, and
bawled out some startling news. "It's Mr. Mur-
gatroyd's room that's been blown up, sir, made a
'orrid mess of. Chips says *e picked up 'is lighted
pipe in the alleyway, sir, an* it must a' been that
that fired the gas."
" The blamed old thickhead," said Kettle savagely.
" 'E was arskin ' for you, sir, was the mate,
though we couldn't rightly make out what 'e said."
" He won't be pleased to see me. Smoking, by
James, was he ? "
" The mate's burnt up like a piece of coke," said
the steward persuasively. " 'E cawn't last long."
The carpenter came up on the bridge. " Dose
blow-up vas not so bad for der ole ship, sir. She
nod got any plates started dot I can see. Dey
have der bilge-pumps running, but der's nod much
water. Und der mate, sir. He say he vould like
to see you. He's in ver' bad way."
"All right," said Kettle, " I'll go and see him."
He called up the Italian second mate on to the
bridge and gave over charge of the ship to him, and
then went below.
The author of all the mischief, the stupid old man*
who, through sheer crass ignorance, had gone to bed
and smoked a pipe in this powder mine, lay horribly
MR. GEDGE'S CATSPAW. 253
injured in the littered alleyway, with a burst straw
cushion under the shocking remnants of his head.
Most of his injuries were plain to the eye, and it
was a marvel that he lingered on at all. It was very
evident that he could not live for long, and it was
clear, too, that he wanted to speak.
Kettle's resenment died at the sight of this poor
charred cinder of humanity, and he knelt in the
litter and listened. The sea noises and the ship
noises without almost drowned the words, and the
old mate's voice was very weak. It was only here
and there he could pick up a sentence.
" Nearly got to wind'ard of you^ skipper. , , . It
was me. . . . Gedge paid me fifty pound for the job
. . . scuttle her . . . after Gib . . . would 'a done
it^ too . . . in spite of your blooming teeth.''
The old fellow broke off, and Kettle leant near
to him. " How were you going to scuttle her? "he
There was no answer. A second time he repeated
the question, and then again a third time. The
mate heard him. The sea roared outside, the wind
boomed overhead, the cluttered wreckage clanged
about the alleyway. The old man was past speech
but he opened an eye, his one remaining eye, and
slowly and solemnly winked.
It was his one recorded attempt at humour during
a lifetime, and the effort was his last. His jaw
dropped, wagging to the thud of the ship, his
eye opened in a glassy, unseeing stare, and he was
as dead a thing as the iron deck he lay upon.
" Well, matey," said Kettle, apostrophising the
poor charred form, " we've been shipmates before,
254 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
but I never liked you. But, by James, you had
your points. You shall be buried by dipukka parson
in Gib, and have a stone put over your ugly old head,
if I have to pay for it myself. I think I can hammer
out a bit of verse, too, which'll make that stone a
thing people will remember.
" By James, though, won't Gedge be mad over
this ! Gedge will think I spotted the game you
were playing for him, and murdered you out of
hand. Well, that's all right, and it won't hurt
you, matey. I want Gedge to understand I'm a
man that's got to be dealt straight with. I want
Mr. Blessed Gedge to understand that I'm not the
kind of lamb to make into a catspaw by any manner
of means. I bet he does tumble to that, too. But
I bet also that he sacks me from this berth before
I've got the coals over into the h'ghters at Port
Said. By James, yes, Gedge is a man that sticks to
his plans, and as he can't lose the Sultan ofLabuan
with me as her skipper, he'll jerk another old man
into the chart-house on the end of a wire, who'll do
the job more to his satisfaction."
The Norwegian carpenter came up, and asked a
" No, no. Chips ; put the canvas away. I want
you to knock up some sort of a box for the poor old
mate, and we'll take him to Gib, and plant him
there in style. I owe him a bit. We'll all get safe
enough to Port Said now."
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD.
" The boat's an old P. and O. lifeboat/* said Mr.
McTodd, " diagonal-built of teak, and quite big
enough for the purpose. Of course, something
with steam in her would be better, because we're
both steamer-men ; but that's out of the question.
That would mean too many to share. So the thing
is, can you buy this lifeboat and victual her for the
trip ? I'm no' what ye might call a capitalist my-
self, just for the moment."
Captain Kettle eyed the grimy serge of his com-
panion with disfavour. "You don't look it," he
said. " That last engine-room you got sacked from
must have been a mighty filthy place."
** 'Twas," said McTodd. " But as it happened, I
didn't get the sack. I ran from her here in Gib be-
cause I'd no wish to get back to England and have
this news useless in my pocket. And, of course, I
had to let slide the eight pound in wages that was
due to me."
" By James, it's beginning to look like business
when a Scottie runs away from siller that he's righte-
" Well, I'm no' denying it was a speculation. It's
a bit of a speculation, if ye come to reckon up, ask-
256 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
ing a newly-sacked sea captain to join in such a
Kettle's face hardened. "See here,*' he said,
** keep a civil tongue in your head, or go out of this
lodging. Tm to be treated with respect, or I don't
deal with you."
** Then let my clothes alone and be civil ypurself.
It's a mighty dry shop this. Captain."
" I've no whisky in the place nor spare money to
buy it. If we're to go on with this plan of yours,
we shall want every dollar that can be raised."
" That's true, and neither me nor 'Tonio have ten
shillings between us."
Kettle gave up pacing the room and sat himself
on the edge of the table and frowned. " I don't
see the use of taking either Antonio, if that's his
name, or your other Dago. I don't like the breed
of them. You and I would be quite enough to
handle an open boat, and quite able to take care of
ourselves. If the wreck's got the money on her,
and we finger it, we'll promise to bring them back
their share all right ; and if the thing's a fizzle, as
it's very likely to be, well, they'll be saved a very
" It's no go," said the engineer, " and you may
make up your mind to have them as shipmates,
Captain, or sit here on your tail where you are.
D'ye think I've any appetite for Dagos myself?
No, sir, no more than you. I don't trust theni no
more than a stripped thread. And they don't trust
me. They wouldn't trust you. They would no'
trust the Provost of Edinboro* if he was to make
similar proposals to them."
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 257
" Then have you no idea where this steamboat
was put on the ground ? "
" Man, I've telled ye * no ' already/*
** Seems to me you don't know much, Mr. Mc-
** I don't. What I know is this : I came ashore
here after a vera exhausting trip down the Mediter-
ranean, just for a drink to fortify the system against
the chills on the run home. I went to a little dark
shebeen, where I kenned the cut-throat in charge,
and gave the name of the ship I wanted sending
back to, in case sleep overcame me, and settled
down for an afternoon's enjoyment. Ye'll ken what
" I know youVe a drunken beast when you get
the chance for an orgie."
" I have my weaknesses, Captain, or maybe I'd
no* have left Ballindrochater, where my father was
Free Kirk Meenister. We both have our weak-
nesses. Captain Owen Kettle, and it's they that
have brought us to what we are."
" If you don't leave me alone and get on with
your yarn," said Kettle acidly, " you'll find yourself
in the street."
" Oh, I like your hospitality fine, and I'll stay,
thanks. Weel, I'd just settled myself down to a
good square drink at this Spaniard's shebeen, when
out of a dark corner comes 'Tonio and the other
Dago, bowing and taking off their hats as polite as
though I'd been an archbishop at the very least.
" I'd met 'Tonio in Lagos. He was greaser on a
branch boat there, and I was her second engineer.
He's some English, and he did the talking. The
258 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Other Dago knew nothing but his own unrighteous
tongue, and just said see-see when *Tonio explained
to him what was going on, and grinned like a bagful
of monkeys. I give *Tonio credit : he spat out his
tale like a man. He and his mate were in the stoke-
hold of a Dago steamboat coming from the River
Plate to Genoa, and calling at some of the Western
Islands en route.
** One night they were just going off watch, and
were leaning over the rail to get a breath of cool
air before turning in. They were steaming past
some rocky islands, and there in plain sight of them
was a vessel hard and fast ashore. There was no
mistake about it: they both saw her: a steamboat
of some fifteen hundred tons. And what was more,
the other Portugee, *Tonio*s friend, said he knew
her. According to him she was the Duncansby
Head, He'd served in her stokehold three voyages,
and he said he'd know her anywhere."
" A Dago's word isn't worth much for a thing
like that," said Kettle.
" Wait a bit. The pair of them stayed where
they were and looked at the rest of the watch on
deck. The second mate on the bridge was staring
ahead sleepily ; the quartermaster at the wheel was
nodding and blinking at the binnacle ; the lookout
on the forecastle was seated on a fife-rail, snoring;
no one of these had seen the wreck. And so they
themselves didn't talk. Their boat was running
short of coal, and so she put into Gib here to re-
bunker ; and from another Dago on the coal-hulk,
w^ho came aboard to help trim, they got some news.
The Duncansby Head had shifted her cargo at sea,
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 259
had picked up heavy weather and got unmanageable,
and had been left by her crew in the boats. The
mate's boat and the second mate's boat were picked
up ; the old man's boat had not been heard of. It
was supposed that the Duncansby Head herself had
foundered immediately after she was deserted."
** Yes, all that's common gossip on the Rock.
Mulready was her skipper: J. R. Mulready: I'd
known him years."
•* Weel, poor deevil, it's perhaps good for him he's
" Yes, I suppose it is. He's saved a sight of
trouble. D'ye know, Mac, Jimmy Mulready and I
passed for mate the same day, and went to sea with
our bran-new tickets in the same ship, him as mate,
me as second."
" The sea's an awful poor profession for all, except
a shipowner that lives ashore."
" 'Tis. Yes, that's a true word. It is. And so
Antonio and his mate told the other Dago that
they'd seen the wreck ? "
" Not much. They kept their heads shut. There
was money in the idea if it could only be worked,
and a Portugee likes dollars as much as a white man.
So there you have the whole yarn, except that they
got to know that the Duncansby was on her way
home after a long spell at tramping when she got
into trouble, and carried all the money she'd earned
in good solid gold in the chart-house drawer."
" It sounds a soft thing, I'll not deny," said Kettle.
" But why should Mr. Antonio and his friend come
to you ? "
" They ran from their ship here in Gib, and laid
260 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
low till she had sailed. It was the natural thing for
them to do. But when they began to look round
them in cold blood, they found themselves a bit on
the beach. They'd no money ; there's such a shady
crowd here in Gib that everything's well watched,
and they couldn't steal ; and so there was nothing
for it but to take a partner into the concern. Of
course being Dagos, they weren't likely to trust one
of their own sort."
" Not much. And so they came to you ? "
" They knew me," said the engineer. " And I
came to you because I knew you. Captain. I'm no
navigator myself, though I can make shift to handle
a sail boat, so a navigator was wanted; I said to
myself the man, in all creation for this job is Captain
Kettle, and then what should I do but run right up
" Thank you, Mac."
" But there's one other thing you'll have to do,
and that's buy, beg, borrow or steal the ship to carry
the expedition, because the rest of us can't raise a
blessed shilling amongst us. It needn't be a big
outlay. That old P. and O. lifeboat which I was
talking about would carry us fine, and I think three
five-pound notes would buy her."
" Very well," said Kettle. *^ And now let's get a
move on us. There's been enough time spent in
talk, and the sooner we're on that wreck the less
chance there is of any one else getting there to over-
haul her before us."
It would be unprofitable to follow in detail the
fitting out of this wrecking expedition upon insufH-
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 261
cient capital, and so be it briefly stated that the old
lifeboat (which had passed through many hands
since she was cast from the P. and O. service) was
purchased by dint of haggling for an absurdly small
sum, and victualled and watered for eighteen days.
The Portuguese, who still refused to disclose the
precise location of the wreck, said that it might take
a fortnight to reach her, and prudence would have
suggested that it was advisable to take at least a
month's provisions. But the meagreness of their
capital flatly forbade this, and they were only able
to furnish the boat with what would spin out to
eighteen days on an uncomfortably short ration.
They trusted that what pickings they might find in
the storerooms of the wreck herself would provide
them for the return voyage.
With this slender equipment then, they sailed
forth from Gibraltar Bay, an obvious party of adven-
turers. They were bombarded by the questions and
the curious stares of all the shipping interest on the
Rock ; they were flatly given to understand by a
naval busybody (who had been bidden carry his in-
quisitiveness to the deuce) that they had earned
official suspicion, and would be watched accordingly :
and if ever ill-wishes could sink a craft, that ancient
P. and O. lifeboat was full to her marks.
The voyage did not begin with prosperity. There
is always a strong surface current running in through
the Straits, and just then the breezes were light.
The lifeboat was a dull sailer, and her people in
consequence had the mortification of keeping Car-
nero Point and the frowning Rock behind in sight
for three baking days. The two Portuguese were
262 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
first profane, then sullen, then frightened ; some
saint's day, it appeared, had been violated by the
start ; and they began first to hint at, and then to
insist on a return. To which Kettle retorted that
he was going to see the matter through now, if he
had to hang in the Straits for the whole eighteen
days, and subsist for the rest of the trip upon dew
and their belts ; and in this McTodd backed him up.
Once started and away from the whisky bottle,
there wasnothing very yielding about Mr. McTodd.
Only one compromise did Kettle offer to make. He
would stand across and drop his Portuguese partners
on the African shore if they on their part would dis-
close the whereabouts of the wreck ; and in due
time, when the dividends were gathered, he faith-
fully promised them their share. But to this they
would not consent. In fact, there was a good deal
of mutual distrust between the two parties.
At last, however, a kindly slant of wind took the
lifeboat in charge, and hustled her wetly out into
broad Atlantic ; and when they had run the shores
of Europe and Africa out of sight, and there was
nothing round them but the blue heaving water, with
here and there a sail and a steamer's smoke, then
Senhor Antonio saw fit to give Captain Kettle a
" We was steamin' froma Teneriffe to Madeira when
we saw thosea rocks with Duncansby Head asho'."
" H'm," said Kettle. " Those'U be the Salvage
" Steamah was pile up on de first. 'Nother island
we pass after,"
" That's Piton Island If I remember. Let's have
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 263
a look at the chart." He handed over the tiller to
McTodd, took a tattered Admiralty chart from one
of the lockers, and spread it on the damp floor
gratings. The two Portuguese helped with their
brown paws to keep it from fluttering away. " Yes,
either Little Piton or Great Piton. Which side did
you pass it on ? "
Antonio thumped a gunwale of the lifeboat.
" Kept it on the port hand going North, did you ?
Then that'll be Great Piton, and a sweet shop it is
for reefs according to this chart. I wish Fd a Di-
rectory. It will be a regular cat's dance getting in.
But I say, young man, isn't there a light there?"
"Lighta? I not understand."
" You savvy — lighthouse — faro — show-mark-light
" Oh, yes, lighta-house. I got there. No, no
** Well, there's one marked here as * projected,' and
I was afraid it might have come. I forgot the
Canaries were Spanish, and Madeira was Portugee,
and that these rocks which lie halfway would be
a sort of slack cross between the pair of them.
Mariana's the motto, isn't it, Tonio ? Never do to-
day what you hope another flat will do for you to-
" Si, siy mahanaj' said the Portuguese, who had not
understood one word in ten of all this. " Manana we
find rich, plenty too-much rich. God sava Queen ! "
"Those Canary fishing schooners land on the
Salvages sometimes," said McTodd, " so I heard
once in Las Palmas."
" I guess we got to take our chances, Mac. If
264 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
the old wreck's been overhauled before we get there,
it's our back luck ; if she hasn't been skimmed clean,
we'll take what there is, and I fancy we shall be men
enough to stick to it. It isn't as if she was piled up
on some civilised beach, with coastguards to take
possession and all the rest of it. The islands are
either Spanish or Portugee. They belong to a pack
of thieves anyway ; and we've just as much right to
help ourselves as anyone else has. What we've got
to do at present is to shove this old ruin of a life-
boat along as though she were a racing yacht. At
the shortest we've got seven hundred miles of blue
water ahead of us."
Open-boat voyaging in the broad Atlantic may
have its pleasures, but these, such as they were, did
not appeal to either Kettle or his companions.
They were thoroughgoing steamer sailors ; they de-
spised sails ; and the smallness of their craft gave
them qualms both mental and physical. By day the
sun scorched them with intolerable glare and vio-
lence ; by night the clammy sea mists drenched them
to the bone.
For a larger vessel the weather would have been
accounted favourable ; for their cockle-shell it was
once or twice terrific. In two squalls that they ran
into, breaking combers filled the lifeboat to the
thwarts, and they had to bale for their bare lives.
They were cramped and sore from their constrained
position and want of exercise ; they got sea-sores on
their wrists and salt-grime on every inch of their
persons ; they were growing gaunt on the scanty
rations ; and, in fact, a better presentation of a boat
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 265
full of desperate castaways it would be hard to hit
upon. Flotillas of iridescent, pink-sailed nautilus
scudded constantly beside them, dropping as con-
stantly astern ; and these made their only company.
Except for the nautilus, the sea seemed desolate.
In this guise then they ended their voyage, which
had spun out to nigh upon a thousand miles through
contrary winds and the necessity for incessant tack-
ing ; and in the height of one blazing afternoon they
rose to the tops of the islands out of a twinkling tur-
These appeared first as mere dusty black rocks
sticking up out of the calm blue — Great Salvage
Island to the northward, and Great Piton to the south
and beyond — but they grew as the boat neared them,
and presently appeared to be built upon a frieze of
dazzling feathery whiteness. The lifeboat swept on
to reach them, climbing and diving over the rollers.
She had canvas decks, quartermast high, contrived
to throw off the sprays ; and over these the faces of
her people peeredahead, wild and gaunt, salt-crusted
Great Salvage Island drew abeam and passed away
astern ; Great Piton lay close ahead now, fringed
with a thousand reefs, each with its spouting break-
ers. The din of the surf came to them loudly up
the wind. A flock of seafowl, screaming and circling,
sailed out to escort them in ; and ahead, behind the
banks of breakers, drawing them on as water will
draw a choking man, was the rusted smokestack and
stripped masts of a derelict merchant steamer.
There is a yarn about an open boat which had
voyaged twelve hundred miles over the lonely Pacific,
266 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
coming upon a green atoll, and being sailed reck-
lessly in through the surf, and drowning every soul
on board ; and the yarn is easily believable. Captain
Kettle and his companions had undergone horrible
privations ; here, at last, was the isle of their hopes,
and the treasure (as it seemed) in full view ; but, by
some intolerable fate, they were barred from it by
relentless walls of surf. Kettle ran in as close as he
dared, and then flattened in his sheets, and sailed
the lifeboat close-hauled along the noisy line of the
breakers to the Norrard, looking for an opening.
The two Portuguese grumbled openly, and when
not a ghost of a landing-place showed, and Kettle
put her about to sail back again, even the cautious
McTodd put up his word to " run in, and risk it."
But Kettle, though equally sick as they were of
the boat and her voyage, had all a sailor's dislike for
losing his ship whatever she might be, and cowed
them all with voice and threats ; and at last his for-
bearance was rewarded. A slim passage through
the reef showed itself at the southern end of the
island ; and down it they dodged, trimming their
sheets six times a minute, with an escort of dangers
always close on either hand ; and finally ran into a
rocky bay which held comparatively smooth water.
There was no place to beach the boat ; they had
to anchor her off ; but with a whip on the cable they
were able to step ashore on a ledge of stone, and
then haul the boat off again out of harm's way.
It may be thought that they capered with delight
at treading on dry land again ; but there was nothing
of this. With their cramped limbs and disused
joints, it was as much as they could do to hobble,
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 267
and every step was a wrench. But the lure ahead
of them was great enough to triumph over minor
difficulties. Half a mile away along the rocks was
the Duncansby Head^ and for her they raced at the
top of their crippled gait. And the seaf owl screamed
curiously above their heads.
They scratched and tore themselves in this fran-
tic progress over the sharp volcanic rocks, they
choked with thirst, they panted with their labor ;
but none of these things mattered.
The deserted steamer, when they came to her,
was lying oflf from the shore at the other side of a
lake of deep water. But they were fit for no more
waiting, and each, as he came opposite her, waded
in out of his depth, and swam off with eager strokes.
Davit-falls trailing in the water gave them an en-
trance way, and up these they climbed with the
quickness of apes ; and then, with one accord, they
made for the pantry and the steward's storeroom.
The gold which had lured them was forgotten ; the
immediate needs of their famished bodies were
the only things they remembered. They found a
cheese, a box of musty biscuits, and a filter full of
stale and tepid water; and they gorged till they
were filled, and swore they had never sat to so deli-
" cious a meal.
With repletion came the thoughts of fortune
;ftgaifi, and off they went to the charthouse to finger
Ihe c^pveted gold. But here was a disappointment
^eady and waiting for them. They had gone up in
a body, neither nationality trusting the other, and
together they ransacked the place with thorough.
ti^Sfff There were papers in abundance, there were
268 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
clothes furry with mildew, there was a broken box
of cheap cigars; but of money there was not so
much as a bronze piece.
"Eh, well," said Kettle, sitting back on the
musty bedclothes, " we have had our trouble for
nothing. Some one's been here first, and skimmed
the place clean. By James, yes. And look on the
floor there. See those cigarette ends? They're
new and dry. If the old man had been a cigarette
smoker he wouldn't have chucked his butts on his
charthouse deck, and, even if he had done, they'd
have been washed to bits when she was hove down
on her beam ends. You can see by the decks out-
side that she's been pretty clean swept. No, it's
those fishermen, as you say, who have been here
" Well," said McTodd, " if I were a swearer, I
could say a deal."
" The Dagos are swearing enough for the whole
crowd of us, to judge by the splutter of them.
The money's gone clean. It's vexing, but that'^ a
fact. Still, I don't like to go back empty-handed."
"I'm as keen as yoursel'. There's that eight
pound of my wages I left when I ran in Gib, that's
got to be made up somehow. What's wrong with'
getting off the hatches, and seeing how her cargo's
made up ? "
" She's loaded with hides. I saw it on the mani-
fest. There was Jimmy Mulready's scrawl at the
foot of it. That photo there above the bed-foot
will be his wife. Poor old Jimmy. He got religion
before I did, and started his insurance, too, and, if
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 269
he's kept them both up, he and his widow ought to
be all right — By James, did you feel that ? **
McTodd stared round him.
" What ? " he asked.
" She moved.
" I took it for sure she was on the ground."
" So did I. But she isn't. There, you can feel
her lift again."
They went out on deck. The sun was already
dipping in the western sea behind the central hill of
the island, and in another few minutes it would be
dark. There is little twilight so far south. So they
took cross bearings on the shore, and watched in-
tently. Yes, there was not a doubt about it. The
Duncansby Head floated, and she was moving across
the deep water lake that held her.
" Mon ! " said the engineer enthusiastically,
"yeVe a great head, and a great future before you.
I'd never have guessed it."
" I took it for granted she'd beaten her bottom
out in getting here ; but she's blundered in through
the reefs without touching ; and if she's come in,
she can get out again, and we're the fellows to take
" With engines."
" With engines, yes. If she's badly broken down
in the hardware shop, we're done. I'd forgotten
the machinery, and that's a fact. We'll find a lan-
tern, and I'll go down with you, Mac, and give
them an inspect."
The two Portuguese had already sworn themselves
to a standstill, and had gone below and found
270 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
bunks ; but the men from the little islands in the
North had more energy in their systems, and they
expanded it tirelessly. McTodd overhauled every
nut, every bearing, every valve, every rod of the en-
gines with an expert's criticism, and found nothing
that would prevent active working; Kettle rum-
maged the rest of the ship ; and far into the morning
they foregathered again in the charthouse, and
She had been swept, badly swept ; everj^thing
movable on deck was gone ; cargo had shifted, and
then shifted back again till she had lost all her list
and was in proper trim ; the engines were still work-
able if carefully nursed ; and, in fact, though bat-
tered, she was entirely seaworthy. And while with
tired gusto they were comparing these things, weari-
ness at last got the better of them, and first one and
then the other incontinently dropped off into the
deadest of sleep.
That the Duncansby Head had come in unsteered
and unscathed through the reefs, and therefore
under steam and control could go out again, was on
the face of it a very simple and obvious theory to
propound ; but to discover a passage through the
rocks to make this practicable was quite another
matter. For three days the old P. and O. lifeboat
plied up and down from outside the reefs and had
twenty narrow escapes from being smashed into
staves. It looked as if Nature had performed a
miracle, and taken the steamer bodily in her arms,
and lifted her over at least a dozen black walls of
The two Portuguese were already sick to death of
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 27 1
the whole business, but for their feelings neither
Kettle nor McTodd had any concern whatever.
They were useful in the working of the boat,
and therefore they were taken along, and when
they refused duty or did it with too much listlessness
to please, they were cuffed into activity again.
There was no verbal argument about the matter,
" Work or Suffer '* was the simple motto the
two islanders went upon, and it answered admi-
rably. They knew the breed of the Portuguese of
At last, by dint of daring and toil, the secret of
the pass through the noisy spouting reefs was won ;
it was sounded carefully and methodically for sunken
rocks, and noted in all possible ways; and the
P. and O. lifeboat was hoisted on the Duncansbys
davits. The Portuguese were driven down into the
stokehold to represent double watches of a dozen
men and make the requisite steam ; McTodd fingered
the rusted engines like an artist ; and Kettle took
his stand alone with the steam wheel on the upper
They had formally signed articles, and appor-
tioned themselves pay, Kettle as Master, McTodd
as Chief Engineer, and the Portuguese as firemen,
because salvage Ms apportioned pro rata^ and the
more pay a man is getting the larger is his bonus.
On which account (at McTodd's suggestion) they
awarded themselves paper stipends which they
could feel proud of, and put down the Portuguese
for the ordinary fireman's wages then paid out of
Gibraltar, neither more nor less. For, as the engineer
said: "There was a fortune to be divided up some-
272 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
how, and it would be a pity for a pair of unclean
Dagos to have more than was absolutely necessary,
seeing that they would not know what to do with
Captain -Kettle felt it to be one of the supreme
moments of his life when he rang on the Duncansbys
bridge telegraph to " Half-speed ahead.*' Here was
a bid for fortune such as very rarely came in any
shipmaster's way ; not getting salvage, the larger
part of which an owner would finger, for mere as-
sistance, but taking to port a vessel which was dere-
lict and deserted — the greatest and the rarest plum
that the seas could offer. It was a thought that
But he had not much time for sentimental mus-
ings in this strain. A terribly nervous bit of pilot-
age lay ahead of him ; the motive power of his
steamer Wcis feeble and uncertain ; and it would
require all his skill and resourcefulness to bring her
out into deep blue water. Slowly she backed or
went ahead, dodging round to get a square entrance
to the fairway, and then with a slam Kettle rang on
his telegraph to " Full speed ahead," so as to get
her under the fullest possible command.
She darted out into the narrow, winding lane be-
tween the walls of broken water, and the roar of the
surf closed round her. Rocks sprang up out of the
deep — hungry black rocks, as deadly as explosive
torpedoes. With a full complement of hands, and
with a pilot for years acquainted with the place, it
would have been an infinitely dangerous piece of
navigation; with a half-power steamer which had
only one man all told upon her decks, and he almost
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 273
a stranger to the place, it was a miracle how she
got out unscathed. But it was a miracle assisted by
the most brilliant skill. Kettle had surveyed the
channel in the lifeboat, and mapped every rock in
his head, and when the test came he was equal to
it. It would be hard to come across a man of more
Backing, and going ahead, to get round right-
angled turns of the fairway, shaving reefs so closely
that the wash from them creamed over her rail, the
battered old tramp steamer faced a million dangers
for every fathom of her onward way ; but never
once did she actually touch, and in the end she shot
out into the clear, deep water, and gaily hit diamonds
from the wavetops into the sunshine.
It is possible for a man to concentrate himself so
deeply upon one thing that he is deaf to all else in
the world ; and until he had worked the Duncansby
Head out into the open. Captain Kettle was in this
condition. He was dimly conscious of voices hail-
ing him, but he had no leisure to give them heed.
But when the strain was taken off, then there was
no more disregarding the cries. He turned his head,
and saw a half-sunk raft, which seven men with
clumsy paddles were frantically labouring towards
him along the outer edge of the reefs.
Without a second thought he rang off engines,
and the steamer lost her way and fell into the trough
and waited for them. From the first he had a fore-
boding as to who they were ; but the men were obvi-
ously castaway ; and by all the laws of the sea and
humanity he was bound to rescue them.
Ponderously the raft paddled up and got under
274 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
the steamer's lee. Kettle came down off the bridge
and threw them the end of a halliard, and eagerly
enough they scrambled up the rusted plating, and
clambered over the rail. They looked around them
with curiosity, but with an obvious familiarity.
"I left my pipe stuck behind that stanchion," said
one, " and, by gum, it's there still."
" Fo'c's'le door's stove in," said another; " I
wonder if they've scoffed my chest."
" You Robinson Crusoes seem to be making your-
selves at home," said Kettle.
One of the men knuckled his shock of hair. " We
was on her, sir, when she happened her accident.
We got off in the Captain's boat, and she was
smashed to bits landing on great Salvage yonder.
We've been living there ever since on rabbits and
gulls and cockles till we built that raft and ferried
over here. It was tough living, but I guess we were
better off than the poor beggars that were swamped
in the other boats."
" The other two boats got picked up."
" Did they though ? Then I call it beastly hard
luck on us."
"Captain Mulready was master, wasn't he? Did
he get drowned when your boat went ashore ? "
The sailor shrugged his shoulders. " No, sir.
Captain Mulready's on the raft down yonder. He
feels all crumpled up to find the old ship's afloat,
and you've got her out. She'd a list on when we
left her that would have scared Beresford, but she's
chucked that straight again ; and who's to believe
it was ever there ? "
Kettle grated his teeth. "Thank, you, my lad,"
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 27$
he said. " I quite see. Now get below and find
yourself something to eat, and then you go forrard
and turn too." Then, leaning his head over the
bulwark, he called down : " Jimmy ! **
The broken man on the raft looked up. " Hullo,
Kettle, that you ? '*
" Yes. Come aboard."
"No, thanks. Tm of! back to the island. Til
start a picnic there of my own. Good luck, old man."
" If you don't come aboard willingly, I'll send and
have you fetched. Quit fooling."
" Oh, if youVe set on it," said the other tiredly,
and scrambled up the rope. He looked around with
a drawn face. ** To think she should have lost that
list, and righted herself like this. I thought she
might turn turtle any minute when we quitted her ;
and I'm not a scary man either."
" I know you aren't. Come into the charthouse
and have a drop of whisky. There's your missus*
photo stuck up over the bed-foot. How's she? "
' " Dead, I hope. It will save her going to the
" Oh, rats. It's not as bad as that."
" If you'll tell me why not ? I shall lose my ticket
over this job, sure, when it comes before the Board
of Trade, and what owner's likely to give me another
ship ? "
** Well, Jimmy, you'll have to sail small, and live
on your insurance."
** I dropped that years ago, and drew out what
there was. Had to — with eight kids, you know.
They take a lot of feeding."
** Eight kids, by James! "
276 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
" Yes, eight kids, poor little beggars, and the
missus and me all to go hungry from now onwards.
But they do say workhouses are very comfortable
nowadays. You'll look in and see us sometimes —
won't you, Kettle ? " He lifted the glass which had
been handed to him. " Here's luck to you, old man,
and you deserve it. I bought that whisky from a
chandler in Rio. It's a drop of right, isn't it ? "
'* Here, chuck it," said Kettle.
"I'm sorry," said Captain Mulready, '*but you
shouldn't have had me on board. I should have
been better picknicking by myself on Great Piton
yonder. I can't make a cheerful shipmate for you,
" Brace up," said Kettle.
" By the Lord, if I'd only been a day earlier with
that raft," said the other musingly, " I could have
taken her out, as you have done, and brought her
home and I believe the firm would have kept me on.
There need have been no inquiry ; only * delayed,'
that's all ; no one cares so long as a ship turns up
" It wouldn't have made any difference," said
Kettle, frowning. " Some of those lousy Portuguese
have been on board and scoffed all the money."
" What money ? "
" Why, what she'd earned. What there was in
the charthouse drawer."
The dishevelled man gave a tired chuckle. " Oh,
that's all right. I put in at Las Palmas, and trans-
ferred it to the bank there, and sent home the re-
ceipt by the B. and A. mail boat to Liverpool. No,
I'm pleased enough about the money. But it's this
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 277
other thing I made the bungle of, just being a day
too late with that raft/'
Kettle heard a sound and sharply turned his head.
He saw a grimy man in the doorway. " Mr. Mc-
Todd/' he said, " who the mischief gave you leave to
quit your engine-room ? Am I to understand you've
been standing there in that doorway to listen ? "
" Her own engineer's come back, so I handed her
over to him and came on deck for a spell. As for
listening, I've heard every word that's been said.
Captain Mulready, you have my vera deepest con-
" Mr. McTodd," said Kettle, with a sudden blaze
of fury, '* I'm captain of this ship, and you're intrud-
ing. Get to Hamlet out of here." He got up and
strode furiously out of the door, and Mr. McTodd
retreated before him.
** Now keep your hands off me," said the engineer.
" I'm as mad about the thing as yourself, and I
don't mind blowing off a few pounds of temper. I
don't know Captain Mulready, and you do, but I'd
hate to see any man all crumpled up like that if I
could help it."
" He could be helped by giving him back his ship,
and I'd do it if I was by myself. But I've got a
Scotch partner, and I'm not going to try for the
" Dinna abuse Scotland," said McTodd, wagging
a grimy forefinger. " It's your ain wife and bairns
ye're thinking about."
" I ought to be, Mac, but, God help me ! I'm
" Varra weel," said McTodd ; " then, if that's the
2/8 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
case, skipper, just set ye doon here and we'll have a
" ril hear what you've got to say," said Kettle
more civilly, and for the next half-hour the pair of
them talked as earnestly as only poor men can talk
when they are deliberately making up their minds
to resign a solid fortune which is already within
their reach. And at the end of that talk Captain
Kettle put out his hand and took the engineer's in
a heavy grip. " Mac," he said, " you're Scotch,
but you're a gentleman right through under your
" I was born to that estate, skipper, and I no
more wanted to see yon puir deevil pulled down to
our level than you do. Better go and give him the
news, and I'll get our boat in the water again, and
"No," said Kettle, "I can't stand by and be
thanked. You go. I'll see to the boat."
" Be hanged if I do ! " said the engineer. " Write
the man a letter. You're great on the writing line :
I've seen you at it."
And so in the tramp's main cabin below Captain
Kettle penned this epistle :
To Captain J. R. Mui;rkady.
Having concluded not to take trouble to work Duncanshy
Head home, have pleasure in leaving her to your charge. We,
having other game on hand, have now taken French leave, and
shall now bear up for Western Islands. YouVe no call to say
anything about our being on board at all. Spin your own
yarn, it will never be contradicted. — ^Yours truly,
O. KeTTI^E (Master),
p. p. N. A. McToDD (Chief Engineer), O. K.
THE SALVING OF THE DUNCANSBY HEAD. 279
P.S. — ^We taken along these two Dagos. If you had them
they might talk when you got them home. We having them,
they will not talk. So you've only your own crowd to keep
from talking. Good luck, old tintacks.
Which letter was sealed and nailed up in a con-
spicuous place before the lifeboat left en route for
It was the two Portuguese who felt themselves
principally aggrieved men. They had been made
to undergo a great deal of work and hardship ; they
had been defrauded of much plunder which they
quite considered was theirs, for the benefit of an
absolute stranger in whom they took not the slight-
est interest ; and, finally, they were induced '* not
to talk ** by processes which jarred upon them most
They did not talk, and in the fulness of time they
returned to the avocation of shovelling coal on
steam vessels. But when they sit down to think,
neither Antonio nor his friend (whose honoured
name I never learned) regard with affection those
little islands in the Northern Sea, which produced
Captain Owen Kettle and his sometime partner, Mr.
Neil Angus McTodd.
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT.
There was considerable trouble and risk in bring-
ing the lifeboat up alongside, but it must be granted
that she was very unhandy.
The gale that had blown them out into the At-
lantic had moderated, certainly, though there was
still a considerable breeze blowing, but the sea was
running as high as ever, and all Captain Kettle's skill
was required to prevent the boat from being incon-
tinently swamped. McTodd and the two Portu-
guese baled incessantly, but the boat was always
half waterlogged. In fact, from constitutional
defects, she had made very wet weather of it all
through the blow.
It was the part of the steamer to have borne down
and given the lifeboat a lee in which she could have
been more readily handled, and three times the
larger vessel made an attempt to do this, but without
avail. Three times she worked round in a wallow-
ing circle, got to windward, and distributed a smell
of farmyard over the rugged furrows of ocean, and
then lost her place again before she could drift down
and give the smaller craft shelter. Three times did
the crew of the lifeboat, with maritime point and
fluency, curse the incompetence of the rust-streaked
steamer and all her complement.
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 28 1
" By James," said Kettle savagely, after the third
attempt, " are they all farmers on that ship ? Fve
had a nigger steward that knew more about hand-
ling a vessel/'
"She's an English ship," said McTodd, " and
delicate. They're nursing her in the engine-room.
Look at the way they throttle her down when she
" The fools on her upper bridge are enough for
me too look at," Kettle retorted. ** Why didn't
they put a sailorman aboard of her before she was
kicked out of port ? By James, if we'd a week's
water and victual with us in the lifeboat here, I'd
beat back for the Canaries as we are, and keep clear
of that tin farmyard for bare safety's sake."
" We haven't a crumb nor a drink left," said the
engineer, " and I'd not recommend this present
form of conveyance to the insurance companies."
A wave-top came up from the tireless grey sea, and
slapped green and cold about his neck and shoulders
— " Gosh ! There comes more of the Atlantic to
bale back into place. Mon, this is no* the kind of
navigation I admire."
Meanwhile the clumsy tramp-steamer had gone
round in a jagged circle of a mile's diameter, and
was climbing back to position again over the hills
and dales of ocean. She rolled, and she pitched,
and she wallowed amongst the seas, and to the lay
mind she would have seemed helplessness personi-
fied. But to the expert eye she showed defects in
her handling with every sheer she took amongst
the angry waste of waters.
" Old man and the mates must be staying down
282 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
below out of the wet,** said Kettle contemptuously
as he gazed. " Looks as if they've left some sort of
a cheap Dutch quartermaster on the upper bridge to
run her. Don't tell me there's an officer holding an
English ticket in command of that steamer. They
aren't going to miss us this time though if they
" Looks like as if they were going to soss down
slap on top of us," said McTodd, and set to taking
off his coat and boots.
But the cattle steamer, if not skilfully handled, at
any rate this time had more luck. She worked her
way up to windward again, and then fell off into the
trough, squattering down almost out of sight one
minute, and, in fact, showing little of herself except
a couple of stumpy, untidy masts and a brine-washed
smoke stack above the seascape, and being heaved
up almost clear the next second, a picture of rust-
streaks and yellow spouting scuppers.
Both craft drifted to leeward before the wind, but
the steamer offered most surface, and moved the
quicker, which was the object of the manoeuvre. It
seemed to those in the lifeboat that they were not
going to be missed this time, and so they lowered
away their sodden canvas, shipped tholepins, and
got out their oars. The two Portuguese firemen
did not assist at first, preferring to sit in a semi-dazed
condition on the wet floor gratings ; but McTodd
and Kettle thumped them about the head, after the
time-honoured custom, till they turned to, and so
presently the lifeboat, under three straining oars,
was holding up towards her would-be deliverer.
A man on the cattle boat's upper bridge was ex-
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE*BOAT. 283
hibiting himself as a very model of nervous inca-
pacity, and two at any rate of the castaways in the
lifeboat were watching him with grim scorn.
" Keeping them on the dance in the engine-room,
isn't he ? " said McTodd. *' He's rung that telegraph
bell fifteen different ways this last minute."
" That man isn't fit to skipper anything that hasn't
got a tow-rope made fast ahead," said Kettle con-
temptuously. " He hasn't the nerve of a pound of
*• I'm thinking we shall lose the boat. They'll
never get her aboard in one piece."
" If we get amongst their cow pens with our bare
lives we shall be lucky. They're going to heave us
a line. Stand by to catch it, quick."
The line was thrown and caught. The cattle-
steamer surged up over a huge rolling sea, show-
ing her jagged bilge-chocks clear ; and then she
squelched down again, dragging the lifeboat close
in a murderous cuddle, which smashed in one of her
sides as though it had been made from egg-shell.
Other lines were thrown by the hands who stood
against the rail above, and the four men in the
swamping boat each seized an end.
Half climbing, half hoisted from above, they made
their way up the rusted plating, and the greedy
waves from underneath sucked and clamoured at
their heels. It was quite a toss-up even then
whether they would be dragged from their hold ; but
human muscles can put forth desperate efforts in
these moments of desperate stress ; and they reached
the swaying deck planks, bruised, and breathless,
and gasping, but for the time being safe.
284 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
The cattle-boat's mate who had been assisting
their arrival, sorted them into castes with ready per-
ception. ** Now, you two Dagos," he said to the
Portuguese, " get away forrard — port side — and bid
some of our firemen to give you a bunk. I'll tell
the steward to bring you along a tot of rum directly."
He clapped a friendly hand on McTodd's shoulder.
" BoVn," he said, " take this gentleman down to
the mess-room, and pass the word to one of the en-
gineers to come and give him a welcome." And
then he turned as to an equal, and shook Kettle by
the hand. " Very glad to welcome you aboard, old
fellow — beg pardon, * Captain * I should have said ;
didn't see the lace on your sleeve before. Come
below with me. Captain, and I'll fix you up with
some dry things outside, and some wet things in,
before we have any further chatter."
" Mr. Mate," said Kettle, " you're very polite,
but hadn't I better go up on to the bridge and say
* howdy ' to the skipper first ? "
The mate of the cattle-boat grinned and tucked
his arm inside Captain Kettle's, and dragged him
off with kindly force towards the companion-way.
"Take the synch from me. Captain, and don't.
The old man's in such a mortal fear for the ship,
that he's fair crying with it. If he'd had his way, I
don't fancy he'd have seen your boat at all. He
said it was suicide to try and pick you up with such
a sea running. But the second mate and I put in
some ugly talk, and so he just had to do it. Here's
the companion. Step inside, and I'll shut the door.**
" Pretty sort of captain to let his mates boss
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 285
" Quite agree with you, Captain : quite agree
with you all the way. But that's what's done on
this ship, and there's no getting over it. It's not
to my liking either — I'm an old Conway boy, and
was brought up to respect discipline. However, I
daresay you'll see for yourself how things run be-
fore we dump you back on dry mud again. Now,
here we are at my room, and there's a change of
clothes in that drawer beneath the bed, and under-
wear below the settee here. You and I are much
of a build, and the kit's quite at your service till
your own is dry again."
The mate was back again in ten minutes — drip-
ping, cheerful, hospitable. " Holy tailors ! " said
he, "how you do set off clothes ! Those old duds
came out of a slop-chest once, and I've been ashamed
of their shabbiness more years than I care to think
about; but you've a way of carrying them that
makes them look well-fitting and quite new. Well,
I tell you I'm pleased to see a spruce man on this
ship. Come into the cabin now and peck a bit. I
ordered you a meal, and I saw the steward as I came
past the door trying to hold it down in the fiddles.
The old girl can roll a bit, can't she ? "
•* I should say your farmyard's getting well
" You should just go into those cattle decks and
see. It's just Hades for the poor brutes. We're
out of the River Plate, you know, and we've carried
bad weather with us ever since we got our anchors.
The beasts were badly stowed, and there were too
many of them put aboard. The Old Man grumbled,
but the shippers didn't take any notice of him.
286 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
They'd signed for the whole ship, and they just
crammed as many sheep and cows into her as she'd
" You'll have the Cruelty to Animals people on
board of you before you're docked, and then your
skipper had better look out."
" He knows that, Captain, quite as well as you
do, and there isn't a man more sorry for himself in
all the Western Ocean. He'll be fined heavily, and
have his name dirtied, so sure as ever he sets a foot
ashore. Legally, I suppose, he's responsible; but
really he's no more to blame than you. He is part
of the ship, just as the engines, or the mates, or the
tablespoons are ; and the whole bags o' tricks was
let by wire from Liverpool to a South American
Dago. If he'd talked, he'd have got the straight
kick-out from the owners, and no further argument.
You see they are little bits of owners."
" They're the worst sort."
" It doesn't matter who they are. A skipper has
got to do as he's told."
" Yes," said Kettle with a sigh, " I know that."
"Well," said the mate, "you may thank your
best little star that you're only here as a passenger.
The grub's beastly, the ship stinks, the cook's a
fool, and everthing's as uncomfortable as can be.
But there's one fine amusement ahead of you, and
that's try and cheer up the other passenger."
" Stowaway ? "
** No, bond fide passenger, if you can imagine any-
one being mug enough to book a room on a foul
cattle-loaded tramp like this. But I guess it was
because she was hard up. She was a governess, or
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 28/
something of that sort, in Buenos Ayres, lost her
berth, and wanted to get back again cheap. I guess
we could afford to cut rates and make a profit
" Poor lady."
" I've not seen much of her myself. The second
mate and I are most of the crew of this ship (as the
Old Man objects to our driving the regular deck-
hands), and when weVe not at work, we're asleep.
I can't stop and introduce you. You must chum
on. Her name's Carnegie."
"Miss Carnegie," Kettle repeated, "that sounds
familiar. Does she write poetry ? "
The mate yawned. " Don't know. Never asked
her. But perhaps she does. She looks ill enough."
The mate went off to his room then, turned in,
all standing, and was promptly asleep. Kettle,
with memories of the past refreshed, took paper
and a scratchy pen, and fell to concocting verse.
He wondered, and at the same time he half
dreaded, whether this was the same Miss Carnegie
whom he had known before. In days past she had
given him a commission to liberate her lover from
the French penal settlement of Cayenne. With in-
finite danger and difficulty he had wrenched the
man free from his warders, and then, finding him a
worthless fellow, had by force married him to an
old Jamaican negress, and sent the girl their mar-
riage lines as a token of her release. He had had no
word or sign from her since, and was in some dread
now lest she might bitterly resent the liberty he had
taken in meddling so far with her affairs.
However, like it or not, there was no avoiding the
288 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
meeting now, and so he went on — somewhat fever-
ishly — with his writing.
The squalid meal entitled tea came on, and he
had to move his papers. A grimy steward spread a
dirty cloth, wetted it liberally with water, and
shipped fiddles to try and induce the tableware to
keep in place despite the rolling. The steward
mentioned that none of the officers would be down,
that the two passengers would meal together, and in
fact did his best to be affable ; but Kettle listened
with cold inattention, and the steward began to wish
him over the side whence he had come.
The laying of the table was ended at last. The
steward put on his jacket, clanged a bell in the alley
way, and then came back and stood swaying in the
middle of the cabin, armed with a large tin teapot,
all ready to commence business. So heavy was the
roll, that at times he had to put his hand on the
floor for support.
Captain Kettle watched the door with a haggard
face. He was beginning to realise that an emotion
was stirred within him that should have no place in
his system. He told himself sternly that he was a
married man with a family ; that he had a deep af-
fection for both his wife and children ; that, in cold
fact, he had seen Miss Carnegie in the flesh but
once before. But there was no getting over the
memory that she made poetry, a craft that he adored ;
and he could not forget that she had already lived
in his mind for more months than he dared count.
His conscience took him by the ear, and sighed
out the word Love. On the instant, all his pride
of manhood was up in arms, and he rejected the
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 289
imputation with scorn ; and then, after some thought,
formulated his liking for the girl in the term Interest.
But he knew full well that his sentiment was some-
thing deeper than that. His chest heaved when he
thought of her.
Then, in the distance he heard her approaching.
He wiped the moisture from his face with the mate's
pocket-handkerchief. Above the din of the seas
and the noises from the crowded cattle-pens outside,
he could make out the faint rustle of draperies, and
the uncertain footsteps of someone painfully making
a way along, hand over hand against the bulkheads.
A bunch of fingers appeared round the jamb of a
door, slender white fingers, one of them decked
with a queer old ring, which he had seen just once
before, and had pictured a thousand times since.
And then the girl herself stepped out into the cabin,
swaying to the roll of the ship.
She nodded to him with instant recognition. " It
was you they picked up out of the boat ? Oh I am
so glad you are safe."
Kettle strode out towards her on his steady sea
legs, and stood before her, still not daring to take
her hand. " You have forgiven me ? " he murmured.
" What I did was a liberty, I know, but if I had
not liked you so well, I should not have dared to
She cast down her eyes and flushed. " You are
the kindest man I ever met," she said. " The very
kindest," She took his hand in both hers, and
gripped it with nervous force. " I shall never for-
get what you did for me. Captain."
The grimy steward behind them coughed and
290 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
rattled the teapot lid, and so they sat themselves at
the table and the business of tea began. All of the
ship's officers were either looking after the work en-
tailed by the h«avy weather on deck, or sleeping
the sleep of utter exhaustion in their bunks ; and so
none joined them at the meal. But the steward in-
cessantly hovered at their elbows, and it was only
during his fitful absences that their talk was any-
thing like unrestrained.
" You said you liked poetry," the girl whispered
shyly when the first of these opportunities came.
** I wrote the most heartfelt verses that ever came
from me, over that noble thing you tried to do for
a poor stranger like me."
Captain Kettle blushed like a maid. " For one of
the magazines ? " he asked.
She shook her head sadly. " It was not published
when I left England, and it had been sent back to
me from four magazine offices. That was noth-
ing new. They never would take any of my stuff."
Kettle's fingers twitched suggestively. " I'd like
to talk a minute or so with some of those editors.
I'd make them sit up."
" That wouldn't make them print my poems."
" Wouldn't it, Miss? Well, perhaps you know
best there. But I'd guarantee it'd hinder them
from printing anything else for awhile, the inky-
fingered brutes. The twaddling stories those edi-
tors set up a type, about low-down pirates and de-
tective bugs are enough to make one sick."
It appeared that Miss Carnegie's father had died
since she and Kettle had last met, and the girl
had found herself left almost destitute. She had
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 29 1
been lured out to Buenos Ayres by an advertise-
ment, but without finding employment, and, sick at
heart, had bought with the last of her scanty store
of money a cheap passage home in this cattle-boat.
She would land in England entirely destitute ;
and although she did not say this, spoke cheerfully
of the future, in fact, Kettle was torn with pity for
her state. But what, he asked himself with fierce
scorn, could he do ? He was penniless himself ; he
had a wife and family depending on him ; and who
was he to take this young unmarried girl under his
They talked long on that and other days, always
avoiding vital questions ; and, meanwhile, the reek-
ing cattle-boat wallowed north, carrying with her,
as it seemed, a little charmed circle of evil weather
as her constant accompaniment.
Between times, when he was not in attendance on
Miss Carnegie, Kettle watched the life of the
steamer with professional interest, and all a strong
man's contempt for a weak commander. The 'tween
decks was an Aceldama. In the heavy weather the
cattle-pens smashed, the poor beasts broke their legs,
gored one another, and were surged about in horri-
ble miUes. The cattle-men were half incapable,
wholly mutinous. They dealt out compressed hay
and water when the gangways were cleared, and held
to it that this was the beginning and end of their
duty. To pass down the winch chain, and haul out
the dead and wounded, was a piece of employment
that they flatly refused to tamper with. They said
the deck hands could do it.
The deck hands, scenting a weak commander, said
292 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
they had been hired as sailor-men, and also declined
to meddle, and, as a consequence, this necessary
sepulture business was done by the mates.
In Kettle's first and only interview with the cattle-
boat's captain he saw this operation going on through
a hatchway before his very face. The mate and the
second mate clambered down by the battens, and
went along the filthy gangway below, dragging the
winch chain after them. The place was cluttered
with carcases and jammed with broken pens, all
surging together to the roll of the ship. The lowings
and the groans of the cattle were awful. But at last
a bight of rope was made fast round a dead beast's
horns, and the word was given to haul. The winch
chattered and the chain drew. The two men be-
low, jumping to this side and that for their lives,
handspiked the carcase free of obstacles, and at last
it came up the hatch, a battered shapeless rag, al-
A mob of men, sulky, sullen, and afraid, stood
round the hatch, and one of these, when the poor
remains came up, and swung to the roll of the ship
over the side, cut the bowline with his knife, and let
the carcase plop into the racing seas. The chain
clashed back again down between the iron coamings
of the hatch, and the two mates below went on with
their work. No one offered to help them. No one,
as Kettle grimly noted, was made to do so.
" Do your three mates run this ship. Captain ? "
asked Kettle at last.
" They are handy fellows."
" If you ask me, I should call them poor drivers.
What for do they put in all the work themselves
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 293
when there are that mob of deck hands and cattle-
hands standing round doing the gentleman as though
they were in the gallery of a theatre ? "
" There was some misunderstanding when the
crew were shipped. They say they never signed on
to handle dead cattle."
*' IVe seen those kind of misunderstandings before,
Captain, and I've started in to smooth them away.**
** Well ? " said the captain of the cattle-boat.
" Oh ! with me ! " said Kettle truculently, " they
straightened out so soon as ever I began to hit. If
your mates know their business, they'd soon have
that crew in hand again."
** I don't allow my mates to knock the men about.
To give them their due, they wanted to ; they were
brought up in a school which would probably suit
you. Captain, all three of them ; but I don't permit
that sort of thing. I am a Christian man, and I
will not order my fellow-men to be struck. If the
fellows refuse their duty, it lies between them and
" As if an old sailor had a conscience ! " murmured
Kettle to himself. **Well, Captain, I'm no small
piece of a Christian myself, but I was taught that
whatever my hand findeth to do, to doit with all my
might, and I guess bashing a lazy crew comes under
" I don't want either your advice or your
" If I wasn't a passenger here," said Kettle, " I'd
like to tell you what I thought of your seamanship
and your notion of making a master's ticket re-
spected. But I'll hold my tongue on that. As it is.
294 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
I think I ought just to say I don't consider this
ship's safe, run the way she is."
The captain of the cattle-boat flushed darkly. He
jerked his head towards the ladder. ** Get down off
this bridge," he said.
"You hear me. Geddown off my bridge. If
you've learnt anything about your profession you
must know this is private up here, and no place for
Kettle glared and hesitated. He was not used to
receiving orders of this description, and the innova-
tion did not please him. But for once in his life he
submitted. Miss Carnegie was sitting under the lee
of the deckhouse aft, watching him, and somehow
or other he did not choose to have a scene before
her. It was all part of this strange new feeling which
had come over him.
He gripped his other impulses tight, and went and
sat beside her. She welcomed him cordially. She
made no secret of her pleasure at his presence. But
her talk just now jarred upon him. Like other people
who see the ocean and its traffic merely from the
amateur's view, she was able to detect romance
beneath her present discomforts, and she was pour-
ing into his ear her scheme for making it the foun-
dation of her most ambitious poem.
In Kettle's mind, to build an epic on such a ground-
work, was nothing short of profanation. He viewed
the sea, seamen, and sea duties with an intimate eye ;
to him they were common and unclean to the
furthest degree : no trick of language could elevate
their meannesses. He pointed out how she would
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 295
prostitute her talent by laying hold of such an un-
savoury subject, and extolled the beauty of his own
" Tackle a cornfield, Miss," he would say again and
again, ** with its butter-yellow colour, and its blobs
of red poppies, and the green hedges all round.
You write poetry such as I know you can about a corn-
field, and farmers, and farm buildings with thatched
roofs, and you'll wake one of these mornings (like
all poets hope to do some day) and find yourself
famous. And because why, you want to know?
' Well, Miss, it*s because cornfields and the country
and all that are what people want to hear about,
and dream they've got handy to their own back
doorstep. They're so peaceful, so restful. You
take it from me, no one would, even want to read
four words about this beastly cruel sea, and the brutes
of men who make their living by driving ships across
it. No, by Ja — No, Miss, you take it from a man
who knows, they'd just despise it." And so they
argued endlessly at the point, each keeping an un-
Perhaps of all the human freight that the cattle-
boat carried, Mr. McTodd was the only one person
entirely happy. He had no watch to keep, no work
to do ; the mess-room was warm, stuffy, and entirely
to his taste ; liquor was plentiful ; and the official
engineers of the ship were Scotch and argumenta-
tive. He never came on deck for a whiff of fresh
air, never knew a moment's tedium ; he lived in a
pleasant atmosphere of broad dialect, strong tobacco,
and toasting oil and thoroughly enjoyed himself ;
though when the moment of trial came, and his
296 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
thews and energies were wanted for the saving of
human life, he quickly showed that this Capua had
in no way sapped his efficiency.
The steamer had, as has been said, carried foul
weather with her all the way across the Atlantic from
the River Plate, as though it were a curse inflicted
for the cruelty of her stevedores. The crew forgot
what it was like to wear dry clothes, the afterguard
lived in a state of bone-weariness. A harder captain
would have still contrived to keep them up to the
mark ; but the man who was in supreme command
was feeble and undecided, and there is no doubt that
vigilance was dangerously slackened.
A fog, too, which came down to cover the sea,
stopped out all view of the sun, and compelled them
for three days to depend on a dead reckoning ; and
(after the event) it was said a strong current set the
steamer unduly to the westward.
Anyway, be the cause what it may. Kettle was
pitched violently out of his bunk in the deep of one
night, just after two bells, and from the symptoms
which loudly advertised themselves, it required no
expert knowledge to tell that the vessel was beating
her bottom out on rocks, to the accompaniment of
a murderously heavy sea. The engines stopped,
steam began to blow off noisily from the escapes,
and what with that, and the cries of men, and the
crashing of seas, and the beating of iron, and the
beast cries from the cattledecks, the din was almost
enough to split the ear. And then the steam syren
burst out into one vast bellow of pain, which
drowned all the other noises as though they had
been children's whispers.
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 297
Kettle slid on coat and trousers over his pyjamas,
and went and thumped at a door at the other side
of the alleyway.
** Miss Carnegie ? "
" Dress quickly."
" I am dressing, Captain."
" Get finished with it, and then wait. Til come
for you when it's time."
It IS all very well to be cool on these occasions,
but sometimes the race is to the prompt. Captain
Kettle made his way up on deck against a green
avalanche of water which was cascading down the
companionway. No shore was in sight. The ship
had backed off after she had struck, and was now
rolling heavily in the deep trough. She was low in
the water, and every second wave swept her.
No one seemed to be in command. The dim
light showed Kettle one lifeboat wrecked in davits,
and a disorderly mob of men trying to lower the
other. But some one let go the stern fall so that
the boat shot down perpendicularly, and the next
wave smashed the lower half of it into splinters.
The frenzied crowd left it to try the port quarter-
boat, and Kettle raced them across the streaming
decks, and got first to the davits. He plucked a
greenheart belaying pin from the rail, and laid about
him viciously. " Back, you scum ! " he shouted ;
** get back, or I'll smash in every face amongst you.
Good Lord, isn't there a mate or a man left on
this stinking farmyard ? Am I to keep off all this
two-legged cattle by myself?"
They fought on, the black water swirling waist
298 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
deep amongst them with every roll, the syren bel-
lowing for help overhead, and the ship sinking
under their feet ; and gradually, with the frenzy of
despair, the men drove Kettle back against the rail,
whilst others of them cast off the falls of the quar-
ter-boat's tackles preparatory to letting her drop.
But then, out of the darkness, up came McTodd
and the steamer's mate, both shrewd hitters, and
men not afraid to use their skill, and once more the
tables were turned.
The other quarter-boat had been lowered and
swamped ; this boat was the only one remaining.
" Now, Mac," said Kettle, " help the mate take
charge, and murder every one that interferes. Get
the boat in the water, and fend off. I'll be off below^
and fetch up Miss Carnegie. We must put some
hurry in it. The old box hasn't much longer to swim.
Take the lady ashore, and see she comes to no
" Oh, aye," said McTodd, " and we'll keep a seat
for yerself, skipper."
" You needn't bother," said Kettle. " I take no
man's place in this sort of tea-party." He splashed
off across the streaming decks, and found the cattle-
boat's captain sheltering under the lee of the com-
panion, wringing his hands. " Out, you blitHerer,"
he shouted, " and save your mangy life. Your
ship's gone now : you can't play hash with her any
more." After which pleasant speech he worked his
way below, half swimming, half wading, and once
imore beat against Miss Carnegie's door. Even in
this moment of extremity he did not dream of go-
ing in unasked.
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 299
She came out to him in the half-swamped alley-
way, fully dressed. "Is there any hope?" she
** We'll get you ashore, don't you fear." He
clapped an arm round her waist, and drew her
strongly on through the dark and the swirling water
towards the foot of the companion. '* Excuse me,
Miss," he said. " This is not familiarity. But I
have got the firmer sea-legs, and we must hurry.**
They pressed up the stair, battling with great
green cascades of water, and gained the dreadful
turmoil on deck. A few weak stars gleamed out
above the wind, and showed the black wave tops
dimly. Already some of the cattle had been swept
overboard, and were swimming about like the horned
beasts of a nightmare. The din of surf came to
.them amongst the other noises, but no shore was
visible. The steamer had backed off the reef on
which she had struck, and was foundering in deep
water. It was indeed a time for hurry. It was
plain she had very few more minutes to swim.
Each sea now made a clean breach over her, and
a passage about the decks was a thing of infinite
danger. But Kettle was resourceful and strong,
and he had a grip round Miss Carnegie and a hold
on something solid when the waters drenched on
him, and he contrived never to be wrenched entirely
from his hold.
But when he had worked his way aft, a disappoint-
ment was there ready for him. The quarterboat
was gone. McTodd stood against one of the davits,
cool and philosophical as even
" You infernal Scotchman, you Ve let them take
300 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
away the boat from you," Kettle snarled. " I
should thought you could have kept your end up
with a mangy crowd like that."
" Use your eyes," said the engineer. " The
boat's in the wash below there at the end of the
tackles with her side stove in. She drowned the
three men that were lowered in her because they'd
no* sense enough to fend her oflf."
" That comes of setting a lot of farmers to work
" Awell," said McTodd, " steamers have been lost
before, and I have it in mind, Captain, that you've
" By James, if you don't carry a civil tongue, you
drunken Geordie, I'll knock you some teeth down
to cover it."
" Oh, I owe, you that," said McTodd, "but now
we're quits. I bided here. Captain Kettle, because
I thought you'd maybe like to swim the leddy off
to the shore, and at that I can bear a useful hand."
" Mac," said Kettle, " I take back what I said
about your being Scotch. You're a good soul."
He turned to the girl, still shouting to make his
voice carry above the clash of the seas and the bel-
low of the syren, and the noises of the dying ship :
" It's our only chance. Miss — swimming. The life-
buoys from the bridge are all gone — I looked. The
hands will have taken them. There'll be a lot of
timber floating about when she goes down, and
we'll be best clear of that. Will you trust to us ? "
" I trust you in everything," she said.
Deeper and deeper the steamer sank in her wal-
low. The lower decks were swamped by this, and
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 301
the miserable cattle were either drowned in their
stalls or washed out of her. There was no need
for the three to jump — they just let go their hold,
and the next incoming wave swept them clear of the
steamer's spar deck, and spurned them a hundred
yards from her side.
They found themselves amongst a herd of floating
cattle, some drowned, some swimming frenziedly ;
and with the inspiration of the moment laid hold
of a couple of the beasts which were tangled to-
gether by a halter, and so supported themselves
without further exertion. It was no use swimming
for the present. They could not tell which way the
shore lay. And it behoved them to reserve all their
energies for the morning, so well as the numbing,
cold of the water would let them.
Of a sudden the bellow of the steamer's syren
ceased, and a pang went through them as though
they had lost a friend. Then came a dull, muffled ex-
plosion. And then, a huge ragged shape loomed up
through the night like some vast monument, and
sank swiftly straight downwards out of sight beneath
the black, tumbled sea.
" Poor old girl ! " said McTodd, spitting out the
sea water, " they'd a fine keg of whisky down in her
" Poor devil of a skipper ! " said Kettle ; " it's to
be hoped he's drowned out of harm's way, or it'll
take lying to keep him any rags of his ticket."
The talk died out of them after that, and the
miseries of the situation closed in. The water was
cold, but the air was piercing, and so they kept their
bodies submerged, each holding on to the bovine
302 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
raft, and each man sparing a few fingers to keep a
grip on the girl. One of the beasts they clung to
quickly drowned ; the other, strange to say, kept
its nostrils above water, swimming strongly, and in
the end came alive to the shore, the only four-footed
occupant of the steamer to be saved.
At the end of each minute it seemed to them that
they were too bruised and numbed to hang on an-
other sixty seconds ; and yet the next minute found
them still alive and dreading its successor. The sea
moaned around them, mourning the dead ; the fleet
of drowned cattle surged helplessly to this way and
to that, bruising them with rude collisions ; and the
chill bit them to the bone, mercifully numbing their
pain and anxiety. Long before the dawn the girl
had sunk into a stupor, and was only held from sink-
ing by the nervous fingers of the men ; and the men
themselves were merely automata, completing their
task with a legacy of will.
When from somewhere out of the morning mists
a fisher boat sailed up, manned by ragged, kindly
Irish, all three were equally lost to conscious-
ness, and all three were hauled over the gunwale in
one continuous dripping string. The grip of the
men's fingers had endured too long to be loosened
for a sudden call such as that.
They were taken ashore and tended with all the
care poor homes could give ; and the men, used to
hardships, recovered with a dose of warmth and
Miss Carnegie took longer to recover, and, in fact,
for a week lay very near to death. Kettle stayed
on in the village making almost hourly inquiries for
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 303
her. He ought to have gone away to seek fresh
employment. He ought to have gone back to his
wife and children, and he upbraided himself bitterly
for his neglect of these duties. But still he could
not tear himself away. For the future Well,
he dreaded to think what might happen in the
But at last the girl was able to sit up and see him,
and he visited her, showing all the deference an am-
bassador might offer to a queen. I may go so far
as to say that he went into the cottage quite infat-
uated. He came out of it disillusioned.
She listened to his tale of the wreck with inter-
est and surprise, She was almost startled to hear
that others, including the captain and two of the
mates, were saved from the disaster besides them-
selves, but at the same time unfeignedly pleased.
And she was pleased also to hear that Kettle was
subpoenaed to give evidence before the forthcoming
** I am glad of that," she said, ** because I know
you will speak with a free mind. You have told
me so many times how incompetent the captain was,
and now you will be able to tell it to the proper au-
Kettle looked at her blankly. " But that was dif-
ferent," he said. " I can't say to them what I said
*' Why not ? Look what misery and suffering
and loss of life the man has caused. He isn't fit
to command a ship."
" But, Miss," said Kettle, " it's his living. He's
been brought up to seafaring, and he isn't fit for
304 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
anything else. You wouldn't have me send out the
man to starve? Besides, Tm a shipmaster myself,
and you wouldn't have me try to take away another
master's ticket ? The cleverest captain afloat might
meet with misfortune, and he's always got to think
of that when he's put up to give evidence against
** Well, what are you going to do, then ? "
" Oh, we've got together a tale, and when the old
man is put up on his trial, the mates and I will stick
to it through thick and thin. You can bet that we
are not going to swear away his ticket."
" Yes ; his master's certificate — his means of liveli-
** I think it's wrong," she said excitedly ; " crimi-
nally wrong. And, besides, you said you didn't like
*' I don't ; I dislike him cordially. But that's
nothing to do with the case. I've my own honour
to think of. Miss. How'd I feel if I went about
knowing I'd done my best to ruin a brother captain
for good and always? "
" You are wrong," she repeated vehemently.
** The man is incompetent by your own saying,
and therefore he should suffer."
Kettle's heart chilled.
" Miss Carnegie," he said, " I am disappointed in
you. I thought from your poetry that you had
feelings ; I thought you had charity ; but I find you
" And you ! " she retorted, " you that I have set
up for myself as an ideal of most of the manly virtues.
THE WRECK OF THE CATTLE-BOAT. 305
do you think I feel no disappointment when I hear
that you are deliberately proposing to be a liar? "
" I am no liar," he said sullenly. " I have most
faults, but not that. This is different ; you do not
understand. It is not lying to defend one's fellow
ship-master before an Inquiry Board."
The girl turned to the pillow in her chair, and hid
her face. " Oh, go ! " she said, " go ! I wish I had
never met you. I thought you were so good, and
so brave and so honest, and when it comes to the
pinch, you are just like the rest ! Go, go ! I wish
I thought I could ever forget you."
"You say you don't understand," said Kettle.
" I think you deliberately won't understand. Miss.
You remember that I said I was disappointed in
you, and I stick to that now. You make me re-
member that I have got a wife and family I am
fond of. You make me ashamed I have not gone
to them before."
He went to the door and opened it. " But I do
not think I shall ever forget," he said, " how much
I cared for you once. Good-bye, Miss."
" Good-bye" she sobbed from her pillow, ** I wish
I could think you are right, but perhaps it is best as
In the village street outside, was Mr. McTodd
clothed in rasping serge, and inclined to be senten-
tious. " They've whisky here," he said with a jerk
of the thumb, " Irish whisky, that's got a smoky
taste that's rather alluring when you've got over the
first dislike. I'm out o' siller mysel' or I'd stand ye
a glass, but if ye're in funds, I could guide ye to the
place ? "
306 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.
Kettle was half tempted. But with a wrench he
said " No," adding that if he once started, he might
not know when to stop.
" Quite right," said the engineer, " you're quite
(hie) right, skipper. A man with an inclination to
level himself with the beasts that perish, should
always be abstemious." He sat against a wayside
fence and prepared for sleep.
" Like me," he added solemnly, and shut his eyes.
** No," said Kettle to himself ; " I won't forget it
that way. I guess I can manage without. She
pretty well cured me herself. But a sight of the
Missis will do the rest."
And so Captain Owen Kettle went home to where
Mrs. Kettle kept house in the by-street in South
Shields, that unlovely town on Tyneside ; and a
worrying time he had of it with that estimable
woman, his wife, before the explanations which he
saw fit to give were passed as entirely satisfactory.
In fact he was not quite forgiven for his escapade
with Miss Carnegie or for that other involuntary ex-
cursion with Donna Clotilde La Touche till such
time as he had acquired fortune from adventure on
the seas and was able to take Mrs. Kettle away from
her unsavoury surroundings, and settle down in
comfort in a small farmstead on the Yorkshire moors
with a hired maid to assist at the housework. But
that was not until some considerable time after he
was wrecked with Mr. McTodd on the Irish Coast ;
and between the two dates he assisted to make a
good deal more history which is (or will be) else-