Hot! So hot that I could hardly
breathe, and so dark that I could not see across the
cabin. My head ached, and I was terribly sleepy,
with a heavy, unsatisfied drowsiness, which kept me
from stirring, though I longed to get out of my cot
and go and open the window, and at the same time have
a good drink from the water-bottle.
I was lying on my brick, and there
was the impression upon me that I had been having
bad dreams, during the passing of which I had been
in great trouble of some kind, but what that trouble
was I could not tell; and as soon as I tried to think,
my brain felt as if it was hot and dry, and rolling
slowly from side to side of my skull.
I was very uncomfortable and moved
a little, but it made my head throb so that I was
glad to lie still again and wait till the throbbing
grew less violent.
“It all comes of sleeping in
a cabin in these hot latitudes with the window closed.
Mr Frewen ought to know better,” I thought,
“being a doctor. I’ll tell him of
it as soon as he wakes.”
This is how I mused, thinking all
the time how foolish I was not to get up and open
the window, but still feeling no more ready to cool
the stifling air of the cabin.
“What makes men snore so?”
I thought then, and began to wonder how it was that
so gentlemanly a man as the doctor should make such
a noise in his sleep. I had never heard him
do so before. As a rule he lay down, closed
his eyes, and went off fast, breathing as softly as
a baby till he woke in the morning. Now his
breathing was what doctors call stertorous, heavy
“Oh, how I wish he would wake
up and open the window!” I thought; but he
did not wake up nor cease breathing so heavily, and
I lay thinking about coming to bed on the previous
night. That is to say, I lay trying to think
about coming to bed, for I could not recall anything.
I had some dreamy notion of its having been my watch;
but whether I had taken it, or whether it was yet
to come and some one was due to rouse me up soon,
I could not tell.
“It’s all due to having
such a headache,” I thought, “and of course
through this horrid air. Why doesn’t he
wake up and open the window?”
How long that lasted I cannot tell,
but it must have been for some time, during which
my brain burned and my thoughts came in a horribly
confused manner. I could hear the sounds on
deck, and feel that the ship was careening over with
the breeze, but these facts suggested nothing to me,
and I must have been in quite a stupor, when I was
roused by a voice saying angrily
“Well, what is it?”
I knew the voice from its rough harsh
tones, and I lay waiting for some one to answer, but
there was no reply, and all was blacker and hotter
than ever, when there came the peculiar smacking noise
of one passing his tongue over his dry lips, and once
more he spoke.
“D’yer hear, what is it?”
There was no reply, and it seemed
to me that the speaker was settling himself down to
go to sleep again, for he moved uneasily.
“What did yer say, Neb?”
I had not heard Neb Dumlow say anything,
and I wondered why I had not, for I did not think
I had been to sleep. But I felt that I must have
been, or I should have heard.
“Mussy me, what a head I’ve
got!” muttered the voice. “Did the
gents give us some rum?”
There was a pause.
“Must ha’ done, but I
don’t recklect. Why, it must ha’
been a whole lot.”
My head must have been growing less
confused, for now I began to be puzzled about how
it was that Bob Hampton was sleeping in our cabin
instead of just under shelter with the others at the
entrance of the saloon. It was very strange,
but I was too stupid to arrange things. Once
I wondered whether I really was in the cabin along
with Mr Frewen, but I got no farther with that line
of reasoning, and I was sinking back into my stupor
or lethargy when Bob Hampton spoke again.
“Here, Neb Barney,
open something, and let’s have some fresh air.
My, how hot!”
He had a headache too then, and could
hardly breathe for the hot closeness of the place.
This roused me, and I lay thinking how strange it
was that he should be just as much indisposed as I
was to move. But he was a fore-mast man and
I was an officer, so I had only to speak to be obeyed,
and after making two or three efforts which only resulted
in a dull muttering sound, Bob Hampton exclaimed
“Here, whatcher talking about?
Who is it, and what do you want?”
“I say, open the window, Bob,
and let’s have some fresh air.”
There was a quick rustling movement
close by me, as if some one had risen upon his elbow,
and he exclaimed
“What d’yer say?”
“Open the window, Bob; I’m half-stifled.”
“So’m I, my lad. Here, what’s
the matter? What are you doing here?”
“No,” I said; “what are you doing
here in the cabin, Bob?”
“I arn’t in the cabin,
my lad, and you arn’t in the cabin, for this
arn’t in it, and Here, I say, what’s
“I don’t know,”
I said peevishly, “but it’s so hot I can’t
bear it; do open something.”
“Blest if I Look
here, my lad There arn’t anything
to open anywheres, and my head won’t go.
Would you mind telling me where the sky-light is,
for I s’pose I had too much grog last night like
a fool, and I arn’t werry clear in the head.”
“I don’t know, I can’t tell, Bob.
It’s all a puzzle.”
“And it’s so plaguey dark,
my lad. Wait a bit and I’ll feel round
with my fingers, for eyes aren’t no good here.”
“Well,” I said, for there
was a good deal of rustling, “what can you feel?”
“Chesties and casks, my lad,
and we’re a-lying on ’em leastwise
I am. What are we two a-lying on chesties and
“I don’t know, Bob. But who’s
that snoring so?”
“Somebody was snoring just now, but it stopped
when you spoke.”
“Then I s’pose it must
ha’ been me, my lad. I have heard say as
I could play a pretty good toon on my nose when I
was very fast asleep.”
“No. There it goes again,”
I said in a hoarse whisper, as the noise which I had
first heard recommenced.
“Oh, there’s no gammon
’bout that, my lad. That there’s
Neb Dumlow. If ever you’re anywheres and
hears a sound like a vessel blowing off her steam
under water, all snort and bubble, you may take your
oath it’s Neb Dumlow. Here, I’ll
“Wait a moment, Bob,”
I said. “I want to know first where we
“So do I, my lad, but it seems
to me, as my old mother used to say, that want’ll
be your master. I dunno, my lad; arn’t
dead and buried, are we?”
“Don’t talk nonsense,”
I said peevishly. “Look here, were
you on the middle watch last night?”
“Dunno, my lad, were you?”
“I can’t recollect, Bob.
But do try. We must be somewhere in the dark,
and it’s that which puzzles us.”
“Oh yes, there’s no gammon
about that, my lad; we’re somewheres in the
dark, and it’s ’bout the solidest, thickest
darkness I ever found myself in. Here, I’ll
wake up old Neb. He’s very ugly and precious
stoopid, but he’ll tell us where we are in a
jiffy. Here! Hi! Avast there!
“Hullo!” came in answer
to what sounded like a heavy shaking after Bob Hampton
had crept by me.
“Now, my lad, rouse up a bit.”
“Our watch, old man?”
“No; not yet.”
“Bless yer. Good-night.”
“No, no; rouse up.”
“Well, all right, messmate.
That there’s flesh and blood you’ve got
hold on, not suit. Don’t skin me.”
“Then wake up.”
“Well, I’m woke up. What is it?
Who’s dowsed the lantern?”
“I d’know. Here’s Mr Dale
wants you to tell him where we are.”
“Yes; I said so, didn’t I, stoopid?”
“Course you did, matey, but what’s he
“That’s what he wants
you to tell him, only he wants to know first where
There was the sound of some one feeling
about, and I fancied I could hear some one else breathing,
but I was not sure, and I listened patiently for what
Neb Dumlow was going to say. But Bob Hampton
was the first to speak, and he said in a gruff whisper
“He’s a awful thick-headed
chap, sir, but I think he’ll hit it off for
“Messmate!” came from a little way off.
“Has some one been having a lark with us?”
“I dunno, and I don’t
know anything,” growled Bob. “You
arn’t wanted to ask questions, but to answer
what Mr Dale wants to know. Now, then, what
d’yer make of it?”
“Well, where are we?”
“What! can’t yer tell?”
“Can’t find bottom, my lad; only seem
to arrive at one thing.”
“Well, what is it?”
“Well, it’s this here;
if it was me and you and old Barney where
is old Barney?”
“Oh, come then, I might be right,
on’y you see we’ve got Mr Dale with us.”
“Look here, what are you fogging
about? Why don’t you say what yer mean,
my lad? Now then, out with it. Where are
we? ’cause Mr Dale wants to know.”
“Well, as he’s here, we can’t be
here,” growled Dumlow.
“What d’yer mean, stoopid?”
“Why, we can’t be where I thought we was.”
“And wheers that?”
“Why, my lad, it looks like
this here ’cording to what I feels. But
stop a moment, let’s ask Barney a question.
Barney, old lad!”
“How’s yer head?”
“Just as if it was a beehive, and all the bees
“That’s it. Then
we are here, and all I’ve got to say for myself
is, as I wonder I could ha’ been such a fool,
and I’m sorry as Mr Dale don’t know better.”
“Then where are we, Dumlow?”
I said hastily; “for I don’t know any
“Then you ought to, sir; you
a orficer and brought up proper. I wonder at
you a-leading men into trouble, and there’ll
be an awful row when old Brymer finds us out.”
“He’s got it, sir,”
said Bob Hampton. “It’s what I thought,
and it’s a rum ’un.”
“Then, where are we?”
I said pettishly; for my head kept on feeling as
if it was spinning round.
“Why, sir,” said Dumlow;
“we’re down in the hold among them sperrit
casks as was stowed by themselves, and some one’s
been opening one of ’em with a gimlet and letting
us all drink.”
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
A long, low knocking as of knuckles against a bulk-head.
“Come in!” growled Bob
Hampton. “Here’s the cook brought
your shaving-water, sir.”
The tapping was repeated, and sounded some little
“Answer them, whoever it is,
Bob,” I said; for this seemed to be something,
if not tangible, at all events certain.
There was a little rustling about, and the tapping
“Why don’t you answer them?” I
“What do you mean, sir shout?”
“No, no; tap again.”
“But there arn’t nothin’
to knock on, sir. It’s no good to hit the
top, or the floor.”
“But there must be a partition somewhere,”
“Dessay there is, sir; but I can’t tell
where it is.”
“Are we not somewhere near the forecastle?”
“Dessay we are, sir; but my
head’s some’at like a lump o’ solid
wood. What did you bring us down here for?”
“I! Bring you down! Nonsense, man.
I did not bring you.”
“Then how did we come, sir? Do you know,
“Do you, Barney?”
“No. I only knows here we are, and my
head’s a rum ’un.”
“But there must be some reason
for us being here,” I said piteously, as I struggled
vainly to get beyond what seemed to be a black curtain
hanging between the past and present.
“Yes, sir,” said Bob, coolly; “there
must be some reason.”
“Then what is it, Bob?”
“Oh, don’t ask me, sir;
I arn’t no scholard. I’m all muzzly
like. Seems to me that we’ve been to one
o’ they casks, and all the time it
don’t. No; we arn’t had no drink.
We shouldn’t with all that there trouble a-hanging
“Yes, Bob,” I said eagerly,
for he had touched a chord which set me thinking I
mean trying to think; “that trouble hanging over
us. There was some trouble, wasn’t there?”
“Oh yes, sir; we was in a lot
o’ trouble about something, but blest if I know
what it was.”
“Well; try, man,” I cried.
“Think about trouble. What trouble was
“No, sir, I dunno,” he
cried, after a pause. “We’re aboard
the Burgh Castle still, arn’t we?”
“I don’t know,”
I began. “Yes, of course we are, and we
must be down in the hold. It’s coming
now, I think. Why did we come down here?
Surely one of you must know.”
“It arn’t likely, sir, if you don’t,”
“But what were we in trouble
about?” I said, for I cannot describe
it there was the thick feeling of something
having happened; but strange as it may seem, neither
I nor the men could make anything out about what had
preceded our unnatural sleep.
“It’s a rum ’un,”
said Bob Hampton at last. “I dunno.
It’s a rum ’un.”
“But cannot either of you think
at all?” I cried in agony. “It seems
so horrible to be here like this in black darkness,
and not know how or why.”
“Or what?” suggested Bob.
“I think I’ve got it now,” said
“Yes; what is it?”
“All gone mad wi’ being so much out in
“You may be mad, Neb, I arn’t,
and I don’t mean to. I’ll take my
trick at the wheel and box the compass with any on
yer. Wheel wheel,” he added,
thoughtfully “steering. Why
arn’t I at the wheel now?”
“’Cause you’re here, messmate,”
“But I was a-steering when you
comes, Mr Dale, sir, and brings me a plate o’
wittles, and you says, says you ”
“Oh!” I cried excitedly.
“No, you didn’t, sir,
beggin’ your parding; you says something about
could I steer and eat too, and I says no,
you says no, it was I says; well, it was
one or t’other of us, I can’t quite ’member
which says, `put it on the binnacle,’ and
it was put there, and I ate it, and it was very good.”
“Oh!” I cried again,
as I pressed my temples with my hands, for I could
see a faint gleam of light peeping through into my
head, or so it seemed; but it kept on dying out again,
and I was blank of memory again as ever.
“Did you say wittles?” cried Dumlow, suddenly.
“Ay, mate, I did.”
“Why, I ’members something ‘bout
wittles. O’ course. Me and you, Bob.”
“Ah, I dunno when it was, nor wheer it was,
“She’s dying she’s
dying,” I cried; for those words came cutting
through the black silence, and gave me quite a pang.
“Who’s she? And what’s she
a-dying for?” growled Bob Hampton.
“Toe be sure, mate,” said
Dumlow, “that’s what Mr Denning says as
he come out of his cabin. `She’s dying,’
he says, and you and me got up and sat down again
feeling as silly as two booby birds.”
“Here, you don’t know
what you’re talking about, messmate,” said
“Yes, he does,” I cried
excitedly, for a greater light seemed to have now
flashed into my brain. “You did go into
the saloon to have Oh, Bob Hampton, I recollect
it all now.”
“Do you, sir? Then let’s have it,”
he said gruffly.
“There was a great mistake made,” I cried.
“Seems like it, sir.”
“And, yes,” I continued, “I know
Barney went to sleep at the wheel.”
“That’s a lie!”
he rapped out. “Leastwise, I beg your pardon,
sir; I mean I arn’t the sort o’ man to
go to sleep on duty.”
“No, no; of course not, Barney,”
I said piteously; “but you did, and Bob Hampton
and Neb Dumlow came and laid down on the deck, and
I saw it all, and heard it, and, oh dear, oh dear!
what a terrible mess!”
“Arn’t he going off his head, matey?”
whispered Dumlow; but I heard him.
“No, no, man; it’s all
coming back now. You don’t know, but you
must now; it was a plan to give the mutineers stuff
to send them all to sleep, and it was changed and
given to us instead.”
“Beg pardon, sir,” said
Bob Hampton; “but hadn’t you better lie
down and go to sleep again?”
“’Cause, to speak plain English, you’re
talking nonsense, sir.”
“No, man; it’s sense.
That fellow Dean heard all, and changed the tins.”
“Now, do lie down, sir; it’s
o’ no use for you to go on worrying yourself
“I tell you I can see it all
now, man,” I cried angrily. “We took
the stuff, and the prisoners got off. They’re
out now, and we’re prisoners. Don’t
“No, sir; it’s too dark. But ”
“I tell you I’m all right.
My head is come clear again, and I can think.
We were all confused through taking Mr Frewen’s
“I never took none o’
the doctor’s stuff,” growled Dumlow.
“And I don’t never mean to.”
“Are you sure o’ what
you’re saying, sir?” said Bob Hampton.
“You hold your tongue, and don’t
be sarcy, Neb,” growled Bob. “I’m
a-beginning to see now. Mr Dale’s right.
If he warn’t, how could we be shut up down
here with our heads as thick as if we’d been
having ’em stuffed? That’s it, sir,
though I don’t half understand what you say.
Then we’ve all been hocussed, and Jarette’s
got the upper hand again?”
“Yes, Bob, I’m afraid so.”
“Well, that’s ugly, my
lad; but there’s no help for it now, and the
sooner we get to work and take the ship again, I suppose,
“Yes, Bob,” I said. “Of course.”
“Very well, my lad, then here
goes. I’m glad it’s how you say,
for I was beginning to think I’d got crazed,
and been shut up for being violent. That’s
a comfort anyhow, for I don’t hold with a man
going off his head.”
“Then it’s all right, messmate?”
“Right as it can be in a place
like this, matey. Yer can’t breathe, nor
you can’t see, and well now, that’s
queer. You seem to ha’ set my head working
again, Mr Dale, sir; and I recklect sittin’ in
the s’loon eating our dinner arter you gents
had done, and then coming over all pleasant and comfble
like, and then I don’t seem to ’member
no more till I woke up down here.”
“And that knocking we heard
must be some of the others,” I cried excitedly.
“That’s sartain, sir.”
“Is there any one else here beside us four?”
“If there be,” says Barney,
“we’re a-lying on ’em, for there
arn’t no room without as I can see.”
“Yer can’t see,” growled Dumlow.
“Well, I didn’t mean with
my eyes, Neb; so don’t be so chuff on a fellow.
I meant with my understanding.”
get arguing together,” I cried impatiently.
“It is suffocating down here. I want
to understand how we are placed, and I can’t
quite make it out yet.”
“Well, sir, p’r’aps
I can help you a bit,” said Bob. “Seems
to me as they pulled up a hatch and pitched us in,
and then battened it down again.”
“And where are our friends?”
“Why, they’d shove ’em
where we shoved they, down in the forksle, I should
say, unless they’ve stuffed ’em in the
“Yes, perhaps so,” I said thoughtfully.
“Why, o’ course,” growled Dumlow.
“What? They are in the cable-tier?”
“Oh, I dunno, sir; I was a-thinking
about our taking they wittles in the s’loon,
and it’s come back like sort o’ bells ringing
in my ear, and Mr Denning saying she’s dying.
Oh yes, I recklect that, and the doctor coming.
That’s ’bout as far as I can get.”
“I ’member the wittles
on the binnacle quite plain now,” said Barney;
“and, yes, o’ course, I kep’ coming
over all soft like, and wantin’ to sing songs,
and listen to moosic, and couldn’t sing; but
it was all silver and gold and sunshine and beautiful
birds in beautiful trees. Yes, it’s all
right, sir. You see now, don’t you, Neb?”
“No, I can’t see nowt;
but I dessay it’s all right. I don’t
want to know; it don’t matter to me.”
“Hush!” I whispered. “There’s
that knocking again.”
There it was quite plainly, and then
came a repetition seemingly close at hand, three
smart taps as of knuckles on a chest.
“There’s some one else,
and quite near,” I said in a low voice.
“No, my lad, that was me.
Here’s a big case behind me, and I let go on
There were three more taps at a distance.
“Knock again,” I said, and this time Bob
A few moments later there were distinctly heard two
“They heard us,” I said, and answered.
“Try again with one.”
He struck once as loudly as he could,
and we waited excitedly to hear one blow given apparently
on a bulk-head.
“Those are our friends there,” I cried
“If it arn’t old Frenchy gammoning us,
sir,” said Barney.
“I think it must be our friends,”
I said, feeling unwilling to give up the idea; and
I was going to add something, when there came to us
plainly enough the sound of feet passing somewhere
overhead, and directly after a voice shouted something,
but what we could not hear.