Read CHAPTER XI - THE WRECKERS OF THE SPANISH MAIN of The Boy With the U. S. Life-Savers , free online book, by Francis Rolt-Wheeler, on

“Well, Eric,” said Homer Tierre to his friend, as they stood together one evening a few days after the rescue of the survivors of the Luckenback, watching the phosphorescence of the sea, “we’re getting down to the old Spanish Main, now.”

“Isn’t that a great word for bringing up ideas!” exclaimed Eric in reply. “It makes one think of the old stories we used to read as kids, of the black flag with the skull and crossbones and all that sort of thing. Too bad there aren’t any pirates left!”

“I suppose you’d want us to go chasing them!”

“Of course. We should have to, if there were any, wouldn’t we?”

“Certainly,” his friend answered. “Don’t you remember how the old bos’n of the Itasca used to tell us about the early days of the Revenue Cutter Service when chasing pirates was a regular part of its duties? Officially it is still, I suppose, but there aren’t any more pirates to chase.”

“What has put them all out of business?” Eric said thoughtfully. “I’ve often wondered.”

“Steam, mainly,” his friend replied, “that ’insult to a seaman’s intelligence,’ as our friend the fluent skipper of the Northwestern called it.”

“But I don’t see why,” persisted Eric. “After all, in the days of sailing ships, the pirates only had sailing ships and they weren’t always such an awful lot faster. Why couldn’t pirates to-day have steamships, just as fast in comparison to the steamers of to-day as their clippers were to the sailing ships of old? They’d get much bigger hauls. Why, one good hold-up of an Atlantic steamer would make a pirate crew rich for life!”

“You’d better take to the trade,” suggested his companion.

“I’d sooner do the chasing,” replied the boy; “it’s much more fun, anyway, and I’d rather be on the right side, every time. But don’t you think that there really would be a chance for a big Atlantic greyhound pirate?”

“I don’t think so,” the other answered meditatively. “For one thing, we’d have pirates if there was any such chance. After all, Eric, you’ve got to remember that a pirate was successful because of his own personality. They were a mighty forceful lot Kidd, Blackbeard, Lolonnois, and all those early pirates. On a big steamer, the pirate captain wouldn’t have the same sort of chance. There’s too many in a crew, for one thing. Then he’d be practically at the mercy of his engineers and engine hands. In a mutiny, he’d be up against it for fair.”

“But if a pirate captain could bluff a couple of mates and forty sailors in his crew, I don’t see why he shouldn’t he able to bluff a couple of engineers and fifty stokers,” suggested Eric.

“Even supposing he did,” said the other, “suppose he had every man on board terrorized, or so heavily bribed that they would obey him to the letter, still his troubles would have hardly begun. In the old days, as long as there was food and water aboard, a sailing ship could cruise around for months at a time. A steamer needs coal.”

“She could take the coal from the bunkers of the ships she held up,” suggested the boy.

“It would be a good deal more of a job than you reckon,” the other answered. “She couldn’t do it at all if there was any sea running, and even on a calm day, it’s a tricky proposition. If you’ve ever seen a man-o’-war on a sea cruise trying to coal from a naval collier, that’s built just for that very purpose, you’d get an idea how hard it is. Meantime, what would the crew and passengers of the liner be doing?”

“Putting in coal, or getting shot down if they resisted.”

“You’ve a bloodthirsty turn of mind,” his friend rejoined. “I know the idea, ‘scuppers pouring blood,’ and that sort of business, eh?”

“Sure,” answered Eric.

“You’re forgetting a lot of things,” the other said. “An old time sailing-ship just had the one deck. When a boarding pirate crew had won the deck, they were masters of the ship. But a modern steamer is like a building with several floors, one on top of the other. A pirate crew which could put aboard a steamer as many men as the steamer itself carried, and still handle itself, would be a small army. What’s more, on a modern steamship, with half a dozen stairways and the whole inside a labyrinth of rooms, the pirates would be ambushed like rats in a trap a dozen times over.”

“Yes, there’s something in that,” the boy agreed.

“Then there’s the wireless,” continued Homer. “Supposing a pirate steamer hailed a craft. Long before the first boatload of men could board, or before the ships could have grappled, the wireless operator would send an ‘S O S’ call, with a description of the piratic vessel and the latitude and longitude. The pirate couldn’t get coal aboard in less than twelve hours, and by that time half a dozen vessels would be steaming at full speed to the spot.”

“What difference would that make?” said Eric. “If the pirate were armed with heavy guns, she could stand off a fleet of commercial vessels that didn’t have any armament.”

“Your imagination is working in great shape, Eric,” his engineer friend replied. “It’s a pity you don’t think far enough ahead.”

“How’s that?”

“I suppose you’d have your pirate vessel chosen for speed?”

“Of course,” the boy answered. “She’d have to be fast in order to make a getaway.”

“Here’s where you’re forgetting your ship-building,” his friend warned him. “Could she have speed if she were armed with heavy guns? Wouldn’t she necessarily have to be partly the build of a man-o’-war, say a cruiser?”

“Perhaps she would,” said the boy thoughtfully.

“And if she had the build of a cruiser, would she have the speed of an Atlantic greyhound?”

“That’s true,” admitted Eric, “she wouldn’t. Still that wouldn’t matter, if the only craft that could chase her was a craft without guns.”

“Wouldn’t it?” his friend queried. “Do you know how they chase wolves in some parts of Western Canada?”


“They use a couple of greyhounds and two or three heavy dogs, like bulldogs or Airedales or wolfhounds. The wolf can easily outrun the heavy dogs, but when it comes to real speed he isn’t in it with a greyhound. The greyhounds overtake Mr. Wolf in less than no time, nip at him, worry him, anger him until he turns on them. They won’t even try to fight and he hasn’t a chance of catching them. Meantime, the heavy dogs, following up the scent, come pounding along the trail. The wolf sees them and lopes off again, the greyhounds after him. They badger and worry him again, and again he turns. By the time this has happened three or four times, the heavy dogs have caught up to their quarry, and the fight is on. Two or three minutes and it’s all over, and there’s one wolf the less to harry the flocks of sheep.”


“That’s just about what would happen to this pirate of yours. Suppose he did stop an Atlantic steamer, suppose he did board her successfully, suppose he got his coal bunkers full, suppose he carried a heap of treasure to his own vessel flying the Jolly Roger and got away with it. He’d have the other ships around, wouldn’t he?”

“I suppose he would,” Eric admitted.

“You can bet your last dollar he would. And their wireless would be working overtime, wouldn’t it?”

“Of course.”

“Piracy is a matter that every maritime nation is interested in. The newspapers of the world would have the story by wireless the next morning, the governments of the world would know almost as quickly. By noon the next day half a dozen warships would be steaming from different directions in search of the pirate, led as straight as a magnet to the pole by the radio information constantly being sent from the light passenger steamers that were pursuing. If the naval fleet included a destroyer with a thirty-knot speed, where would your pirate get off at?”

“He wouldn’t have a show. I see,” continued Eric, regretfully, “I’ll have to give up the hope of being able to join in a real pirate chase.”

“Of course,” the young engineer said thoughtfully, “a pirate in a submarine might be able to do something.”

“Now there’s a real idea,” exclaimed Eric. “Maybe there’s a chance yet!”

“I’m afraid not, even there,” answered the other, smiling at his friend’s eagerness, “mainly because of that same question of fuel. The captain of the submarine would have to be in cahoots with some supply station, and with the howl that would be made all over the world by modern piracy, it would be hard for the fuel contractor to hide his output. The only way that I can see would be for such a pirate to watch out for ships loaded with what was most needed, run up and threaten to torpedo the craft with everybody on board unless they took to the boats, put a prize crew aboard and run that steamer to a lonely beach on an uninhabited island and start a supply depot of his own there.”

“But a submarine couldn’t carry a large enough crew to conquer a steamer.”

“They wouldn’t need to,” said Homer. “It would be enough to send one man aboard to demand the treasure.”


“The submarine could lie to, with her submerged torpedo tubes pointing full at the vessel. If within a given space of time the treasure was not shipped and the pirate lieutenant returned safe, a torpedo would be fired which would send the steamer to Davy Jones with all hands. As a captain is more responsible for the lives of his passengers than for their gold, he would have to consent. One might easily get half a million dollars from one of the larger vessels. Three or four cruises of that kind would be quite enough, and our friend, the imaginary pirate captain and all his crew, could retire from the profession.”

“But do you really think such a thing is possible?”

“It’s very unlikely,” his friend replied, “but there’s no doubt that it’s possible. Several submarines have been sunk in the Great War, and one or more of these might be fished up by wreckers. Being hermetically sealed, no water would have got in, and their machinery would be as good as ever, even if they had been lying under the water for some months. As for crew if the pay were big enough, there would be always enough desperate fellows to be found to make the venture. Yes, that plan is feasible enough. And, what’s more, it would be hard to stop. Really, the more you think of it, the more possible it seems. The only weakness is the coaling.”

“It seems to me,” Eric said, “that if she could coal at sea, sink the ship and tow the boats containing the crew within reach of land, she would be pretty safe.”

“Yes,” his friend answered, “if she could stay at sea indefinitely until treasure enough had been accumulated, I believe a submarine could get away with it. There might be difficulty afterwards in getting rid of the bullion and the jewels, but, after all, that’s a different question. It has nothing to do with the piracy.”

Eric peered into the darkness, putting his hand over his eyes as though to look intently.

“Pirate, ahoy!” he called softly. “Three points off the starboard bow!”

The young lieutenant of engineers laughed.

“You’ll be dreaming of pirates in your next watch below,” he said, as he turned away, “or you’ll be running up the skull and cross-bones instead of the Stars and Stripes and we’ll have to court-martial you.”

“Little chance of that,” replied the boy, “but maybe there’ll be a submarine pirate some day that we’ll have a chance to chase. I’ll live in hopes!”

By a somewhat curious coincidence, a few days after this conversation, the Miami passed the Dry Tortugas, the old-time capital of that Buccaneer Empire which for forty years held the navies of the entire world at bay. It was a curious chapter in the history of the seas, and Eric caught himself wondering whether the future of navigation held any such surprising and adventurous period in store. He was to learn shortly, however, that the Coast Guard was thoroughly fitted to meet similar emergencies and that her naval powers could be made swiftly operative even in times of peace.

As the cutter was proceeding to her station at Key West, she sighted a schooner, which, by signal flags, reported that she had that morning passed a bark flying the reversed ensign, with her yards awry and her sails aback. On running close to the schooner the Miami learned that the bark had changed her course when the schooner approached, and when the schooner fell on her course the bark came aback again. A second time the schooner went to her relief, and again the bark squared off on her course.

“Queer thing,” said Eric, after the flags had been read. “What do you suppose it is?”

“Looks like mutiny,” said his chum. “I suppose we’ll chase her and find out. Too bad the schooner never got near enough to see her name.”

“What’s the odds? We’ve got a description. Hello! Forced draft, eh?”

“Yes, it looks like trouble. You wanted to see a pirate chase, Eric. I don’t believe that’s on the boards, but at least a mutiny chase smacks of the old days.”

The information given by the schooner proved to be startlingly correct, for a couple of hours later the lookout in the crow’s-nest reported,

“Sail on the port bow!”

“Where away?” asked the chief officer.

“Nearly dead ahead, sir,” was the reply.

The captain leveled his glass at the craft. Eric watched him closely, for his expression was puzzling. In an hour’s time the Miami which, under forced draft, was flying through the water, overhauled the vessel. Just as the schooner had reported, the bark was in irons, with her yards braced athwartwise and her sails aback. The British merchant flag was flying at her mizzen-gaff, with the ensign down.

No sooner was the Miami within a mile or two of the bark than the vessel squared around her yards and began to scud before the wind. She had a good pair of heels and it was not surprising that the schooner had not started to pursue. There was no real reason why she should interfere. But with the Coast Guard cutter it was another matter. A signal of distress had been seen, an American vessel had called on the cutter, and now the suspected craft was running away. The chase began.

No sooner did the bark realize that she was actually being chased than men were sent aloft, and the fore-royal and main sky-sail were set, a heavy press of the sail for the full breeze. This absolutely determined the fact that the Coast Guard cutter would chase, for the bark was fleeing. It was getting late in the afternoon, and within a couple of hours darkness would close down. The moon would not rise until nearly midnight, so that there would be two or three hours in which the sailing vessel could give the cutter the slip. Little by little, however, the Miami began to close up. The breeze freshened, increasing the chances of the fugitive, but still the cutter lessened the distance between them.

Immediately after dinner, a few minutes before eight bells struck in the second dog watch, the first lieutenant, at the captain’s direction, gave orders to clear away the bow gun. The gun crew sprang to stations, and a moment later the sharp crack of a rapid fire six-pounder sounded across the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, an order from Uncle Sam for the fleeing bark to stop.

But the stranger paid no heed. With the glass, figures could be seen on the main deck and on the poop, but it was too far away to determine what they were doing.

The captain turned suddenly to the officer of the deck. “Did you see anything, Mr. Keelson?” he asked.

The officer, who had his eyes glued to his glass, replied,

“I thought I saw the smoke of shots!”

“That’s what I thought,” the captain answered. Then, in a quick voice of command, he added,

“You may use solid shot!”

A few seconds sufficed to carry out the work.

“Try for her upper spars!” was the next order.

The sharp crack of a shot from the six-pounder was the reply, and simultaneously, holes appeared in the gaff topsail and the main topgallant staysail. The wind immediately slivered the sails to ribbons and they began lashing about the rigging. At this, the main yards were swung round, the mainsails came aback and ten minutes later the Miami was alongside.

Two boats’ crews, fully armed, were sent aboard. The situation which greeted Eric, in the second lieutenant’s boat, was unusual. A rope ladder had been thrown over the ship’s side from the main deck. Above the ladder was an excited group, all shouting at the top of their voices. The senior second lieutenant, who was in charge of the boat to which Eric had been assigned, took command of the party. He asked for the captain. One of the men pointed to the helmsman.

“Are you the captain?” the Coast Guard officer demanded.

“Si, signor,” the man answered, “I the captain.”

“Johnson,” said the lieutenant, “relieve the wheel!”

One of the Coast Guard men saluted, stepped forward and took the wheel. The vessel was hove to.

“Are you English?” the lieutenant asked, when this manoeuver had been completed.

“Italiano!” the captain of the bark replied.

“Then what’s that flag doing there?” the Coast Guard officer asked, pointing to the reversed British merchant flag which still hung at the gaff.

The other shrugged his shoulders.

“The only one I have. The mate he take the others,” he answered.

“Where’s the mate?”

An evil-looking fellow with rings in his ears and a long knife stuck in his belt slouched forward. He did not come alone. Half a dozen sailors, evidently part of a gang, came aft with him.

Thinking that a little example might be salutary, the lieutenant turned to the file of men who had come on board with him. The men had their rifles at the carry.

“’Tion! Order arms!”

The butts of the rifles came down on the ship’s deck with the precision of clockwork and the rattle was ominous. The Coast Guard officer had a steely note in his voice, as he continued.

“You’re the mate?”

“Yes,” the man said sulkily, but in good English, “I’m the first mate, all right.”

“Did you remove the signal flags from the locker?”

“What if I did?”

“Did you receive orders from your captain to do so?”

“Not exactly ”

“Yes or no!”


“And was he on deck at the time?”


“Did he order you not to haul down the flag?”

“I don’t have to do everything he tells me.”

“Did he order you not to haul down the flag? Yes or no?”

“Well, yes.”

“And did you haul it down several times?”

“Yes, but ”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses or your reasons. That’s mutiny,” the lieutenant said, simply. Then, turning to the captain, he said,

“Do you accuse him of mutiny?”

“Yes,” the master answered, “he mutiny.”

“Put the irons on him, Quartermaster,” said the lieutenant, and handcuffs were snapped on the first mate’s wrist.

“Any more of your men mutiny, Captain?” asked the lieutenant.

“I tell you whole story,” the shipmaster answered. “You speak Italian?”

“French,” the Coast Guard officer answered, “but not Italian.”

“French? Fine!” the captain replied, and stepping forward, he told the story of the trip. It appeared that the ship had part of her cargo consigned to Vera Cruz, consisting of cartridges, designed for the Mexican government. The mate had practically seized the ship and demanded that the captain sail her to Puerto Mexico, one of the southern ports, in the hands of the Zapatistas. The Mexican rebel general was to pay a good price for the ammunition, and then the captain was to be allowed to proceed with the ship unmolested on the rest of his cruise.

As the ammunition had been shipped from an American port, the Coast Guard lieutenant realized that complications might ensue. Accordingly, since it was only a few hours’ run to Apalachicola, and the wind was fair, the lieutenant advised the Italian captain to run for that port and deal with the question of the mate and the other three mutineers before the proper court.

A file of men, under command of Gunner Sternow, was left on board the bark to preserve order. The mate and the three other mutineers were thrust in irons into the carpenter’s shop, which was converted into a prison for the purpose, one of the cutter’s men standing on guard. The following morning, the harbor authorities of Apalachicola having been notified by wireless, a tug came off bearing authority for the formal arrest of the four men, who were taken ashore and put in prison, pending action by the Italian consul and the civil authorities.

“I suppose this mutiny business is rather rare,” said Eric to Homer, as the Miami swung out of Apalachicola Bay.

“Not so rare as you’d fancy,” his friend answered. “There’s not a season goes by that some of the cutters don’t have to take a hand in settling mutiny. Why, only last year, a crew seized a vessel, in the real old-fashioned pigtail and tarred-trousers style, imprisoned the master in the cabin, and started to sail the ship back to the United States on their own hook.”

“Where were they bound for?”

“’Frisco, from Philadelphia, round the Horn. She was the Manga Reva, an American full-rigged ship with a crew of twenty-three men. She was about 600 miles out when the men mutinied and sailed her back to Delaware Breakwater. The master succeeded in running up a distress signal, which was reported to the Onondaga. You know her station is just north of Hatteras. The Onondaga put an armed crew on board, and took the mutineers on board the cutter, steamed up the river to Wilmington, Delaware, where they were turned over to the Federal authorities to await trial.”

“What did they get?”

“Pretty heavy terms of imprisonment,” the other answered; “mutiny on the high seas is a mighty ticklish thing.”

“What do you suppose this mate we collared will get?”

“Hard to say,” the other answered. “After all, he’s an Italian, sailing under Italian colors. Uncle Sam’s always careful about international law. But the Italian maritime laws are very strict, and if he’s sent back to Italy, I’m sorry for him.”

For the next two months, little of adventurous importance occurred. The Miami disposed of several more dangerous derelicts in the gulf of Mexico. She assisted a small steamer belonging to the Public Health Service of Key West, which had anchored in an exposed position, and towed her to safe moorings. She rescued two men in a small motor boat, out of sight of land, who had drifted after the machinery had broken down. In addition to this, she floated and towed to harbor three sailing-vessels which had struck on the treacherous reefs of the waters of the Florida Keys. The work was constant, and the Coast Guard cutter was on the job without ceasing, but there was little to stir the complement to their utmost.

Then came trouble. From the wireless station, that continuous recorder of difficulty and disaster, came word that a Norwegian steamer was ashore on Twisted Cay, and asking for immediate assistance against native wreckers. The Miami immediately started for the scene of the disaster, and about noon of the next day arrived in sight of the vessel.

“They’ve been having trouble of some sort,” said Eric, as the cutter steamed up to the scene of the wreck. “And look at the nerve of them; they don’t seem to pay any attention to us!”

The boats’ crews were ordered out, and Eric, as before, was in the smaller craft. The two boats pulled to the side of the vessel, and the boy accompanied the second lieutenant on board. The steamer was lying with her head to the southward and westward, with a decided list to starboard. Twenty or thirty small sailing-boats were clustered round her, like ants round a piece of sugar. What was still more daring, while most of the wreckers had left the stranded steamer on the arrival of the cutter, others actually stayed on board. They were an evil-looking lot, and heavily armed.

The scene on board was a striking one. The first thing noticed by Eric was the presence of two men propped up against the starboard rail, pale and roughly bandaged.

“Where’s the captain?” was the lieutenant’s first question.

“I’m Captain Jorgsen,” was the reply, as a finely built, ruddy middle-aged man advanced. “Glad to see you on board.”

“Good morning, Captain. You reported by wireless having trouble with these wreckers,” the Coast Guard officer remarked; “are these men of yours badly hurt?”

“One of them is,” the captain answered. “Have you a doctor in your party?”

“We’ve one aboard. Mr. Swift,” he continued, turning to Eric, “will you please take the boat and bring Dr. Fuhrman here?”

Eric saluted and was in his boat almost on the instant. The doctor, guessing that possibly the call might be for him, was waiting at the ladder with his instrument-bag in case he should be needed. Formalities were unnecessary, so that when the boat pulled alongside and Eric, looking up, saw the doctor at the rail he called,

“Couple of patients for you, Doctor.”

“Right you are,” was the answer, and the surgeon came down the ladder as nimbly as Eric could have done himself. On arriving at the wrecked steamer, it was found that the injuries were knife-wounds, one of them deep and necessitating an immediate operation.

As there was a good deal of likelihood that the steamer might go to pieces on the reef if a storm blew up, it was decided to take the two injured men to the Miami, where the doctor could give them better attention. Owing to the difficulty of the steamer’s position on the reef, with the surf breaking over her to the windward and the rocks to lee, this trans-shipment of the injured men was not accomplished without difficulty, but by three o’clock in the afternoon, the men were safely on board the cutter.

Meantime the lieutenant had been trying to place the responsibility for the crime, but this was impossible. All that the captain of the steamer could say was that, during a fight with the wreckers the preceding night, these two men had been knifed. In response to questions, Captain Jorgsen expressed the hope that some of the wreckers had got hurt themselves, but he regretted that his crew had been defenseless, with nothing but belaying pins and such like weapons for their protection. As the belaying pins in question were iron and twice as heavy as a policeman’s club, Eric could not help smiling at the suggestion of inoffensiveness that the captain conveyed.

At the request of the captain of the steamer, the Miami agreed to lie by her through the night, until the arrival of a wrecking tug from Havana, a message having been received by the Miami that the tug had started for the scene of the disaster. Steam had been kept up on the wrecked steamer for the handling of the winches and so forth.

Suddenly, in the middle of the night, about two bells in the middle watch, a succession of short, sharp whistles from the steamer pierced the darkness. The first lieutenant of the Miami was on the deck in a few moments. Meantime, the officer of the watch had ordered the searchlight thrown on the steamer.

The light revealed the deck a struggling mass of men. In the darkness all the wreckers had gathered to board their victim, and at a given signal not less than a hundred and fifty men had swarmed on to the vessel’s decks.

The crew was pinned back into two groups, fighting like wild-cats. Most of them, powerfully built Scandinavians, were sweeping aside the natives before them, but the odds were overpowering. The negroes shouted and yelled as they tried to beat the sailors down. Already the main hatch had been forced open and a stream of men was pouring down, for the wreckers knew of valuables which formed a part of the cargo.

A few sharp orders, and the cutter’s boats were off to the wreck, the crews armed, their rifles loaded with ball. At the same time, one of the six-pounders was let loose and sent a few shots whistling over the steamer, illumined only by the patch of intense white light thrown by the searchlight of the Miami.

The boats were half-way across to the steamer, where there was a sudden cessation of the fighting, and over the side of the vessel the wreckers came swarming like rats leaving a sinking ship. But the Miami’s men had been too quick for all to escape and more than a dozen of the natives were pinned on board.

As soon as the wreckers had heard the Miami’s guns and fled, the tide of battle turned, and on the dozen which remained, the crew of the steamer had taken a swift vengeance. None of them was seriously hurt, but they had been beaten up in a way that they would remember to the end of their days. Captain Jorgsen, who had been in the thick of the fight, was to the front when the cutter boats landed.

“I wish you’d put a hole in every one of those thieving boats,” he growled.

“They deserve it, all right,” the Coast Guard officer answered, “but I doubt if the Department would approve.”

“If I had a gun like yours,” said Captain Jorgsen, grimly, “I’d fire at ‘em an’ keep firing until I didn’t have a shot left in the locker.”

“I’m afraid we can’t very well send you over one of our six-pounders,” said the other, “but it seems to me you have a right to protect yourself from being boarded in this way. I’ll send over some small-arms and ammunition in the morning and we’ll stand by you and keep these black rascals in order. But I wanted to ask you, Captain Jorgsen, how did you come to be so far out of your course?”

“I was right on my course,” the skipper growled. “That’s what makes me so sore. But when I passed Cross Keys light, I thought I must have figured wrong. I never stopped to think why the light was nearly a quarter of a degree from where she should have been by my reckoning, and I changed my course by that.”


“One of my men heard those chicken-livered black-hided cowards laughing to themselves about the way they fooled vessels with their ’patent light.’”

“You mean that the wreckers have put up a false light to lead vessels on to the reefs?”

“It’s that decoy light that brought me here,” said the skipper, “and if you hadn’t come when you did, I reckon every one of us would have had our throats cut and the vessel would have been skinned by this time.”