Read CHAPTER TWELVE. of Sail Ho A Boy at Sea, free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on ReadCentral.com.

The light was coming fast now, as the sound of talking died out on the deck, and as I rose, Mr Frewen caught my hand.

“My dear lad,” he whispered, “I thought you were gone.  Thank God! thank God!”

“Isn’t it horrible?” I whispered, though there was no necessity for restraining my voice.

“Horrible?” he said; “it seems to be impossible.”

“Where’s Captain Berriman?”

“In his cabin wounded.”

“And Mr Brymer?”

“Yonder.  Don’t ask.”

“Is any one else hurt?” I said, lowering my voice still more.

“I hardly know how many,” he said.  “It was a surprise.  We were all mastered by treachery.  Some traitor came amongst us, and when the attack began and the ship was seized, we were all fastened in our cabins.”

“Some traitor!” I said, turning cold.  “Yes, and they thought it must have been you.  I heard some one accuse you in the dark, just after I had broken out of my cabin.”

I was silent for a few moments, as I thought of whom the traitor must have been, though even to defend myself I could not speak out and accuse Walters.

“Who was it said I did it?” I whispered at last.

“I am not sure.  Everything has been so dark and confused; I fancied for the moment that it was Mr Denning.”

“I don’t believe it was,” I said stoutly.  “He would not think I could be such a miserable, contemptible wretch.”

“But you were not with us, Dale, and people are ready enough to accuse at a time like that.”

“Mr Denning did not accuse him,” said a weak voice, and there close by us stood Mr Denning himself, looking almost ghastly in the pale morning light which stole into the cabin.  “Alison Dale could not be such a scoundrel.”

“Thank you, Mr Denning,” I said, grasping the hand he held out to me, as with the other he supported himself by resting, as I saw, upon a double-barrelled gun.  “I shan’t defend myself.  If I had been the traitor, I should not be here now.  I didn’t think I could manage it.”

I was eagerly questioned, and had to explain how I escaped, and to tell all that I knew of the attack, and as I spoke I could not help noticing how distant Mr Frewen and Mr Denning seemed, and I thought that now we were in such trouble they would perhaps become friends.

I had another surprise before I had told all about my escape, for from out of one of the cabins, looking horrible with his head tied up by a stained handkerchief, Mr Brymer appeared, and I saw that he was evidently weak and faint from his wound.

“Can you tell us anything about who is at the head of the mutiny?” he asked.  “I was cut down, and could hardly understand anything in the darkness, till I seemed to wake and find myself on the saloon-floor, below the table where I must have crawled.”

I told him that Jarette was at the head of it all.

“Ah, I always mistrusted that man, and the gang he gathered about him.  Where is the rest of the crew then; I mean those they did not kill ­down in the forecastle?”

I was silent for a few moments, and he repeated his question.

“I’m afraid they have all joined him.”

“No, no; not men like Hampton and Dumlow.  They were of a different stamp.”

I told him what I knew, and I heard him grind his teeth.

“The scoundrels!” he muttered.

“There is no telling what a man may do for dear life,” said Mr Frewen, sadly.

“But Walters.  Did you see anything of him?” said Mr Brymer.

I was silent.  Something seemed to choke me, and I could not speak for the hot indignation I felt.

“Poor boy!” groaned Mr Brymer.  “I never liked him, but it is horrible for him to have come to such an end as this.”

“Yes!” I said bitterly, as I found my tongue; “horrible for him to have come to such an end as this.”

They did not grasp the truth, and I would not tell them.

“They’ll know soon enough,” I thought.

“Well, gentlemen,” said Mr Denning, speaking now, “there is no doubt about the catastrophe.  What is to be done?”

“Barricade the companion-way,” said Mr Frewen, “and shoot down every ruffian who tries to enter.  There is a lady on board, and we must defend her with our lives.”

I saw Mr Denning dart an angry look at the young doctor, whose pale face had lighted up so that he looked eager and animated.

“What do you say, Mr Brymer?” said Mr Denning, turning from the doctor.

“The same as Mr Frewen,” was the reply.  “Doctor, you’ll have to patch me up so that I can fight a bit.”

“Your spirit will do more for you than I can, sir,” was the reply.  “I am sorry to say, though, that Captain Berriman is completely prostrated.  He must have received a crushing blow from behind.”

“Then you will fight?” said Mr Denning, eagerly.

“Of course,” said the mate quickly.  “Now, gentlemen, please, the first thing is to pile up all the chests and boxes we have at command in the companion-way, so as to keep out the ruffians.  They will get at the drink, and then stop at nothing.  I’m afraid I cannot lift, but I can fire a pistol or a gun.”

“And I cannot lift,” said Mr Denning, with his eyes flashing, “but I can fire with this and take good aim.  I brought it to shoot birds on the voyage.  It will be gaol-birds now!”

Just then there was a stir and movement on deck, and the men gathered in that saloon made a rush for the door with such fierce determination that my heart gave a leap, and I felt that I was about to see blood shed, as I had often read of it in books.  But this was no romance.

There were quick whispers, and as it rapidly grew lighter I saw Mr Denning stand right in the centre with the mate and Mr Frewen, all armed with guns ready to fire upon any one who appeared; but the alarm passed off, and Mr Denning being left on guard, the others all set to work carrying chests and portmanteaus from the different cabins, so many being available that they were used as so many bricks, and carefully built up from floor to ceiling, but with openings left in through which the defenders of the saloon could fire when the attack was made.

I worked eagerly with all the rest till the big entry was completely filled up, Mr Frewen taking the lead, and lifting and packing in the chests, till the solid wall was formed ­one so well bonded together, as a bricklayer would call it, that it seemed to me that it would require a battering-ram to force a way through.

As I walked away, hurrying eagerly first into one cabin and then another, in search of trunks and portmanteaus that would fit into the various openings, I suddenly found myself face to face with Miss Denning, whose pallid countenance lit-up on seeing me, and she held out her hand to cling to mine.

“Oh, Mr Dale,” she whispered half hysterically, “is there much danger?”

“Oh no, I hope not,” I said, speaking in an encouraging way; but she shook her head.

“Don’t ­don’t speak to me like that,” she cried.  “I’m not a child.  Be frank with me, and tell me as if I were your sister.  There is danger, is there not?”

“Well, I’m afraid there’ll be a fight,” I said; “but we have plenty of firearms, and we’ve got right on our side, and I hope we shall give the scoundrels such a lesson that they will come down on their knees.”

“I’m afraid not,” she said.  “But tell me, why is it?  Is it what they call a mutiny?  I thought all such things were over now.”

“So did I, Miss Denning,” I said; “but that’s what it is.  I never thought of it before, but I suppose we must have a very valuable cargo on board.”

“Yes, my brother said there was a large sum in specie.”

“Money, that is, isn’t it?” I said.  “Well then, that’s what has tempted the scoundrels.  But don’t you be frightened.  Mr Frewen and the rest will take care that the blackguards don’t get into the cabin, and I’m going to try if I cannot fight too.”

She pressed my hand and smiled sadly.

“Yes, I know you and your brother midshipman will be very brave and fight for us,” she said, with a quiet satisfied nod of the head, and I winced as I thought about Walters; but she did not notice it, and went on, “You had a very narrow escape, did you not?”

“Oh, I had to run and dodge about in the dark, and then came down a rope,” I replied; “but that was nothing much.”  And as I spoke I could see that she was hardly paying any attention to my words, but watching the cabin-door and listening.

“Tell me how my brother is,” she whispered.  “Is he quite safe?”

“Oh yes, and on guard.”

“He is so ill and weak, it frightens me,” she said; “but he will not listen to me and stay here.”

“No,” I replied, “how could he as an English gentleman at a time like this!”

She gave me a quick, half-resentful look; but her face lit-up directly and she smiled.

“I suppose you are right,” she said with a sigh.  “It is so hard to be a woman, and not be able to help.  I should not mind so much if I could be busy.”

“But there is nothing to do now, Miss Denning,” I said, ­“that is, for you.  There, I must go now.”

“Tell me though ­my brother ordered me to stay here in the cabin ­tell me ­couldn’t I be of some help?  The captain and mate are both wounded, are they not?”

“Yes, a little,” I said encouragingly; “but Mr Frewen has seen to them.  Shall I ask him if you can come and attend on the captain?”

“Yes; do!” she cried.  Then quickly ­“No, no!  I must go by what my brother says.”

“And I must go out in the saloon and help.  When all is safe I shall see you again.”

“When all is safe,” she whispered despondently.

“Yes, and it is going to be.  Oh, it will be all right.  May I take this?”

I pointed to a chest, and she tried to say yes, but only gave a nod; and shouldering the little box, I hurried with it to find that it was not wanted, for Mr Frewen was just forcing one in between the top of the pile and the ceiling, by standing upon a box which Mr Preddle was holding steady.