Read CHAPTER FOUR of Lost in the Forest Wandering Will's Adventures in South America , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on

IN WHICH ANOTHER FIGHT IS RECORDED AND AN ESCAPE IS MADE - But whether fortunate or the reverse remains to be seen

The supply of fresh meat thus secured was very acceptable to the crew of the Rover, and their circumstances were further improved by the addition of a number of fresh cocoa-nuts which were collected on the island by Bunco, that individual being the only one on board who could perform, with ease, the difficult feat of climbing the cocoa-nut palms.  After a couple of days spent at this island, the Rover weighed anchor and stood away for the coast of South America, which she sighted about two weeks afterwards.

Here, one evening, they were becalmed not far from land, and Griffin ordered a boat to be lowered, with a crew to go ashore.  The captain had been in low spirits that day, from what cause was not known, and no one ever found out the reason, but certain it is that he was unusually morose and gruff.  He was also rather absent, and did not observe the fact that Larry O’Hale, Muggins, and Will Osten were among the crew of the boat.  The mate observed it, however, and having a shrewd suspicion of their intentions, ordered them to leave it.

“What said you?” asked Griffin of the mate, as he was about to go over the side.

“I was about to change some of the crew,” he replied confidentially.  “It would be as well to keep O’Hale and ­”

“Oh, never mind,” said Griffin roughly, “let ’em go.”

The mate, of course, stepped back, and Griffin got into the boat, which was soon on its way to the land.  On nearing the shore, it was found that a tremendous surf broke upon the beach ­owing to its exposure to the long rolling swell of the Pacific.  When the boat, which was a small one, entered this surf, it became apparent that the attempt to land was full of danger.  Each wave that bore them on its crest for a second, and then left them behind, was so gigantic that nothing but careful steering could save them from turning broadside on, and being rolled over like a cask.  Griffin was a skilful steersman, but he evidently was not at that time equal to the occasion.  He steered wildly.  When they were close to the beach the boat upset.  Every man swam towards a place where a small point of land caused a sort of eddy and checked the force of the undertow.  They all reached it in a few minutes, with the exception of Griffin, who had found bottom on a sand-bank, and stood, waist deep, laughing, apparently, at the struggles of his comrades.

“You’d better come ashore,” shouted one of the men.

Griffin replied by another laugh, in the midst of which he sank suddenly and disappeared.  It might have been a quicksand ­it might have been a shark ­no one ever could tell, but the unhappy man had gone to his account ­he was never more seen!

The accident had been observed from the ship, and the mate at once lowered a boat and hastened to the rescue.  Those on shore observed this, and awaited its approach.  Before it was half way from the beach, however, Peter Grant said to his comrades ­

“I’ll tell ’e wot it is, boys; seems to me that Providence has given us a chance of gittin’ away from that ship.  I never was a pirate, an’ I don’t mean for to become one, so, all who are of my way of thinkin’ come over here.”

Will Osten and his friends were so glad to find that a shipmate had, unknown to them, harboured thoughts of escaping, that they at once leaped to his side, but none of the others followed.  They were all determined, reckless men, and had no intention of giving up their wild course.  Moreover, they were not prepared to allow their comrades to go off quietly.  One of them, in particular, a very savage by nature, as well as a giant, stoutly declared that he not only meant to stick by the ship himself, but would compel the others to do so too, and for this purpose placed himself between them and the woods, which, at that part of the coast, approached close to the sea.  Those who took his part joined him, and for a few moments the two parties stood gazing at each other in silence.  There was good ground for hesitation on both sides, for, on the one hand, Will Osten and his three friends were resolute and powerful fellows, while, on the other, the giant and his comrades, besides being stout men, were eight in number.  Now, it chanced that our hero had, in early boyhood, learned an art which, we humbly submit, has been unfairly brought into disrepute ­we refer to the art of boxing.  Good reader, allow us to state that we do not advocate pugilism.  We never saw a prize-fight, and have an utter abhorrence of the “ring.”  We not only dislike the idea of seeing two men pommel each other’s faces into a jelly, but we think the looking at such a sight tends to demoralise.  There is a vast difference, however, between this and the use of “the gloves,” by means of which a man may learn the useful art of “self-defence,” and may, perhaps, in the course of his life, have the happiness of applying his knowledge to the defence of a mother, a sister, or a wife, as well as “self.”  If it be objectionable to use the gloves because they represent the fist, then is it equally objectionable to use the foil because it represents the sword?  But, pray, forgive this digression.  Ten to one, in your case, reader, it is unnecessary, because sensible people are more numerous than foolish!  Howbeit, whether right or wrong, Will Osten had, as we have said, acquired the by no means unimportant knowledge of where to hit and how to hit.  He had also the good sense to discern when to hit, and he invariably acted on the principal that ­“whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well.”

On the present occasion Will walked suddenly up to the giant, and, without uttering a word, planted upon his body two blows, which are, we believe, briefly termed by the “fancy” one ­two!  We do not pretend to much knowledge on this point, but we are quite certain that number one lit upon the giant’s chest and took away his breath, while number two fell upon his forehead and removed his senses.  Before he had time to recover either breath or senses, number three ended the affair by flattening his nose and stretching his body on the sand.

At this sudden and quite unexpected proceeding Larry O’Hale burst into a mingled laugh and cheer, which he appropriately concluded by springing on and flooring the man who stood opposite to him.  Muggins and the old salt were about to follow his example, but their opponents turned and fled, doubling on their tracks and making for the boat.  Larry, Muggins, and Old Peter, being thoroughly roused, would have followed them regardless of consequences, and undoubtedly would have been overpowered by numbers (for the boat had just reached the shore), had not Will Osten bounded ahead of them, and, turning round, shouted energetically ­

“Follow me, lads, if you would be free.  Now or never!”

Luckily the tone in which Will said this impressed them so much that they stopped in their wild career; and when they looked back and saw their young friend running away towards the woods as fast as his legs could carry him, and heard the shout of the reinforced seamen as they started from the water’s edge to give chase, they hesitated no longer.  Turning round, they also fled.  It is, however, due to Larry O’Hale to say that he shook his fist at the enemy, and uttered a complex howl of defiance before turning tail!

Well was it for all of them that day that the woods were near, and that they were dense and intricate.  Old Peter, although a sturdy man, and active for his years, was not accustomed to running, and had no wind for a race with young men.

His comrades would never have deserted him, so that all would have certainly been captured but for a fortunate accident.  They had not run more than half a mile, and their pursuers were gaining on them at every stride ­as they could tell by the sound of their voices ­when Will Osten, who led, fell headlong into a deep hole that had been concealed by rank undergrowth.  Old Peter, who was close at his heels, fell after him, and Larry, who followed Peter to encourage and spur him on, also tumbled in.  Muggins alone was able to stop short in time.

“Hallo, boys!” he cried in a hoarse whisper, “are yer timbers damaged?”

“Broke to smithereens,” groaned Larry from the abyss.

Will Osten, who had scrambled out in a moment, cried hastily, “Jump in, Muggins.  I’ll lead ’em off the scent.  Stop till I return, boys, d’ye hear?”

“Ay, ay,” said Larry.

Away went Will at right angles to their former course, uttering a shout of defiance, only just in time, for the mate of the Rover, who led the chase, was close on him.  Soon the sounds told those in hiding that the ruse had been successful.  The sounds died away in the distance and the deep silence of the forest succeeded ­broken only now and then by the cry of some wild animal.

Meanwhile, our hero used his legs so well that he not only left his pursuers out of sight and hearing behind, but circled gradually around until he returned to the hole where his comrades lay.  Here they all remained for nearly an hour, and then, deeming themselves safe, issued forth none the worse of their tumble.  They commenced to return to the coast, having settled that this was their wisest course, and that they could easily avoid their late comrades by keeping well to the northward.  This deviation, however, was unfortunate.  Those who have tried it, know well how difficult it is to find one’s way in a dense forest.  The more they attempted to get out of the wood the deeper they got into it, and at length, when night began to close in, they were forced to come to the conclusion that they were utterly lost ­lost in the forest ­“a livin’ example,” as Larry O’Hale expressed it, “of the babes in the wood!”