Harry Castlemon.

Frank Nelson in the Forecastle. Or, The Sportman's Club Among the Whalers



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"Suppose this deserter could prove his complaints against the master of that whaler," said Walter; "what would be the penalty?"

"One thousand dollars fine and five years in the state prison."

"And I hope he will get it all," said Eugene.

"Well, if it is so hard for a seaman to obtain satisfaction at law, what ought he to do when he is abused at sea?" asked Bab. "I understood you to say he had two remedies, and you have given only one."

"Well, there is another," said Frank. "He and his companions ought to club together, take the ship out of the hands of her officers, confine them in the cabin, and make for the nearest port, if they are navigators enough to find their way there."

"Yes," exclaimed Archie, "and swing for it the moment they reach the shore."

"No, sir. The case has been tried in the courts more than once, and would be tried oftener if sailors only knew their rights. As far as any risk I might run is concerned, I would not be afraid to belong to such a crew and take part in just such a proceeding."

"Well, I don't want you to get into any such scrape," said Archie; "I should never expect to see you again."

"I have no desire to win notoriety as a mutineer, I assure you," replied Frank, with a laugh. "As his Honor remarked" – here he waved his hand towards Featherweight, who bowed gravely – "I was only discoursing on sailors' rights."

"There," said George, as the boatswain's whistle rang through the schooner, followed by the order, given in a very hoarse voice, "Away, you gigs, away!" – "the captain is going ashore. Hadn't we better go down and keep Dick Lewis and Bob company? The old fellows will be lonely."

"That means business," said Eugene. "Uncle Dick is going ashore to see about the stores. It will not be long now before we take leave of Fr'isco."

"And what will be our next port?" asked George.

This was something that had not yet been decided, and if one might judge by what the boys said while they were descending to the deck, there was a prospect of a lively debate if the matter were left to them. Eugene wanted to go straight to Alaska. Bab, who had lately been reading "Reindeer, Dogs and Snow-shoes," was in favor of that, provided they could afterward go across to some port in Siberia and stay there long enough to see a little of the wild life in which he had been so much interested. Perk would agree to all that, in case they could stop on the way and give him a chance to try his hand at salmon-fishing in the tributaries of the Columbia river. Fred had seen quite enough of snow and ice, and thought he could have more sport in a warm country. He wanted to go to Japan. Walter said he was strongly in favor of that, for after they had seen all the sights in that country they would probably go to India, and that was what he wanted. He was impatient to ride on an elephant and see the famous Indian jugglers and serpent-charmers. Every boy wanted to go somewhere, but the trouble was that no two of them wanted to go to the same place; and Frank wondered how the matter would be decided.

How astonished he would have been to know that the man in gray, who had just gone by in the whale-boat, was destined to decide it for them!

The boys spent the rest of the day in company with the trappers. Nothing more was said on the subject which had for a long time been uppermost in their minds, for the tone in which Dick's answer had been given satisfied them that it was final. The boys were all sorry, for they had become greatly attached to these two good-natured, ignorant fellows. They had been of great service to them – beyond a doubt they had saved Walter's life – and they could not but miss them when they were gone. The cousins especially would have been glad to postpone the parting moment had they possessed the power. It was not at all likely that they would ever see the mountains or the prairie again, and even if they did, the chances that they would find their old friends, the trappers, were not one in a thousand. Their meeting with them had been purely accidental this time, and it was not probable that such a combination of circumstances would ever occur again.

About supper-time Uncle Dick returned and reported that all arrangements had been made. The schooner was to be hauled alongside the dock in the morning, and they would go out with the turn of the tide. Where were they going? He didn't care. The world was before them, and when the boys had made up their minds what portion of it they wanted to see first, they could come to him with their decision. He wasn't going to bother his head about it, for he had other matters to think of. Eight o'clock the next evening would see the Stranger under way, and if the boys had any business ashore they had better attend to it the first thing in the morning.

Uncle Dick retired at an early hour, as he always did, and the boys had the quarter-deck all to themselves until eleven o'clock – or rather they had it in company with the second mate and the quartermaster on watch. A few "primary meetings" had been held immediately after supper, but they amounted to nothing. Each boy knew upon whom he could rely to second any motion he might make, but he was not so certain of the number of votes he could raise in support of it. During the two hours' conversation that took place after Uncle Dick went to bed, Fred Craven arose six times – that is, once every twenty minutes – and said gravely,

"I move you, Mr. President, that the captain of this schooner be requested to take her directly to some port in Japan."

"I second the motion," said Frank, who was speaking for Walter.

"Gentlemen, you have heard the motion," said Walter. "Are you ready for the question?"

"Mr. President," said Eugene, "I move to amend by striking out Japan and substituting Alaska."

"Second the motion," said Bab.

"You have heard the amendment. Are you ready to take action upon it?"

"Now just listen to me a minute, Mr. President, and I'll tell you what's a fact," said Perk. "I move to amend by striking out Alaska and substituting Astoria in Oregon."

"I second the motion," said George, who, being a devoted disciple of old Izaac Walton, was as fond of fishing as he was of sailing.

"Mr. President," said Archie, "I move to amend – "

"The gentleman is out of order. An amendment to an amendment is proper, but not an amendment of an amendment to an amendment."

When affairs reached this pass a hearty roar of laughter would come up through the open cabin windows, showing that there was an interested and amused listener in the person of Uncle Dick, who having gone to bed, leaving his state-room door ajar, could hear all that was said. Then speeches were made, some long and others witty, and all showing the training the boys had received in their debating societies. Eugene was particularly long-winded. According to Featherweight "he talked all manner of what," and spouted away on subjects that had not the slightest connection with the question under discussion. He talked eloquently about the American eagle, the war of 1812, and the stars and stripes, and dwelt long on the rights of sailors and other free-born citizens. He said afterward that if he couldn't gain his point any other way, he would tire his audience out, and compel them to vote for his amendment just to get rid of him. But the boys listened patiently and without once interrupting him, except by applause when he grew particularly eloquent, and the young orator finally tired himself out and took his seat in disgust. Everything was voted down; so they were no nearer a decision than they were before. There was one point, however, on which they were all agreed when the meeting broke up at eleven o'clock, and that was, that they had enjoyed themselves, and that their jaws and sides would be sure to ache for a week to come.

During the afternoon the boys had held a consultation with the boatswain's mate, who had promised to take the trappers under his especial charge during the night, and to report the first man who attempted to play any tricks upon them. After the meeting broke up the boys went forward with their friends to see them safely stowed away in the forecastle. The sailors were all up and waiting for them – not a man had yet turned in. The best bunks in the forecastle had been given up for their use, and the beds that were made up in them would have looked very inviting to almost anybody except our two backwoodsmen. Having been all their lives accustomed to sleeping on the hard ground, with nothing but a blanket or the spreading branches of some friendly tree for protection, they wanted plenty of air and elbow-room. They hesitated when they looked into the little forecastle, and drew back and shook their heads when invited to enter. Archie finally effected a compromise by bringing up a couple of blankets and spreading them on the deck near the windlass. This being perfectly satisfactory, the boys bade the trappers good-night, and went away, leaving them to the tender mercies of the sailors.

There was not much sleeping done among those foremast hands that night. They did not play any tricks upon their guests – indeed there were not many among them who would have had the hardihood to attempt it, after taking a good look at the stalwart fellows – but they crammed them "chock-a-block" with such wild stories of the sea that the trappers grew more alarmed than ever, and wondered greatly at the recklessness of the men who would willingly encounter such dangers. They told about mermaids, sea-dragons and serpents; of Vanderdecker's ghostly ship, the Flying Dutchman, which was rushing about the ocean with the speed of a railroad train, running down and sinking every craft that came in her way; of monstrous cuttle-fish which would sometimes arise suddenly out of the depths, and twining their long arms about a ship, sink with it and all the crew to the bottom; and one of the men declared that he had actually met and been swallowed by the same whale that took Jonah in out of the wet, hundreds and thousands of years before, and to prove it, exhibited the tobacco-box which had dropped out of Jonah's pocket when the whale threw him ashore. This is a staple forecastle yarn, and every one who has had an hour's conversation with a sailor, has probably heard it; but it was new to the trappers, who listened with all their ears and with unmistakable signs of terror on their faces. The simple-hearted fellows believed every word, and when the conversation lagged for a moment, spoke of the magnet Eugene had shown them, and the use for which they supposed it was intended.

This started the sailors on a new tack, and the stories that followed were more wonderful than those which had just been told. There was not a sailor on board the Stranger who had not seen some unlucky vessel tumble off the under side of the earth, her magnet proving too weak to sustain her weight; and there were two or three who had belonged to the crews of those very vessels, and who had been saved by a miracle.

The night was passed in this way, and it was daylight before the trappers lay down on their blankets to rest, but not to sleep. They could not sleep after hearing of such wonderful adventures and talking face to face with the men who had taken part in them. If they had not already made up their minds to lose no time in seeking safety among their native mountains, they would have done so now.

CHAPTER IV
"SHANGHAIED."

THE morning broke bright and clear, and all hands were astir at an early hour. The first thing was to hoist the anchor and haul the schooner alongside the dock. This being done, breakfast was served, and the boys having put on their shore-clothes, started out to take a good look at the city which they might never see again, and to make purchases of various articles they needed. Fred and Eugene each wanted a rifle and a brace of revolvers, their own weapons having been stolen from them by the hunters who robbed the Pike. Some of the others needed a few articles of clothing, and Frank's Maynard required some repairs. They set out together, but before an hour had passed, were scattered all over the city. Fred, Archie and Eugene hired a carriage and went for a ride, taking old Bob with them, while Dick Lewis stuck close to Frank and Walter. Knowing that the time for parting was not far distant, he did not seem willing to allow them out of his sight.

A few years before men like Dick were often met with in the streets of the city; but now a genuine trapper was not seen every day, and he created something of a sensation wherever he went. Almost every one he met stared at him and turned to look at him after he had passed; and Dick, finally becoming nettled by the interest and curiosity his appearance excited, begged the boys to take him back to the schooner and leave him there. He would stay on board until she was ready to sail, he said, and then he and Bob would bid a long farewell to civilization, and make the best of their way back to Fort Bolton. He hoped that neither of them would ever see a paved street or a brick house again.

At six o'clock in the evening the boys, and the few sailors who had been allowed shore liberty, began to retrace their steps toward the dock where the Stranger was lying. At seven they were all on board except two – Lucas, the boatswain's mate, and Barton, the coxswain of the cutter. These men had not been seen since noon, and they were to have been back at three o'clock. Preparations were already being made for getting under way, and Uncle Dick began to grow impatient. "I don't see what keeps those fellows," said he to Frank. "I have always found them trustworthy, and I hope they will not fail me now."

"I must go ashore again after my rifle, you know," replied Frank – "it was to be done at half-past seven – and I'll go along the dock and keep an eye out for them."

"All right. Hurry them up, if you see them, and be sure that you are in time yourself."

Frank went ashore accompanied by the trapper – Dick was not afraid of attracting so much attention now that it was growing dark – and hurried away toward the gunsmith's. He followed the wharves as long as they led him in the direction he wanted to go, looking everywhere for the missing sailors, but without finding them. The actions of himself and his companion attracted the attention of two men, who were walking along the dock behind them. They watched them for some time, and then, after whispering together a few minutes, one of them came up and tapped Frank on the shoulder. "Who are you looking for?" said he.

Frank turned and fastening his eyes on the man took a good survey of him before he answered. He was a flashily-dressed person, with a sneaking, hang-dog cast of countenance, and the grimy hand he placed upon Frank's shoulder, and which the latter promptly shook off, was heavily loaded with bogus jewelry.

"Don't be quite so familiar, if you please!" said Frank.

"Beg pardon," said the man, stepping back and straightening up his battered plug hat which he had thus far worn cocked over his left ear. "I thought you belonged to the Stranger."

"And what if I do?" asked Frank.

"I thought maybe you were looking for them two men."

"What two men?"

"Why, one of 'em is a short, thick-set fellow, and carries a silver whistle in the breast pocket of his shirt. The other is tall and slender, wears some kind of a badge on his arm – a petty officer's badge I took it to be – and has light hair and whiskers."

The man gave an accurate description of the missing sailors of whom Frank was in search. No doubt they had got into trouble and found their way into some station-house; and this fellow was some little pettifogger, who hoped to make a few dollars by helping them out.

"I thought maybe you were looking for 'em," continued the man, as he turned to go away; "but seeing you ain't, I am sorry I pestered you."

"One moment, please," said Frank. "Where are these men now?"

"They're aboard my ship."

"O, you're a sailor, are you?" exclaimed Frank, again running his eye over the man, who looked about as much like a sailor as Dick Lewis did. "What is the name of your ship, and where is she?"

"She's the Sunrise, and she is at anchor out here in the bay."

"How came our men aboard of her?"

"Well, you see, they've got some friends and acquaintances among my crew, and when we were lying alongside the dock they came aboard to see them. While they were skylarking about, one of them, the boatswain, fell into the hold and broke his leg. We hauled out into the bay just after that, and did it in such a hurry – you see there was another ship waiting to take our berth at the dock as soon as we were out of it – that we didn't have time to put him ashore. We've had a doctor to see him, and maybe it would be a good plan to get an ambulance and take him back where he belongs."

"I think so too," said Frank, who became interested at once; "that is, if he can bear removal. But whatever we do, must be done at once. Our vessel is all ready to sail."

"I guess he can stand it to be moved. You might come aboard and see – you and your pardner here. I've got a boat close by."

Frank assenting to this proposition, he and Dick Lewis followed the man, who led the way along the wharf, and finally showed them a yawl manned by two oarsmen. They climbed down into it, their companion took his seat at the helm, and the boat was pushed off into the darkness. The man talked incessantly, answering all Frank's questions, and going so fully into the particulars of the accident that had befallen the boatswain's mate, and telling so straight and reasonable a story, that not a shadow of a doubt entered Frank's mind. He remarked that the ship was a long way from the wharf, and that the two men who were pulling the oars looked more like "dock rats" than sailors; but still he scarcely bestowed a second thought upon these matters, for his mind was fully occupied with the injured man to whose relief he was hastening. At last the hull and rigging of a ship loomed up through the darkness, and a hoarse voice hailed the yawl.

"Sunrise!" replied the man at the helm.

The answer was perfectly right and proper. It conveyed to them on board the ship the information that their captain was in the approaching boat; but it seemed to Frank that his presence brought very little show of respect from the officer in charge of the deck, for he ordered no lanterns to light him aboard. Indeed there were no lights to be seen on the deck, as Frank found when he clambered over the side, the only ones visible being those in the rigging, which were placed there to point out the position of the ship, so that passing vessels might not run into her.

The captain, who was the first to board the ship, talked rapidly in a low tone to some one who hurried aft to meet him, and when Frank came up, he said aloud: —

"Take this gentleman into the forecastle and give him all the help he needs to remove that man. This one," he added, pointing to Dick, "can go with a couple of you to get a stretcher."

"Ay! ay! sir," replied a voice. "Step right this way, sir."

Frank followed the speaker toward the forecastle, and when he came within sight of the ladder that led into it, was surprised to see that it was as dark as a dungeon below. Then for the first time the thought that things did not look just right began to creep through his mind. His companion descended the ladder, but Frank halted at the top. "Look here, my friend," said he; "if you want to get me below there you had better light up first."

"Come on," said the man, in a tone of command.

"Where's that sailor with the broken leg?" demanded Frank.

"Are you going to come on?" asked the man.

"Well, that depends – I want to hear from that man of ours first. If you are down there, Lucas, sing out!"

There was no response. In an instant it flashed upon Frank that he and Dick had been led into a trap. The man in the battered plug hat was no captain at all. Probably he was a shipping-agent. Having persuaded Frank and the trapper to accompany him on board the ship, he made a very plausible excuse for separating them for a moment, so that they could not assist each other, and now they were to be overpowered and confined until the vessel was well out to sea, when they would be brought out and compelled to act with the crew. While Frank was thinking about it, his conductor, who had gone half way down the ladder, turned around and started to come back. Frank's ears told him this and not his eyes, for they were of no use to him in that intense darkness. "Avast, there!" he cried, with emphasis. "If you come a step nearer to me I'll send you down that ladder quicker than you ever went down before. You have picked up the wrong men this time. Where is that scoundrel who called himself the master of this ship?"

"Here I am," replied that worthy, in tones very different from those he had thus far used in addressing Frank.

"Well, if you are wise, you will undo this half-hour's work with the least possible delay. Call away that boat and leave us a clear road to get to it, or – "



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