Harry Castlemon.

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



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Frank was interrupted by the sounds of a fierce struggle which just then arose from the quarter-deck. He heard the sound of stamping and scraping feet, muttered oaths and blows, and then Dick's voice rang out clear above the tumult. "Keep off, the hul on you," said he, "fur I'm a leetle wusser nor a hul parsel of wild-cats!" And then followed a sound such as might be made by somebody's head coming in violent contact with the deck.

"Stand your ground, Dick!" shouted Frank. "I'll be there in a minute!"

With these words he sprang forward, intending to run to his friend's assistance; but before he had made half a dozen steps his heels flew up and he was sent at full length on the deck, which he no sooner touched than two men, whom he had not yet seen, sprang up from behind the windlass and threw themselves across his shoulders. He had been entirely deceived as to the number of enemies with whom he had to deal. He had seen but four men on deck and there proved to be a dozen of them – more than enough to render resistance useless. Almost before he realized the fact he was powerless, a pair of irons being slipped over his wrists and another about his ankles. When he was helped to his feet, he found that the struggle on the quarter-deck had ended in the same way. Dick Lewis was led up, and by the light of a lantern which one of the crew drew from under a tarpaulin, Frank saw that he was ironed like himself.

The man who carried the lantern held it up so that its rays fell full on the prisoners, and gave them a good looking over, bestowing his attentions principally upon their arms and shoulders, as if trying to judge of the amount of muscle they might contain. "They'll do," said he, at last, "and now we're all ready to be off. Can you pull an oar?" he added, flashing his lantern in Frank's face.

"I can," was the reply.

"I can! Is that the way you talk to me? I am mate of this vessel and there's a handle to my name."

"I did not know that you were an officer," replied Frank, "and neither am I aware that I am under any obligations to put a handle to your name."

"Well, you'll find it out pretty sudden. It shall be my first hard work to teach you manners, my fine gentleman. Take 'em below."

The mate handed the lantern to one of the crew, who moved toward the forecastle, followed by the prisoners, who never uttered a word of complaint or remonstrance. Frank knew it would do no good, and Dick was so bewildered that he could not have spoken if he had tried. He kept as close to his young companion as he could. He seemed to think that Frank, powerless as he was, could in some way protect him. They followed their conductor into the forecastle, and the latter, after hanging the lantern to one of the carlens, went on deck again, closing the hatch after him.

Frank and the trapper looked about them before they spoke. The very first objects their eyes rested on were the two missing seamen, the coxswain and the boatswain's mate, who lay side by side in one of the bunks, snoring at the rate of ten knots an hour.

They were there, sure enough – the bogus captain told the truth on that point – and Frank was glad to see that they were all right, or would be as soon as the effects of the drug they had swallowed had been slept off. There were three other men in the forecastle, and they were in irons like themselves. They lay in their bunks and looked sullenly at the new-comers. "What's the matter with you?" asked Frank. "What have you been doing to get yourselves in this fix?"

"Trying to desert," growled one of the sailors, in reply. "What's the matter with you?"

"Shanghaied," answered Frank. "What ship is this, and where is she bound?"

"She's the Tycoon, and I expect she's off for the Japan station."

Frank's heart seemed to stop beating. His situation was even worse than he had supposed. He recalled the story of the man he had seen desert that same ship on that very day, and shuddered when he thought of what might be in store for him.

"What did you say was the matter with us, Master Frank?" asked the trapper, leaning against a bunk by his friend's side and speaking in a low voice.

"I say we have been shanghaied – that is, kidnapped," replied Frank.

"But what fur?" said Dick, who did not understand the matter at all. "We hain't been a doin' of nothing."

"I know that; but you see – in the first place, Dick, there's no use in denying that we are in serious trouble. You might as well know it first as last and make up your mind to stand it, for there is no way of escape. This is the same ship that that man we picked up to-day deserted from, and that red-faced man in gray whom we saw in the whale-boat is the captain of her. He and his officers treat their men so harshly that they run away every chance they get. The captain must have men to handle his vessel, and as he can't get them in the regular way, he kidnaps them."

"But what do I know 'bout a ship?" exclaimed Dick.

"Nothing whatever; but that is no matter. You have good strong arms, and it will not take long to break you in."

"Whar – whar – "

The trapper could not ask the question he was most anxious to have answered. It seemed to stick in his throat.

"I know what you mean," said Frank. "This man says we are bound for Japan, and that is nearly three thousand miles from here."

Dick was frightened almost out of his senses. His face grew as pale as death, great drops of perspiration stood on his forehead, and he tugged and pulled at his irons with the strength of desperation. But they had been put on him to stay, and all his efforts to free himself were unavailing. Frank knew what he stood in fear of, and he knew, too, that anything he could say would not set the poor fellow's mind at rest. The wrong ideas he had formed of things and the ridiculous stories he had heard in the forecastle of the Stranger, had made an impression on him so deep and lasting that even Frank, in whom the trapper had every confidence, could not remove it. The real dangers he was likely to encounter would be but small things comparatively; but the imaginary evils which he would look for every day, would cause him much suffering. Frank thought more of his friend than he did of himself. How would Dick behave when he found himself dancing over the waves of the Pacific in a small boat in pursuit of a whale? What would he think if he saw one of those monsters of the deep – as Lucas, the boatswain's mate, said he had often seen them – come up on a breach, shoot up forty or fifty feet into the air, and then fall down into the water with a noise like the roar of Niagara? No doubt he would refuse duty. No doubt, too, when the captain or his officers attempted to punish him for disobedience there would be a desperate fight – for Dick stood not in fear of anything that walked on two feet – which would not end until the trapper had been severely injured and perhaps permanently disabled.

"Human natur'! What'll I do?" cried Dick, after he had exhausted himself in his efforts to pull off his irons.

"Watch, me and do as I do, as nearly as you can," replied Frank. "We are completely in the power of these men, and there is no way to get out of it. While on our voyage from Bellville, I took particular pains to learn all I could of a seaman's duties, and perhaps I shall be able to be of some assistance to you. What we don't know Lucas and Barton will teach us. But, whatever you do, don't refuse duty or talk back, no matter what is said or done to you. It will only be worse for you if you do."

"And bear another thing in mind," said one of the sailors, who had been listening to this conversation, "and that is, you take rank next below the cap'n's dog, and hain't got no rights of your own!"

The trapper looked toward Frank, and while the latter was explaining that, according to a sailor's creed, those who follow the sea take rank in this way: first the captain, then the mates, then the captain's dog, and lowest of all, the foremast hands – while Frank was explaining this, there was the sound of a commotion on the deck over their heads, and after listening a moment the sailors declared that the vessel was about to be taken to sea. And so it proved. The anchor was hove up, the sails spread one after the other, and finally the prisoners below began to feel the increasing motion of the ship. Just then the hatch was thrown open and the first mate came down the ladder. He walked straight up to Dick, unlocked his irons and slapping him on the back ordered him to go on deck and lend a hand. Even this simple order was Greek to the honest trapper; but he understood the word "go," and he went, delighted to find himself in possession of his liberty once more. Frank would have been glad to go with him, for it was anything but agreeable to his feelings to be confined below like a felon; but the officers wanted to get a little farther away from shore before they allowed too many of their unwilling crew the free use of their hands and feet.

The first order Dick heard when he reached the deck was: "Let fall and sheet home;" and the mate giving him a push by the shoulder and a kick at the same time, commanded him to "Grab hold of that rope and pull as if the sweetheart he left in the backwoods was at the other end of it." Or, we ought rather say that that was the order the mate intended to give, but he never finished it, for he was knocked down so promptly that it seemed as if his foot and the trapper's right arm were both put in motion at the same instant. Dick's hot blood, which was already at fever heat, boiled over completely when he felt the weight of the mate's boot, and he wiped out the insult as soon as it was given.

Of course there was a tumult at once. The second mate caught up a handspike and the captain descended from his quarter-deck, flourishing a rope's end as he came. They advanced upon the trapper from opposite sides, but he was ready and waiting, and they must have been astonished at the rough reception they met at his hands. With one single twist, which was so sudden and powerful that it almost dislocated the second mate's shoulder, Dick wrenched the handspike out of his grasp and threw it to the deck. Then his long arms swung in the air like the shafts of a windmill, one huge clenched hand, as heavy as a sledgehammer, fell full in the captain's face, the other alighted on the top of the mate's head, and both these worthies sank to the deck on the instant.

The first mate by this time recovered his feet, and picking up a handspike looked all around for the trapper; but he was not to be seen anywhere on deck. Nor indeed was he to be found about the ship. He was gone.

CHAPTER V
THE TRAPPER'S ADVENTURE

"WHAT time is it now, Eugene?"

"Just nine o'clock. What do you suppose is the matter, Uncle?"

"I wish I knew. They are all of them old enough and large enough to take care of themselves, but I can't help thinking that there's something wrong."

"I have half a mind to go ashore and look for them."

"I don't know what good that would do. You don't know where to look, and if they should happen to come aboard while you were gone, we should have to send some one in search of you, and that would cause another delay."

The stores were all aboard, the Stranger was ready to sail, and had been for more than an hour, but three of her company were missing, and so was the trapper. Uncle Dick and the boys had been impatient at first, but this gradually gave way to a feeling of uneasiness and anxiety. Everybody had some explanation to offer for Frank's absence, and the prevailing opinion seemed to be that the sailors, having got themselves into trouble during the day, had been arrested, and that Frank was trying to effect their release. Old Bob was more uneasy than the rest, and couldn't make up his mind what to think about it, not knowing the dangers which one might encounter while roaming about the city after dark. His kit and Dick's were packed and lying at the head of the companion-way, and the old fellow was in a hurry to be off. Had they been in the mountains the trapper's absence would have caused him no anxiety. There Dick knew all about things, and was abundantly able to take care of number one; but in the settlements he was like a child, and almost as incapable of looking out for himself. Old Bob was afraid something had happened to him or Frank, and the others began to think so too as the hours wore away and their missing friends did not appear. Uncle Dick finally gave up all hopes of seeing them that night, and ordering one watch below, went to bed himself, leaving instructions with the officer of the deck to call him the moment Frank arrived. The impatient boys remained on deck an hour or two longer; but at last they also grew weary and turned in and went to sleep.

Just at daylight they were awakened by hasty steps on the companion-ladder, and the officer of the watch hurried into the cabin and pounded loudly on the captain's door. "Ay! ay!" replied Uncle Dick.

"That trapper is coming back, sir," said the officer, "and he's having a fuss out there on the dock."

"He is having what?" asked Uncle Dick.

"He's in a rumpus of some kind, sir. He's got somebody on his back and is lugging him along as if he were a bag of potatoes."

"It isn't Captain Nelson or one of the men, is it?" asked Uncle Dick, anxiously.

"O no, sir. It is a landsman and a stranger."

This conversation was carried on in a tone of voice loud enough to be heard by all the boys, who were out on the floor in an instant. It was but a few seconds' work to jump into their trowsers and boots, and catch up their coats and hats, and they were on deck almost as soon as the officer himself. A strange sight met their eyes. A short distance up the dock was Dick Lewis, running at the top of his speed, and carrying on his shoulder a man almost as large as himself, who kicked and struggled in vain to escape from the strong grasp that held him. The load was undoubtedly a heavy one, but the trapper moved with it plenty fast enough to leave behind two ill-looking fellows, who carried bludgeons in their hands, and who were trying to overtake him. About two hundred yards farther up the dock were two more men, one supporting the other, who was limping along half doubled up as if in great pain.

The boys, wondering greatly, sprang ashore and ran up the wharf to meet Dick. The latter, to quote from Featherweight, looked as though he had been somewhere. His buckskin suit, soaked with water, clung close to his person; his hat was gone, and his face wore an expression that the old members of the club had never seen there before. Archie had seen it, however, and that was on the day when, seated at the camp-fire near the Old Bear's Hole, years before, Frank related to himself and Uncle James the particulars of his meeting with Black Bill and his party, and the manner in which he had been treated by them.

Dick grinned the delight he felt at meeting the boys once more, but did not stop to speak to them. He went straight on board the schooner and threw off his burden, at the same time seizing his man by the collar and jerking him upon his feet in front of Uncle Dick Gaylord, who looked at him in amazement.

"Here's the mean chap that done it all," said the trapper, throwing his full strength into his arm and giving the bogus captain – for it was he – such a shaking that his teeth fairly rattled. "Now if thar's any law in the settlements set it a-going."

"What did he do?" demanded the boys, who had followed close at his heels. "Where's Frank?"

"He's round on the other side of the 'arth by this time, I reckon," replied Dick, drawing his hand across his forehead and looking about as if he were overjoyed to find himself among friends once more.

"I hope they've got a horse-shoe big enough to hold 'em on, but I'm 'most afeard, 'cause she's a heap bigger nor this little boat o' your'n."

"What is?" asked the captain, and the boys grew anxious when they saw the expression that settled on his face. "Begin at the beginning and tell us all about it."

Thus adjured, the trapper launched at once into his story, without wasting any time in explanatory remarks, and for ten minutes held his auditors spellbound. He told how he and Frank had been enticed on board the Tycoon, described the manner in which they had been overpowered and confined, repeated the conversation that took place between Frank and himself in the forecastle, and ended by relating the particulars of his "scrimmage" with the officers of the ship, with all of which the reader is already acquainted; but he does not know what happened afterward, so from this point we will tell the story in our own words.

The reason Dick could not be found on board the ship after his fight with the officers was ended, was because he was not there – he had jumped overboard; and what was rather singular, none of the crew on deck had seen him when he did it. The last time they saw him he was clambering into one of the bowboats, and that was the first place they looked for him, his concealment being pointed out to the officers by a man who was looked upon as the "black sheep" of the crew, and of whom we shall probably hear more as our story progresses. But when the officers came to search the boat, Dick was not there; he had dropped unseen into the water.

The trapper was a famous swimmer, and entertained no doubt of his ability to reach the shore; but even had the vessel been twenty miles at sea, he would have trusted himself to the waves rather than run the risk of encountering the terrible dangers that awaited the ship and her crew on the "under side of the earth." The worst thing he would have to contend with in case he were recaptured, would be the tyranny of the captain and his brutal officers; but the sturdy trapper gave not one thought to that, for during a life of excitement and adventure he had more than once demonstrated his ability to protect himself; but he did think of that ghostly ship, the Flying Dutchman, the big cuttle-fish, the mermaids and sea-dragons, the whale that swallowed Jonah, and which was still roaming about seeking whom he might devour, and, worse than all, the awful danger of the ship falling off when she came to the under side of the earth and was sailing along with her masts pointing downward and the crew walking with their feet upward. Dick thought of all these dangers and swam as if he saw them looming up close behind him; but with all his exertions he could not make headway fast enough to suit him. His wet clothing hung upon him like lead and deadened his progress through the water; so the first thing he did when the ship was out of sight, was to stop and relieve himself of this encumbrance. He took off moccasins and all, and wrapping them up in his hunting-shirt put the bundle on his back and tied it around his neck with the sleeves of the shirt. After that he made better headway.

It is hard to tell what would have been the result of the trapper's adventure, had it not been for some assistance which fortunately came in his way. Had there been light enough so that he could see to direct his course, the swim would have been nothing; but there was danger of moving in a circle in the darkness, and so tiring himself out without making any headway at all. There were no lights in front to guide him, but there were some behind, and after looking at them two or three times the swimmer became convinced that they were coming toward him. There was a vessel of some kind approaching, and Dick, changing his course a little to intercept her, had the satisfaction of hearing his hail answered, and of seeing the little fishing-smack which carried the lights thrown up into the wind within a few yards of him.

"Hello, there!" cried a gruff voice.

"Hello, you!" shouted Dick. "Here I am."

"Well, what do you want?" asked the captain of the fishing boat, peering out into the darkness and trying to discover whence the hail came.

"Is civilized folks human enough to lend a sufferin' feller-man a helpin' hand?" asked Dick, who after his recent experience had some serious doubts on this point.

This question was not immediately answered, for the skipper did not quite understand it. He held a consultation with one of his men and then called out —

"If you want help, pull this way. I've got no boat to send out after you!"

Dick was pulling that way with all his might, and guided by the lanterns that were held over the side, at last reached the boat, which sat so low in the water that he could lay hold of her rail. The astonishment of her crew as they hauled aboard a man who carried all his wearing apparel around his neck, was unbounded. They gave him time to put on his clothes and then directed him to the captain who was waiting to see him.

The very first question that gentleman propounded to him aroused a thousand fears in Dick's mind. The skipper wanted to know where he came from, and how he happened to be out there in the water, five miles from land; and the trapper, fearful that if he told the truth and acknowledged himself to be a deserter, the captain might follow the Tycoon and compel him to go aboard of her again, whether he wanted to or not, did something he had never done before – he made up a story all out of his own head, as he told Uncle Dick Gaylord, and queer work he made of it. He entered into the particulars of a fearful shipwreck that had just occurred. The waves were as high as the Rocky Mountains, he said, the wind blew so hard that the sailors had to stop all work and hold their hair on (this was a quotation from one of the stories the trapper had heard in the forecastle of the Stranger); his ship was capsized no less than three times, always coming right side up again, and doing it so quickly that she did not even wet her sails or her deck, and none of the crew had a chance to drop off into the water (another quotation); but finally the wind came in such furious gusts that it took the masts right out by the roots (still another quotation), and the ship filled and went down like lead. The trapper said that all this happened not five minutes before, and that set the crew of the fishing-boat into a roar of laughter, for they had been out all day, and knew there had scarcely been wind enough to raise any white caps. The captain used some hard words, and called Dick anything but a truthful man; but the latter affirmed so solemnly that it was all so, that the skipper thought that perhaps something had happened after all, and spent a long time in cruising about the place where Dick had been picked up.



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