Harry Castlemon.

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



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This delay added to the trapper's fears. What if the Tycoon should come back in search of him? Alarmed by the thought, he labored hard to convince the captain that every soul on board the wrecked ship, except himself, had gone down with her; but finding that the skipper paid no attention to him, he changed his story altogether, and declared that he had jumped overboard on purpose, and that he had done it because he had taken passage on the wrong vessel. He wanted to go to Sacramento, he said, but by mistake had boarded a craft bound for the "under side of the earth;" and as she would not turn back and put him ashore, he had no alternative but to take to the water and get back as best he could. Then the skipper was angry in earnest. Ordering Dick to get as far forward as the length of the little vessel would allow, and not to open his head again as long as he remained on board of her, he filled away for the city.

The trapper was very glad to be let off so easily. He had induced the captain to turn his vessel toward the shore, and that was all he cared for. He crouched down in the bow and meekly submitted to the jokes and tricks of the sailors, who never allowed him a moment's peace. He was too completely cowed to take offence at anything. He had seen enough of civilized life and people to take all the courage out of him.

The moment the fishing boat touched the dock he was out and ashore. Then he was himself again. When he felt something solid under his feet his courage all returned, and he was in just the right mood to carry out the exploit he afterward performed. Almost the first man he saw on the dock was the bogus captain, who had enticed Frank and himself on board the Tycoon. Dick's blood began to boil as soon as his eyes rested on him. His first thought was to take summary vengeance on him, but he was checked in time by the reflection that he was not in the mountains now, and that there were laws in the settlements strong enough to punish evil-doers of every description. He did not know how to set the law in motion, but the captain of the Stranger did, and he would take the culprit before him at once.

The bogus captain, whose business was that of shipping-agent and boarding-house keeper, was standing in the midst of a group of friends, half a dozen of them perhaps, and all men like himself; but this did not deter the trapper, who strode up and confronted him. The talking and laughing were hushed at once, and all eyes were turned upon the new-comer, who stood before them with dripping garments, his tall figure drawn up to its full height, his eyes flashing and his bony fingers working nervously. He looked dangerous. The bogus captain stared at him a moment doubtfully and then a gleam of intelligence crossed his face and he tried to smile.

"Why, I thought I had seen you before," said he, thrusting out his hand. "Come in! come right into the house. Where you been?"

"Whar do you reckon you seed me last?" demanded Dick, holding his arms behind his back, for the man seemed determined to shake hands with him whether he wished it or not.

"You can't shut up my eyes with none of your palaverin', now. Whar do you reckon you seed me last, I axes you?"

"Why, let me think a minute," said the man, pulling off his plug hat and digging his fingers into his head, at the same time backing away from the enraged giant. "I see so many of you fellows that I can't call you all by name the minute I meet you."

"My name's – my name's – " Dick stopped and looked all around, trying to think what he should call himself. He did not have a very extensive circle of acquaintances, and he couldn't make up a name "all out of his own head," as he made up the story he told the captain of the fishing-smack. "My name's Colonel Gaylord," said he, giving the first one that came into his mind.

"Ah! yes; I know you now," said the bogus captain, making another effort to take the trapper by the hand. "You're the chap I found a good berth for a few days ago, ain't you? Seems to me – you know – "

"Yes," roared Dick, who could control himself no longer, "I know, an' 'tain't likely I'll ever forget, nuther. I'm the man you wanted to send round to the other side of the 'arth, to be chawed up by whales an' dropped off into the clouds, consarn you – that's who I am, an' you'll remember me afore you see the last of me, I tell you. Human natur'! I wish I could tote you out to the mountains fur about ten minutes. But I'll set the law a-goin' agin you afore you see another day; that's what I'll do. Come along here, you meanest man the 'arth ever saw, not even exceptin' Black Bill – come along! Stand out o' the way, the rest on you, or I'll claw you all up like a painter!"

With these words the trapper seized the bogus captain by the collar and began pushing him toward the Stranger, which he could see still lying in her berth where he had left her. The man remonstrated and threatened, but all to no purpose. Then he resisted and called upon his companions for help. One of them responded, but was disposed of so quickly and effectually that the others thought it best to keep at a safe distance.

Finding that his man was possessed of more strength, activity and determination than he had calculated on, the trapper seized him with both hands, and swinging him upon his shoulder started for the schooner at a rapid run. He brought his prisoner in triumph, and stood him up on the deck where all could see him.

CHAPTER VI
A SCAMP ON HIS DIGNITY

"THIS yere is the mean chap that done it all," continued the trapper. "Thar's none of us that'll ever see Frank ag'in. He's gone round on t'other side of the 'arth, an' some dark night, when he's sailin' along thinkin' of nothing, one of them big quids (the sailors had called the cuttle-fish 'squids') will rise outen the water all on a sudden, wrap his arms, two hundred feet long, all about the ship, an' that'll be the last of Frank. When be you goin' to hang this feller, cap'n?"

Dick had an interested and anxious crowd of listeners. The officers of the schooner and the boys stood ranged in a circle in front of him, and behind were the sailors, who at first invaded the sacred precincts of the quarter-deck with much hesitation, holding their caps in their hands and momentarily expecting an order to retire; but growing bolder by degrees, when they found that the captain, although he looked their way now and then, had nothing to say to them, they crowded up close behind the trapper, so that they could hear every word. There were also two other listeners – the men with the bludgeons, who had followed Dick Lewis in the hope of rescuing his prisoner. When these two worthies first came up, they acted as if they were about to board the vessel without ceremony; but changed their minds when they saw half a dozen broad-shouldered seamen, in obedience to a sign from the officer of the deck, move up into the waist to receive them. The sailors, who had a pretty good idea of what had been going on, even before they had heard the trapper's story, would have been delighted to have the opportunity to toss these men ashore neck and heels; and the latter must have seen it in their countenances, for they backed away from the edge of the wharf and took up a position from which they could hear and see all that passed on the Stranger's deck.

Had Frank been as safe out of his troubles as Dick Lewis was, the boys would have been highly amused by the latter's description of the scenes through which he had passed; but it was far from being a laughing matter now. Frank had been kidnapped ("shanghaied" the sailors called it) by the captain of the Tycoon or his agent, and there was no knowing what might become of him. Perhaps the hard fare and harder treatment he was certain to receive, might drive him to do something desperate. Uncle Dick Gaylord, however, was not troubled by any such misgivings. He knew that Frank possessed courage and prudence in no ordinary degree, and besides there were Lucas and Barton, the coxswain, on the same vessel. The former was an old whaleman, and the assistance he could render Frank in the way of teaching him his duties, might enable the boy to keep out of any very serious difficulties. But could he help him in any way? That was the momentous question, and Uncle Dick walked up and down his quarter-deck with his hands behind his back while he pondered upon it.

"Every word this man has uttered, as far as it concerns me and my doings, is false from head to tail," declared the bogus captain.

This was the first time he had spoken since he was brought on board the vessel. At first he was badly frightened, but while the trapper was telling his story, he had time to think over his situation and determine upon his line of defence.

"I don't know anything about this man and the other fellow he speaks of," he continued; "I never seen him before this morning, and I never tried to pass myself off as the captain of any ship."

Dick Lewis eyed him savagely while he was speaking, and when he ceased drew back his clenched hand. In a moment more the man would have measured his length on the deck, had not the captain interposed.

"Get ashore!" said he, shortly.

"O no, cap'n," replied the man, with an impudent smile. "This is a nice way you have of doing business, I do think! One of your friends commits an assault on me and drags me away from my peaceful home, and then you wash your hands of the matter by telling me to go ashore. That won't go down, by no means. Twenty dollars for damages will get rid of me, but not a cent less!"

"I can bring a dozen witnesses to prove that that man wasn't once outside of his house last night," said one of the ruffians on the dock. "I'm one of 'em, for I was with him all the evening and know everything he done."

"Rodgers!" exclaimed Uncle Dick.

"Here, sir," came the prompt response.

A stalwart sailor stepped quickly out from among his companions, and dashing his cap upon the deck stood behind the bogus captain pushing back his sleeves. A simple look from Uncle Dick would have sent the man flying over the schooner's side as if he had been thrown from a catapult.

"This is the last time I shall speak to you," continued Uncle Dick. "Get ashore!"

The bogus captain thought it best to obey, and that too without a moment's hesitation. Once on the dock he was safe, and there he stopped long enough to say a parting word to Uncle Dick. "This matter will be settled in the court-room," said he, with a threatening shake of his head. "That man shall be arrested before he is an hour older."

With these words he walked off, followed by his companions. The boys looked first at him, then at the captain and finally at Dick Lewis, who stood the very picture of astonishment. "Why didn't you set the law a-goin'?" the trapper managed to ask at last.

"It would have been of no use," answered the master of the schooner. "Didn't you hear what that man on the dock said? That indicated the defence they would bring up. We would find a court-room full of witnesses to prove an alibi – that is, that this man was somewhere else when the kidnapping was done."

"But it wouldn't be true, Uncle Dick," said Archie, who, like all the rest of the Club, invariably addressed the old sailor by this affectionate title. "If they swore to that, they would be guilty of perjury, and that is a state prison offence. Dick has told the truth."

"I know it. I am just as certain that everything he has described to us really happened, as I would be had I seen it all with my own eyes; but a justice would not take his unsupported word against that of a dozen men. And as for perjury, how would you fasten the crime upon these false witnesses that would be produced? If Frank, Lucas and Barton were here, we would have the game in our own hands; but they are miles away. This man knows we can prove nothing, and that is what makes him so impudent."

"I wish you had told Rodgers to throw him overboard, or else let Dick knock him down," said Eugene.

"And afterward had the satisfaction of paying a fine and costs," said the old sailor, with a laugh. "By the time your hair is as white as mine, Eugene, perhaps you will have learned something. I've got one fine to pay now."

"Why, how is that?" asked all the boys at once.

"Didn't you hear what that man said just as he went away? There'll be a policeman down here directly."

The boys looked toward the trapper. The expression of alarm which they had so often seen of late, had settled on his face again. He backed up against the rail for support, and looked wildly about as if he had half a mind to take to his heels. He stood more in fear of the law than he did of a grizzly bear. He had always thought that there was something wrong about it, and now he was firmly convinced of the fact. The law, as he understood it, was to restrain bad people, who were disposed to take advantage of their neighbors whenever an opportunity was offered; but he found that it was likely to prove a means of punishment to the innocent. It would have been just as impossible to give him a clear idea of its workings, as it would to make him understand the causes of the trade-winds or the theory of the ocean-currents.

"I've said a million times, an' Frank says that more'n a thousand, that I'd never put my old moccasins inside a city again, an' now I say it onct more an' I'll stick to it," said the trapper, solemnly, raising his hand toward the mast-head to give emphasis to his words. "I get skeared to death by cars an' steamboats, an' something's allers happenin'."

"Shoulder your rifle an' kit, Dick, an' let's be off," said old Bob, who up to this time had been a silent and amazed spectator and listener. "I'm afeared."

"So am I, Bob, but I dasen't. I dasen't go; the law will ketch me. I wish I was to the ole Bar's Hole, so't I could crawl in an' hide myself."

Dick leaned back against the rail again, rubbing his hands together and groaning as men sometimes do when they are sadly troubled in spirit. The boys tried hard to set his mind at rest. They assured him that no harm should come to him, for they and Uncle Dick were not only able but ready and willing to stand between him and all difficulties; but the trapper said he didn't want them to do it. If anybody was to go to jail (thrusting people into jail and hanging them Dick thought were the only punishments in vogue in civilized communities) it should be himself and nobody else. Furthermore, he did not see why it was necessary that any one should be called upon to stand between him and difficulty. He had only been following out his natural impulses in trying to bring the bogus captain to justice, and now he must suffer for it. He shook his head, refusing to be comforted, and showed a desire to be alone with his own thoughts; so the boys left him and turned to Uncle Dick, who was once more pacing his quarter-deck, after holding a short consultation with his officers.

"I know what you want," said the old sailor, as the boys approached him in a body. "You are anxious to know what I am going to do for Frank. I can only guess at the best plan, and follow it out to the best of my judgment. What do you think ought to be done?"

The boys had no suggestions to offer. One thing was certain, and that was that Frank would not long submit to harsh treatment. A young man who had commanded a fine vessel in Uncle Sam's navy would not consent to take rank next below the captain's dog, as the sailors in the Tycoon's forecastle had assured him he would do as long as he remained in that ship. If the opportunity were ever offered, he would lay his case before the consul of the first port at which the vessel touched; and failing that he would probably be driven to desert. In either case the boys did not expect to see him again. If the consul protected him, he would be sent to the nearest port in the United States free of expense, and he had money enough in his pocket – about twenty dollars, Archie thought – to support him until he could receive a remittance from home. If he was compelled to desert he would probably ship on the first vessel he could find, just as Chase had done, and she might take him to the remotest corner of the earth. All this would sadly interfere with the Club's arrangements. They thought as much of Frank as his cousin did – so much that they one and all declared that they did not care to continue their voyage without him. They couldn't enjoy themselves, for they would worry about him all the while, and if they were to be separated from him they would rather go home and stay there. If their pleasant party and their cruise were to be broken up, they had the boarding-house keeper to thank for it, and Walter declared that there was no punishment known to the law half severe enough for him.

Uncle Dick listened while the boys were talking, and said he fully agreed with them. "Even if Frank should succeed in escaping from the Tycoon, and had a vessel at his command or money enough to take him just where he wanted to go, he would not know which way to steer to find us," said he, "for you boys will remember that you did not decide upon anything definite, and Frank doesn't know whether we are going to Alaska or Japan."

"And all through my foolishness," said Eugene, bitterly. "I wish I had given up, and gone where the others wanted to go."

"So do I," said Bab.

"Don't reproach yourselves," replied Uncle Dick. "You had plenty of sport during your debates, and you were not supposed to know that such an emergency as this was about to arise. But perhaps we can do something by following the Tycoon."

"Yes, if we only knew where she is going."

"I have an idea that I do know. She is bound for the Japan station, so the sailors in her forecastle told Dick Lewis. Well, now, she is short-handed. She must be, for her mate released Dick from his irons and brought him on deck to help make sail. She'll never go on her station without a full crew, and the nearest place at which she can get it is the Sandwich Islands. There she will undoubtedly ship Kanakas enough to make up her complement. Then she'll go out for a three or four months' cruise, and come back and fit out for the Japan station. Now, if we can reach Honolulu before she leaves, we shall probably be able to effect the release of our men. If it were not for this incident that has just happened I would sail at once."

"Why can't you do it any way?" asked Walter, who did not like to waste even a moment.

"Because we must see Lewis out of his trouble. If he goes ashore without some one to protect him, he will be sure to fall into the hands of those sharpers, who will frighten him out of the last article of value he's got."

"Cap'n," said Dick, suddenly, "will you take us with you – me and Bob?"

The old sailor looked in astonishment, and so did the boys.

"I'm afeared to go ashore," continued the trapper, who had been holding a council of war with his chum, "an' so is Bob. 'Sides it's a thing we never done yet – run off an' leave Frank in trouble, an' we've knowed him too long to do it now!"

"My good fellow," said Uncle Dick, with a smile, "if Frank were lost in the woods, you and Bob would be just the men to assist him; but you can't help him in any way now."

"Mebbe we can, cap'n. An' even if we can't, we don't want to go back hum without knowing what's come on him. We shouldn't see no peace of mind."

Uncle Dick did not speak for several minutes. He knew just how much these rude men thought of Frank, and told himself that their desire to see him safe among friends again before they took leave of him for ever, was perfectly natural; but there were the dangers they expected to meet on the "under side of the earth" – the Flying Dutchman, the whales, the monstrous "quids" – could they stand all these? "Lewis," said he, suddenly, "have you and your companion fully made up your minds on this point?"

"Yes, an' we won't never change 'em nuther. We allers stand to what we say."

"That settles the matter. Mr. Baldwin, while I am gone to the custom house, hail the first tug you see and stand by to get under way."

The boys would have been delighted by this arrangement a few hours before, but their feelings were different now. They had something to think of besides the amusement they expected the trappers to furnish them.

Uncle Dick went ashore and walked rapidly away, leaving the boys to themselves. Although they were impatient to be off, the time did not hang heavily on their hands, for they had much to talk about. They fully expected the trappers to change their minds when they saw the preparations that were being made for getting under way, but Dick and Bob were not that sort. There was a dogged expression on their faces, such as might have been seen there had the backwoodsmen been in the power of savage foes who were making ready to torture them at the stake. It said that they fully realized the dangers before them, and were prepared to meet them like men who had never shown the white feather.

"Now, if Frank were only here, and if Dick and Bob would get rid of some of their foolish notions, we could look forward to some fun, couldn't we?" said Eugene.



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