The boy captain, or, From forecastle to cabin

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Material Information

Title:
The boy captain, or, From forecastle to cabin
Portion of title:
From forecastle to cabin
Physical Description:
290 p., 8 leaves of plates : ill. ; 21 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Otis, James, 1848-1912
Estes & Lauriat ( Publisher )
C.H. Simonds & Co ( Publisher )
Colonial Press ( Printer )
Geo. C. Scott & Sons
Publisher:
Estes and Lauriat
Place of Publication:
Boston
Manufacturer:
Colonial Press ; C.H. Simonds & Co. ; Electrotyped by Geo. C. Scott & Sons
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Youth -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Seafaring life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Sailors -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Adventure and adventurers -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Voyages and travels -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Islands -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Mutiny -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Ship captains -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Bldn -- 1896
Genre:
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
United States -- Massachusetts -- Boston

Notes

Statement of Responsibility:
by James Otis.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002394785
notis - ALZ9692
oclc - 06029034
lccn - 12034740
System ID:
UF00084234:00001


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BEN STOOD ON THE QUARTER-DECK IN SILENCE."











THE BOY CAPTAIN



OR




FROM FORECASTLE TO CABIN







BY
JAMES OTIS
AUTHOR OF
"JENNIE WREN'S BOARDING HOUSE"
"THE BOYS' REVOLT," JERRY'S FAMILY"
"THE BOYS OF 1745," ETC.












BOSTON
ESTES AND LAURIAT
PUBLISHERS

































Copyright, z896,

BY ESTES AND LAURIAT























colonial 9rcss:
C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, Mass., U.S. A
Electrotyped by Geo. C. Scott & Sons


















CONTENTS.


CHAPTER PAGE
I. AN IMAGINARY SHIPWRECK I
II. A SELF-ELECTED CAPTAIN 17
III. NAMPANG ISLAND 31
IV. ANTICIPATING TROUBLE 46
V. DISAGREEABLE VISITORS 60
VI. AN UNWILLING CREW 76
VII. IN COMMAND 9
VIII. Miss DUNHAM'S RETURN o. 109
IX. HOMEWARD BOUND 124
X. A WATERSPOUT 139
XI. THE TYPHOON I
XII. ON SHORT ALLOWANCE 166
XIII. A DEMAND I18
XIV. BESIEGED 194
XV. THE BATTLE 207
XVI. RECAPTURE 220
XVII. SHORT-HANDED 233
XVIII. ASCENSION 249
XIX. SIGNALING 262
XX. THE HOME PORT 279























LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

PAGE
"BEN STOOD ON THE QUARTER-DECK IN SILENCE" (p. 253)
Frontispiece

" LOOK DAR!'" 52

"A SMALL, BUT DECIDEDLY RESOLUTE LOOKING GIRL" 70

"BEN WAS ATTACKING A SAMPAN-LOAD OF THE ENEMY" 84

" AM DE HEATHENS ALL GONE OUTER DIS YERE SHIP ? 89

"MR. BEAN WAS NOT YET WHOLLY DISABLED" 187

"IN THE WAKE OF THE BRIG HE HAD ATTEMPTED TO

DESTROY" 226

"MRS. THOMPSON 289




















THE BOY CAPTAIN














THE BOY CAPTAIN

OR

FROM FORECASTLE TO CABIN




CHAPTER I.

AN IMAGINARY SHIPWRECK.

T HE ship Sportsman, from New York for Hong
Kong, had, on this particular morning in January,
nearly completed what had thus far proven a most
uneventful voyage.
The youngest sailor on board, who was the son of the
captain and lacking a few months of being twenty one
years old, was looking forward eagerly to this his first
visit to China.
Although having performed his duties as one of the
crew during two years and a half, he had seen nothing
especially strange or wonderful in those ports which the
Sportsman visited; but the very name "Hong Kong"
was associated with such grotesque things as green drag-
ons with red tails, kites fashioned in fantastic shapes, and
the oddest kind of odd people in the most impossible of








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


attitudes, as pictured on tea-chests, or in the curios to be
seen in the shop windows at home.
And now just a word by way of preface regarding this
same boy, who appeared on the ship's papers as Benjamin
Thompson, able seaman."
Captain William Thompson, commander of the Sports-
man, had allowed his son to sign the articles, with the
understanding that he should be treated exactly as any
other member of the crew, and no favour shown because
of his relationship, except, possibly, while they might be
in port. Ben's father was very strict on this point, saying
many times that, since he himself had worked his way aft
in regular stages from the forecastle, he did not intend
"his son should crawl through the cabin windows."
The boy had also promised faithfully that he would, in
addition to his duties as a sailor, study very hard to fit
himself for the position of officer in the merchant service.
Ben was not particularly charmed with the life after
having had a six months' taste of it. Although his father
had expressly defined the station on board which he was
to occupy, Ben possibly fancied the strings would not be
drawn very tightly over the captain's son ; but in this he
had made a woeful mistake.
If anything, his father had been more strict than a
stranger would have been, and was rigid in adhering to
the rule requiring of him a certain amount of study in
the way of navigation and seamanship, which added very
materially to his labours.
It must be said in Ben's favour that he never shirked








AN IMAGINARY SHIPWRECK


his work nor his studies, and the natural result was that
on this day, thirty months after having begun the battle
of life, he was fully competent to fill the position of first
officer on board the Sportsman, or even to have navigated
her himself.
The mates, however, showed greater leniency toward
this young member of the crew when the captain was
below than they would have done but for the relationship,
and, thanks to them, Ben received many hints which
enabled him to advance more rapidly in his studies than
otherwise might have been the case.
On this particular day, however, the young sailor was
looking forward to a visit on shore, rather than speculating
as to his present duties or future prospects, and when, at
noon, the Sportsman was off Macclesfield Bank, with a
favouring wind and only three hundred knots more to be
made, Ben hoped most earnestly that nothing would occur
to prevent the ship's coming to anchor in port in the
shortest possible space of time.
He was fully alive to everything going on about him,
and when one of the lookout men hailed the quarter-deck
with the information that a boat was in sight about four
points off the starboard bow, having every appearance of
being a ship's long-boat with a wrecked crew, it is just
possible he was a trifle impatient, because the Sportsman's
course was changed to intercept this waif upon the
Chinese Ocean.
Running down to investigate matters might not delay
the craft many hours; but even though only two were







THE BOY CAPTAIN.


spent in such work, Ben felt he was being deprived of
exactly so much time which might be utilised to both his
profit and amusement on shore.
Half an hour later, however, there was no such thought
as regret in his mind that the course had been changed,
for it could then be seen that the lookout's speculations
in regard to the boat were correct.
She carried six men, none of whom looked particularly
emaciated, or as if having suffered severely; but the
apology for a flag attached to an oar which was raised
upright in the bow told that they were in need of assist-
ance, and Ben forgot Hong Kong and its attractions in
the knowledge that it was possible to relieve suffering.
In due time the boat was alongside, the men taken on
board, and then came, in reply to the captain's question,
what all considered rather a suspicious story.
The spokesman of the party represented himself as
second mate of the brig Starlight, which had foundered
the day previous, about fifty miles to the northward of
where they were picked up.
While the alleged mate was talking with Captain
Thompson, some of the men were being questioned by
the second officer, and they stated that the Starlight
had gone down in a typhoon, afterwards correcting them-
selves by saying she had struck a reef, and, in fact,
each one told a different story on being pressed as to
particulars.
The captain's orders were that the men should be taken
care of, and then he held a consultation with his chief








AN IMA GINVARY SHIPWRECK.


mate, which was afterwards repeated to Ben by that
officer much as follows :
You see, lad, your father don't take kindly to the
yarn that 'ere shell-back has been spinning ; but at the
same time he ain't willing' to say it's all wrong. When it
comes to shipwrecked crews sailormen have mighty soft
hearts, for there's no tellin' when they may be in the
same boat."
Is anything to be done toward finding out the truth ?"
"Bless your heart, lad, what could be done? The
captain don't want to act suspicious- like, because there's
no reason for sayin' the story ain't true. The mate's
yarn would go down well enough if it was n't for what
the rest of the crowd tell. Every one of them makes it
out different, and all I 've got to say is, they must be a
set of greenhorns that can't stick to the same story."
Then you don't believe what any of them tell ? Ben
asked.
"Not a blessed word. It's just like this, lad, if their
craft had gone down, no matter how, it stands to reason
they 'd know the particulars, an' what would be the call
for there being any variation of the yarn ? "
As a matter of course, that was a question Ben could
not answer. Very likely some of the crew had told the
truth, and he so expressed himself to the mate.
"There's no use talking, boy, they're all lying. My
idee of the thing is that they had n't got a yarn cooked
up when we hove in sight, an' spent so much time chinnin'
'bout what should be told that they were all at sea when








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


we took 'em aboard. More'n as likely's not they've run
away from the ship at Hong Kong, though why they
should have hailed us to be carried back to the same port
is more'n I can bigger out. 'Cause why? 'Cause they
would be nabbed the minute we arrived."
The first officer might have continued to argue with
himself for Ben's edification, as to why there should be
no reliance placed in the story of either of the alleged
shipwrecked men, but for the fact that the boy, tiring of
such dry detail and prosy speculation, determined to seek
information for himself among those who had been taken
on board.
This was not as easy of execution as one might fancy.
The second mate had learned that his companions were
not giving the same account of the supposed disaster as
himself, and was now doing his best to prevent them
from talking with the Sportsman's crew.
The rescued ones were neither hungry nor sleepy,
although some of them professed to be suffering from
lack of rest and food.
The unconsumed provisions in the boat gave the lie to
one story, and their general appearance most emphatically
denied the other; yet he who called himself their second
mate insisted the entire party should be allowed to "turn
in" until they had recovered from the effects of exposure
and privation.
"Let 'em bunk 'round the deck anywhere," the first
officer said when Ben went aft in response to the ship-
wrecked mate's request, to ask if they could be allowed








AN IMAGINARY SHIPWRECK.


the use of the forecastle. "There's no need of their
goin' below such weather as this, an' if they're terribly
played out, I reckon the soft side of a deck plank will be
good enough for any of 'em."
Ben returned to the shipwrecked party and delivered
the message; but not in exactly the same words as it
had been given to him.
The supposedly weary men could not refuse to lie
down, after having represented themselves as being so
nearly exhausted, and, much to their leader's chagrin, it
became necessary for them to do what probably they had
no desire for, namely, to follow the mate's suggestion.
If the commander of the party had been strictly
obeyed, Ben's loitering around the deck in the immediate
vicinity of the alleged sufferers would have been without
avail; but, as it was, the men were not disposed to remain
together very long at a time, and the young sailor soon
found the desired opportunity.
One of the men being without tobacco, tried to borrow
a pipe-full from the fellow who called himself mate, but
was refused, and, noting this, Ben fancied he knew of a
way to take the successful first step toward winning the
sailor's confidence.
Borrowing a piece of tobacco of the chief officer, he
went near the deck-house at some distance from the new-
comers, and, holding the prize up so the impoverished
smoker might see it, beckoned the latter to his side.
I thought from what your mate said you must be on
short allowance. You can have some of this if it will do








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


you any good; but I don't count on giving you the
whole plug."
The man filled his pipe, after going through the
formality of returning thanks, cut off a generous supply
for the future, and then settled himself down under the
lee of the house for a comfortable smoke.
The watch to which Ben belonged was off duty at the
time; therefore there was nothing to prevent him from
following the fellow's example, and in half an hour the
two were on terms almost approaching intimacy.
Quite naturally the young sailor had asked for par-
ticulars of the shipwreck, and, equally as naturally, the
man had given his version of the affair, allowing himself
so much latitude in the way of romance as to make the
story entirely different from those which had been
previously told.
Ben listened in silence until the sailor had spun his
yarn, and was forced to conclude because his imagination
refused to serve him longer, when he asked, assuming an
expression of the utmost faith and perfect innocence:
"What vessel were you on ? "
"The Starligzht, of course. Have n't I jest been
tellin' of you ?"
"What craft did the other men belong to ?"
"We were shipmates. Did n't you hear what I said ? "
"How many times was the Starlight wrecked ?"
Look here, lad, how many times do you think a
vessel can be wrecked when she goes to the bottom ?"
I thought once was enough for 'most any craft; but








AN IMAGINARY SHIPWRECK


this brig of yours knocks me silly. According to what
your crowd has told, she has been run down, struck a
reef, foundered from some unknown cause, and been dis-
masted in a typhoon, all within fifty miles of here, and
during the past twenty-four hours."
The sailor looked at Ben a few moments as if trying
to decide whether that appearance of innocent faith was
natural or assumed, and then, waving his pipe in the air
to give greater emphasis to his words, he said slowly:
See here, my young an' bloomin' shipmate, you 're
getting' out of your reckonin'. When an old shell-back
like me tells a boy like you what happened yesterday, it
all stands for truth, an' he don't want to get himself into
a howlin' muss by trying' to pick flaws in the yarn."
No, I s'pose not," Ben replied reflectively, as if the
matter was something of which he had not thought pre-
viously; "but when an old shell-back like you tells a boy
like me a different yarn from what his shipmates have
been spinning, it's kind of natural to want the thing
explained. I'd like to know just how the Starlight did
go down."
"Well, you've got it from me straight. It ain't my
fault if I 've shipped with a lot of green hands what don't
know the difference between a collision at sea and a
typhoon, is it ? When a man asks me for a true yarn, he
gets it. Do you see ? "
"Yes, I see, so give me the yarn."
"What do you mean? Haven't I jest been tellin'
you all about it ? "







THE BOY CAPTAIN.


You said when a man asked you for a true yarn, he
got it, and that's what I 'm after. The first one you
told is all right for the marines; but I want to know how
your craft foundered, and how you happened to be in
that boat?"
Again the man looked at the boy, and appeared as if
trying to induce his face to take on an expression of
anger in order to intimidate the over-bold questioner.
Ben gazed at him in the most friendly manner possible,
and never suggested by so much as the tremor of an eye-
lid that there was any reason for the honest old salt to be
disturbed in mind.
The fact that Ben put aside so completely this story
which had been told, as something untrue, caused the
alleged suffering seaman to fancy he might be getting
both himself and his companions into difficulties by draw-
ing so extensively upon his imagination, without reference
to his shipmates' previous statements, and he would have
terminated the interview then and there, but for the
young sailor.
Ben had no intention of investing fully one third of
Mr. Short's plug of tobacco in such an ill-paying specula-
tion, and, as his companion attempted to rise for the
purpose of going forward, he said, in a matter-of-fact
tone :
When Captain Thompson hears that you men
could n't all tell the same story, I 've got an idea that
things will be pretty warm."
What kind of a captain is he ? "








AN IMAG IAARY SHIPWRECK


Well, I must say he's a pretty hard one, even if he
is my father, when it comes to dealing with such a case
as this, for there 's nothing makes him so hot as to be
taken for a marine."
"Is he your father ?" the man asked in surprise, not
unmixed with fear.
"That's what he is."
"But I reckon you have the run of the cabin ?"
"I reckon I do," Ben replied, not a tremor showing
that now it was his turn to indulge in a little yarn.
"And you've been pumpin' me jest for the sake of
tellin' him ? "
"No, that wasn't what I started in for; but after
hearing what you've been trying to stuff down my throat
I think it's time he should know that there's something
wrong among you, and being so well acquainted with him
as I am, I 'm willing to bet, and would risk a little more
than a farthing's worth of silver spoons, that you 'll stay
below after we come to an anchorage, until the consul
can be notified."
All this in the friendliest tone, as if Ben was imparting
to his new acquaintance something which it would be
particularly pleasing to hear.
The man looked at him yet more curiously, and
probably began to think the young fellow was not quite
as green, regarding the peculiar methods employed by
some seamen while telling a story, as he had at first
fancied.
Look here, lad, there 's no call to go to the captain








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


with what I said, because, if it '11 do you any good, I 'm
willing' to own right up that it was a yarn."
Oh, yes, I know that," was the reply. You see
there's been so many different yarns told already that it
wasn't necessary for me to listen to you to know there
was something wrong about the whole affair."
Then what did you begin pumpin' me for ?"
"I just wanted to know what kind of a tale you'd
make out of it. Some of the rest of your crew are
pretty good at such things ; but I 'm willing' to say you're
doing yourself proud at this time."
"An' I'm willing' to say I'd like to have hold of the
collar of your jacket with one hand, and a bit of ratline
stuff in the other, for about five minutes."
"Well, so long as you can't have it that way, there's
no use talking of it, so suppose you tell me how the
Starlight went down, and the name of the craft you
really shipped on last ?"
The sailor half arose to his feet, gazed around at his
friends, and then settled down again as if having decided
some question in his own mind.
Look you, lad, what kind of a trade would you be
willing' to make if I should give you the full pertic'lars
of our craft ? "
"What kind of a trade do you want to make ?"
"If it so be that these bloomin' shipmates of mine
have n't got sense enough to stick to the yarn we agreed
on, then I for one says it's time to take care of myself.
Now I ain't ownin' that sich a thing has got to be done;








AN IMAGIVARY SHIPWRECK


but it might be I 'd like to leave this 'ere hooker before
she 'd been at anchor very long."
And you want to make a trade with me to help you
off ? Is that it ?"
"Well, it might be, an' then agin it might n't."
"Now see here, shipmate, we won't beat about the
bush any longer," and the expression of innocent faith on
Ben's face was replaced by one of determination.
" You're beginning to realise that the whole boiling
of you are getting into hot water. In fact, I might say
you have already gotten into hot water by being such
idiots as to strike out each man for himself in the yarn-
telling line. The truth of the story is, it might make
trouble for you if known to the consul. Now I'd like to
hear it, and if it was the straight tale I 'd be willing to
see you sneak off in the boat we picked up, some time
during my watch, after we arrived in port."
But it might be you would n't stand the first watch
after anchorin'."
I 'll agree to see you get away if you tell me what I
want to know."
As if to fortify himself for the confession, the sailor
placed carefully in his mouth nearly one-half the stock of
tobacco he had taken from the mate's plug, and then be-
gan, after first looking around to assure himself his words
could not be overheard by any one save his companion.
This 'ere is the straight log: We deserted from the
ship Progressive Age night before last; left her without a
bloomin' soul aboard but the captain's child an' a nigger







THE BOY CAPTAIN


steward. That's all there is about it, except, maybe, that
after the captain died off Great Natunas we kind of
broached the cabin stores in a way that would n't have
pleased the owners."
Case of living aft, I suppose; making free with that
part of the medical stores which comes under the head
of grog, sometimes ? "
"Well, yes, a little like that, I will admit. You see
the first officer died before we come through the Straits
of Sunday, an' the captain was sick then. The second
mate was in charge; up to that time he had showed him-
self to be an able seaman, but the morning' we sewed the
old man into his hammock, tiltin' him off the gratin'
without any too much ceremony, he got to lushin', an'
what was the rest of us to do ? We did n't count on
givin' him the full swing, do all the work an' let him enjoy
himself, without we had our share of the grub, so we took
it. Forty days' working' up through Sunda-I don't
mean to say we had much of a hand in it, for the old
hooker was takin' care of herself most of the time, and
when the mate sobered up a bit, he begun to realise the
craft wasn't jest fit for port. We headed her for Nam-
pang Island, made everything snug, an' left her where I
reckon she 'll stay till the owners send out some one to
take charge."
"Did n't care to take up your wages ?"
"Not much after sich a spree, for we 'd found ourselves
in the cooler mighty soon after coming' to anchor where
there was a consul."








AN IMAGINARY SHIPWRECK.


I should think there might be danger of the natives
taking a hand in the matter," Ben suggested.
Well, I allow there is ; but that's nothing' to us. We
want to get a chance to ship on some homeward bound
craft, an' the Progressive Age can lay there at anchor
till the barnacles come aboard, for all I care. You see it
was our business to get out of the scrape."
Are there provisions enough to last the child and the
steward till they can send for assistance ? "
I allow they can't starve to death for a while yet;
but she wasn't overly provisioned when we left Sandy
Hook, an' they won't get any too fat."
Do you suppose the steward will have sense enough
to send word to Hong Kong?"
Not a bit of it. He's as 'fraid of a Chinaman as
ever St. Patrick was of a snake, an' I allow he '11 keep
his black head under cover while she lays off Nampang.
Now you've got the whole thing, an' I'm counting' on
you to help me slip away before the captain can send
word to the consul."
I '11 keep my part of the trade, and will see to it that
you get off, but the rest of your precious crowd will have
to suffer for what they have done."
"That's all right; I ain't sayin' a word agin it, lad;
they deserve the whole cake. I was kinder drawed into
the thing, you see, an' should n't be blamed like the
rest."
How large is the brig ? "
"Three hundred an' sixty tons; square-rigged."








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


Be around where I can get hold of you when we draw
near the harbour."
"Don't you worry 'bout that, lad, I 'll keep as snug to
you as ever a flea did to a dog."
Ben had heard all he cared to know, and with the
knowledge had come a sudden determination, which
seemed to him little short of inspiration.
If I stay with father, it may be ten years before I
ever see a chance of commanding a vessel, an' here 's an
opportunity to jump in as captain before I've been mate,
if I've got the nerve to see the thing through. A square-
rigged brig; no one aboard but a negro and a child!
The chances are ten to one the natives will make off with
her before long; but if I can work her up to Hong Kong
the owners are bound to give me the full share of the
credit. I 'll try it unless father puts his foot down so hard
that it'll be dangerous;" and the young sailor fell to
pacing back and forth to leeward of the deck-house, with
his hands behind him, studying intently on what, to an
elder man, might have seemed a problem which could
not be solved unaided.
















CHAPTER II.


A SELF ELECTED CAPTAIN.

D ISCIPLINE on board the Sportsman was suf-
ficiently strict to prevent Ben, even though he
was the captain's son, from venturing upon the quarter-
deck without a summons from one of the officers.
After concluding his conversation with the deserter
from the Progressive Age, it was not necessary he should
wait very long before being called aft by Mr. Short, the
first officer, who had watched from a distance his efforts
to extract information from those who had been picked up.
The mate beckoned for him to approach, and, coming
down from the quarter-deck, the two stood near the main
entrance of the cabin where the coming of the captain
might be observed, for the master of the Sportsman
would not have been well pleased to see his chief officer
holding a confidential conversation with one of the crew.
"Did you find out what you wanted to know?" Mr.
Short asked, anxiously.
Yes ; but I shall have to pay his price for it."
"What is that ?"
"Pretty near one-third of your plug of tobacco, with
the agreement that he shall be able to slip away from the








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


ship immediately after she arrives in port, and before the
consul can get aboard."
"I hope it is n't anything very serious they 've been
engaged in, lad, or the last part of your trade may get
you into trouble."
"If he tells the truth, and I reckon he does, they have
simply deserted from a brig which is now at anchor off
Nampang Island."
Then Ben repeated to the mate the latter portion of
the conversation which he had had with the sailor, in
detail, and when he finished Mr. Short said, grimly:
"It's well for that fellow he made the trade with you,
otherwise he 'd be apt to find himself in trouble mighty
soon after we reached Hong Kong."
How so ?" Ben asked, quickly.
"Why, Captain Thompson is no fool, as I reckon we '11
both agree on, an' of course I am in duty bound to report
that the men are telling different stories in regard to how
they happened to be adrift. It won't take him very long
to decide what must be done. Before we get to our
anchorage I reckon the consul will be notified, an' this
'ere bloomin' crowd what claim to have suffered so much
will have a chance to explain matters."
But I must get this man away, because that is what I
promised," Ben said, earnestly.
"How you going' to do it ? "
"I 'm counting on your telling me, Mr. Short. You
understand best how it can be arranged. There won't be
any trouble if you 're willing to see the thing through."








A SELF-ELECTED CAPTAIN.


But supposin' it should turn out, after the fellow got
clean off, that there had been a mutiny in which the
officers were killed ? Then how would we feel about
having helped him away."
I 'll answer for it that he told the truth. In the first
place, it did n't seem as if he was on very good terms
with the mate, for he could n't get what tobacco he
wanted, and then again he knows he 's in a scrape, there-
fore is anxious to get out. If there 'd been a regular
mutiny they would n't have allowed themselves to be
picked up so near port, for it would have been an easy
matter to make their way to Hong Kong along the shore."'
That may be, lad, but when I strike a liar I never
believe him, even while he's telling the truth."
But will you help me to get him away ? "
"Yes, I reckon I '11 have to now, if you 've given your
word he shall go. I don't suppose he counts on your
providing' him with anything ? "
No; all he wants is to leave the ship."
He shall have that chance if it's my watch when we
arrive, and the captain ain't too sharp for me. But in
case we get there early in the forenoon I 'm afraid he 'll
stand a pretty poor show."
Of course; but that 's his own lookout. If we
should arrive in the morning he's got sense enough to
know I could n't help him at that time. Now, Mr. Short,
there's something else I want to talk about."
"Another Mother Carey's chicken on your hands that
you've got to help away ?"








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


From all accounts I reckon I've got two more."
The mate looked at the boy in surprise, and Ben, fearful
lest the conversation should be interrupted before he had
said all he wished, added quickly :
I 've made up my mind to jump from the forecastle
into the cabin by going after that brig, taking her to
Hong Kong, and from there home, if possible."
You 've made up what ? the mate asked, in surprise.
Ben repeated the words.
"Well, I'll be blowed!" and Mr. Short really looked
as if he was preparing himself for such an ordeal. He
stepped back a few paces, surveyed the young man from
head to foot, pursed his lips, gave vent to a prolonged
whistle, and Ben was unable to determine if it was ex-
pressive of astonishment or scorn. So you 're counting'
on running' down to Nampang Island, cutting' out a brig
that's got for a crew a negro and a child, an' some fine
day slipping across to New York! Well, you ain't
thinking' of doin' much, are you ? You don 't want a very
big portion of this world, do you? If this is your idea
of what a sailor can accomplish after he 's been to sea two
years an' a half, it's mighty lucky for all hands aboard
the Sportsman that you have n't lived in the forecastle
any longer, or you 'd be takin' charge of this 'ere crowd."
Now don't make sport of me, Mr. Short. I can do
exactly what I have said, as you know, providing I have
the chance, and nobody is any better aware of my ability
as a sailor than you. I ask you fairly and squarely if
you don't think it possible ? "








A SELF-ELECTED CAPTAIN.


Well, Ben, my boy, I must confess that you could
do it as well as I, providin',-an' now I want you to listen
to the provide. If that 'ere brig was manned and pro-
visioned in proper shape, it could be done by you jest as
well as by me. You see she 's owned by the same firm
we 're working' for now."
Owned by the same firm ? Ben repeated, in surprise.
"Yes, lad, an' I've seen her many a time. Your
father wouldn't hesitate to take charge of her at once,
an' I suppose he will, after he knows the whole story."
"Then he '11 have to put a master aboard."
"That's true, an' I allow the second officer will get
that job; but perhaps you stand a chance to step into
his shoes."
And that's what I don't choose to do. I want a vessel
of my own, and here's an' opportunity to get one."
"I admit there is, my boy; but it strikes me you're
bitin' off a little more'n you can chew this time. You see
it's jest like this : In the first place your father is bound
to send somebody down there, if he finds the consignees
in Hong Kong have n't already done so."
It is n't likely they know where she is, and, besides,
she can't be consigned there, for, if the sailor tells the
truth, she's light."
Then what is she doin' 'round here ?"
"I don't know; but he said she was in ballast, and
was n't provisioned, or, at least, they had broken into her
stores until there was precious little left. I reckon they
wasted three pounds where they ate one."








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


That stands to reason. Give a sailorman run of the
grub, an' you're breaking' the owners mighty quick. Now,
Ben, I want to give you a piece of advice. Your father
must know this whole story, an' you're bound to tell it.
Captain Thompson ain't the kind of a man that would let
one of his sailors slip off in the way you count on doin',
an' when that sailor happens to be his son, why, boy,
there'd be marks of ratline stuff on your back for a month,
if he should catch you."
I suppose there would," Ben replied, ruefully; "but at
the same time I'm going to make a try for it. From what
you've said I don't suppose you are willing to help me ?"
Not while you're working' behind your father's back,
lad. If he gives the word, you can count on me for all
I'm worth."
But I'll tell him before I go," Ben said, and the mate
replied, grimly:
"You will if you're wise, lad; but there 's no harm in
keeping' your mouth shut until we arrive in port, an' I
won't let on that you know any more than the rest of us
are supposed to. Get your man into the deck -house
when I go off duty, and we 'll have another talk with
him."
Ben's ardor was slightly dampened by this conversation
with Mr. Short; but at the same time his resolution was
unchanged.
I '11 go just as far as I can before saying anything to
father," he thought, "and then if he sits down on the
scheme I can't help myself."







A SELF-ELECTED CAPTAIN


An hour later Mr. Short was off duty, and Ben had
made the desired arrangements.
The deserter was in the deck house where Ben had
summoned him for the purpose of consulting as to the best
method of his escape from the ship, and, in order that the
man might not be alarmed by the coming of the first
officer, the boy had explained to him that Mr. Short was
to assist in his departure.
"It won't do for me to stay here very long," the sailor
said as Mr. Short entered the deck-house, "for if my
mate gets on to my tellin' of what has been done, things
will be pretty lively."
I reckon he won't prance 'round this ship very much,"
the first officer said, grimly; "but at the same time, if
you're counting' on leaving' unbeknownst to anybody, I allow
it ain't well he should know you are talking' with us. Now,
my man, I want you to give me the same yarn you spun
to Ben, an' straight, mind you, or there '11 be trouble."
"I ain't tellin' anything that's crooked," the man replied,
in an injured tone.
"Oh, no, I s'pose not. You spun the other yarns jest
as straight as this last one, eh ?"
The story I gave the young chap is straight, anyhow,"
the man replied, doggedly.
"Go ahead with it, then."
The sailor repeated his account of the desertion exactly
as he had to Ben, the mate, meanwhile, cross-questioning
closely, but without being able to trip him in the slightest
particular.







THE BOY CAPTAIN.


As to why the brig was bound to Hong Kong in ballast,
the sailor was unable to say, as a matter of course. He
could only describe her location at the time of their leav-
ing, and repeated again that the only persons on board
were a negro steward and the captain's child.
"Who's takin' care of the young one ? Mr. Short asked.
"If the nigger ain't doin' it, I reckon things are goin'
'bout as they please. All I was thinking' of at the time
was to get shut of the brig, an' was willing' to let them as
we left behind run matters to suit themselves. Now if
you've got through with me, sir, I'll go on deck, for I 've
been here too long already."
Mr. Short motioned toward the door, and the man
departed, Ben gazing eagerly into the officer's face as if
to ask what he thought of the matter now.
"It stands jest about where it did, lad," the mate re-
plied, as if reading the question in the boy's eyes. I
allow the sailor is tellin' the truth this time, an' yet I don't
see as that wild scheme of yours looks any better than it
did before. What I said a while ago fits in now, an' I feel
like givin' the advice over agin. Do whatever you're a
mind to towards getting' ready for the voyage; but don't
really start till you 've talked with the captain, an' told
him all you know."
From that hour until the Sportsman arrived in port,
Ben was constantly speculating as to how he might best
accomplish that upon which he was determined, and when
the ship's anchors were let go he had a definite plan in
his mind as to the course which should be pursued.








A SELF-ELECTED CAPTAIN.


Fortune favored the man who had turned informer
against his companions.
Night had just come on when the ship was moored, and
Ben's acquaintance was keenly alive to the fact that he
must make his escape before the harbour-master should
come aboard.
Mr. Short was on duty, and, in order to forward the
scheme, had had two of the boats, in addition to the cap-
tain's gig, lowered, one being the craft purporting to have
come from the Progressive Age.
If your man don't get away within ten minutes it '11
be too late," Mr. Short said in a low tone as he passed
Ben, who was leaning over the rail awaiting the develop-
ments of his scheme, and the sailor who had particular
interest in these arrangements approached at this moment.
The remainder of the work was comparatively easy.
Ben repeated to the man what the mate had said, and
added on his own account:
If you look alive you can get away now without any
one's seeing. Stand here, and if I whistle before you 're
over the rail, lounge forward again."
The sailor made no reply, but disappeared in the
gloom, and Ben, after waiting ten minutes, looked over
the side.
The boat from the Progressive Age had disappeared,
and that the man had made good his escape was equally
certain, therefore the boy's responsibility in the matter
ceased.
Whether the first or second officer had reported to the








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


captain the discrepancies in the alleged shipwrecked men's
stories, Ben did not know; but he heard the order given
to have the newcomers secured below, where there would
be no opportunity of their being able to gain the shore.
Hardly ten minutes elapsed from the time the informer
made his escape before this was done, and the young
sailor thought he had reason for believing the chief mate
had had some hand in arranging the matter with a view
ol enabling him to make good his promise.
Although Ben had been so eager to see Hong Kong, he
appeared to take no notice of the city on this evening, and,
instead of joining his friends among the crew in planning
excursions when they should have a day's liberty, spent
his time poring over a chart of the China Sea, which had
been loaned him by Mr. Short.
On the following morning Captain Thompson went on
shore. Ben knew that his first visit would be to the
consul's, his second to the agents of the ship, and it
was reasonable to suppose the business would be con-
cluded by noon, therefore, when the first officer was in
command, he proffered the request for liberty.
As may be fancied, it was readily granted, and with it
came a bit of advice.
You can go, lad, of course; but remember what I say,
an' mind your eye."
Ben intended to mind his eye," and take advantage of
every opportunity at the same time. He was in no hurry
to land, because he had figured out the probable time
which would be spent by his father at the office of the








A SELF-ELECTED CAPTAIN.


consignees, and he wished to arrive immediately after the
business was concluded.
In this he was successful.
He announced his name and relationship to the master
of the Sportsman, and the consignee replied, thinking his
only business was to see his father :
Captain Thompson has just left. You will find him
at the Hong Kong Hotel."
And that is just what I don't want to do yet awhile,
sir," Ben replied. I would like to talk with you first,
and then I will find him."
The agent appeared slightly surprised by this remark,
but made no comment, and Ben unfolded his scheme
without delay.
He related the story of the rescue of the sailors, with
which the gentleman had already been made acquainted,
and also detailed what he had learned from the informer.
Then he told of his scheme, explaining that he wished
to arrange matters, if possible, with the agent, before
speaking with his father, and declared that he could get
the brig from Nampang Island to Hong Kong without
assistance, save from such native sailors as he might be
able to pick up.
"And do you think you could navigate her ? the gen-
tleman asked, displaying sufficient interest in the matter
to satisfy the young sailor.
I'm certain of it. It won't be an easy matter for you
to find a captain in port, so why not take me ?"
But I really have no authority in the matter," the gen-








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


tieman replied. We attend to the business of the
Messrs. Pierce, but have no instructions regarding the
brig Progressive Age. Under the circumstances I should
hesitate before fitting her for sea until after communicat-
ing with the owners."
That means she would have to lay here a very long
while ? "
Exactly; and it would entail much loss. At the same
time I should n't feel warranted in doing anything on my
own responsibility."
Don't you suppose the owners would like to have her
home ?" Ben asked.
There 's no question about it, and very likely would
be willing to pay a good round sum. The matter had
better be referred to the American consul."
Then it is n't possible for you to give me any authority
in the matter ?" Ben asked, in a tone of grievous disap-
pointment.
",No; and yet I am willing to assume this much respon-
sibility: if your father says you are capable of managing
such a craft, I 'll authorise you to take possession of her
wherever she may be providing she is in such a condi-
tion as you describe. Then, upon arriving at Hong Kong,
it is possible the matter can be arranged to your satisfac-
tion ; but I am afraid not."
"And I have your authority to bring her here?"
"Yes, after I have talked with Captain Thompson."
Ben understood that it would be useless for him to make
any further conversation with the agent, and he departed









A SELF-ELECTED CAPTAIN.


with all speed to find his father, a task which was not dif-
ficult, owing to the fact that the master of the Sportsman,
having met some friends of his at the hotel, was likely to
remain there a long time.
Ben's enthusiasm was quite as great as ever, but he
began to have doubts as to the possibility of being allowed
to carry into effect what the chief mate had termed a
wild scheme."
It was fully half an hour before he could gain an inter-
view with his father, and then hurriedly, as if time was of
the utmost value, he repeated all he had heard from the
sailor, and asked of the agent.
Captain Thompson listened to him patiently; made no
comments either upon the story or the scheme, and, when
Ben had concluded, said severely:
I make it a rule never to transact business with my
men on shore, except at the consul's office. You could
have asked to see me at any time on board the Sportsman
before we came to anchor, but did not choose to do so.
Therefore we will defer the matter until I return to the
ship. I must say, however, that it would have been more
befitting you as a sailor to have given this information to
your captain at once, instead of withholding it in order to
go to the consignees without his knowledge."
I am willing to admit that, sir ; but at the same time
there is some slight excuse for me in the fact that I
hoped, if I should gain the consent of the agent to the
scheme, you would be more ready to look upon it with
favour, than before anything had been done. I am quite








30 THE BOY CAPTAIN.

certain, sir, you must have been as eager, when you were
young, to rise from the forecastle to the cabin as I am,
and, possibly, would have been as willing to risk giving
slight offence to your superior officer for the sake of
accomplishing your purpose."
Ben delivered this little speech respectfully, but yet
very earnestly, and even had there been no kinship
between them, there was so much truth in the words that
the captain could not fail to receive them in the same
spirit in which they were intended.















CHAPTER III.


NAMPANG ISLAND.

BEN did not appear particularly jolly when he came
over the side of the ship after his visit ashore, and
Mr. Short said, as he stepped on deck :
"Well, lad, it don't look as if you had met any too
much encouragement since you've been gone."
Indeed, I didn't," Ben replied, and then he went to
the deck-house as if wishing to shut himself out from
view of his shipmates while he recovered from the disap-
pointment.
Although his father had not positively refused to allow
him to carry out his scheme, he had very little hope of
being permitted to attempt it, and his sorrow was as great
proportionately as his aim had been high.
Not until half an hour elapsed did he show himself
again, and then he could not fail to comment upon the
fact that the deserters from the brig were no longer on
board.
"What became of those fellows we picked up?" he
asked the steward.
They went ashore in irons. I reckon the consul must
have sent for them. That second mate will have to post
his men better, if he wants to keep out of the jug."








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


It seemed as if this was the last blow to the young
sailor's hopes, for now the fact of the condition of the
brig would no longer be a secret, and others, beside him,
might think it a remarkably good opportunity to claim
salvage, or, at least, a rich reward, for extricating her from
what was really a dangerous position.
When the natives should learn that the Progressive Age
was in such a defenceless condition, it would not be long
before a sufficient number, piratically inclined, would
spirit her away.
It's foolish to think about it any more," he said, as
he busied himself with some trifling duty on deck. It's
such a chance as a fellow does n't often have; but I've
lost it, so there's no use crying over what can't be
helped."
Before two hours elapsed Ben had succeeded in getting
himself into a reasonably comfortable frame of mind by
resolutely putting far from him all "might have beens,"
and trying to look forward to the future hopefully, for
some opportunity of winning his way from the position
of seaman to that of master of a ship.
Then the captain came on board, and, ten minutes later,
Ben was summoned to the cabin.
He found his father looking over a chart of the coast,
and, thanks to his long study of a similar document, he
recognized the outlines of Nampang Island.
Did you come directly aboard after you left me ?" the
captain asked.
Yes, sir."








NAMPANG ISLAND.


No further discussion with the consignees ?"
"No, sir. After hearing what you had to say, it did
not seem as if there was any good reason why I should
figure on the chances of bringing the brig into port."
"Well, boy, I have half a mind to let you try the
scheme. The Progressive Age belongs to the same par-
ties who own the Sportsman, and, as a matter of fact, it
is, in a certain sense, my duty to protect their property
under such circumstances as now exist. Suppose I was
willing you should make the attempt, how would you
set about it?"
Go down to Nampang Island the best way I could, in
a sampan, if nothing else offers, for, according to my idea,
it is of the greatest importance to reach there at the
earliest possible moment. Then I would engage such
men as could be found on the island and around the
coast, and work her up here."
"You do not understand the Chinese language. How
do you propose to handle a Chinese crew? "
If I could n't find some one to act as interpreter, I 'd
be willing to guarantee I could make them understand
what I meant before we got under way. If she 's light,
so much the more reason for running up under easy sail,
and I reckon I could do a little more than an able sea-
man's work myself, if the reward at the end of it was a
possible captaincy."
And you expect to jump directly from the forecastle
into the cabin, eh ? "
It has been done before, sir. There seems to me no








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


reason why a man should not, if he is competent to take
command of a vessel."
"Do you think you are ? "
I am certain of it, sir."
Well, my boy, I 'm going to let you make the venture.
The consul will give you authority to take charge of the
brig ; but remember this, if through your carelessness or
ignorance, or even through stress of circumstances over
which you have no control, anything should happen to the
craft, your chances of ever being master would be very
much smaller than they are at present. A mistake now
will be serious, so far as your reputation is concerned, for
no matter what might occur in the way of disaster, it
would be set down to your inexperience, even though you
should handle her more carefully and skilfully than an
older captain."
I understand that, sir, and probably should take more
precautions than an older man."
I have no doubt of it. If you are willing to take the
risk, go ahead. How much money do you need ?"
I reckon I can get along with the wages that are due
me, sir. I had rather not borrow."
"But it is necessary you should go very quickly."
"Yes, sir, and I shall have sufficient funds for that pur-
pose if I take up my wages."
The captain gave Ben an order on the consignees of the
ship, saying as he did so :
I suppose you would prefer Chinese money, since you
are going down the coast ? This is the full amount of your








NAMPANG ISLAND.


wages to date, and if you spend it without accomplishing
the purpose, you will be penniless while we lie in Hong
Kong."
Ben thanked his father, ran to his sea -chest to make
such change in his costume as he thought might be neces-
sary, acquainted Mr. Short with the good news, and hurried
ashore, saying as he clambered over the rail:
I'll see you when I come back with the money, for I
may want you to help me hire a boat."
After getting his father's order cashed, he wasted very
little time at the consul's. A power of attorney had been
made out, and was ready for him.
Without stopping to give any details as to his proposed
journey, he hurried back to Pedder's Wharf.
Mr. Short, having learned from the captain under what
auspices the young sailor would set out, was on shore wait-
ing for his return, and said as Ben came on to the dock:
I don't see, lad, that there 's any show of your getting'
down to the island except in a sampan. It's hard on to
an hundred an' fifty miles from here."
Then the sooner I hire one the better, for I want to
be on my way within an hour."
Had n't you better try to pick up some sailors from
here to take down with you ? "
"No, sir," Ben replied, emphatically. If I accomplish
this I want all the credit, and by taking Americans with
me it would be claimed that they helped engineer the job.
The only question is, how much I shall have to pay for a
boat to carry me down there?"








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


We '11 hunt around a bit. I don't see any here," Mr.
Short replied, thoughtfully.
It looks to me as if there were plenty."
Why, you are not counting' on trying' it in one of these
small craft, are you ? "
Of course; what's to hinder ? I reckon they will keep
above water till I get there, and the smaller she is the less
money to pay."
It strikes me you 're bound to make this scheme as
dangerous as you know how, an' yet the orders are that
you are not to be interfered with in any way."
Then Mr. Short began bargaining with one of the native
boatmen; Ben purchased a limited amount of provisions,
and in less than two hours from the time his father had
given permission, the would-be captain started on what was
certainly a venturesome, if not decidedly perilous, voyage.
Of the journey in the sampan it is not necessary to
speak at length, save concerning one apparently trifling
episode, since, despite the opportunity for adventure, the
voyage was as uneventful as can well be imagined.
The boatmen had been employed to take their pas-
sengers to Nampang Island, where all their responsibility
would cease, and, in order to earn their money quickly,
made no halt; but urged the frail craft at her best speed
inside the chain of islands along the coast.
Ben had no reason to fret because of delay, save in the
one instance referred to, and that was so trifling that, eager
though he was to arrive at his destination, he would have
been ashamed to complain.









NAMPANG ISLAND.


It was when they were rounding the point of Chang-
Chuen Island that the owner of the boat was hailed by
some one on the shore, and an instant later a sampan put
out to intercept the travelers.
The islander did not come on board ; but, with his craft
alongside the other, held an animated conversation with
Ben's boatmen, and, by the glances cast toward him from
time to time, the young captain understood he was the
subject of the discussion, but in what manner it was im-
possible to say, since he had no knowledge of the language.,
It strikes me those fellows are jabbering away too
excitedly to be strictly innocent of any wrong, Ben said
to himself, making certain his revolver was where it could
be reached at an instant's notice. It looks as if this last
Chinaman was trying to persuade the others to tackle me
for what money might be got; but it would n't be a paying
job, I'll go bail on that."
If the newcomer was attempting to urge his acquaint-
ances into anything of the kind, the effort was a failure,
for, after conversing ten minutes or more, the three sepa-
rated, apparently with professions of the most profound
regard and esteem for each other, and the little craft was
pushed forward toward her destination once more.
It never entered Ben's mind that their conversation
might possibly have reference to the brig he was intend-
ing to take to Hong Kong, and half an hour later had
almost forgotten the circumstance.
As a matter of course he was on the alert against
possible mischief, as he had been from the moment of








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


leaving port ; but no suspicious actions were seen, and he
began to think these boatmen of his were as honest as any
of their competitors to be found in the vicinity of Pedder's
Wharf, which was not giving them very great praise.
In a little more than half the time he had allowed for
the voyage, the owner of the craft directed his attention
to a square-rigged brig lying at anchor close to the
island.
Poglesef Egg," the Chinaman said, as he pointed to
the vessel, and Ben could almost have hugged himself for
joy, on noting the fact that the decks were deserted.
It was evident the natives had not discovered her defence-
less condition, and he had arrived in time to put into exe-
cution the plan already formed in his mind.
He would have been pleased to hire his sampan men
for a while longer, in order to recruit a sufficient crew to
take the brig up the coast ; but their knowledge of Eng-
lish was quite as limited as his of Chinese, consequently
it was impossible to make any proposition which could be
understood.
Ben did not go through the formality of hailing the
brig; but clambered on board by the fore- shrouds, and
instantly he had gained a footing on the vessel, the boat-
men put off on their return, as if a delay of even a moment
might work great injury in their business.
I should n't be surprised if I'd taken a bigger con-
tract than I counted on," Ben said to himself, as he sur,
veyed the deck while standing on the rail. "Those sail,
ors were not satisfied with abandoning the craft, but it








NAMPANG ISLAND.


looks very much as if they tried to do all the mischief
possible before leaving."
There was good reason why the self elected captain
should feel dismayed by the task before him.
Hardly a rope was in place; the decks were strewn
with litter of all kinds, and it would be difficult to im-
agine a scene of greater confusion than that presented
from Ben's point of view.
Brig ahoy! the young sailor shouted, as he leaped
down from the rail, and an instant later a black, woolly
head appeared from the door of the galley, the ebony face
of which displayed signs of the liveliest fear.
"Whar whar whar you'se cum frum ? the owner
of the head asked, in a trembling voice, acting as if unde-
cided whether it would not be safer to barricade himself
inside his kitchen, than run the risk of an encounter with
a person who had apparently risen from the bottom of the
sea.
I'm just from Davy Jones's locker, and come to find
out why you are living so long," Ben replied, with a laugh,
as he resolutely banished the fears which had assailed him
after one glance at the decks.
"G'way frum hyar! G'way frum hyar! the cook
shouted, and disappeared for an instant to procure a long
carving-knife, which he waved to and fro frantically as the
young man approached the galley.
"Put up that knife. Put it back where you got it from.
I have n't come down here to do you any harm ; but only
to take charge of the brig. We picked up some of your








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


men who deserted the other day, and found out you were
in trouble."
The old man dropped his knife, clasped his hands, rolled
his eyes heavenward until nothing but the white portions
could be seen, and shouted fervently :
"Bress de Lawd! Bress de Lawd "
"Did n't any of the sailors stay with you ? Ben asked,
as the old darkey arose to his feet.
"Not one ob 'em, massa captain. Ebery blessed man ob
'em runned away when de brig was tied up to de anchor,
an' nobody's down hyar but Missy Belle an' old 'Liphlet."
"I suppose Missy Belle is the baby, eh ?"
"She am, an' de sweetes' chile dis yere ole nigger eber
saw."
Then she is a girl, of course ?" and even as he spoke
Ben realized what a foolish question he had asked.
"For suah."
"Where is she now ? "
"In de cabin, sah. She 's gwine to be des erbout tickled
to def fo' to see yo', sah."
I did n't come down here to take care of children,
so I don't suppose there is any need of hunting her up
until we get into port, providing she is old enough to feed
herself. All I ask is that she'll stay where she belongs,
and won't come yelling around while I'm trying to work
the brig with a lot of Chinamen, for if there's anything I
do hate it is to hear a young one squall, and it seems as
if that was about all they did, especially at sea. I tell
you, uncle-"








NAMPANG ISLAND.


Ben did not finish the sentence, and it is more than
probable he wished very heartily he had kept his opinions
regarding children to himself, for at that instant, as he
half turned to look around while continuing his speech
with the cook, he saw standing within a few feet of him
as charming a specimen of young womanhood as it had
ever been his good fortune to meet.
His hat was off his head in an instant, and, while doing
his best to make a graceful bow, he said, stammeringly:
'.' I beg your pardon, miss ; but the cook here told me
there was no one but himself and a child on board."
Uncle Eliphalet only speaks the truth," the young
lady replied. I am the child."
Ben's confusion increased rather than diminished, and,
despite all his efforts, he could summon no words to his
lips more gallant than-
The sailor spoke of you as a child, and I had an idea
I was going to find a little bit of a thing I mean, an
infant."
"The sailor," the young lady repeated, in surprise.
" Have you seen any of our crew?"
Ben explained how he had learned of the condition of
the vessel, and when he concluded the young lady asked
doubtfully:
Are you empowered, sir, to take command of this
brig? "
I am," Ben replied, promptly, recovering his presence
of mind now that they were speaking of business, and
here is my authority," he added, as he handed her the








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


power of attorney. My father is employed by the same
house that owns this craft, and since the consignees felt
doubtful about taking any very decided steps in the mat-
ter, until ascertaining the wishes of the owners, it was
agreed I might come down to bring her into port. My
most earnest wish is that I may be allowed to carry her
home."
You look very young, sir, to be a captain."
I never have been as yet ; but am capable of taking
command of this craft."
The girl looked at him questioningly an instant, as if
hardly crediting this bold assertion, and then asked:
"Where are the crew ? "
I have none as yet; but am counting on picking up
enough natives to handle the brig. We sha' n't need
many men to run from here to Hong Kong, for I reckon
on taking the place of two or three myself "
It was evident this statement was not as satisfactory to
the "child as Ben had fancied it might be.
For an instant she appeared at a loss to know what to
say, and then, as the pause became almost painful, replied,
with a faint smile which Ben thought very bewitching:
Will you come into the cabin, sir ? I can't offer you
much in the way of refreshments, for the crew have
helped themselves, and wasted the stores until there is
very little left."
I hope you have not been suffering for anything to
eat," and then Ben asked himself whether as dainty a
looking specimen of humanity really did eat ordinary food.








NAMPANG ISLAND.


Oh, dear, no. Uncle Eliphalet has always contrived
to dish up something in the way of dainties, and I have
been to sea too long to be fastidious about my food."
One glance at the cabin of the Progressive Age showed
that it had been the home of a woman, for nowhere
can the imprint of a woman's hand be seen so plainly as
at sea, where one least expects to find evidences of
refinement.
The main saloon on board the Sportsman was furnished
much more elegantly than this small apartment, on either
side of which were bunks for the officers and passengers,
and yet in Ben's eyes the former was not nearly as
inviting a place as was this.
A bird cage, a work basket, a bit of ribbon here and
a piece of half finished embroidery there, made such a
change in the general appearance of the apartment as
could not have been effected by man.
Ben had expected to enter the cabin of the Progressive
Age as master, and take formal possession, instead of
which he followed this young woman, not much more
than half as tall as himself, with the air of one who was
intruding, and very meekly seated himself in the chair
toward which she motioned.
"Having heard the story from the men, you doubtless
know of all the trouble I have had during this voyage,"
the young lady began, and Ben, fearing he should be the
means of bringing her grief more clearly before her
mind, hastened to say :
I did hear, Miss Miss "








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


Dunham, sir. My father was George Dunham, of
Yarmouth."
It is not necessary I should ask you for any informa-
tion which may be painful, since the log-book will tell me
what I need to know."
There is no reason why you should not learn all you
care to hear from me. The sorrow remains in my heart
whether I speak of it or not."
"Will you tell me where the Progressive Age was
bound for ?"
"Formosa."
"I wonder why the crew abandoned her here, instead
of making that port ? "
I think it was because the second mate no longer
felt able to control the men. After the death of my
father and the first officer, he gave himself up almost
entirely to drinking, and allowed the crew free access to
the spirits, until it was impossible to enforce obedience."
It must have been a terrible time for you," Ben said,
half to himself, and she replied, sadly:
"Indeed it was, sir. It seemed as if I must be under
the influence of some terrible dream, and even to be
abandoned here, with no one but the steward on board,
was a great relief. I should give the men credit for treat-
ing me with all possible respect; but the respect of
drunken men is oftentimes brutal."
Ben wanted to say something expressive of sympathy,
and yet never before had he found it so difficult to decide
upon what words should be used.








NAMPANG ISLAND.


I hope your troubles are over now," was all he could
think of at the time, and then, conscious of the fact that
he was appearing very ill at ease, not as should the com-
mander of a vessel, he added, "I think my first duty is to
inspect the brig, with a view of ascertaining her condition
for a run up the coast, and also question the steward as
to the supplies on board." If you will excuse me, I will
set about it at once."
"Let me go with you," she said, quickly. "It is such
a blessed relief, after these days of terrible anxiety, to
have some one with whom I can speak."
Ben was on the point of saying something about the
good fortune of a young captain in having such a charm-
ing mate to accompany him on a tour of inspection; but
he checked himself as he realized that neither the length
of their acquaintance nor the circumstances would
warrant anything of the kind.













CHAPTER IV.


ANTICIPATING TROUBLE.

A CAREFUL survey of the vessel was not calculated
to make the young captain more comfortable in
mind.
She was short of everything in the way of supplies; it
was necessary very much should be done to the running
gear; the paint was in shocking condition, and when
Eliphalet gave an account of the provisions on hand, Ben
doubted whether there would be sufficient to feed even a
Chinese crew for a week.
Had he been in port with plenty of money at his com-
mand, it would have seemed like quite a task to get the
brig in proper sailing trim; but here, where probably little,
if anything, could be procured from the shore, it appeared
a formidable undertaking.
Fortunately, so far as the pockets of the owners and the
fate of the Progressive Age was concerned, he did not
shrink from the task.
The first and most important duty to be performed
was the hiring of a native crew, and now it was that he
regretted not having insisted that the boatmen remain
to take him ashore.
"I can't understand why those Chinamen gave me the
slip so soon after we got here. It looked as if they were
46








ANTICIPA TING TROUBLE.


afraid to wait a single minute. I made a mistake in pay-
ing them before I came on board," Ben said to himself.
"What I should have done was to have let them stay until
I made certain they would n't be needed. However, it's
too late to think of that now; I must go ashore, and try
to scare up somebody who can talk pidgin-English, if
nothing more."
This last thought was spoken aloud, and, hearing it,
Miss Dunham said quickly:
You surely will not land until after having had some-
thing to eat. The steward is preparing a lunch; but you
will not find it remarkable either in quality or quantity."
I suppose I might as well eat something if he is get-
ting it ready ; but really, there is no necessity of anything
of the kind," Ben replied. Those Chinamen shared their
rice with me; I had some provisions of my own, and do
not feel at all hungry."
He was quite positive in his own mind that he had no
right to spend his time with the young woman, owing to
the many duties which it was necessary should be per-
formed without delay; but it seemed almost cruel to leave
her within fifteen minutes after his arrival, more especially
when she had told him how lonely the past few weeks had
been, therefore he resolved to spend several hours in idle-
ness rather than have her think him a boor.
It is probable that if Captain Dunham's daughter had
been less charming, Ben would not have been quite so
careful regarding her feelings; but one pretty girl can
influence a young man in a wonderful degree.








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


Eliphalet may not have had very much in the way of
provisions at his disposal; but he certainly, or so it seemed
to Ben at the time, prepared a dainty lunch.
Perhaps the company he was in had some effect, or it
might have been the knowledge that for the first time in
his life he was really in command of a vessel, although one
without a crew. At all events, he decided that he had
never sat down to a more satisfactory repast, and made
no attempt to bring it to a speedy conclusion.
Before rising from the table he learned very much rela-
tive to Miss Dunham's life on board the Progressive Age.
He knew she was motherless; that she was a good
sailor, owing to the fact of having made three voyages
with her father, who had been an able commander, and,
during the past two years at least, had hardly known a
sorrow, until Captain Dunham, stricken with fever, died
suddenly a few weeks prior to the desertion of the crew.
From that moment up to the present time Ben could
readily fancy what her life must have been, although she
touched but lightly on the subject while relating to him
the incidents of the voyage.
When the lunch was concluded the young lady excused
herself for a few moments to bring a box of cigars from
her father's room, as she said:
I suppose you smoke, captain ? It is a failing which
I believe all sailors have, and, fortunately, the crew has
not interfered with anything aft of the pantry."
Now, as a matter of fact, Ben had never smoked; but
when she called him captain, and referred to the belief








ANTICIPATING TROUBLE.


that all seamen were in the habit of using tobacco, he felt
in duty bound to help himself from the box, for, singular
as it may seem, he wished to appear very much of a man,
in her eyes at least.
She brought him a match, and he lighted the cigar in a
clumsy sort of fashion, wondering how long it would be
safe for him to smoke it.
Then she began to ask him concerning his plans for
hiring a crew, and he explained at greater length than was
absolutely necessary, why he must go on shore before
nightfall.
Miss Dunham expressed regret at being left alone again,
and Ben tried so hard to assure her he should be absent
only a short while, that for the time he forgot what a rapid
inroad was being made upon the strong tobacco.
When he finally realized this important fact his head
was swimming in a most unaccountable fashion, and he
wondered what excuse he could make to leave the cabin
in order to get a breath of fresh air, and, at the same time,
quietly drop the ill-tasting cigar overboard.
It was destined that Eliphalet should be the one to
extricate the young captain from his disagreeable position.
"I'se gwineter arsk yo', missy, ef I kin talk wid de
captain ? I 'se wantin' fo' to see him pow'ful bad fur a
little minute," the old man said, as he put his head in at
the cabin door.
Never did Ben reply so promptly to a steward's call as
on this occasion.
He leaped quickly to his feet, excused himself hurriedly







THE BOY CAPTAIN.


to Miss Dunham, lest by waiting a few moments longer
his face would betray the rebellion in his stomach, and
went on deck in the least possible space of time.
Once the door was closed behind him, his first act was
to throw the cigar overboard, and then, seizing the main
rigging to steady himself, faced the steward.
There could be no complaint that the black face was
expressionless, for the liveliest concern was written on
every feature, as the old darkey, prefacing his questions
with an apology for daring to interrogate the commander
of the brig, asked :
"Am it de sure enuff trufe you'se tole de young missy,
'bout gwine fur er crowd ob dem low-down yeller men ? "
"Why, yes, uncle, that's the only way open for us
now. You don't fancy we can find white men around
these islands, do you ? "
The old man shook his head, mournfully; but made no
reply, and the young captain asked, impatiently.
What 's the matter ? Are you one of those stewards
who interfere with the sailors, and think you can 't get
along with the Chinese ?"
"No, sah. I'se allers 'tendin' out de bes' I know how
on all han's; but I 'se done gone 'fraid ob dese yere yeller
men. While we 'se bin hyar seben or nine ob dem yere
little skimmin'-pan boats hab kept mighty cluss 'roun' de
brig, an' your uncle winter hab his 'pinyon wha' dey
cum fur. "
There's no question but that the natives here are
none too good to seize the vessel if they thought it could








ANTICIPATING TROUBLE.


be done without much risk," Ben replied, carelessly; "but
you and I are a match for a dozen of those fellows, uncle,
so don't bother your black head about them any more.
They won't dare to go wrong after we once get the crew
aboard. With any kind of a wind, a run up the coast can't
be more than a pleasure excursion."
The old man did not appear to be particularly well
pleased with this reply, and it seemed as if he was forced
to exercise considerable self-control in order to prevent
himself from commenting upon the young captain's re-
mark.
He stood a few moments as if in deepest study, and
then said, hesitatingly:
Dere's one bit ob news I'se boun' fur to tell yer, sah,"
and bending toward Ben he whispered in the most tragic
manner imaginable, Dis yere brig am wanted."
The young captain had heard too much of the supersti-
tion of sailors to be very deeply impressed with this sup-
posedly startling news, and contented himself by replying:
We 'll drive the ghosts out of here in short order,
uncle. I 'm a regular voodoo on that sort of thing. I
see the deserters left you a boat, and if you 'll lay hold
here with me, we'll drop it in the water."
Whar you'se gwine, sah ? the old man asked, without
making any attempt to comply with what was at the same
time a command and a request.
Ashore to get my crew, of course. We must be under
way by to-morrow morning."
"Don't do it, sah Don't do it! and the steward laid








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


his hand on the young captain's arm imploringly. I'se
.suah dere 's gwine to be trubble 'roun' dis yere craf' 'fore
mawnin', an' I spect it's er cumin' right soon ef you done
leabe us now."
Look here, uncle, don't give me any more of that
ghost business till I have time to attend to it. It is-"
It ain' de ghostes, captain, it ain't de ghostes; but
dese yere yeller men. Dey 's gwine fo' to make trubble
mighty soon. I'se bin trying' fur to 'pare myse'f to take
keer ob de young missy eber sence dem dish-pans cum
flyin' 'roun'. Now dey 's gittin' ready to swoop down on
dis yere brig. Look -dar! An' dar! the old darkey
added, as he pointed to the shore where, for the first time,
the young captain observed several sampans in which the
crews were sitting as if waiting some signal before put-
ting off.
There was no necessity now for the steward to urge
Ben to take every precaution.
A descent of the natives upon the defenceless vessel
was what the young captain had feared at the moment of
hearing of the brig's condition, and, in fact, during the
journey from Hong Kong, almost fancied he should find
she had been captured by the piratically inclined Chinese
from the island.
Have any of those fellows boarded the brig since you
have been lying here ? he asked, quickly.
No, sah, but dey hab hung 'roun' mos'ly all de time
wid dere narrer eyes open des as wide as could be, an' dey
knows how many ob us are hyar."









































r.,






/ I


"'LOOK DAR!"'








ANTICIPATING TROUBLE.


Did Miss Dunham notice anything of the kind ?"
Ben asked, after a pause, during which he had been trying
to decide what course to pursue.
No, sah, she ain' been on deck berry much, an' yer
uncle kep' his mouf shet mighty tight."
"Are there any weapons on board ? "
"I'se done gone 'pare 'em, sah," and the steward ran
into the deck-house, emerging a few seconds later with
three formidable -looking carving-knives, which had evi-
dently been sharpened with great care.
"Those don't amount to anything," Ben said, con-
temptuously. Have n't you any firearms ?"
De ole cap'n mus' had a 'volver, sah, an' dat 's all
we'se got on dis yere craf', 'cept de cannon in de fo'-
peak what de crew was counting' on bringing' up fur to
celebrate wid."
I 've got one revolver, and if there's another in the
captain's room you and I will be armed. As for the
cannon, we 'll look at that later. Can you shoot at a
mark, uncle ?"
I could do dat, sah, but I'se pow'ful 'fraid de ole man
would n't make no great fis' at hitting' it," and the steward
rubbed his nose in perplexity as if trying to decide what
he really would be able to do if called upon to use
such a weapon.
"Do you shut your eyes when you shoot ? "
Mos'ly, sah, mostly. Seems like de bullet done go
better when I don' watch it."
I reckon it does about as well," Ben replied, grimly.








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


"Now the difficulty is to get a revolver without letting
Miss Dunham know what we are about."
Eliphalet had no suggestion to offer as to how this
might be done, and Ben, understanding now that there
was little time for delay, started for the cabin.
The knowledge of impending danger had driven from
him all feeling of nausea, and at the same time restored
to him his self-possession, which had been so sadly lacking
during his first interview with the "mate of the brig."
"What is the matter?" Miss Dunham asked, as he
entered the cabin.
This was a question for which Ben was not prepared.
To use his own expression he "was taken all aback by it."
Nothing ; that is to say, nothing of any account. You
know stewards are always fussing about trifles,' he
replied, hesitatingly, not thinking it advisable to tell her
either of the alleged ghosts or the possibility of a visit
from the natives. I was looking around to see what we
had to defend ourselves, rather, make ourselves obeyed.
You know a Chinese crew must be kept in subjection,
and we should be prepared for any emergency, although I
assure you there is not the slightest danger. Are there
any firearms in your father's cabin ? "
Go in and look for yourself, sir. It will be necessary
for you to occupy that room, since the charts and all of
father's instruments are there."
Ben hurriedly did as she suggested. He realized the
fact that he had not acquitted himself very creditably so
far as preventing her from seeing that he was disturbed in









ANTICIPATING TROUBLE.


mind, and was eager to accomplish his purpose and leave
the cabin before she could ask any more questions.
In this he was not successful, however.
He found in the captain's desk a serviceable Colt,"
with plenty of ammunition, but looked in vain for more.
Evidently this was the extent of the ship's stores in the
way of weapons (if one excepted the old cannon spoken
of by the steward), and hastily placing these articles in
his pockets, Ben turned to retrace his steps.
He was met at the door of the room by Miss Dunham,
who, while not appearing absolutely frightened, wore an
expression of anxiety which was very apparent to the
young man.
Eliphalet has told you something which causes you to
think there may be danger," she said. "It would be
unkind to leave me in ignorance, more especially since
you know, from what has already occurred, that I may be
depended upon to at least control my feelings during a
time of peril. Now, captain, will you please tell me why
you came so suddenly for father's revolver ? "
The last question was spoken in an imploring tone.
The young girl had laid her hand coaxingly on Ben's
arm, and his susceptible heart was not proof against
her pleading.
Hastily turning the matter in his mind, he concluded
that it might be better to inform her of all the steward
had told him, save, perhaps, with the exception of the
alleged ghosts, and replied in such a frank tone that she
could have no question as to the truth of the words.








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


I don't fancy there is any danger at all, and yet I am
making preparations in case there should be," Ben said.
" The steward tells me he has noticed several sampans
hanging around the brig since the sailors deserted, and
now there are a number on the shore evidently ready to
put out. It would not be surprising if the natives should
make an attempt to capture the brig, knowing her defence-
less condition ; but I assure you, Miss Dunham, there is
no possibility of their succeeding. That, positively, is the
only reason why I came for your father's weapons, and
perhaps I have done wrong in telling you what may simply
be an old darkey's foolish ideas."
"You have told me nothing I did not know before," the
young girl replied, with no show of fear. I also have
noticed the native boats evidently bent on reconnoitering,
and have fancied there might be such an attempt as you
speak of, made. Do you think it will be possible for three
of us to prevent the capture of the brig, if the enemy
should come in large numbers, as would probably be the
case ? "
"You say 'three.' Surely you don't suppose I shall
allow you to take a hand in such work," Ben replied, with
some surprise.
It would be difficult to prevent it, sir, if an attack was
made. You will find that I shall be quite as effective a
member of the crew as old Eliphalet, and, perhaps, not
disposed to show the white feather so quickly."
"I have no doubt of that," Ben replied; "but at the
same time you must understand I most emphatically for-








ANTICIPATING TROUBLE.


bid your leaving the. cabin in case there should be any
disturbance on deck."
There will be ample opportunity for us to speak of
that," the young girl replied, with a smile that went
straight to Ben's heart, and caused him to fancy, just at
the moment, that in her defence he would be a match for
any twenty natives who might attempt to board the brig.
Did the steward tell you there was a cannon in the
fore-peak ? Miss Dunham asked.
Yes; but he spoke of it as something which was worth-
less, and if that is the case it might be as dangerous to us
as the enemy."
It probably looks worthless because it has been un-
cared for; but father purchased it with the belief that it
was a serviceable weapon, and the ammunition intended
for it is now in the lazaret."
"I'll get it on deck, in that case," and Ben left the
cabin hurriedly, for he was now convinced of the evil
intent of the natives, since Miss Dunham herself had noted
their espionage of the craft.
When he gained the deck once more, old Eliphalet was
standing by the rail, watching intently the movements of
those on the shore, and he asked :
Anything new, uncle ?"
"Deys er gittin' more ob dem dish pans 'roun' de
shore. I'se bin counting' four des behind' dat ar' pint."
"We'll look after the rascals with a glass, presently.
Just now I want that cannon out. Show me where it is."
The old darkey led the way to the fore peak where








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


Ben found a serviceable -looking six -pounder mounted on
a light carriage.
It was not a convenient article for two people to handle;
but in a comparatively short space of time the weapon
was gotten on deck, and the young captain went toward
the cabin once more for the purpose of procuring ammu-
nition.
I could do that much without assistance," Miss Dun-
ham said, when he entered, as she pointed to a small keg
of powder, and several bags of grape-shot which had been
placed in the corner of the saloon near the companion-
way.
Did you bring those here ? Ben asked, in surprise.
Certainly; I wanted to convince you I could be of
some service, and, besides, I knew exactly where they had
been left."
"But you went into the lazaret with a light ?"
"Yes, sir. It was what you would have been obliged
to do, and there could be no more danger for me than any
one else."
"But there was," Ben replied, quite emphatically, "and
I can't allow you to take such risks."
And I can't afford to sit still while you are working.
No one can say how much time we may have at our dis-
posal, and, when every moment is precious, the third
member of the crew should do her full share."
Ben looked at her admiringly a few seconds, and then
said, half to himself, as he stooped to raise the keg of
powder:








ANTICIPATING TROUBLE. 59

"I do n't wonder your father brought you to sea with
him. A woman like you is worth a dozen of some men
such as I know."
"Thank you, sir," the young girl replied, laughingly.
" I hope before many days you will have even a better
impression of me."
"That would not be possible," Ben said, gallantly, and
then he went on deck to make ready what might be an
instrument of destruction, as well for those who handled
it, as the enemy toward whom it should be directed.















CHAPTER V.


DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.

" T looks as if my plans were being nipped in the bud
before I 've even had time to make a beginning," Ben
muttered to himself, as he charged the six pounder with
as much powder as he fancied was consistent with safety,
and added a generous supply of grape-shot. "Instead of
getting a crew from the shore, I am forced to make ready
for defence against the same fellows whom I thought
could be hired, and the question is, how, after this scrim-
mage is over, if one comes, I am to pick up men enough
to handle the brig. However, as the lobster said to the
cook when she popped him into the hot water, we won't
let that trouble us just yet. If I can train this gun
right, we'll play hob with some of their sampans, and
make the yellow rascals sick of trying to steal a vessel."
Eliphalet had watched the loading of the cannon
intently, and, when the task was finally accomplished,
asked :
Is yer gwine fur to shoot right at 'em ef dey comes
'roun', sah ?"
I allow that's what we 'll do, uncle, I count on
lessening the inhabitants of that island by a good round
dozen, if they try any funny business with us."








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.


Ef dem yeller scoun'rels surroun' us fore an' aft,
wha 's we gwine fur to be when de gun am shot off ? "
"We'll get some service out of the old piece, and trust
to luck for disabling as many of the craft as possible.
After that, uncle, it's a question of our handling
revolvers mighty lively."
It was evident the steward had very little faith in the
six-pounder, and, from his uneasy movements when the
young captain suggested his being called upon to use a
revolver, he possibly doubted his own ability to make
much of a defence.
The cannon had been placed on the quarter-deck, and
it was there Ben proposed to marshal his little force.
Any attempt to prevent the brig being boarded, in case
the natives should make a simultaneous attack from every
side, would be useless with the small number of defenders,
therefore the young captain had decided that if a struggle
should ensue he must be prepared to meet it on the
quarter-deck.
The companionway would serve as a convenient place
for Miss Dunham to remain, if she insisted on taking
part in the battle, for there Ben could force her to be
partially sheltered, and on the stairs was laid the ammu-
nition, where it would be most readily gotten at.
As a matter of course, Ben had no desire for a pitched
battle, and even while making these preparations for
defence, he was trying to decide how it might be
avoided.
To land now in search of sailors would be the height








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


of imprudence, and yet, in case the natives were meditat-
ing an attack, the only certain means of preventing it
was by immediate departure.
If he had had one other white man with him, Ben
would then and there have attempted to take the brig
into port without a crew, hazardous as such a course
might be; but Eliphalet's age and general appearance
suggested that he would not prove a very able or trust-
worthy seaman.
If those fellows don't make a break between now
and to-morrow morning, I stand some chance of hailing a
sampan that I can send on shore in search of men," Ben
said to himself; but with this came the idea that, by so
doing, he might only be allowing the evil disposed inhab -
itants of the island a better opportunity to take possession
of the brig.
In the meantime, the number of boats on the shore
was increased as if by magic.
That they came from opposite points of the island the
watchers knew very well, yet it was seldom they were
able to detect the arrivals until the craft itself was
partially hauled up on the bank.
It was some time before Ben could understand the
meaning of this strange state of affairs, and then he saw
one of the sampans being brought out from among the
foliage by two men.
"The rascals paddle up to that wooded point, then
land to bring their boats across so we sha' n't get a glimpse
of them," he said, believing he was alone ; but, when the








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.


words had been spoken, a clear voice, without the slightest
evidence of tremor in it, said:
"They seem to be gathering in considerable force,
captain, and I fancy it won't be a great while now before
you will have good proof. of what their intentions are."
Turning quickly, Ben saw Miss Dunham, who, with her
own marine glass at her eyes, was scrutinising the shore
of the island, and must have been in that position several
moments while he was unaware of her presence.
There was now no reason why he should attempt to
disguise the true position of affairs, for she could see
quite as much as he; therefore he replied, gazing
seaward :
If there was a breath of air stirring, I'd up anchor
and let the old hooker work off the shore, for our chances
of getting a crew at sea appear to be better than finding
one on this piece of land."
"Judging from the general appearance of things on
shore now, I should say that we would soon receive a
visit from those fellows."
"Yes," Ben replied with a sigh, which escaped his lips
involuntarily. "They 'll take precious good care to come
before there's an opportunity for us to leave our anchor-
age." Then, bringing his hand down on the breech of the
gun with a resounding slap, Now I know the meaning of
that visit to my boatmen and he told the young lady of
the one incident which occurred during the voyage from
Hong Kong.
Then you think the men who came off from the island








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


knew that the attack was to be made on the brig ?" Miss
Dunham asked.
I am positive of it. The scoundrels, seeing a white
man, probably fancied the Hong Kong craft was heading
for the Progressive Age, and came out to learn if such was
the case. The chances are considerably more than even
that the very men who brought me here are on shore,
waiting to assist in the attack."
The conversation was interrupted at this point by Uncle
Eliphalet, who had been forward attending to some work
in his own department, and now came aft in a most pitiable
condition of fear. His black face was of an ashen gray
hue, and his eyeballs rolled to and fro in their sockets,
as if he no longer had any control over them.
"What's up? What's up now?" Ben cried cheerily,
understanding that Miss Dunham must hear that which
the old darkey had to relate, since she had seen the
exhibition of terror.
"Bress de Lawd, cap'n! Bress de Lawd, chile! De
ghostes hab cum wuss 'n eber."
One quick glance at Miss Dunham showed that the
steward's appearance, if not his words, had caused her
alarm, and Ben understood that it was necessary to check,
if possible, the old darkey's propensity for seeing super-
natural beings.
Now hold your tongue, and get forward This is no
time to be talking about ghosts, even if such things ever
existed Look ashore, and you '11 see what may cause us
more trouble than a whole cargo of spirits ever could."








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.


,,But, sah, dey's in de fo'peak! I's done gone heerd
'em, sah De debbil mus' be on dis yere craf' !"
It won't take me long to persuade you that he is, and
has gotten hold of you," Ben said, angrily. If you can't
do anything better than to run around getting frightened,
go into the galley and stay there."
But I done heerd 'em talking sah, an' dem ghostes
soun's des like dese yere yaller fellers."
Now see here, uncle, will you get away and hold your
tongue about such things, or shall I have to fire you bodily
forward where you belong ? "
Ben displayed so much anger the old man evidently
thought that, between the enraged captain and the ghosts,
the latter would be likely to do him the least injury, there-
fore he obeyed; but in a very unwilling manner, shaking
his head gravely as he muttered something about the way
in which the alleged ghosts could be heard talking.
I hope you 're not frightened by what that foolish old
darkey has told," Ben said, as he turned and faced the
young girl. Of course both you and I know how ridicu-
lous such yarns are, and yet there is no place where one
can hear as many as on shipboard."
"It is not that I am at all afraid of old Eliphalet's
ghosts," Miss Dunham replied, readily; "but I am begin-
ning to think he really did hear them."
"Do you believe in such things ?" Ben asked, in
surprise.
I believe it is possible that he really heard people talk-
ing in the forepeak, and think the matter should be in-







THE BOY CAPTAIN.


vestigated at once. You must remember, captain, that
we have been lying here several days with no watch kept
at night. What an easy matter it would have been for
some of these Chinese to come aboard after dark, and
secrete themselves, ready to join their friends when the
attack is made."
What a thick-headed idiot I've been, to be sure, not
to think of such a thing Ben exclaimed. Any one but
a blockhead like me would have searched every portion of
the brig before settling down to watch for enemies from
the shore. Will you stay here on guard, giving an alarm
at the slightest suspicious movement you see, while I go
below ? "
You don't intend to venture there alone, captain ?"
and the young girl laid one slender hand on Ben's arm to
prevent him from leaving her so quickly.
"There is n't the slightest danger, no matter how many
may be there, for at the sight of a revolver every yellow
rascal will go down on his knees. The only fear they
may do a person an injury is when they can slip up in the
night and put a knife in his back."
Yet you believe they are brave enough to attack this
ship in the daytime," Miss Dunham said, as she pointed
significantly toward the shore.
"They are made bold by the knowledge that there are
only three on board, while they can probably muster fifty
or a hundred. It is in the highest degree important that
we know whether there is any one below or not, therefore
we must not waste time. Keep your weather-eye lifting








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.


on those sampans, and discharge one chamber of the
revolver in case you want to summon me to the deck
quickly."
Then, before she could make any further protest, Ben,
with a weapon in his hand, went hurriedly forward, stop-
ping at the galley only long enough to call Uncle Eliphalet,
as he said :
Light a lantern, and come into the forepeak with me."
"Bress de Lawd, cap'n, sah, is you gwine fur ter snoop
down on dem yere ghostes ? Don' do it, sah, don' do
it!"
Hold your tongue, and do as I tell you!" Then,
noting the fact that the old fellow was in such a condition
of abject terror as to render him almost useless as an as-
sistant, Ben added in a more friendly tone, There are no
ghosts here, uncle; but Miss Dunham and I have an idea
some of those yellow scoundrels may have come on board,
and are in hiding, ready to slip out on us when their
friends give the signal. Now look alive with that lantern,
for we may not have many minutes left in which to clear
the rats out of this craft."
Uncle Eliphalet was more willing to face any number
of live Chinamen, although he was by no means what
would be called a brave darkey, than to venture where the
slightest suspicion of a ghost might be entertained, and
at once began to display considerable alacrity in obeying
the captain's command.
After he had lighted the lantern, Eliphalet seized two
of the well-sharpened knives, although how he could have








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


expected to use both in case any weapon should be neces-
sary, while he was forced to carry the lamp in one hand,
it is difficult to say, and then stepped out of the galley
as a signal that he was ready to accompany the young
captain on what might prove to be a decidedly perilous
errand.
Ben gave one quick glance toward the shore to satisfy
himself there had been no change in the general arrange-
ment of the sampans, and then, warning Eliphalet that he
must remain close in the rear in order that the tiny flame
should be given the best possible opportunity for dispel-
ling the darkness, he descended through the fore hatch-
way.
At this point the old darkey's courage failed him en-
tirely, and, instead of following agreeably to the instruc-
tions given, he leaned over the combing, and lowered the
lantern into the well-like apartment ; but without trusting
his precious body below the deck.
Not a sound could be heard.
The silence was as that of the grave, and the darkness
so intense that the tiny yellow flame only served to ren-
der it almost palpable.
Come out here and show yourselves, or you '11 stand a
good chance of getting a few bullets in your heads Ben
cried, standing with his back against a stanchion in order
to protect himself from an attack in the rear, and trying
in vain to pierce the gloom with his eyes.
There was no response, and but for the fact that Miss
Dunham had been so impressed with the idea that one or








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.


more natives were secreted on board, Ben would have
said the forepeak was tenantless.
Stand steady there, Eliphalet, and hold the lantern
as low as you can. I 'm going to shoot at random once
or twice, and see what I can bring out."
As he spoke, Ben discharged two chambers of his re-
volver in rapid succession.
Before the sound of the reports had fairly died away
there was a scream of terror, a scrambling of 'footsteps,
and three half naked, villainous looking Chinamen were
facing him, brandishing their knives fiercely, and dancing
to and fro to prevent him from taking accurate aim.
"Stand by with that lantern!" Ben shouted, and, at
the same instant darting forward quickly, dealt one of the
intruders a left handed blow, which brought him to the
deck half stunned.
Terrified though old Eliphalet was, he managed to hold
the lantern in such a manner that the young captain could
keep his adversaries in view, and at the muzzle of the
revolver he forced them to stand by the side of their
prostrate companion.
Now throw down those knives he shouted.
It is doubtful if the men fully understood the words;
but the gesture which he made was sufficiently expressive,
and in an instant the weapons dropped to the deck, Ben
crying to the steward :
Lower the lantern, and get into the carpenter's room
for some pieces of ratline stuff Don't let the grass grow
under your feet! We 've got no time to waste here "








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


Old Eliphalet obeyed, so far as dropping the lantern
was concerned; but, before he could procure the neces-
ary material for binding the prisoners, Miss Dunham
was bending over the hatchway.
How many ghosts did you find ? she asked, trying in
vain to peer into the gloom.
Three, and I'll send the lot on deck as soon as I can
trice them up a bit."
"Why not pass them up to me ? You can fetter them
better where it is light, and I 'll answer for it they don't
escape me while you are clambering out."
Ben hesitated an instant, as if fearing to expose her to
possible danger, and then, realising that he would be at a
decided disadvantage in case they should make an attempt
at overpowering him while in that dark place, cried
cheerily:
"Keep your eye on them sharp, and don't hesitate to
shoot if they make a motion toward going over the
rail."
Then, using his weapon as a means of emphasizing, and
at the same time explaining his command, he ordered
them to ascend the rude ladder.
Probably thinking they were to be allowed to escape,
the men hurriedly obeyed, only to be confronted by a
small, but decidedly resolute looking girl, who appeared
able to do as much execution with her revolver as the
captain could do with his.
By the time the three were on the deck and Ben had
followed them, Eliphalet had returned with the ratline









7


/


"/ SM L, B/UT D I RL L O IN 'L
I I

"A SMALL, BUT DECIDEDLY RESOLUTE LOOKING GIRl."








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.


stuff, and the work of making them close prisoners was
speedily finished.
Triced up with their backs to the main rigging on the
port side, they would afford the little crew no slight
protection in case there was any attempt made to board
the craft, and this Ben counted on when he placed them
in that position.
I only wish we had a few more of them," he said,
grimly, when the last man was secured beyond all possi-
bility of freeing himself from his bonds, unaided; "for I
reckon those fellows on shore would n't care about cutting
their way through members of their own gang, and we
should stand a chance of making them come to terms
without much fighting. Uncle, you'd better search those
rascals, and see if they have got any more weapons. Then,
as soon as you can get it ready, we 'll have something to
eat, for I reckon there won't be much chance to do
cooking later in the afternoon."
Knowing that the prisoners could work him no harm,
Uncle Eliphalet proceeded to make a minute examination
of their clothing without delay; but his labour was in
vain, so far as finding any weapons was concerned.
The knives which had been taken from them in the
forepeak were all they had, and it was more than likely
they were not able to bring others, owing to the fact of
their having probably swam from the shore to the brig.
While the old darkey was making ready the food which
Ben had ordered to be served on the quarter-deck, Miss
Dunham was busily engaged arranging the ammunition








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


and spare weapons, such as two cutlasses, and one of the
steward's knives, on the companionway steps where they
could be reached with the least difficulty, and the young
captain paced to and fro as if trying to decide some
weighty question.
Not a breath of air had been stirring during the day;
but now, as the night approached, a light breeze, coming
from the direction of the island, rippled the glassy waters,
and again did Ben think it might not only be possible, but
advisable, to leave the dangerous anchorage.
Can you steer ?" he asked suddenly, turning toward
the young girl, who was leaning over the edge of the
companionway, scanning the island through the glass.
Oh, yes, indeed! I don't know that I should be very
successful at it in heavy weather; but, under ordinary
circumstances, I can handle the wheel."
"Then I 'll try it," he said, half to himself.
"Try what ?" Miss Dunham asked, curiously.
"The scheme of getting under way before those
fellows can come down on us in such numbers that we
shall be literally overwhelmed."
But I don't think you should count on any assistance
from the steward. He is so old and timid that I question
if you would be able to get him aloft."
I sha'n't attempt it. We have three able-bodied men
here, and it seems a clear waste of raw material not to
make them earn their grub."
Are you thinking of trying to persuade those China-
men to help you ? "








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS.


No, I shall force them to do as I say, and I reckon,
with the muzzle of a revolver at their heads, they 'll pull
and haul as much as will be needed, unless the weather
should change suddenly. The only possible trouble is
that I may not be able to make them understand."
Miss Dunham shook her head doubtfully, as if thinking
this new scheme of the young captain's was not only
impracticable, but dangerous.
Fortunately, Ben did not see the gesture, which was
so expressive, otherwise he might have been tempted
to reconsider his determination, for he was beginning to
place considerable confidence in the young woman's
opinion.
The scheme seemed so feasible to him, and the neces-
sity of getting away from that locality at the earliest
possible opportunity so great, that he paid no attention
just at that moment to anything around him, save as it
was connected with the plan he had in mind.
In furtherance of it, while Miss Dunham stood looking
around her as if having become convinced the consignees
of the brig had made a. mistake in sending so young a
captain, Ben approached the prisoners.
He began to carry his scheme into execution by stating
rapidly, and apparently regardless of whether they under-
stood him or not, exactly what he proposed to do, promis-
ing in the most expressive tone, with the flourish of the
revolver by way of emphasis, that he should not hesitate
to shoot one or the three at the first attempt to escape, or
a refusal to obey orders.








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


If you do not understand all my words," he said, in
conclusion, I am satisfied you have a pretty good general
idea of what I mean; therefore I shall not hesitate to do
exactly as I have said."
The prisoners looked at him impassively, as if wholly
at a loss to know what he had been talking about, and
yet, from a certain twinkle in the eyes of one, he felt
quite confident this particular fellow could, if he were so
disposed, speak English as well as the majority of his
countrymen in that vicinity.
Therefore he walked aft, leaving them alone to discuss
the matter among themselves, as he said, with a cautionary
flourish of the weapon :
You 'd better make up your minds to understand me,
or else there 'll be a considerable amount of shooting
going on here, which won't be at all pleasant."
That they did know, or at least one of them did, what
he had said, seemed evident from the fact that, as soon as
he was near the companionway once more, the three
began talking earnestly among themselves, and Ben said
to the young girl, who had been watching him curi-
ously :
I fancy we shall make a go out of this thing. At all
events it is a scheme worth trying, for the chances are
decidedly against us if we stay here until those fellows
ashore can muster in sufficient force to take the brig by
sheer press of numbers."
Miss Dunham made no reply to this remark, and Ben
understood from her silence that she was not at all in








DISAGREEABLE VISITORS. 75

favour of such an attempt; but unable to see any other
way of escape from what seemed to be a very serious
affair, he determined to carry out the plan, so far as
should be possible, trusting to the chapter of accident
and chance to bring the matter through successfully.















CHAPTER VI.


AN UNWILLING CREW.

THE time which Ben thus occupied in maturing his
plans had been utilised by the steward in preparing
the afternoon meal, and he now began to bring it aft,
placing it, according to the young girl's directions, on the
top of the house, without any pretensions to elegance in
the manner of serving it.
Cold boiled beef, ship's biscuit, hot tea, and pickles
made up the entire bill of fare; not a very much better
meal than would have been served in the forecastle of the
Sportsman, and Ben asked in surprise:
Is it possible the stores are down as low as this,
steward? Haven't you got any little delicacy for Miss
Dunham ? "
She does n't need any," the young girl said, quickly,
"and could not have it if she did. The stock of flour is
so low we cannot afford hot biscuit, except as a luxury,
and, after having put up with such fare as this so many
days, I guess it won't be a serious matter if I do not
have anything different until we reach port."
"Which we shall do, please God, very soon, providing
we can get away before those fellows on shore have com-
pleted their preparations," Ben replied; and then, as if








AN UNWILLING CREW.


this was a sort of grace before meat, he made a vigorous
onslaught upon the scanty store of food, after seeing that
Miss Dunham was served.
It was destined that even this poor supper should not
be concluded without interruption.
Before Ben had appeased his hunger an unusual number
of men could be seen gathering in the vicinity of the
sampans, and the young captain rightly conjectured the
time had come for the inhabitants of the island to make
their descent upon the brig.
"Keep your eye on those fellows ashore, and tell me
everything they do! Ben cried, as he ran hastily forward
to where the prisoners were, unloosing the one whom he
believed could speak English, and another, leaving the
third still tied to the rigging. "Here, Eliphalet, get
forward with me to the capstan!" he shouted to the old
darkey, the blackness of whose face was rapidly changing
to an ashen hue. "I reckon time is short with us now."
With his revolver held ready for instant use, and dis-
playing it ostentatiously to the prisoners, he motioned
them forward, saying, at the same time:
Get on to that capstan the best you know how, or
you won't be likely to see your brother scoundrels again
in this world!"
There was every reason why the men should understand
what he meant by his gestures, knowing as they did in
what desperate straits the few defenders of the brig
would soon be placed in case the attack was made, and
they obeyed with apparent willingness, the pawls clicking








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


merrily in the ratchets as they ran the drum around, Ben
assisting with a bar, while holding his weapon in one hand,
as Eliphalet, in a feeble sort of way, attempted to draw
the slack cable into shape.
In the still air the clinking of the metal must have
been heard distinctly on shore, and Miss Dunham, from
her point of vantage, shouted :
They are coming out from among the foliage in
greater numbers now, and it looks as if they were
getting ready to put off."
By this time the anchor was clear of the bottom, and
after two or three fathoms more of the chain had been
brought inboard, Ben ordered his unwilling crew into the
fore-rigging, accelerating their movements decidedly by
the flourish of his revolver, as he cried:
"Loose the foretopsail, and do it lively there! Let me
catch you skulking for a single moment, or making any
motion to those fellows on shore, and I 'll send something
after you that won't be pleasant. Get hold of- the jib
halliards, Eliphalet, and lay down on them the best you
know how! "
The Chinamen clambered up the rigging with the same
celerity of movement they had shown in going forward,
and Ben laid hold of the halliards, swaying down on the
ropes as he kept his eyes fixed on the prisoners, Eliph-
alet adding his feeble strength to the work.
It was not to be expected the two could hoist the heavy
canvas into position, for the steward was not much bet-
ter than a boy at such work; but sufficient of the sail was








AN UNWILLING CREW.


raised to catch the light breeze which bellied it seaward
in a manner that delighted Ben, and told him the little
brig would soon be drawing as rapidly away from the land
as he had hoped.
We '11 belay there, uncle, until our friends come down.
Get over to the capstan once more; I think I 'll let the
third Chinaman loose."
Three of the sampans have put off already!" Miss
Dunham cried; "there must be at least fifty men on the
beach."
If they allow us ten minutes more I don't care how
many come," Ben shouted cheerily, and ran amidships to
unfasten the last prisoner, who was very careful to obey
the mute command to go forward, which was given with
the muzzle of the revolver.
It was necessarily slow work for those aloft, but they
were moving as rapidly as could have been expected, even
faster than the young captain had fancied would be the
case, and while they were at their work the anchor was
hove up half a dozen fathoms more, after which the three
hoisted the jib tosomewhere near the proper position.
By the time this last task was completed, those above
had finished all they could do, and were ordered on deck
again.
Then the five manned the mainsail halliards, and in a
very few moments after the huge square of canvas had
been loosened to the breeze the brig began moving
through the water, slowly to be sure, but yet with suffi-
cient speed to show the anxious ones it was only a ques-








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


tion of time before she would be at a safe distance from
the inhospitable island.
"Now I reckon we' can give our undivided attention to
our yellow friends who propose to pay us a visit!" Ben
said in a triumphant tone to the young girl, after ordering
his prisoners to their stations at the main rigging, and
threatening them with the direst vengeance if they should
make any attempt at going over the rail.
"I did think you were unwise in trying to get the brig
under sail with those three fellows," Miss Dunham said,
as Ben stood for one brief instant by her side; but I
must admit you were right. If we were still at anchor
that crowd of villains would necessarily make short work
of us after the first discharge of the cannon, and she
pointed to the fleet of sampans which was being paddled
onward at full speed.
There could be no mistake as to the intentions of the
newcomers; there were at least fifty men, each armed
with murderous -looking knives and hatchets, and not a
few carrying muskets, all shouting at the full strength of
their lungs to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals,
as if they expected to accomplish quite as much by noise
as by force of arms.
"Are you going to leave those prisoners at liberty?"
Miss Dunham asked, as Ben stood looking at the howling
enemy, and wondering whether it would not be best to
open fire on them at once.
I reckon we may as well. It won't pay to trice them
up again, for it is possible they may be needed to handle








AN UNWILLING CREW.


the ship. If they get away it will be the worse for us;
but I count on their being too much afraid of our revolv-
ers to attempt anything of the kind."
Shall I take the wheel now ?"
"Yes, although she has hardly got steerage-way on.
Simply hold her steady. I believe I 'll have one shot at
those fellows while they are at long range. Where did
Eliphalet go ?"
I saw him dive into the galley as soon as the pirates
began to yell," the young lady replied with a merry laugh,
which did more toward nerving Ben for the inevitable
struggle than words could have done, for it showed that
she at least could so far conquer her fears as to appreci-
ate anything which appealed to her as being comical.
The enemy were not more than three hundred yards
away when Ben trained his ancient cannon carefully, and
said to the young girl who was now standing at the helm :
You had better go below a moment; there 's no know-
ing what may happen when the thing is discharged."
"I belong here if I 'm to be the helmsman, and here I
propose to stay, no matter what the captain may say."
Well, I like your pluck, but I can't say very much for
your prudence," Ben replied, grimly, and then the piece
was discharged, the three prisoners watching quite as
eagerly the effect of the shot as did their captors.
The first discharge was an unqualified success.
A shower of grape-shot went hurtling into the foremost
of the frail sampans, sinking two instantly, and shattering
three to such a degree that their crew were forced to seek







THE BOY CAPTAIN.


safety on other boats, thus retarding the advance of the
pirates very materially.
"Hurrah for our side!" Ben shouted, gleefully. If
we can give them one more dose like that I reckon they
won't be so anxious to come alongside;" and he began
reloading with the utmost rapidity, Miss Dunham leaving
the helm long enough to bring him a supply of ammuni-
tion from the companionway as he finished swabbing out
the cannon.
A scattering fire of musketry was opened upon the
brig; but the flint-lock guns were not in proper working
order, nor were the yellow fellows remarkable for their
good marksmanship, consequently such of the bullets as
did not strike the water in the immediate vicinity of where
the weapons were discharged flew harmlessly among the
rigging, as if aimed at the sun.
Now the din of the drums and cymbals had ceased; the
shouts of fury with which the yellow pirates had tried to
animate their courage were changed to shrieks of pain and
terror; but that portion of the fleet which remained unin-
jured continued on with redoubled speed, understanding
full well that once they gained the deck the brig would be
theirs.
Ben was not an expert gunner, even though his first
attempt was so successful, and fully twice as many minutes
were occupied in charging the piece as would have been
required by any one familiar with such work.
There were yet a sufficient number of pirates dashing
onward to overwhelm the young captain and his mate,"








AN UNWILLING CREW.


however valiantly they might fight, and it seemed as if
they were close aboard when Ben discharged the piece
the second time.
On this occasion the aim was no less true than before.
The sampans were coming in a cluster, and the grape-
shot, of which there was a plentiful supply, worked an
almost incredible amount of execution ; but yet the victory
was far from being won.
Half a dozen craft were sent to the bottom, as many
more shattered into uselessness ; a score of men were
struggling in the water, but yet at least ten sampans con-
tinued to advance, and before the cannon could be reloaded
would have gained the shelter of the brig's bow.
His brief efforts and skilful plans would be of no avail,
if once the men gained a foothold on the deck, and this
Ben understood thoroughly.
Stay where you are, and shoot if a head shows above
the rail! he cried hurriedly to the young girl. See to
it that the sails are kept drawing."
Then he rushed forward, motioning the prisoners to go
in advance of him, which they did without protest because
of his weapon, and, as they passed the galley, he shouted
for Eliphalet to follow.
The forward hatch was yet off, and he forced his cap-
tives below in the shortest space of time, fastening them
securely in just as the occupants of the foremost sampan
were clutching at the cable, intending to draw themselves
up by this means.
Three well-directed shots from his revolver served to







THE BOY CAPTAIN.


check the men in this particular craft, and render them
incapable of any further mischief ; but while this was being
done two other boats had made fast alongside, and Ben
turned to meet the new danger just as the pirates were
appearing in several places at the same moment.
Twice had Miss Dunham fired, once with effect, and
Ben was attacking a sampan -load of the enemy with a
capstan-bar, not having had time to reload his weapon,
when old Eliphalet emerged from the galley with a dish-
pan full of glowing coals.
The steward looked as thoroughly frightened as a man
well can; but, despite his terror, managed to do a marvel-
lous amount of execution in a short time.
He emptied half a bushel of glowing anthracite directly
into one of the boats, causing the occupants to leap over-
board with cries of pain.
Good for you, old man! Ben shouted, striking down
a Chinaman who had succeeded in gaining a hold on the
forerigging. "Try that game once more, and you'll be
doing your full share of the work."
"Bress de Lawd! Bress de Lawd! I 'se sending' 'em
up de golden stairs," Eliphalet cried in a singsong tone;
but it is extremely doubtful if he knew what he was say-
ing, for, despite the fact that he assisted materially in the
defence, he was yet so terrified as to be almost frantic.
The range in the galley had been emptied of its con-
tents by this first discharge, and the old darkey seized
anything of a heavy nature which came within reach.
As the sampans advanced he showered iron belaying-


































































"BEN WAS ATTACKING A SAMPAN-LOAD OF THE ENEMY."









AN UNWILLING CREW.


pins, heavy pots and pans, spare blocks, and even his
precious carving-knives upon the heads of the men, and
more than one of- the frail craft went to the bottom under
this miscellaneous assortment of ammunition.
How long this engagement lasted Ben had no idea, and
even Miss Dunham would be unable to state with any
degree of accuracy.
The defenders of the brig were working so desperately
and rapidly as to take no heed of the passage of time, but
probably the hot fight did not last more than a quarter of
an hour, yet in these few moments the wind had increased
until the brig was showing quite a bone in her teeth,"
as she slipped through the water more rapidly than the
disheartened Chinamen could paddle their sampans.
The victory was complete, and when Ben, his face
begrimed with powder and streaked with perspiration,
came aft to fire a few parting shots at the last of the
retreating enemy, Miss Dunham seized his hand regardless
of her duties at the helm, as she said, earnestly :
Forgive me for having thought even for a moment
that you were too young and inexperienced to extricate
us from the position in which we were left when the crew
abandoned the brig. I was thoroughly opposed to your
calling upon the prisoners for assistance, and yet if that
had n't been done we should now either be captives or
dead."
You don't want to say anything about my forgiving
you," Ben replied, heartily, "for you could not be expected
to have as much faith in me as you would in an older man,








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


and there was a good deal of risk, anyway, in what I did.
If the wind had n't sprung up, or the prisoners chanced
to turn rusty and showed fight, in fact, if almost anything
had happened to waste five minutes of time, the result
might have been very different."
But nothing did happen, and it was through your
own unaided exertions that we can now say we are
safe."
Not unaided by any manner of means, Miss Dunham,
when I had such a mate as you at the wheel. I want it
distinctly understood that if you had been a different
kind of a young woman, one of those, for instance, who
think it necessary to faint or scream when anything out
of the ordinary course happens, matters would not be in
as cheerful a condition as they are now."
"I have n't done anything but stand at the wheel."
"If you had n't been on board I should have been
obliged to steer, so you counted as one man, and a great
deal better you were than the majority of men; that I
can say without reasonable chance of contradiction."
If you are going to shower compliments so thickly,
perhaps it will be just as well that we don't talk about
the battle. Do you have any objections to telling me
what you propose to do now ?"
Certainly not. It is my intention to get this brig
into Hong Kong."
"Without any crew ? "
"You forget that I have three men in the fore-
peak."








AN UNWILLING CREW.


If you try to work the brig with no other assistance,
it will be necessary for you lo remain on deck night and
day."
So it would in any event, no matter how many men I
had taken from the shore. I would n't have trusted them
for a single moment. We must run a good many chances
in a case like this, and no matter what happens in the
way of weather, we cannot suffer more than to be blown
out of our course, for with such canvas as is spread a
gale might rage from now until next January, and not
start a bolt rope. Did you notice how Uncle Eliphalet
flashed up in the last act ?"
Yes, but I don't think he can be credited with dis-
playing courage, for, in my opinion, he was like one in a
dream ; his terror had so far gotten the best of him that
he was really delirious."
"Well, it's mighty lucky for us his delirium took the
form it did, for he cleaned out no less than four sampans,
to my positive knowledge. I wonder where he is now ?"
"Probably hiding in the galley, as much afraid of
himself as of the enemy he helped to disperse."
Can you stay here at the wheel a while longer ? "
I shall be on deck exactly as many hours as you are
forced to remain, and there 's no question but that I can
steer while the wind is as light as it is now."
"You will go below as soon as I get things into shape,
if the captain has any authority on board this brig."
He does n't have much over his mate," the young
lady replied, laughingly. "I will admit that you are the








THE BOY CAPTAIN.


captain; but I am the first officer, therefore it would be
no use for you to order me below."
"Well, if there's a craft afloat that's got a trimmer,
more beautiful or a more insubordinate officer than the
Progressive Age, I 'd like to see her as a curiosity," Ben
said, and there was a certain ring in his voice which
caused the red blood to come into Miss Dunham's face
like a flood.
I see you can pay a compliment quite as well as you
can fight, captain," she replied, half shyly, and then
added quickly, Don't you think it would be a good idea
to cat the anchor, instead of leaving it as it is ? "
I declare I had forgotten all about that," and Ben
hurried forward, stopping a moment to look into the gal-
ley, hailing Eliphalet, who was crouching in one corner.
behind the stove, trembling as if in an ague fit.
",,Well, what's the matter with you, uncle ? It isn't
ten minutes since you were as bold as a turkey, and now
that the scrimmage is over you must n't give in like this."
Am it ober, sah ? the old man asked, as he cautiously
drew out his head sufficiently to enable him to see the
young captain.
"Is what over ? "
De onpleasantness, sah. De fuss wid dem yeller
scoun'rels ? "
Of course it is, and you did your duty like a man,
even if you did n't know it. Now stir yourself, and begin
to dish up the grub once more, for we are heading for
Hong Kong."















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