A MUTINY

Ben and his young companion at once presented themselves on the
quarter-deck, where the captain was waiting to receive them, and after
the old sailor had repeated the story he had made up for the occasion,
and answered a few questions the officer had to ask him, they were told
that they would be in the second mate’s watch and were ordered to turn
to, which meant go to work. They were going as straight to Singapore as
they could go, and once there the castaways would be able to look out
for themselves. When he concluded, Ben thanked the captain for his
kindness, and then put on his hat and started forward.

“Master Bob,” said the old sailor, as soon as he had an opportunity to
gain the boy’s ear for a moment, “make up your mind to one thing, and
that is, we have jumped right out of the frying-pan plump into the
fire.”

“I was just thinking so myself,” replied Bob. “These Malays are an awful
set—”

“It isn’t that,” whispered Ben, hastily. “Do your duty faithfully and
you will have no trouble with them. But this is an English craft, as I
told you. I made one short voyage under this flag, and I know that
greater tyrants than these Johnny Bulls never stepped. We have been
supping sorrow with a big spoon so far, but we’ve got to take it by the
bucketful now.”

“Why, I thought you said these officers wouldn’t dare show any tyranny
around where the Malays are.”

“Neither will they where the Malays are concerned, that is if they
understand their business and don’t take on too much red-eye, which the
cap’n and his mates never go back on, judging by the looks of their
noses, and me and you have got to walk a chalk-mark or take what comes.
You’ll see something on board this schooner that you never saw before—a
man triced up and flogged like a beast. Look there!” said Ben, jerking
his thumb over his shoulder toward the fife-rail.

Bob looked, and his blood ran cold when his eyes fell upon the
instrument of torture there suspended. It was a cat—he knew it in a
moment from the descriptions he had often read of it. The handle was
about a foot long; the lashes, of which there were a dozen or more, were
cut out of stiff leather, and, to make the blows given by them more
severe, they were drawn into three or four hard knots. Altogether it was
a terrible-looking affair, and Bob thought, from its appearance, it had
been recently used.

“Do they use that thing on these Malays?” asked Bob, shuddering, he
scarcely knew why, as he returned to his work.

“Sure, and on the whites, too. That’s what keeps the men straight. Be
careful you don’t get it over your back before you know it,” was Ben’s
warning whisper.

As often as he found opportunity, Bob turned to look at the officers of
the schooner, and he was forced to believe, with Ben, that unless their
looks belied them he had not in any way bettered his situation. They
were brutal-looking men, and very overbearing, as Bob soon found, for
not even on board the Smart had he been ordered about as he was during
the hour the crew were employed in putting things to rights. Before the
work was done he saw the cat in use. The negro cook was “started” by the
captain—that is, he was flogged from the cabin to the deck, because he
had allowed the bean soup to get smoked. The only improvement on the
Smart was in the food, which Ben assured him was as good as any sailor
ever received.

During the three days that the schooner lay weather-bound in the creek
Bob had time to learn something of his new mates and become acquainted
with their customs. They were all brawny, fierce-looking fellows, except
the first tindal, who was a stripling scarcely older than himself; but
that he was a sailor was evident from the manner in which the decks and
the rigging were kept. The schooner was as neat and trim as a little
man-of-war. Ben quickly worked his way into the Malay’s good graces.
When he made up his mind to desert the J. W. Smart he secreted his whole
stock of tobacco about him, and as the schooner’s company had nearly
exhausted their stock of the article, the old sailor freely distributed
his supply among them. The Malays, in return for this, gave him and Bob
a bountiful supply of bedclothing, so that they managed to fare very
well, and would have been pleased with their new quarters had it not
been for the dreaded cat, which they saw every time they passed the
mainmast. On the third day the wind began to abate, and on the morning
of the fourth the boats were got out and the schooner towed down the
creek. Sail was made, and in an hour more their vessel was bounding over
the waves toward Singapore.

For a time nothing exciting happened on board the schooner. Of course
there was the usual amount of punishment—not a day passed that did not
see the cat brought into use—and even Bob and old Ben came in for a
share, the latter being knocked flat by a blow from the mate’s fist, and
the boy being sent to the mast-head under a broiling sun. What their
offense was neither of them had the slightest idea. The nearer the
vessel progressed toward her destination the more overbearing and
exacting the mates became and the closer the captain clung to his
bottle, of which he was very fond. Finally he got so under the influence
of its contents that he was obliged to keep his bunk for two days, and
his reappearance on deck was the signal for a scene, the remembrance of
which disturbed Bob’s sleep for many a night afterward. It had been
blowing hard all day, and at last the officer of the watch, after the
main-top-mast had been carried away, concluded that it would be best to
shorten sail. The work had just been completed and the wreck cleared
away, and the schooner was beginning to make better weather of it, when
the captain staggered up the companion-way.

Bob had never before seen such a fiendish-looking man as he was at that
moment. The captain seemed to be greatly enraged, and the boy knew
instinctively that something was going to happen. The negro cook, who
was well used to his moods, must have thought so too, for he darted into
the galley and hid behind the door, and even the surly second mate
backed out of his way.

“What’s been a-going on ‘ere?” roared the captain, glaring about as if
seeking some object to take vengeance upon. “What was all that bloody
crash I ‘eard just now?”

“We carried away the topmast about two hours ago, sir,” replied the
mate, with more civility than he usually threw into his tones when
addressing his superior, “and we thought it would be best to clear up
things before you came up.”

“But what was that bloody noise I ‘eard just now?” repeated the skipper
with an oath. “I ‘eard a terrific fuss and rumpus up ‘ere.”

“We have been clearing away the wreck and shortening sail, sir,” was the
mate’s reply.

“You ‘ave, hey? Been shortening sail without horders, hey? Don’t you
know that I command ‘ere? Where’s the tindal?”

“He’s below, with his watch, sir.”

“Well, I will soon snake him up and learn him not to shorten sail
without horders from me!” yelled the skipper, blundering toward the
forecastle. “I command ‘ere, and I’ll learn you, and him, too, that it
is best not to shorten sail without horders from me. I wish you wasn’t
an officer, and I would trice you up.”

Bob and the old sailor were standing in the waist, and as the frenzied
captain went staggering by, swinging his arms wildly about his head and
fairly foaming at the mouth, they gave him all the room he wanted. Their
efforts to avoid attracting his attention drew the savage glare of the
old man toward them, and seemed to increase his fury, for Bob was sent
aft with a bleeding nose and a dizzy head, while Ben ducked like a flash
just in time to escape a vicious back-hander which the skipper aimed at
him. The latter thundered across the deck toward the forecastle, and
missing his footing at the head of the stairs, went headlong among the
watch, who were eating their supper. Bob heard him swearing and storming
below, and presently saw him reappear at the head of the ladder, pushing
before him the first tindal, whom he had seized by the back of the neck,
and who was helpless in his powerful grasp. Close behind him came the
watch, who swarmed up the ladder like bees, and were speedily joined by
their friends on deck. They all looked as fierce as the skipper himself,
and some of them carried their knives in their hands.

“Heaven help us, for our time has come at last!” gasped old Ben. “That
drunken fool is going to be the death of us.”

“Will they spare none of us?” stammered Bob. “I am sure I never harmed
any of them.”

“It makes no difference. The last one of us will have to go. Good-bye,
Bob. Old Ben will stick to you to the last.”

Bob was too terrified to move or speak again, and so he watched the
captain with his unresisting prisoner. He pushed him to the mast and
looked around for some one to help him. The second mate had retreated to
the cabin, and Ben and Bob were the only ones near him. The skipper’s
eye fell upon them, although they tried to make themselves as small as
they could.

“Come ‘ere, you two, and ‘elp me trice hup this man,” said he.

The boy at first did not move, but old Ben, always prompt to obey
orders, sprang at the word; and Bob, knowing that the old sailor’s
judgment and experience would show him what ought to be done under the
circumstances, thought it best to follow his example, although he would
much rather have assisted in tying up the captain. He caught up a rope
and fastened one of the tindal’s hands to the shrouds, hauling down on
it, in obedience to the captain’s order, until the captive’s toes just
rested on deck.

“Now, I’ll show these bloody heathen who’s master ‘ere!” exclaimed the
skipper, snatching up the cat and panting with the violence of his
exertions. “‘Ere, Watson, take this and lay on till I tell you to stop.
We’ll learn these bloody heathen—Eh? You won’t do it?”

Ben drew back a step or two.

“Cap’n,” said he, “it is something I never done, and never will do. I
had rather be there myself.”

“You would, hey?” shouted the skipper, brandishing the cat in the air.
“Well, we will soon have you there, and you’ll know how good it feels.
Hi, boy! Call hup my two hofficers, and tell ’em to bring my pistols.
‘Ere’s a bloody mutiny!”

Bob, to whom this command was addressed, ran to the cabin, but found the
door fastened. He called to the mates and repeated the captain’s order,
but there was no response. Had he gone to the stern and looked over, he
would have found that one of the small cabin windows was open, and that
the second mate was trying to squeeze his burly form through it to reach
the boat that hung at the davits. The two officers knew what was likely
to be the result of the skipper’s unreasonable behavior, and were
preparing to leave him to his fate.

“Now, then, boy!” screamed the captain, “where are they?”

“I can’t make them answer, sir, and the door is locked,” replied Bob.

“Call louder! Tell ’em I want ’em! Knock the door down!” roared the
skipper, stamping furiously about the deck. “I’m master ‘ere!”

The captain bared his arm as he spoke, grasped the cat with a firmer
hold, and swung it in the air; but just as the blow descended upon the
tindal’s back the Malays made the rush that Ben had long been expecting,
flourishing knives and handspikes and yelling hideously. The old sailor,
loyal to the last, threw himself in front of his officer to protect him,
but was instantly stretched on deck by a blow from a handspike, and a
moment later the captain lay motionless by his side. Bob gave himself up
for lost. There was no place to which he could retreat for safety, and
resistance was not to be thought of. He could only remain passive and
await the fate he was powerless to avert. He turned away and leaned upon
the rail, looking down at the water, and expecting every instant that a
blow from a knife or a handspike would put an end to his existence. But
nothing of the kind happened, and Bob finally ventured to cast his eye
over his shoulder to see what was going on behind him.

[Illustration: THE REVOLT OF THE MALAYS.]

The Malays were gathered in a group in the waist, and while some were
busy binding the captain the others were cutting down the tindal. While
he gazed, old Ben was lifted to his feet and stood unharmed in the midst
of them. No one showed the least inclination to molest him, but, on the
contrary, several of the crew gave him hearty slaps on the back, which
were doubtless intended to assure him that he had nothing to fear. The
old sailor looked around, and seeing Bob standing beside the rail, pale
and trembling, quietly joined him.

“Cheer up, my hearty!” said he. “I knew what I was doing when I refused
to use the cat on that man. You and me and the doctor are safe, but all
the salt in the sea won’t save the officers.”

“Oh, Ben, this is just awful!” said Bob. “What do you suppose they will
do with the officers? Perhaps we might say something that would make
them hold their hands—”

“Don’t you open your head,” said Ben, earnestly. “You will bring death
upon yourself if you attempt it. We will never know what they are going
to do with them. A man stands a poor show of life who strikes one of
these fierce fatalists. As for us, they are going to turn us adrift in a
boat.”

“They might as well make an end of us at once,” said the boy, gazing at
the angry white caps that were rolling on every side. “We can’t live
five minutes out there.”

“When we get back to Clifton I am going to tell your father that he had
better send you to school until you get your sea-legs on,” said Ben,
cheerfully. “A boat will live in a worse sea than this.”




The first tindal having been released, the Malays held a short
consultation, and then an axe was procured and the crew marched aft to
the cabin. The door was quickly beaten from its hinges and the Malays
rushed in. A fierce struggled followed, loud yells were mingled with the
reports of fire-arms, for the mates were brave as well as brutal, and
then the crew reappeared bringing with them two more prisoners, who were
laid on deck beside the captain, and the bodies of three of their
number, who had been stricken down by the bullets from the mates’
pistols.

“There; you see how useless it would be for us to ask them to spare
their lives, don’t you?” said Ben, as the three dead Malays were brought
up. “It is no use in talking. If we get safe off ourselves we are going
to do well. We’ll know all about it in short order.”

The first tindal, who was now master of the schooner, at once began to
bestir himself, and Bob judged by his actions—for they had not been
aboard the vessel long enough to understand any of their language—that
he knew just what ought to be done. He sent some of the crew below to
bring up a supply of provisions and water, and commanded two of the
others to lower away the boat. As soon as it touched the water, Bob, the
old sailor and the negro cook were told to get in, the Malays cut the
falls with their knives, and, waving a farewell to them, the schooner
dashed on, leaving the boat to the mercy of the waves. Bob thought this
the worst thing that ever happened to him; but if he had been able to
look far enough into the future to see what was to come of it, he would
not have been back aboard the schooner for any price.

“Brace up, my hearty!” said Ben, giving the boy a shake which brought
his hands down from his face. “You are worth three or four dead men yet.
This ain’t any sea at all; is it, doctor?”

“No, sir; oh, no, sir,” answered the cook, who saw that much depended on
keeping up Bob’s courage. “I was wrecked once in de Solferino, and we
had to take to de boat, and—Laws! You had oughter seen dem waves. Dese
ain’t a patching to ’em.”

“It is not so much being cast adrift in a small boat that I complain
of,” said Bob, “but I would like to know what is going to become of us.
Here we are, miles out of the track of any vessels—”

“Oh, belay your jaw! We are miles out of the track of any vessel? We are
right in their track. How long will it be before another English vessel
will turn up here? There’ll be somebody along directly.”

“I wonder if any boy ever had as many adventures as I have had?” said
Bob, running over in his mind the various dangers that had befallen
since the night he was kidnapped. “If Joe Lufkin knew where I was now he
wouldn’t expect to see me again. Bob, I wonder what it was that induced
him to act as he did.”

“Barlow was at the bottom of it,” said the old sailor, angrily. “But you
will see him again, don’t worry about that. I don’t want you to go home
until you get your father.”

“It is useless to think about that,” said Bob, despairingly. “My father
I shall never see again, so I must make the best of a bad bargain. I
wish I knew what the Malays are going to do with those three prisoners.
Can’t we take the law on them when we get to Singapore?”

“You ain’t reached Singapore yet by a mile or two,” replied Ben, with a
laugh, “and when we get there you’ll find that the law ain’t for such
fellows as we are. In the first place, how are you going to prove the
Malays?”

Bob stared hard at Ben, then rested his elbows on his knees and looked
down at the bottom of the boat and said nothing.

“The Malays all look alike, and if you were to see one or two hundred of
them brought in, how are you going to pick out the ones that did the
mischief? And you would be shut up in jail for a witness. I tell you
that the best thing you can do would be to hold your jaw and say
nothing.”

The three castaways kept their eyes fastened upon the vessel as long as
she was in sight, hoping to gain some clue to the fate that was in store
for the captain and his mates, but for the next half an hour the Malays
remained standing on the quarter-deck as if engaged in consultation, and
finally the increasing darkness shut her out from view, and they were
alone on the deep.