Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.



Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover©
Based on the cover of "La Domenica del Corriere," 7 Aug 1927


First published by C. Arthur Pearson, London, 1914

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-03-13

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author


"Sons Of The Sea," C. Arthur Pearson, London, 1914


"Sons Of The Sea," C. Arthur Pearson, London, 1914


"Sons Of The Sea," C. Arthur Pearson, London, 1914




Soon she was near enough for them to see
the white feather of foam sprouting under
the keen stem of the long yacht-like craft.


"HULLO, what's that?"

Roddy Kynaston, a sturdy, brown-faced boy of sixteen, started to his feet.

"A couple of guillemots quarrelling over a herring," suggested his companion, without moving.

"I thought I heard a shout," said Roddy doubtfully.

Arnold Gillam laughed.

"My dear Roddy, don't be absurd. Pendarg Head is a trifle of four hundred feet high, and no boat comes near those beastly reefs at the bottom. Unless some chap's cruising round in a balloon, I don't see where a shout could come from."

"Must have been gulls then, I suppose. But it didn't sound like it. I'll just have a squint over the edge."

Pendarg Head is one of the highest cliffs on the Welsh coast. It is not everyone who could follow Roddy's example and gaze down calmly from its tremendous crest into the waves which break upon its rugged base.

"See anything?" asked Arnold presently.

"Not a thing except gulls and a couple of ravens. And yet—By Jove, there it is again!" he exclaimed sharply. "Didn't you hear it?"

"I really believe I did," answered Arnold in a startled tone. "It sounded like someone shouting for help."

"It was, too," and curving one hand over his mouth, Roddy sent a piercing call echoing downwards.

"Help! Help!" came back the answer.

This time there could be no mistake about the cry. It was the voice of someone in distress.

"Where are you?" shouted back Roddy.

"Here; about half-way down. Can you see?"

The voice was so far away that it came to their ears like a whisper. But they both heard it clearly enough.

"Can you see him, Roddy?" asked Arnold.

"No, but the voice comes from over there to the left. Nearer the headland."

"Phew, the worst place of all! How on earth shall we get at him? Ask him if he can hang on."

"Can you hang on till we fetch help?" shouted Roddy, sounding each word very clearly and distinctly.

"Be quick. I can't hold on much longer."

Roddy turned to Arnold.

"What can we do? The tide's up. We can't reach the beach. And there's no rope nearer than the village."

"Yes, there is," replied Arnold quickly. "There's one at Davies' farm. They use it for getting sea-birds' eggs. You stay here, and I'll fetch it." With that he darted off.

Roddy hurried along the edge of the cliff in the direction of the Point, and reaching the very end went down on hands and knees and crept to the edge.

"Where are you?" he shouted again.

At once the reply came back, faint but distinct:

"Here, just below you."

Roddy stared downwards. The cliff was broken by hundreds of projecting ledges, by deep fissures and crannies. His glance roved across these, down, down for hundreds of feet.

Then suddenly he caught sight of the figure of a boy about his own age clinging like a limpet to the bare face of the perpendicular rock.

It was nearly three hundred feet below him, and more than a hundred above the fringe of black rocks which showed their ugly heads among the breakers.

"Hang on," Roddy shouted encouragingly. "They're bringing ropes from the farm. We'll have you up in no time."

"I've got good hold for my hands. It's my feet are slipping," came up the thin, small voice from the depths.

It seemed to Roddy an hour before help arrived. Really it was barely ten minutes before Arnold Gillam, followed by Davies, the farmer, and another man, came running across the open down.

"My goodness, but it's a bad place!" exclaimed Davies, as he came panting up alongside Roddy. There was dismay on his face as he looked over the edge, and caught sight of the boy clinging against the cliff face half-way between sea and sky. "We shall never be able to reach him," he added despairingly.

"Because of the overhang, you mean?" answered Roddy quickly.

"That's it. The rope will hang too far out for him to reach."

"Then someone will have to go down after him," answered Roddy.

"That's no use," said Davies, shaking his head. "He could never reach him."

"Yes, he could. See that gap to the left? If you let me down there, I feel sure I could climb across the face of the cliff, and carry the rope to him."

"Roddy, it's madness," declared Arnold. "No man alive could do it."

"It's the only way," said Roddy stubbornly. "It's either that, or leaving the chap to hang there till his grip goes."

"The young gentleman is right," remarked the farmer. "But it's no use pretending that it's not dangerous."

Arnold looked at Roddy. He was about to protest again, but the words died on his lips. The expression on his chum's face showed him that argument was useless.

Without delay Davies drove an iron bar which he carried firmly into the turf a little way back from the landward end of the fissure which Roddy had pointed out. Meanwhile the man with him fixed a heavy leather belt around Roddy's body, and to it attached one end of the rope.

"Have you a knife?" asked Davies.

Roddy pointed to his sheath knife in his belt. Davies nodded. Then, all being ready, Davies put a turn of the rope round the crowbar, and Roddy walked over the cliff backwards.

Roddy had a good head for heights, and did not suffer from giddiness. So long as he was in the fissure he got on well enough. But below came a sheer face smooth as a wall. Here there was nothing for it but to be lowered perpendicularly. Once over the edge, he found himself spinning like a joint on a spit, and the motion made him horribly dizzy.

It was a huge relief when at last he reached a ledge, and found himself at the top of the lower and more sloping portion of the cliff.

He looked round. The boy whom he was trying to save was still a goodish way below, and at least thirty yards to his right.

The poor fellow was clinging with both hands to a little shelf of rock which stuck out from a big, smooth bulge in the face of the limestone. How he had ever got there was a puzzle.

Roddy had a good look at the cliff, and made up his mind that it would not be difficult to get within ten or fifteen yards of the other. But then came a space where the rock looked smooth as a cement wall. How he was to cross it he had not the faintest idea.

Still, it had to be done, and looking at it made it no easier. He signalled to let out rope again, and, shouting encouragingly to the boy below, started clambering towards him.

After a few moments of active scrambling, he reached a point about fifty feet above the other, and the same distance to the left.

Suddenly the rope tightened behind him and he heard a shout from above. Listening carefully, he made out Arnold's voice giving him the startling information that they had come to the end of the rope.

"The man's gone back for more," shouted Arnold. "He'll be here in a few minutes."

"How much longer can you hold on?" called Roddy to the boy below.

"Not long, I'm afraid," gasped the other weakly. "I'm getting cramped in my fingers."

Roddy gave one quick glance at the white, strained face below him, then without hesitation freed himself by unbuckling his belt, and scrambled away downwards.

In a very short time he had gained a spot level with the other, but about twenty feet to one side of him. And those twenty feet were smooth rock without hand or foothold.

It was a situation fit to daunt anyone, but Roddy was not yet at the end of his resources.

"Hold on," he shouted cheerfully. "I'm coming."

Pulling his knife from its sheath, he started cutting stops in the rock, but he had only time to make them just deep enough to bear his weight.

From below came up the angry growl of the surf boating among the knife-edged rocks. Roddy's heart throbbed as he clung and cut and cut again.

Once the rock gave under his foot, and he swung out a hundred and fifty feet above the abyss, clinging by the fingers of one hand only. Luckily for him, he managed to find a little projection on which his other foot could rest until he was able to cut a fresh step.

The knife blade wore away rapidly. But the steel was good, and did not break. What troubled him most was the dizziness caused by his tremendous exertions. Nothing but the sight of the other boy watching him with agonised eyes could have kept him to the terrific task.

Foot by foot Roddy won his way across the gap.

"Keep higher," murmured the other boy weakly.

Roddy looked, and saw the advice was good. He must aim for the top of the bulge, to the face of which the other was clinging. His next two niches were cut in an upward direction. Then, to his joy, he noticed a Little fissure running horizontally across the smooth face. It was only a tiny crack, but it was enough to get his toes into.

In another minute he had scrambled safely on to the upper side of the bulging rock, directly above the other lad.

This rock was wider than it had looked, and there was room enough to lie flat upon it. The worst of it was that it sloped at a very awkward angle. Roddy felt by no means sure that he would be able to bear the other's weight without slipping forward.

But there was no time to waste. He lay down on his face, flattening himself as tightly as possible against the rock.

Then he stretched out both hands.

"Now," he said. "Steady's the word."


"Now," said Roddy, "steady's the word."

He caught the other by the wrists and pulled. For Home seconds it was an open question whether he would lift the other, or whether both together would slide outwards, and drop helplessly into the abyss.

But pluck and hard training told, and inch by inch the other came up until he got his knees over the edge, and scrambled into comparative safety. Then, as he dropped beside Roddy, from above came a wild burst of cheering which echoed along the cliffs and sent the sea-birds wheeling in startled clouds.

For some minutes the two lay on their narrow, sloping refuge, both too utterly done to move or speak. Roddy was the first to pull round.

"Are you all right?" he asked hoarsely.

"Yes, thanks. I say, it was awfully decent of you to come down after me. I'm hanged if I'd have cared to tackle that last bit."

"That's all right," said Roddy hastily. He had the true British dislike to being thanked. "But what in the name of goodness brought you in such a place?"

"Photographing," was the reply, as the rescued lad sat up and touched a small camera slung over his neck. "It was a raven's nest. A late one with young in it. It's just above us. I got the photo all right, and was coming down again when I slipped. If I hadn't collared hold of that edge I should have gone right over," he added, with a slight shudder.

Roddy nodded.

"It's a beast of a place," he said sagely. "Strikes me the sooner we're out of it the better. But the rope's over so far above, and I'm not keen on crossing that smooth bit again."

"No need to. We can go down the same way I came up. It's not bad. The only thing is we shall have to wait till the tide's out before we can get home."

Ten minutes later, they fetched up on a ledge about fifty foot above high-water mark—a ledge so broad that there was room to lie down at full length in comfort. Roddy promptly stretched himself out, and the other followed his example.

Roddy glanced at his companion. He was as tall as himself, but lean, and almost skinny. Yet in spite of his lack of weight, he looked as tough as steel wire.

"Mind telling me what your name is?" asked Roddy.

"Denny—Drake Denny. What's yours?"

"Roderick Kynaston. I'm new to these parts."

"Oh, you're the son of the new doctor at Portglask?"

"Yes, we've only been here a few months."

"Thought I hadn't soon you before. Father and I live at Llintyre, two miles the other way. I wish you'd come and see him."

"I'd like to," said Roddy. "I suppose you've been there a long time?"

"Ever since dad retired. He was in the merchant service—skipper of one of the big Blue Star boats. He had a bad fall about ten years ago, and had to have one leg taken off. So the directors gave him a pension, and we've got a little place by the sea. Dad can't live out of sight of the sea."

The two sat and yarned in the sunshine. Roddy took a great fancy to his new acquaintance, and told him all about his ambitions for starting a patrol of Sea Scouts at Portglask.

Young Denny was much interested, and time passed so quickly that they were both surprised when, looking down, they saw a strip of wet shingle baring at the foot of the cliffs.

"Good business!" exclaimed Roddy. "Let's get down."

"All right. But don't hurry. It'll be another hour before we can get round the Point."

Drake was right, and it was nearly sunset before they scrambled over the wet rocks at the end of the Point, and reached Portglask beach.

"Hullo, look at the crowd!" said Drake, pointing to about fifty fishermen and boys who were gathered on the sands.

At the same moment the crowd caught sight of the boys, and a hearty cheer went up.

Headed by Arnold Gillam, they came running up and surrounded Roddy and Drake, shaking their hands and congratulating them.

"What's up, Arnold?" asked Roddy, looking very red and confused.

Young Gillam laughed.

"Why, you old duffer, don't you realise that you're a blooming hero?"

"Don't talk rot, Arnold."

"It's not rot at all. You did a jolly plucky thing, and one that appeals to all the chaps here. Buck up, and be civil, for here's your chance to work your Scout scheme. There's old Morgan, who told you that his son hadn't time to play silly games like scouting. But I guess he'll let you rope Joe in if you tell him that it was scouting taught you how to climb rocks."

"Do you really think so?" asked Roddy doubtfully.

"Of course I do, you old duffer. I'll ask him myself if you like."

"Do—that's a good chap, and give Denny and me a chance to clear out."


"HERE'S the house," remarked Drake Denny, as he and Roddy rounded a corner of the coast road.

"What—that? Why, it's a boat!"

Young Denny burst out laughing.

"You've hit it at once, old chap. It's an old ship turned keel up. It looks a bit rum from here, but I can tell you it's jolly snug inside."

The old ship stood in a patch of garden gay with sweet-peas, roses, and hollyhocks. As the boys came up through the garden the door opened, and Captain Denny himself stumped out. He was shorter than his son, but immensely broad. His thick hair was quite grey, and so were his bushy whiskers. His face was the colour of well-tanned saddle leather, and his grey eyes had a merry gleam.

"That you, Drake?" he cried in a voice which sounded like a small peal of thunder. "And this is Kynaston, I'll be bound. Come in, my lad. If I'd been able to walk as well as I once could, I shouldn't have waited this long before thanking you for saving my boy's life. No, don't blush. It was a plucky bit of work, and a clever one. I'll say that much, and then I'll not mention it again. Now come in, and I'll show you over my shanty."

As Drake had said, the place was as snug as could be inside, and full of all sorts of handy little dodges of its owner's invention.

All the furniture was from old ships. The bedrooms were fitted with bunks, the fire-places were ship's stoves. Even the range in the kitchen was an old ship's galley. The walls were covered with curiosities brought by the captain from all parts of the world.

Roddy was simply delighted.

"Tea, ahoy!" roared the skipper, when they got back to the sitting-room, and Maggie, his old housekeeper, brought in a piled-up tray.

There were Welsh scald cakes, which are the best bread in the world, fresh eggs from the captain's own poultry-yard, Welsh butter, which is as good as Devonshire, a great bowl of red and yellow raspberries, and home-made jam of several different kinds.

"You're the boy that's keen about Scouts," said the captain in his deep voice, as he passed his guest a cup of tea brimming with yellow cream.

Roddy only wanted starting. He did not stop until he had explained all his ambitions.

Captain Denny nodded gravely.

"Sea Scouts, eh! And a very good notion, too. And how many boys have you got as a start?"

"Four, sir. Drake here, Arnold Gillam, young Joe Morgan, and myself."

"There are two or three other chaps would join, if we could once got started," put in Drake eagerly. "But we've got no head-quarters yet."

"What sort of quarters do ye want?" asked the captain.

"A hut first, with a signal pole and some charts," answered Roddy. "And then, if we can run to it, an old boat of some sort which we could moor up the creek."

"Strikes me the boat would be easier managed than the hut," said the skipper.

"Why—how?" asked Roddy, his eyes shining.

"What about that old barge that's been lying on the mud up the Glaslyn these three years past?" demanded Captain Denny, turning to his son.

"The very thing," cried Drake. "I wonder who owns it?"

"Jones, of Glynavon," said the captain. "I know him well. I'll ask him."

"Would you?" begged Roddy breathlessly.

"Aye, of course I will."

"But he'll want a lot for her," said Roddy, his face falling.

"Bah, she's only worth her price as firewood! Five pounds would buy two like her."

"I've got two pounds in the savings bank," said Roddy.

"And I've three," added Drake.

"Don't draw it till I tell you," said the captain. "I'll do the bargaining."

He was as good as his word. Two days later Drake Denny turned up at Roddy's home in high feather.

"The barge is ours. Dad's got it for us!" he announced.

"You don't mean it? How much have we to pay?"

"Not a penny! Jones gave it to dad, and he's given it to us."

"Whoop, what luck! I say, this is fine. Let's go and see it."

"Just what I was going to suggest. Come on."

The Glaslyn was a small river that ran into the top of Portglask Harbour. It was only navigable for about three miles, and the barge lay some two miles up it. The tide was out when the boys reached the spot, and they had to take off their shoes and stockings and wade through deep and slimy black mud.

"I'm afraid she's pretty rotten," said Drake, as they climbed aboard.

"Her deck's sound enough, anyhow," replied Roddy, as he stamped on the weather-worn timbers. "So long as she's watertight she'll serve our purpose. Up with the hatch."

With some difficulty they prised up the main hatch, and peered down into the big, dark space below.

"Its all right," said Roddy. "There's hardly any water in her. And, by Jove, there's room enough for a troop, let alone a patrol. Now let's try the cabin."

The barge was a big, sea-going craft, and her cabin was much larger than that of the ordinary canal lighter. It was fairly dry, too, and in capital repair.

"This is great," declared Roddy. "Look, her stove is still here, and all right, barring rust. That'll save us at least a sovereign. You must have some sort of fire-place on your guardship, or you can't use it in winter."

Drake did not answer. He was looking round with a puzzled expression on his face.

"What's up?" said Roddy.

"Tobacco. Don't you smell it?"

"Come to think of it, I do."

"Someone's been smoking here quite lately."

"A tramp, probably," said Roddy carelessly.

"Just the sort of place for a tramp to shelter on a wet night."

"We haven't had a wet night lately. And the smell seems fresh."

"Well, don't worry about that. We've got lots to think about. How about moorings? We ought to set her down nearer to Portglask."

"That's a fact. Let me see. Sir Richard Ferguson is Lord of the Manor. We'll have to get his leave. As soon as we get home, I'll ask dad to write to him."

"Do. And then we shall want a boat as tender. That's going to cost something, unless anyone happens to make us a present."

"We ought to be able to pick up an old dinghy pretty cheap, and tinker her up ourselves," said Drake. "We must save our money for fitting up the hulk."

"That's it. We shall want davits and winches, and a flagstaff. Then we must paint her, and make a bigger cabin, and—"

"Steady on," broke in Drake, with a laugh. "We're not millionaires yet, and all that'll cost a pot of money."

"Oh, I know we must go slow to begin with. But I mean to do all that and more before I'm through. And we must all pile in and help. Which reminds me. The first thing is to clean her thoroughly. You and I can do that. Will you be able to come and give a hand to-morrow?"

"Yes, rather. I'll bring some soft soap and scrubbing brushes."

"All right. I'll get hold of a mop and a broom. And we'd better bring some grub, too. It'll be an all-day job."

"It'll take the best part of two days," said Drake, looking round at the thick grime which covered the planking. "We'd best sleep aboard. We shall be snug enough if we bring a couple of blankets."

"A very good notion," agreed Roddy. "We'll do that."

They spent most of the rest of the day overhauling their new possession. The bottom was pretty rotten, but they felt sure that she would keep afloat long enough to get her safe on the mud farther down the river. And then, as Roddy said, they would lay her bottom with cement and gravel, and make a fixture of her, with a gang plank from the shore.

They went home full of excitement, and breakfast was not over next morning at Roddy's home before Drake turned up, carrying a big bundle of soft soap and brushes with which Maggie had provided him.

Roddy's father took them and their loads up to the barge in his dogcart, before starting on his morning round, and they were soon at work, scrubbing away for all they were worth like a couple of housemaids.

First they cleaned out the cabin, then they set about the decks. The barge had been used to carry coal, and the black dust lay thick in every crevice. It was no joke trying to get it out.

By nightfall they wore both pretty well fagged out, and after a wash and a hearty supper rolled themselves in their blankets and turned in.

RODDY was deep in dreamless sleep when he was roused by a hand on his arm. He started up sharply.

"'Sh!" whispered Drake. "There's someone aboard."

"Someone aboard?" repeated Roddy in a low voice.

"Yes. I've just heard a man's feet on the deck. Listen, there's another."

"I hear. And a boat, too. The tide's up, and she's bumping against the side. Who in sense can it be?"

"Haven't a notion," answered Drake, as he rose softly to his feet. "But we shall know soon enough. They're coming across to the cabin door."

Roddy sprang towards the door, with, as Drake thought, the idea of securing it. He himself had no wish for the intruders to find their way in until they were ready to receive them, and, if necessary, defend themselves against an attack.

"No use, Roddy. There's no lock," said Drake. "And it opens outwards."

"I know. I'm not going to try to bar them out, as if I was afraid of them. I'm going to see what they're after."

He flung open the door, at the same time flashing his electric torch, which he pulled from his pocket.

A rough-looking man, who had been just about to enter the cabin, started back in surprise.

"What do you want here?" demanded Roddy.

"Ho, I like that," answered the other, recovering himself. "I like that. Seems as how it's me should be asking that question instead of you, my lad."

"You are mistaken," said Roddy politely. "This barge is our property, and you are trespassing."

The man burst into a hoarse laugh as he turned to his companion.

"That's good. Listen to that, Joe. The nipper says as how the old barge is his. What d'ye think of that for a bit of cheek?"

A second man, a tough-looking customer wearing a ragged blue jersey and sea-boots, stepped up into the circle of light.

"Says it's his, does he, Sam?" he exclaimed harshly. "And where does he think he got it from?"

"It was given us by the owner, Mr. Jones, of Glynavon," answered Roddy.

The man called Sam laughed again.

Then he stepped nearer to the two boys, and with a scowl on his face remarked:

"You've been fooled, my lad. 'Tisn't his to give. The old craft belongs to Joe and me. So the sooner you clear out the better, if you don't want to be chucked out."

The man spoke with such cool assurance that for the moment Roddy was staggered. He glanced doubtfully at Drake Denny.

But the latter was not at all dismayed.

"That's all nonsense," he said shortly. "My father knows Mr. Jones well, and I'm jolly sure that Mr. Jones wouldn't give him anything that wasn't his to give."

"Well, he has this time," answered the man. "This old craft belongs to Joe and me, and you two'll just have to shift out of it."

"Have you any proof that it's yours?" demanded Drake.

"Proof, is it?" said Sam. "D'ye think I carries my certificate of sale around with me in my pocket? The barge was my brother's for ten year and more, and he left it to me. Didn't he, Joe?" turning to his companion.

"In course he did," replied Joe in a queer, hoarse voice. "And, see here, we haven't got time to stand here yarning all night. These younkers have got to get out of it, and the sooner they does it the better."

"It's no use trying to bluff us in that fashion," said Drake steadily. "You haven't given us any kind of proof that the barge is yours. And unless you can do that, it's you and not we who must shift."

Joe's eyes glittered nastily. He took a sudden step forward. But Sam put his arm out.

"Steady on, Joe. It's no use having a fuss, and I'm sure these young gents don't want it any more than you and me. See here, mister," he said, addressing himself to Drake, "there's just a little misunderstanding. You thinks as you own the old barge, and we two has the same sort of notion as regards ourselves. Now I know you'll just go home quietly. Joe and me'll put you ashore in the boat, and to-morrow we'll see Mr. Jones, and have the thing thrashed out proper."

Drake stared him full in the face.

"Why are you so precious anxious to have the barge to yourselves to-night?" he asked shrewdly.

"'Cause it's ours, and we wants to sleep here," answered Sam.

"H'm, funny place to come to sleep in at one in the morning," retorted Drake. "Especially as there are no mattresses or any other sleeping kit."

"Here, this'll do. We've had enough of this," exclaimed Joe angrily. "As I said afore, we've got something better to do than stand here all night arguing with you two nippers. Are you going out, or are you not? Give us a straight answer to a straight question."

"You've had it already," said Drake stiffly. "But you can have it again if you want it. No!"

Joe's answer was to jump at the boy, fling his big arms round him, and try to drag him out of the cabin. At the same moment Sam tried to serve Roddy in the same fashion.

But Roddy was ready for him. Quick as a flash, he jumped to one side, and thrust out his left leg, hooking Sam neatly under the knee and bringing him down on all fours with a crash that shook the whole cabin.

Then he dashed after Joe.

Drake was making a good fight of it, but he was so small and light that he could not do much against his big opponent, and Joe had already dragged him out of the cabin on to the deck.

All this time the only light had been Roddy's electric torch. Seeing he would need both hands to tackle Joe, he thrust this hastily into his pocket.

Outside it was pretty dark. Not pitch dark, for the stars were twinkling, but there was no moon. Anyhow, Joe didn't see him coming, and Roddy had him by the collar of his coat before he knew what was happening, and at the same time kicked his heels from under him.

Uttering an exclamation not generally used in polite society, Joe sat down suddenly on the deck with a bump that must have knocked most of the wind out of his heavy carcase, and Drake, whom he still clutched tightly, sat on top of him.

Roddy seized hold of his chum, jerked him out of the man's arms, and dragged him to his feet.

Quite what to do next Roddy hardly knew, but Drake had all his wits about him.

"Quick—the boat!" he whispered, and rushed to the side.

Sure enough, there was the intruders' boat bumping gently alongside.

"Get in, Roddy. I'll cast off," said Drake sharply.

By this time the man Sam had regained his scattered senses and also his feet, and with a howl of rage came out of the cabin like a rabbit bolting before a ferret. It was one more case of "more haste, less speed," for he never saw Joe, who was still sitting in a badly dazed condition just where Roddy had left him. The natural result was that he charged straight into him, and fell over him.

"You silly fool!" he roared. "What are you playing at?"

"Silly fool yourself!" howled Joe. "Take your dirty boot out of my mouth!"

"Where are them dratted boys?" shrieked Sam, picking himself up, and making a blind rush down the deck. "Where are they, Joe?"

Joe came limping after him. Suddenly he must have caught the sound of oars splashing gently, for he gave a shriek of dismay.

"They've got our boat. They've gone!" he wailed.

"We've gone all right," shouted back Drake Denny. "If we can't have the barge, we'll have the boat!"

The men on the barge replied with howls of rage, and wild threats of what would happen to the boys if they did not instantly bring back the boat.

But the only answer they got was a peal of mocking laughter, and in a very few minutes the boat had vanished in the darkness.

"We got out of that pretty well, Drake," said Roddy, as he tugged at his oar.

"Yes, thanks to you, old chap," answered Drake.

"We can share the credit," chuckled Roddy. "It was you thought of the boat. In the excitement I'd clean forgotten it for the moment. But what were those chaps after? Why were they so keen to get rid of us? That old barge can't possibly be worth anything to them."

"No, but there might be something in her that was."

"I never thought of that. You mean they'd got something hidden aboard her?"

"That's my notion," answered Drake. "They may have been doing a little job in the burglary line, or it may have been simply smuggling."

"Then the best thing we can do is to pull back to Portglask, and rout out a policeman," suggested Roddy.

"No need to go so far. We can find a bobby nearer than that. There's Griffith at Newbridge, and that's not a mile away. Let's get off there."

"Good business. If only he's at home, we'll have him there inside half an hour."

But it took some time to wake Griffith. It was the best part of an hour before they got back to the barge with the policeman.

"Pull softly," whispered Drake, as the dark outline of the barge loomed up ahead. "We must catch 'em napping if we can."

Roddy and Drake were both good watermen. They slipped in under the stern of the old craft without a sound, and, first making fast the painter, crawled aboard. Griffith, who was a big, heavy man of forty, followed them equally quietly, and for a minute they all three stood listening in perfect silence.

"I'm afraid the birds are flown," murmured Griffith. "There's only a couple of foot of water on the landward side. They could have got ashore all right."

He stole forward, moving wonderfully softly for so heavy a man.

"Wait," whispered Drake. "I'll have a look through the window. Lend me your lamp, Roddy."

The others waited, and presently the electric torch flashed out.

"No use," said Drake. "They've hooked it—and taken our blankets, too. What a beastly shame!"

He was right. The men had gone, and so had the blankets and the rest of the food which the boys had brought.

Griffith was very much annoyed.

"It would have been worth a bit to me if I'd caught 'em," he said in a disappointed tone. "And most like they've taken what they came after along with them."

"I'm not so sure about that," said Drake, who was standing in the middle of the cabin, sniffing like a terrier at the entrance to a rat-hole. "Roddy, can't you smell something?"

"My word, yes. There's a regular reek of tobacco."

"Tobacco," repeated the policeman eagerly, as he turned the slide of his bull's-eye. "You're just about right, my lad, for I got a whiff of it then. We'll turn this place out, and see what we can find."

All three set to work with a will, and from under the bulkheads they soon dragged out a heavy parcel done up in tarred paper.

"This is a find, and no mistake," said Griffith. "Evan Llewellyn, the coastguard, told me some time ago that there was baccy being brought in as hadn't paid no duty. Said it beat him where they was hiding it."

As he spoke, he ripped the parcel open. Tobacco sure enough. Black twist done up in pound packets. There were fifty of them in the bale, and they found ten bales in all.

"And what are we going to do with it now?" asked Roddy, staring at the piled-up bales.

"Wait till daylight, Mr. Kynaston, then take it down to the Customs at Portglask. There'll be a tidy few shillings coming to you and Mr. Denny here for finding of this stuff."

Griffith was right. The boys were awarded three pounds between them as their reward for the discovery of the smuggled tobacco. Two pounds they put into the funds of the new patrol, and the other they insisted on Griffith taking as his share.


A BIG, new oil-lamp, perfectly trimmed, shed a cheery glow on six boys assembled in the cabin of the old barge. The cabin itself shone like a new pin. The boards were scrubbed to snowy whiteness, The stove was blackleaded till you could see your face in it.

In the middle of the room was a table, a gift from Roddy's father, and home-made benches afforded sitting accommodation.

Drake Denny, an eager look on his thin, dark face, stood up quickly.

"Look here, you chaps," he began.

"That's not the way to begin a speech," put in Arnold Gillam chaffingly. "You should say, 'Ladies and gentlemen.'"

"Dry up, Arnold!" said Roddy. "Let Drake do it his own way."

"I'm not making a speech," retorted Drake. "All I want to tell you is that, as this is the first meeting of the patrol, we've got to elect a Patrol-leader. There's a bit of paper in front of each of you, and the way is for every chap to write down the name of the fellow he thinks will make the best leader on his paper, and then fold it up and pass it in. The chap who gets most votes is leader. Go ahead, now."

Five of the boys began to write at once. The sixth, Dick Harper by name, who was a cousin of Roddy's, and already a member of a land patrol, looked on.

"Now all pass your papers to Dick," said Drake. "Dick, you read them out."

Dick did so. There were four votes for Roddy, and one—this in Roddy's writing—for Drake.

"Roddy, you're Patrol-leader," said Drake. "Come and take the chair."

The others all clapped violently as Roddy moved to the head of the table.

"It's awfully good of you chaps," he said. "I only hope I shall be able to manage the job all right. I'll try, anyhow. Now, we must have a second. Names, please."

The result was four votes for Drake, one for Arnold.

Roddy wrote the names down in a book, with the date, and gave the other three Scouts their numbers. The remaining three were Arnold Gillam, Joe Morgan, and young Guy Griffith, son of the policeman.

"We ought really to have six, or, better still, eight," said Roddy, "but if we buck up we shall soon get some more. Anyhow, we've got a guardship. The next thing is to have a name. What do you say to calling ourselves the Seals?" The others all agreed.

"The County Commissioner has given us leave to wear regular Sea Scout kit. Same as land, only in blue serge, and bluejacket's cap instead of the ordinary Scout hat. Stockings, blue woollen, and long enough to turn up over knees when in boats. My father's given me a copy of 'Sea Scouting for Boys,' and that and the Chief Scout's book are the first two in our library.

"Now we've all got to buck up like anything. The first thing we must do is to get our guardship nearer the harbour. Sir Richard Ferguson has given us leave to berth her at the mouth of the creek, and as soon as there's a big spring tide all hands must chip in to get her down."

"That'll be Wednesday week," said Joe Morgan.

"All right. Wednesday week is the day, then. And the next thing we need is a boat. That's awfully Important."

"I think we've got one, Kynaston," piped up little Guy Griffith.

"Got one?" exclaimed the others.

"Yes, father told me to tell you that the boat those smugglers were using hasn't been claimed, and the chief constable says we may have it."

"Hurrah! that's great!" cried Roddy. "Now we can make some money."

"How?" asked Arnold Gillam.

"Why, sea-fishing, of course. Any of us who have spare time can go out hooking. We'll get a lot of shillings that way for our patrol fund, shan't we, Joe?"

"Aye, we will that," answered Joe, who, being the son of a professional fisherman, knew more about the game than any of the rest of them. "There's a fine lot of whiting in the bay now."

"We'll have some of them before we're much older," said Roddy. "When can we get that boat, Guy?"

"Soon as you like, father says."

"I can go to-morrow," said Roddy. "It's holiday-time with me. Who'll come?"

There was no answer at first. It seemed that everyone was busy.

"If none of the patrol can come," said Dick Harper, "I'm your man, Roddy. I'm not much use, but I can row a bit."

"All right, it's a go. We must start early, for we'll have to get some bait first."

"Come around to our place, and I'll have some mussels ready," said Joe Morgan gruffly. "I picked near a bushel to-day."

Roddy, secretly delighted at the true Scout spirit shown by this offer, gratefully accepted it, and after some further talk about the plans of the new patrol, all the boys scrambled ashore and tramped off to their homes.

Roddy and his cousin were afoot early next morning. They had first to fetch the boat, which was tied up near the Custom-house, then to go round to Morgan's for the bait.

They found Joe swabbing down the deck of his father's smack.

"Morning," he greeted them shortly.

"What d'ye think of the boat, Joe?" asked Roddy.

Joe cast a critical eye over her.

"Not a deal, to tell you the truth. She's old, and she's not got freeboard enough for sea work. But she'll serve if we tinker her up, and give her a lick of paint."

"You mustn't look a gift boat in the bow," laughed Roddy. "The great thing is that she didn't cost us anything."

"Aye, that's true," answered Joe, as he handed over a tin bucket full of mussels. "Here's your bait. If I was you, I'd try Doublehead Rock first. Tight lines."

"Seems a good sort," observed Dick, as they pulled away.

"Joe's one of the best," agreed Roddy. "He doesn't say much, but he knows a lot. He's fit for three badges already—'Boatman,' 'Watchman,' and 'Sea-Fisherman.' And he'd probably pass for 'Pilot,' too. There's not another chap of his age in Portglask that's as good a hand in a boat."

"Where's this Doublehead Rock he told us about?"

"A good way out. You'll see it when we're clear of the harbour."

They pulled on in silence for nearly an hour, then Roddy turned and pointed.

"See those two blunt-headed rocks sticking up out of the water? That's Doublehead Rock. Our mark's about two cables to the southward."

"That's Dutch to me," said Dick. "What's a cable?"

"A hundred fathoms," laughed Roddy. "Two hundred yards. The tenth part of a nautical mile."

"I see—roughly a quarter of a land mile south. You'll have to instruct me. I don't know the first thing about this game."

In a few minutes more Roddy gave orders to ship oars. Getting his cross-bearings, he manoeuvred the boat until he had her exactly on the mark, and then proceeded to anchor.

The anchor was nothing but a big stone with a few fathoms of stout cord attached. It went over with a loud splash, and, as soon as he had made sure it was holding, he set to work to get the lines out.

Roddy was all there when it came to sea-fishing, and his tackle was a cut above that used by the ordinary professional hand-liner. He used what is called the "sid-strap" tackle. The line ended in a boat-shaped lead, to which were attached two lengths of gimp, each fitted with a swivel and a number three hook.

"Let your line out till the lead touches the bottom," he told Dick. "When you feel two or three sharp little jerks give a good pull and haul up at once."

Before Roddy had finished baiting his own line, Dick gave a triumphant shout.

"I've got one!"

"Quick, yank him in, then."

Dick wasted no time, and a few seconds later he brought over the side a short, thick fish, gaudily tinted in scarlet and deep blue.

"That's not a whiting," said Dick, as he eyed his capture with some surprise.

"No, it's a wrasse, or rock fish," replied Roddy. "They live down at the bottom, and never come to the top. Look at its air bladder, all swollen out. That's because of the difference in pressure."

"Is he any use?"

"Not much. But try a little farther astern. The whiting'll be on the ridge of the reef. Ha, I've got one!"

Up it came, kicking and struggling, a nice fish, rather over a pound in weight, and at the next try Roddy hooked two at once. But Dick could not get one at all. He caught another wrasse, and then a quaint-looking, sharp-beaked gar-fish, but not a single whiting.

Roddy explained that this often happens, and that it shows the importance of getting exactly on the proper mark. Presently he lifted the anchor, and let the boat drop down with the tide about twice her own length. Then the fun began in earnest, and both were soon hauling in fish almost as fast as they could bait their hooks, and often two at a time.

Before long the whole of the bottom of the boat was covered with fish, and Roddy was in high feather.

"If they keep on biting like this," he said, "we'll have all of ten bobs' worth by evening."

They were so busy that they lost count of time. Their hands became sore with hauling the lines, and the mussels in the can grew rapidly lower.

Dick got cramped with sitting so long in one position. He stood up to get the kinks out of his legs.

"I say, Roddy," he said suddenly. "It's getting a bit dark, isn't it?"

Roddy looked up, and gave a low whistle.

"Phew, but there's a fog coming on, and the wind's shifting. Dick, we'll have to chuck it, and get back. It's not good enough to be caught out here in a bad fog."

"What a beastly nuisance!" growled Dick. "Just when the fish are going like this."

"It is poor luck, but it can't be helped. Can you get up the anchor while I haul in my line?"

Dick stepped forward and began to pull up the big stone. Just then a small steamer loomed up through the fast-thickening smother. She was heading straight for them.

"Buck up, Dick," cried Roddy, as he sprang to the oars. "There's a steamer close on us."

"Ahoy, there!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "Don't run us down."

The look-out in the steamer's bows saw the boat, and the course of the vessel was changed in plenty of time. But she came ploughing along almost within her own length of the mark, and her bow wave caught the boat just as Dick was lifting the big anchor stone on board.

Dick, having his back to the steamer, did not see the wave, and Roddy's warning cry was just too late. The sudden heave upset Dick's balance, he stumbled backwards, and, catching the backs of his knees against the forward thwart, took a heavy fall.

"Hurt, old chap?" asked Roddy anxiously.

"Got a nasty crack on the funny-bone," answered Dick, rubbing his elbow ruefully; "but it's nothing. I'm quite fit to pull."

"I'll pull," said Roddy. "You sit still a bit."

But Dick insisted on taking an oar, and getting their course by Roddy's little pocket-compass, they began to row back towards the harbour.

Presently Roddy looked back over his shoulder.

"I say, Dick, there's a good deal of water in the boat."

"Just what I was thinking. She must be leaking pretty badly."

"Then she's only just started. She was quite dry when we finished fishing."

"I wonder if I did any damage when I came that cropper. I'm afraid I dropped that anchor stone pretty heavily."

"Did you, by Jove? That would account for it. Wait; I'll get past you and have a look."

He shipped his oars and stepped forward.

Dick heard a dismayed exclamation.

"Is it bad?" he asked anxiously.

"I'm afraid it is, Dick. The stone's knocked a regular hole in her, and the water's coming in like billy-oh!"

"I'm awfully sorry. What's to be done?"

"Plug it as best we can, and pull in for all we're worth. Let's have your handkerchief."

He made the best job of it he could with two handkerchiefs and some old rags which they found in the stern locker. Then they set to work to pull in earnest.

But in a very short time the water was over the bottom boards, and meantime the fog had closed down like a wall. They could see absolutely nothing beyond a radius of some fifty yards.

"Dick, you'll have to bale while I pull," said Roddy. He tried to speak cheerfully, but he was really anxious. The boat was a crazy old thing at best, and it was quite clear that a plank was sprung.

Dick passed his oar over to Roddy, picked up the tin pannikin, and set to work. Roddy, with one eye on the compass, pulled for all he was worth. But the water-logged boat moved heavily, and, in spite of Dick's best efforts, she kept on sinking lower.

"I say, Roddy," said Dick after a bit. "We're in rather a hole, aren't we?"

"'Fraid we are, old chap," replied Roddy quietly. "You can swim a bit, can't you?"

"I've done a couple of hundred yards. That's about all. How far out are we?"

"Can't tell exactly, but all of two miles."

"Any chance of being picked up?" asked Dick, baling hard.

"Plenty, if it wasn't for this wretched fog. As it is, it would be sheer luck if anyone saw us."

"How about trying to pull back to that Doublehead Rock?"

"No use. Even if we could find it, it's covered at high tide. There's nothing for it but to plug along back. If she sinks we must just hang on to her, and keep afloat as long as we can."

Before another ten minutes had passed it was quite plain to both the boys that she was going to sink. The water was up to the thwarts, and every ripple threatened to break over the gunwale. Steaming with perspiration and breathing hard, they both stuck manfully to their work, hoping against hope that something might heave in sight through the dense wall of fog which hung round them like a blanket.

"It's no use, Roddy," said Dick despairingly. "She's going."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before a small wave lapped over the gunwale, and she sank away gently beneath their feet, leaving her crew swimming.

A boat, of course, does not sink like a ship. There is more than enough wood about her to float the small amount of metal used in her construction.

"Hang on to her, Dick," cried Roddy. "Get your arm over her side. I'll go the other side, and balance you. Are you all right?"

"I'm all right," said Dick. "It's not so cold, either."

"No, and luckily it's still early in the afternoon. We ought to be picked up before night."

"Poor luck losing all our fish," said Dick, as he watched their big catch floating away down the tide.

"Never mind. We'll do as well another day," answered Roddy, with a cheerfulness he was far from feeling.

He kept on talking, doing his best to keep up his own and Dick's spirits. But secretly he was very anxious. At present they were drifting towards the shore, but he knew the tide was very near the turn, and then they would be carried out to sea. And with this fog, the chances were all against their being seen.

Time passed. Dick's teeth began to chatter. Roddy himself was chilled to the bone. A feeling of despair began to creep over him. It was horrible to hang on like this, and to feel that it was impossible to do anything to help himself or Dick.

"Roddy," said Dick at last, speaking very quietly. "I'm afraid I can't hang on much longer."

"You must, Dick," said Roddy urgently. "Kick a bit. That'll warm you up. We're bound to sight something before long. The fishing boats will be coming in before night. They'll—"

He broke off sharply with a shout of triumph.

"Hurrah, there's one now! See it?"

"Yes, I see something," answered Dick hoarsely.

"Shout! Shout for all you're worth," said Roddy.

"Ahoy, there, ahoy! Help!" They both shouted at the pitch of their voices.

There was no answer.

"I don't believe it's a boat at all," said Roddy, as the drift of the tide carried them slowly nearer to the dark, formless object which loomed vaguely through the fog. "No, by Jove, I know what it is! A buoy!"

"A buoy!" echoed Dick, deeply disappointed. "That's no use to us."

"It is. It's a gas buoy. It must be the Gannet. My goodness, what a way we've drifted! It's a big thing, with a cage on top. If we can reach it, we'll be all right. We'll be out of the water, anyhow."

"The tide's taking us to it, isn't it?" asked Dick.

Roddy waited a moment before replying.

"No. We shall pass on the outside. Dick, we've got to leave the boat, and swim for it."

"I can't do it, Roddy," groaned Dick.

"Nonsense. I'll tow you. Take an oar, and put it under your arm. Now then."

As he spoke, he let go the boat, swam round, and caught hold of his cousin. Then he struck out hard for the buoy.

The buoy was only about fifty yards away, but that distance had to be made against the ebb, which was now running strong. Roddy was already numbed with cold, and, though Dick did his best to swim, almost all his weight was on Roddy.

It was the toughest job that Roddy had ever tackled, and if it had not been that both their lives depended on his reaching the buoy, he would never have done it. And even when he did reach it his troubles were not at an end, for there seemed to be absolutely nothing to get hold of.

Swimming round it, he found a ring bolt in the side, and this gave them both something to hang on to while they had time to get their breath back.

Then Roddy managed to climb on to the flat top and get a grip on the iron cage, after which it was comparatively easy to pull Dick up alongside him.

The buoy was what is called a can buoy. It was painted in black and red chequers. On top was an iron cage, and above this rose a pillar, carrying at the top a small gas lamp fed by gas contained within the buoy. On one side of the cage was a plate with the name "GANNET" in big white letters. The buoy was anchored over the end of the Gannet shoal, which lay on the port side of the entrance to Portglask Bay.

"Now then, Dick, off with your things," said Roddy. "Take 'em off and squeeze the water out. Then we've got to do some exercises to get warm."

It was colder than ever, standing there on the chill iron top of the buoy without a stitch on. But a quarter of an hour of arm-swinging, kicking, and deep breathing got their blood running once more, and when they put on their clothes again they both felt considerably better.

But they were fearfully hungry, the fog was as thick as ever, and, to make matters worse, a chilly wind had sprung up, and quite a sea was beginning to run.

The boys judged that it was nearly sunset, when, at last, they caught sight of a dark patch in the smother, some distance to the northwards.

They shouted for all they were worth.

But a thick grey fog blew down, and hid the vessel from their straining eyes.

"It's no use, Roddy," said Dick despondently. "They haven't seen us."


RODDY felt almost desperate. Dusk was falling fast, the breeze was hardening, there was every prospect of a dirty night. He knew very well that, if they two were left to spend the night on the buoy, the chances of their ever seeing daylight again were of the slimmest.

He shouted again with all his might.

Still there was no answer. He had given up hope, when, as if by magic, the fog suddenly broke and lifted, and showed a large trawler beating out close-hauled against the sou'-westerly breeze.

"Shout, Dick—shout for all you're worth," cried Roddy.

Dick needed no urging, and his voice and Roddy's went ringing across the heaving water.

"Hurrah, they've heard us," said Roddy in tones of deepest relief. "Look, they're heaving to."

Sure enough, the trawler's steersman had thrown her head up into the wind, and she lay with sails flapping while her crow lifted a heavy, stumpy-looking boat over the side, and two of them pulled off towards the buoy.

"What in thunder are you kids doing here?" inquired the man who was pulling stroke, a great, fair-haired giant, with a thunderous voice which reminded Roddy of Captain Denny's.

"Went out fishing, and our boat sprang a leak and sank," explained Roddy briefly, as he and Dick tumbled quickly into the boat. "I say, I'm glad you saw us. I thought we were in for a night on that buoy."

"Reckon you wouldn't have stayed there very long," returned the big man, with a glance around. "There's weather brewing, and I'd a sight sooner be aboard the Nelly Gray than hanging on to this here old iron tank."

"Now, then, Barton, aren't ye ever going to start pulling?" asked the other man, who was a narrow-shouldered person with a long, thin face, and a voice as harsh as an ungreased pulley.

"All right, Preece. Don't excite yourself," answered Barton good-naturedly, as he dipped his oar.

His strength matched his size, and the heavy boat fairly hissed through the fast-rising waves. In less than ten minutes from the time they had first been sighted, the boys were climbing aboard the trawler.

Roddy had just time to notice that the Nelly Gray was an oldish boat, but big and very strongly built, and heavily canvassed, when a short, square man, with small, sharp eyes and bristling side-whiskers bore down upon them.

"Now then, hurry up," he said harshly. "Get the boat in. We've wasted enough time already."

He turned on the boys.

"What fool game have you two been playing?" he demanded.

His tone was almost offensive, and Roddy flushed a little, but explained quietly what had happened.

"Lost your boat, eh?" said the skipper. "That comes of boys going fishing as ought to be at school. Well, this isn't no tourist yacht. You lads'll have to work your passage."

"Can't you put us ashore, captain?" asked Dick bluntly.

The question roused the skipper to sudden anger.

"What—turn back and run into Portglask again, and lose the tide?" he shouted. "You're not asking anything, are you? What d'ye think I'm here for—fun?"

"My cousin didn't mean to annoy you," said Roddy, keeping tight hold of his temper. "It's only that he knows our friends will be anxious."

"Then they shouldn't ha' let you go out without your nurse," sneered the other. "It'll serve 'em right if they got a good scare. Go you down to the galley and help the cook with supper."

Roddy saw that Dick was very angry. He took him by the arm.

"Come on, Dick," he said in a low voice. "It's no use butting against that fellow," he explained, as they dropped down the steep little companion ladder into the cuddy. "A skipper's a king at sea, even if he only commands a trawler. This is rough on the governor and the mater, but, after all, it's better than if we were still hanging on to that gas-buoy. We shall probably put in at Milford to-morrow, and then we can send a wire to say we're safe."

In the galley a thin, unhappy-looking man was peeling potatoes. Roddy explained that he and Dick had been sent down to help, and the cook, who had evidently not yet recovered from a spree ashore, seemed glad to let them take the work off his hands.

Roddy, who had knocked about a lot in North Sea trawlers, gave Dick the potatoes to peel, and set to work with the rest of the cooking.

Everything was in a fearful mess. The galley-stove was covered with rust, and of the pots and pans the less said the better.

The first thing Roddy did was to start a regular clean up. The cook, after showing him where the stores were kept, had cleared out.

"Don't fancy the cooking's up to much in this hooker, Dick," said Roddy. "I'll spread myself to-night, and see if I can't give the crew something a cut above the usual."

"You'd better hurry up, then," replied Dick, who was feeling squeamish. "She's moving a lot already. And by the sound of it, the wind's getting up."

"Then we'll try a dry hash," said Roddy, as he put a frying-pan on. "That won't take long. A nigger cook showed me on the old Ida out of Hull. And you step on deck, Dick, and get a breath of air. It's the stuffiness down here that's playing old Harry with you."

Dick, who was looking very pasty-faced, took his advice and went off.

Roddy quickly cut up the potatoes and onions, and put them into the frying-pan with some fat. Then he sliced up a big chunk of salt pork into thin wafers, and mixed it in with the bubbling vegetables. He kept the fire hot and clear, and turned the mass constantly with the blade of a knife.

It was no easy job, for the sea was getting up all the time, and the Nelly Gray was pitching heavily. Overhead, he could hear the wind shrieking in the rigging, while from hoarse shoutings and tramplings he judged that all hands were shortening sail.

Suddenly Dick plunged below again.

"I say, Roddy," he said in a low voice. "Who do you think's aboard this craft?"

His tone made Roddy turn sharply.

"Sam," went on Dick. "Sam—one of those chaps who tackled you and Drake Denny on the barge."

"How do you know? You never saw him."

"No, but I heard him talking to Preece. He told Preece that he'd spotted you, and that he jolly well meant to get even for the trick you played him that night, when you and Drake slipped away from the barge in his boat."

Roddy looked thoughtful.

"That's a bit awkward," he said. "They certainly seem to have a queer gang aboard this hooker. But it's no use worrying. After all, I don't see what he can do to hurt us. There won't be trouble to-night, anyhow. They'll all be much too busy. We're in for some weather, or I'm a Dutchman."

"I should rather think we were. It's blowing like anything, and the waves are beginning to break over the deck already. Seems to me we've got out of one hat into another."

"Don't worry," laughed Roddy, as he stirred the contents of the frying-pan. "These trawlers'll stand pretty near as much as a liner. And by the look of her, the Nelly Gray is well-found and well-handled."

"She's all of that," broke in a deep voice, and big Barton poked his head into the little galley. "So you've took on the cook's job, younker. Mebbe you'll make a better job of it than Taffy did. Anyways, you couldn't do no worse."

"Oh, I've learnt to cook a bit," said Roddy modestly.

"Smells all right," observed Barton genially. "Sing out when grub's ready. The glass is tumbling, and we're in for a dirty night."

"I thought as much," returned Roddy. "Everything will be ready in a few minutes."

Barton still lounged by the door, and Roddy ventured on a question.

"Where are you bound?" he asked. "Bristol Channel?"

Barton hesitated slightly. He gave the boy a quick, half-suspicious glance.

"Aye, them's our usual grounds," he answered gruffly.

"You see," explained Roddy, "my cousin and I are keen to get ashore. Our people will be thinking that something's happened to us."

Barton nodded.

"You needn't worry, my lad. Cap'n Ormston'll put you ashore all right to-morrow. But don't you say I told you so. He's a contrary sort of cuss, and you've only got to say one thing for him to do the opposite."

"I'll be careful," said Roddy. "Grub's ready," he added, as he took the pan off the galley stove.

"Sling it along just as it is," continued Barton. "Dishes aren't no sort of use in this here weather."

Three men were in the tiny cabin. Preece was at the table, the cook was lying huddled up on the locker aft, while the third, sure enough, was Sam. Sam favoured Roddy with a scowl, but made no remark, and Roddy took no notice.

"What's this here?" growled Preece, as Roddy, hanging on with one hand in order to keep his balance, put the pan in front of him.

"Dry hash," explained Roddy.

"Dry hash. I never heard tell of it."

"You don't want to hear of it. Your job is to eat it," remarked Barton. "And if you don't want any just shove it over here."

Preece grumbled, but took a good helping. So did Sam and Barton. The cook still slept.

"First chop, my lad," said Barton, looking up with his mouth full. "You don't seem to find anything wrong with it, Preece."

"It might be worse," grudgingly admitted Preece.

Roddy went back to the galley, and fetched the tea.

"Skipper's at the helm," said Barton. "Take him a mug."

Roddy filled a big enamelled iron mug, and swung himself up through the hatch. He knew it was blowing more than a bit, but he was hardly prepared for the sight that mot his eyes.

The Nelly Gray, close-reefed, was beating out into a sou'-wester which was already more than half a gale. All the fog had been swept away, and the pale twilight showed tall, white-crested combers rolling in out of the open sea in endless serried ranks.

There was no land in sight. The gathering darkness had quite hidden the tall Welsh cliffs. The only sign of life in all the wild expanse was a line of twinkling lights passing swiftly southwards, a big Atlantic liner driving at twenty knots down St. George's Channel.

Just aft of the little hatch stood the skipper, gripping the tiller with both hands. The wind roared past him, the spray pattered, in stinging shoots on his steaming oil-skins, and Roddy noticed that he kept an anxious eye on the leech of his big mainsail.

"Your tea, sir," shouted Roddy. He had to shout, for the shriek of the gale made ordinary speech impossible.

Holding the kicking tiller under one arm, the other took the steaming mug, drained it at one long draught, and pitched it back to Roddy.

"Tell 'em to tumble up," he bellowed. "We've got to shorten sail again."

"Right, sir," answered Roddy, and dropped back down the hatch like a jack-in-the-box.

The men below growled, but obeyed, and with much trouble canvas was shortened afresh, and a storm jib set. With sails like sheets of iron, the Nelly Gray staggered on her course.

The gale grew worse, and Preece was called to help the skipper at the tiller. It was dark now, but fortunately the fog had clean gone, and the night was clear.

The wind was pulling round nor'-westerly, and as the sea increased the motion of the trawler became simply terrific. Now she was swung up on the crest of a great wave, then sent sliding down into a hollow so deep that the wall of water behind cut off the wind, and for the moment all was calm.

Roddy went below again to get some food. He found Dick pluckily struggling against spasms of sea-sickness, and made him some hot tea which did him good.

"Wish I could get on deck," whispered Dick. "That fellow Sam has been staring at me and chuckling to himself as if he had some great joke. They're a queer crowd aboard this craft. Barton's the only decent one of the lot."

"They are queer," answered Roddy cautiously. "And I have my suspicions. But don't worry. Barton says the skipper will certainly put us ashore to-morrow."

"Do you really think he will?"

"If my suspicions are right, I'm certain of it. I believe their game is one that they don't want any witnesses of."

"What is it?"

"Poaching," whispered Roddy.

"Poaching?" repeated Dick. "How can you poach at sea?"

"Trawling in prohibited areas—that's what they call it in the charge sheet. But this is no place to talk of it. Come on deck. It's wet, but better than this stuffiness."

On deck it was blowing harder than ever, and now Barton was helping the skipper at the tiller.

The boys got what shelter they could under lee of the companion, and hung on. It was lighter now, for the moon had risen, and shone through the thin wisps of cloud which scurried across the sky.

"Do you mean to say there are places in the sea where you mayn't fish?" said Dick, his mouth close to Roddy's ear.

"Yes, rather. Lots of 'em. Fishguard Bay, for instance, and from Garland Stone to Skomer Island. You can fish there with hook and line, but you mayn't use trawls. There are fishery protection gunboats to see that boats don't break the law, but there are not enough of 'em, and as the fishing is awfully good in such places, why, you'll always find fellows ready to take the risk."

"What happens if they're caught?"

"Big fine, and all their nets confiscated."

Before Dick could speak again, there came a sharp exclamation from Barton at the tiller close behind them.

"See that, skipper?" he shouted.

"No. What?"

"Another trawler, and by the look of her she's in trouble."

Roddy sprang to his foot.

"He's right, Dick. See—over there."

The Nelly Gray rose on top of a towering wave, and as she poised upon its huge crest both boys saw over the starboard bow a trawler rather smaller than the Nelly Gray. Her mainmast was gone, snapped off about six feet above the deck, and she lay in the trough of the sea with the waves breaking over her.


Looking over the starboard bow, the two boy saw a trawler, her mainmast gone.

"It's the Polly," said Barton. "And in a bad way, too—"

"She's signalling for assistance," broke in Roddy, springing across to the tiller.

"What do you know about signals?" demanded the skipper, staring suspiciously at Roddy.

"Enough to know what's flying at her masthead, sir," answered Roddy. "The letters are N.C., meaning 'In distress; want assistance.'"

"She'll have to wait for someone else to help her, then," growled Captain Ormston. "It's as good as suicide to put a boat overside in this gale."

The words sounded heartless, yet Roddy felt that there was real regret behind them.

"Surely we can do something, sir?" he said.

"Who asked you to speak?" cried Ormston angrily. "Think I don't know my job, and want a kid like you to teach me?"

"No, sir," replied Roddy. "But surely you're not going to run past her, and leave the poor fellows to sink?"

"What else can we do?" retorted Ormston. "Nothing short of a lifeboat could live in this sea. P'r'aps you'd like me to run the Nelly Gray alongside of her, and smash both of us?"

"I know you can't do that, but couldn't you run up to windward and lie to, and let the wind take the boat down to her?"

"Who taught you seamanship?" growled Ormston, glaring savagely at Roddy. Yet all the same there was a new note of respect in his tone. "P'r'aps you and t'other kid 'ud like to take on the job yourselves?"

"I'll go, sir," answered Roddy quietly.

"By thunder, so'll I, skipper," roared big Barton. "I don't let myself be shamed by a nipper like that."

"It's as good as death," said Ormston. "And I'll lose my boat as well as you."

"Maybe you'll be in the same fix yourself one o' these days," answered Barton. "Come on, lad. Rouse 'em up below to help us over with the boat."

He gave a hurricane bellow which rose even above the shriek of the gale, and Sam and Preece and the miserable-looking cook came tumbling up in a hurry.

"You chaps help to get the boat out," ordered Ormston. "There's a craft there in need o' help, and Barton here and the boy are going over to 'em."

As he spoke he forced the helm up, and the Nelly Gray, groaning in every timber, wedged her stout nose closer still into the wind, and took a new list which dipped her lee gunwale level with the black waves.

Dick was caught unawares, and tumbled bodily into the swimming scuppers, but Roddy had hold of him like a flash, and dragged him, bruised and soaked, to his feet again.

"I'm coming, too," declared Dick stoutly.

"No, Dick, it would be no use. You'd only be in the way," said Roddy in low, earnest tones. "Honestly, I mean it."

"But I can't let you go alone," begged Dick, near to tears.

"It's got to be, old chap," replied Roddy. "Don't worry. We'll be all right."

At this moment the clouds blew clear, and the moon shone out brightly over the waste of tossing waters, showing clearly the wrecked Polly and her crew making frantic signs for help to the Nelly Gray.

The latter, by this time, was almost level with her, and gradually clawing up into the weather gauge.

Barton, Preece, Sam, and Roddy were struggling with the boat, and terrible work it was to get her over the bulwarks. They have no davits or lifting tackle on a trawler.

At last they shot her overboard, and big Barton made a plunge and leapt aboard as she sank deep into a black hollow alongside.

She rose again like a cork, and it seemed to Roddy as though she would be smashed to flinders against the Nelly Gray's side. But she was built for rough work, and though she crashed heavily against the side of the trawler, no harm was clone, and, seizing his chance, Roddy followed Barton, and landed safely in the stern of the stout little craft.

Roddy seized the boat-hook, and fended off with all his might as the next wave threatened to grind them to matchwood against the side of the trawler.

The boat was still towing alongside, and threatening to capsize every instant, but Barton let go the painter, and as he did so, he and Roddy both seized their oars.

Next moment they were clear of the Nelly Gray, and racing away before the gale towards the wreck.

If the sea had seemed bad from the deck of the stout trawler, here in the little cockle-shell of a boat it was simply terrifying. They did not seem like waves at all, but rather great, dark hills of rushing water which chased them as though intent upon catching and swamping them.

The two stood facing their work as most deep-sea fishermen do. Indeed, it was necessary, otherwise they could not tell in what direction they were travelling.

Roddy was strong, but never before had he felt so deeply the need for every ounce of strength. For failure to keep the boat's head straight, a single blunder of any kind, could be paid for in one way only—by instant swamping and death.

In spite of the cold wind and the soaking from the flying tops of the breaking waves, great beads of perspiration rolled down his face, and his breath came in panting gasps as he worked his long, heavy oar.

Driven by the wind, the boat fled on towards the Polly.

Time and again it seemed as though nothing could save her from the immense waves, the foaming crests of which glimmered high overhead as they swept up behind her. Yet somehow she escaped, and quickly drew near to the half-wrecked trawler.

Almost before he realised it, Roddy found that they were under the lee of the Polly, which lay like a half-tide rock at the mercy of the pounding waves.

"Catch the rope, lad. I'll keep her up," bellowed big Barton.

A coil of rope, the end of which had been fastened to the stump of the Polly's broken mainmast, came whizzing across the boat. Roddy caught it, and quickly made fast the loose end to a thwart.

At that moment the Polly gave a tremendous roll, and the boat's bow was jerked upwards and forwards. Her stern was drawn down level with the sea, and the top of a wave breaking aboard half filled her.

"Bale! Bale, or she's done for!" roared Barton.

Roddy snatched up a pail and baled like mad, while Barton seized the rope and pulled it in hand over hand.

"Look out!" came a yell from one of the Polly's crew. "Fend off, or you'll be stove."

Barton snatched up an oar. He was just too late. Another wave seized the boat and hurled her bodily against the Polly's side.

She struck it with a force that even her stout timbers could not resist. Her side was smashed like an egg.

"Jump—jump!" shouted Barton.

Roddy made a wild leap, and just succeeded in catching hold of the Polly's bulwarks, where he hung until someone aboard seized him and dragged him on to the deck.

Scrambling to his feet, he looked round for Barton, and found him sprawling alongside, still clinging to the rope.

"We've done it now," said the big man as he rose stiffly. "We've done it this time. And 'twas my fault, too."


"SHE'S gone. The boat's sunk," came a despairing voice.

An elderly man with a grizzled beard was clinging to the hatch covering just in front of Roddy. It was he who had dragged the boy on to the deck.

"The boat's sunk, and we'll go, too," he continued in a tone of despair.

"Rouse up there, rouse up!" cried big Barton, pulling himself together. "Never say die till you have to. The Polly's riding high yet; she isn't holed, is she?"

"Not as I knows of," answered the old man. "But what's to do? The mast's gone, our boat's washed overboard, and no craft as ever was built could stand this here pounding. 'Twon't be long afore she bursts apart and founders."

"Why didn't ye try to get her head up to it?" demanded Barton, gasping as the top of a wave caught him, and nearly washed him from his hold. "Man alive, you haven't oven cut away the wreckage yet!"

"There's none to do it, mister, but me and the boy. The skipper and the mate was washed overboard by the sea that took the mast out of her."

"Well, we've got to do something," answered Barton sharply. "We aren't a-going to cling here, and wait for the storm to finish us."

"I'll tell you what," put in Roddy eagerly. "We must rig a sea-anchor, and get her head up to the wind. That'll give us a chance to cut the wreckage away. Then we may be able to get some sort of jury-mast rigged. Come on, Barton."

His confident tone inspired the others, and even the cabin-boy, who had been cowering under the bulwark, revived enough to give a hand.

Barton took command, and all four set fiercely to work.

Desperate work it was, too, for the sea was making a clean breach over the Polly, and every moment it seemed as though she would be rolled right over and turned bottom up. They had to hold on with one hand, and work with the other.

Anything will do for a sea-anchor so long as it will float, and the wreckage provided plenty of material. Roddy, the old man, whose name was Davies, and the boy dragged the stuff to Barton, who lashed it together with odds and ends of rope into a sort of rough triangle.

Getting it overboard was the most perilous job of all, and the boy was as nearly as possible washed over after it. He would have been if Roddy had not seized him just in the nick of time.

The four waited in intense suspense as Barton paid out the riding rope, which was made fast in the bows.

"Hurrah, it holds!" cried Roddy. "She's coming round to it."

So she was. As the rope tightened, the drag of the sea-anchor pulled the Polly round, head to wind.

The relief was amazing. Although the trawler still pitched furiously, the terrific rolling ceased, and the waves no longer broke so savagely over her decks.

"Now for a jury-mast," cried Roddy. "What about the spinnaker boom?"

"Aye, we've got one," said old Davies. "Help me roust it out."

They got the boom up, and then came the job of lashing it to the stump of the broken mast.

With the gale still blowing as hard as ever this was a terrible task, and took the united strength of all four.

Then they had to rig shrouds and a fore-stay, and it was three long hours from the time they had scrambled aboard out of their sinking boat before the work was done and the mast ready for a sail.

Long ago the Nelly Gray had vanished. She had stood by them for nearly half an hour, then her skipper, realising that there was nothing that he could do to help them, had sailed away. Since that they had sighted nothing except the distant lights of a couple of large steamers making their way up Channel.

"Got a spare jib?" asked Roddy of old Davies.

"Aye, we've better than that. There's a mizzen staysail in the locker. If we rig that as a trysail 'twill give her steerage way."

The sail looker, like everything else aboard the battered Polly, was swimming in salt water, but they got the soaked sail out, and managed to hoist it. Small as it was, it steadied her wonderfully, and as her rudder was luckily uninjured, the Polly once more had steerage way. Then at last they were able to cut away the sea-anchor, which had served them so well, and the trawler lay to under her own sail.

"Dawn's breaking," said big Barton hoarsely, as he pointed to a grey streak in the east.

"Praise be for that," answered old Davies, as he clung to the newly rigged shrouds. "Now we'll see where we are."

Slowly the pale light increased, showing up long lines of tall waves, each tipped with a ragged crest of foam, rolling angrily under a lowering sky.

But, strain their eyes as they might, no land was in sight.

Barton turned to the binnacle, but started back with an exclamation of dismay.

"Compass smashed," he said. "And I knows no more where we are than a baby."

For a few moments there was silence. It is not pleasant to be out of sight of land in bad weather and in a crippled vessel. When you have no compass, either, the situation becomes serious.

Roddy was the first to speak.

"We can't be a long way off the land," he said. "We didn't drift very fast while we had that sea-anchor out. With the wind where it is, I should say we were somewhere in the mouth of the Bristol Channel."

"Aye, there or thereabouts," added old Davies. "We'll not be a long way off the track o' shipping."

"We'll not take a tow if we can help it," said Barton sharply. "If there's any salvage in this job we don't share it with no one else."

"No need to," answered Roddy. "If we hold her up to the wind as close as she'll go, the chances are that we'll run up into Carmarthen Bay."

"Aye, that'll be it," returned Barton. "With any luck we'll make Tenby."

As he spoke, he cast a sharp glance at Roddy, and saw how white and drawn the boy's face was.

"You get below and lie down, younker," he said kindly. "You've done your job all right. I'll call you if I need you."

Roddy was aching in every limb. His mouth was sour with fatigue, and his eyes stung and smarted. He had been nearly twenty-four hours without sleep, and for the last six hours working in a way which would have tried any grown man, however strong. Yet even so, he felt as though he had no business to leave Barton and Davies alone to battle with the gale.

"You do as I tell you," said Barton, seeing that Roddy hesitated. "You'll be a sight more use to me arter you've had a nap."

"All right, then. You'll be sure to call me if you want me," Roddy made him promise.

He stumbled below, flung himself, wet as he was, on a locker in the cabin, and was asleep almost before his head touched the cushion.

It seemed to him that he had barely closed his eyes before he was awakened by a tremendous crash, and he started up full of the idea that the Polly had gone on the rocks.


BUT her motion reassured him. He could feel her rise and fall to the motion of the sea. He also realised that the sea must have gone down a lot, for she was not pitching as she had been when he turned in.

All this went through his mind like a flash, and almost equally quickly he was on his feet, and had swung himself up on deck.

It was broad daylight now, and though clouds still covered the sky, and a light rain was falling, the gale had dropped to a breeze, and the sea was comparatively calm.

Barton was still at the tiller; Davies stood beside him, looking worn and old in the grey light.

"What was that?" demanded Roddy. "I thought we were ashore."

"We're all right," answered Barton. "It's the Nelly Gray that's in for trouble. Look across there."

He waved one arm to windward, and Roddy, looking in the direction indicated, saw a curious sight.

Some two miles away, and running parallel with the rocky coast which was now plainly visible, was a trawler which he recognised as the Nelly Gray. She had every stitch of canvas set, and was bowling along at a tremendous pace. After her, and by the feather of water under her bows evidently steaming fast, was a small gunboat of beautiful lines but rather old-fashioned type.

The gunboat was comparatively close to the Polly, and as Roddy watched, her four-inch bow gun spoke again, and the sharp crack of cordite shook the air.

"The Bogey Man!" gasped Roddy.

"Aye, lad. 'Tis the Bogey Man, sure enough. Many's the time I've warned Ormston as he'd find trouble sooner or later if he would go fishing where he hadn't no business. And trouble he's found this time."

"What's he running like that for? He can't hope to get away. The gunboat's doing all of fourteen knots."

"Aye, she's got the legs of him all right, but Ormston's cunning as a old fox. I reckon he hopes to dodge into shallow water where the Bogey Man can't follow him."

The four in the Polly watched the chase with eager interest. In spite of the fact that Ormston had been none too civil to him, Roddy could not help hoping that he would got away.

But the gunboat was doing three knots to the Nelly Gray's two, and overhauling her fast. Presently her four-inch gun spoke again, and this time a white jet rose from the top of a wave a hundred yards astern of the Nelly Gray, and something went scudding along the surface of the sea and vanished in the distance.

"A shotted charge that time," said Roddy.

"Aye, they're tired of wasting blank cartridge," answered Barton. "If Ormston's got sense he'll chuck it up. He's a sight too close ashore for safety. See the water breaking white on that there reef?"

The Nelly Gray was still running. She appeared to the watchers on the Polly to be almost under the cliffs. She was close-hauled to the wind, and it was plain that Ormston was doing all he knew to squeeze round the next point into a bay beyond.

"He'll do it," exclaimed Barton. "He'll dodge 'em now."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before the Nelly Gray stopped short in her flying career. With a crash that came clearly to their ears, her foremast snapped like a carrot, and went overboard. A sheet of spray broke over her.

"He's piled her up," groaned Barton. "I told you so. He's piled her up."

As he spoke he altered the course of the Polly, and set her straight towards the wreck.

But crippled as she was, the Polly had little more than steerage way, and had not covered a quarter of the distance before the gunboat was lying to off the point opposite the wreck.

With the man-of-war smartness, a boat slapped into the water, and went skimming away towards the Nelly Gray.

Roddy watched anxiously. Dick, he knew, was still aboard the Nelly Gray, and though the trawler was hard on the rocks and in no immediate danger of sinking, he wondered what would become of his cousin.

"What'll they do to them, Barton?" he asked.

"Take the lot into Milford, I reckon."

"What about my cousin? Will they take him, too?"

"Aye, they'll take him, too."

"Can't we signal the gunboat? You can tell them that Dick's got nothing to do with it."

"We can try, anyways. See what you can find in the signal locker."

"No, that'll take too long. Where's the foghorn?"

Davies produced the big tin horn which all small fishing craft carry for use in fog.

"What's the good of that?" demanded Barton.

"I can call them in Morse," answered Roddy. "It's quite simple."

Call them he did, and much to the amazement of Barton and the other two he was answered by bugle from the deck of the gunboat.

Once Roddy had got their attention, he dropped his horn, and began semaphoring. A bluejacket on the bridge of the gunboat answered, and for quite five minutes an animated if entirely silent conversation was kept up.

At last Roddy turned to Barton.

"It's all right," he said, smiling. "They're going to send a boat to us, and I'm to go aboard. I can make it all clear about Dick."

"Well, if that don't beat cock-fighting!" exclaimed Barton, in a tone of immense admiration. "Where did ye learn to talk with your arms like that?"

"It's part of Scout training," answered Roddy quickly. "We all learn it. But, see, they've taken the crow off the Nelly Gray. Now the boat will come across to us."

Ten minutes later Roddy was standing on the deck of H.M.S. Dunlin, and her skipper, a brown-faced, square-jawed lieutenant, was shaking his hand.

"You're a nailer at Morse, young fellow," he said. "Ah, a Sea Scout, I see. That explains it. Well, now, let's hear all about it."

Roddy told his story in as few words as possible.

"So you and this chap Barton have managed to salve the Polly," said the other approvingly. "It does you great credit. Now, what about this cousin of yours? Shall I take him ashore, or d'ye want to have him along with you?"

"Where are you bound for, sir?"

"Milford. We land these poaching chaps there."

"Then perhaps you'd take Dick in, sir. I want to get a wire to our people as soon as possible. They'll be awfully worried. I'm afraid they'll think we're both done for."

"Ah, they'll be anxious, no doubt. But I can fix up that. I'll send a wireless, and ask to have a telegram sent on to them at once. Give me the address."

"Thank you very much, sir," said Roddy gratefully. "And if you'd do us another good turn, we'd be grateful for a little food of any sort. Everything in the Polly was washed to pulp last night."

"Rather. I'll have something got ready at once. And as for you, Kynaston, you'd better come down to my cabin and have some breakfast. You and your cousin both. No, I'll take no refusal. Grub's ready now, and you shan't waste any time. You look simply clemmed."

A few minutes later Roddy found himself in Lieutenant Selby's comfortable quarters aft, where Dick was already having a wash.

Selby was kindness itself, and insisted on routing out some dry things for them, while their own were sent for a toasting before the galley fire.

That breakfast was a meal which neither Roddy nor Dick ever forgot. Never had hot coffee and bacon and eggs tasted so good. Selby was delighted with their appetites, and when the eggs were finished ordered his steward to bring out a cold tongue, which, he explained, was the only perquisite remaining to a naval officer.

"We get a barrel of neats' tongues from the Admiralty stores for each cruise," he told them. "And jolly good they are, too. And now," he said, when they had finished the breakfast of their lives, "what about the Polly? D'ye want help to get her in? I'll tow if you like."

"That's very good of you, sir, but I think we can manage all right. How's the glass?"

"Rising fast. Too fast, but still I think it'll be fine for a few hours."

"And how far are we from Milford?"

"No distance. St. Ann's Head's in sight now."

"Then I think we'll be all right, sir. Many thanks all the same. Dick, are you coming with us, or are you going to be put ashore by Lieutenant Selby?"

"With you every time," declared Dick. "Last night cured me of sea-sickness for keeps, and I'll come and help you sail the Polly in."

Lieutenant Selby was right as to his weather prophecy. The sky cleared, the sun came out, and slow as the poor crippled Polly was, they tied up safely at Milford a little before midday.

The next thing was to go ashore and wire to her owner.

"He's Mr. Penney, of Portglask," explained Barton. "And, see here, I'm not much hand with the pen. You write the message, and then we'll go and get some dinner, and come back for the answer."

"I can do better than wire," said Roddy. "If I get on the telephone we can have the whole thing sized up at once."

Big Barton, who had been at sea, since he left school, had never used a telephone in his life, but he was quite willing for Roddy to try the experiment.

So Roddy rang up Mr. Penney's office, and luckily caught that gentleman before he went out to lunch. He told him that the Polly had been dismasted in the storm, that her skipper and mate had been lost, but that the trawler herself was safe in Milford.

"Evans drowned—and Jones, too. That's a terrible business," came the answer in shocked tones. "But who are you speaking?"

Roddy gave his name.

"Young Kynaston?" replied Mr. Penney. "Why, I know your father well. But how did you come to be aboard?"

So Roddy had to tell the whole story, and pay another sixpence for keeping the line so long.

"You're a very plucky youngster," said Mr. Penney. "Just ask this man Barton to speak to me."

Barton nervously took up the receiver, and Roddy stood outside.

When Barton came out, his big, handsome face was beaming.

"You ought to have heard all the nice things he said about us," he told Roddy. "I was mighty glad I was talking to him half across the county, for I know my face was as red as fire."

"But what about the Polly?" asked Roddy. "What are we to do with her?"

"Why, he's put me in charge. Says as we're to rig her and fit her out afresh and bring her round by sea. He's going to telephone to Prentice & Co. to fit us up with all we want."

"That's fine, Barton," said Roddy. "If you do the work well, perhaps he'll make you skipper. But, tell me, how long will this job take?"

"Lemme see. This is Wednesday. We'd ought to be able to get off by Friday."

"Then I must wire to my people and ask if I may stay. I'd like to help in the job, and come back with you."

"And I'd like to have you along," said Barton warmly.

Roddy's people lived just outside Portglask, and there was no telephone in the house. So he sent a wire asking for permission to stay at Milford, and assuring his father that he and Dick were all right. Then he and Barton and Dick found a cheap eating-house where they fared solidly for a shilling ahead on beefsteak pudding and bread and cheese.

When they got back to the post-office an answer to Roddy's wire was waiting. It ran as follows:

"Most thankful you are safe and well. Have heard details from Mr. Penney. Stay by all means. Sending some clothes by rail."

Milford is the principal port for the sailing trawlers that use the Bristol Channel grounds, and quantities of fish, especially mackerel, are brought in there and sent direct to London. So there was lots for the boys to see, and plenty of people to talk to.

They worked hard, too, and between Barton and Davies and themselves and a couple of riggers sent down by Prentice & Co., the Polly soon began to look like her smart self once more.

By Friday morning she was fit to sail, and as the wind still stuck in the north-west they had not much trouble in getting out of the Haven. But after that it was a beat against the breeze all the way home.

About one in the afternoon Barton, who had been below, came on deck to relieve Roddy at the tiller.

"Glass is falling," he said. "The sooner we're home the better I'll be pleased. I don't want to risk all this here new gear."

"It's breezing up a bit," admitted Roddy, "but the wind's backing westerly. We ought to be in before dark. We passed St. David's Head some time ago."

"Aye, with any luck we'll be at Portglask by six o'clock," said Barton, as he took the tiller. "You'd best go below, lad, and get a bite of grub."

Roddy nodded, but before he went down stopped and took a look round.

The sun had been shining brightly when they started, but now the sky was overcast, and the wind had a cold edge.

Away to leeward rose the tall, bare cliffs of Pembrokeshire, the sea leaping in white cascades amongst the rocks at their feet. There are few wilder or more desolate stretches of coast than that between St. David's and Strumble Head.

Roddy stood so long staring towards the cliffs that Barton's attention was attracted.

"See anything?" he asked.

"I was just wondering," said Roddy slowly. "See that rock sticking up out of the sea exactly in front of that deep cleft? Isn't there something in between it and the cliff?"

Barton turned and stared in the direction indicated.

"Aye, that there is. A small boat, by the look of it. But what in sense a boat is doing in a place like that beats me."

"No one in their senses would take a boat in under the cliffs in this weather," said Roddy. "It's up to us to go and see what's wrong."

"You don't catch me taking chances with this hooker," retorted Barton. "Nice sort of fool I'd look if I was to pile the Polly up in broad daylight."

"You'd look a worse one, and feel it, too, if you left some poor beggar to drown there," answered Roddy. "No need to take any risks. Just run in close enough to see if there is anyone hung up there."

Barton grumbled, but all the same he put down the helm and ran the Polly closer to the cliffs.

Meantime Roddy dived below and fetched up an old telescope which he had picked up cheap in Milford, and meant for the cabin of the Seals' guardship.

With some difficulty he focussed it on the boat.

A sharp exclamation escaped his lips.

"There is a man there, Barton," he said eagerly. "I can see him plainly. He's hanging on to that tall rock, and the tide's jolly near to him. We'll have to look sharp if we want to save him."

Without a word Barton threw the Polly up into the wind, and shouted for Davies.

"Davies," he began, as the old fellow came clambering up on deck, "there's a chap on that rock there as we've got to get off. You go along with Mr. Kynaston in the boat. I'll have to stay here and handle the Polly. You be careful, Roddy," he continued, as Roddy and Davies scrambled into the boat. "Don't you take no risks, for if you gets hung up there I can't help you off."

"Don't you worry, Barton. I'll be careful," answered Roddy. "It's not like the sea you and I had to pull through the other night."

"No, but it's mighty tricky under them cliffs," shouted Barton, as Roddy and Davies bent to their oars, and the boat shot away towards the cliffs.

Tricky it was, and no mistake, and Roddy was surprised at the size of the surf which beat on the base of the lofty cliffs, and the fierce rush of the currents which boiled among the ugly reefs.

It took all their care and strength to save the boat from having her sides ripped out on the sharp-pointed crags, and Roddy and Davies both were grateful when they succeeded in safely reaching a sort of haven of comparatively calm water which lay between the cliff front and a reef.

Roddy looked round. The rock to which the man was clinging was at the end of the reef, but separated from it by a small channel of deep water. It was higher than the rest of the reef, but so nearly perpendicular that the wrecked man could not climb to the top. He was clinging for dear life to the seaweed which grew upon it, and the rising tide was already up to his waist.

Exactly opposite was the deep cleft which Roddy had first noticed. It was evidently the mouth of a cave, and the swells rolling into its black depths sent out a deep sullen roar.

As for the man's boat, it was no longer visible. Either it had sunk completely, or the rising tide had washed it away into the heart of the great cave.

"Hang on," shouted Roddy. "We'll have you in a jiffy."

It was a ticklish job venturing into that narrow sluiceway, through which the white-capped swells were breaking in floods of milky foam. They tried it twice, and each time the boat was whirled back as if by a giant hand.

The shipwrecked man turned his head.

"Throw me a rope," he cried hoarsely.

"Aye, that'll be best," said old Davies, who was panting with exertion.

Roddy snatched up a rope, coiled it, and sent it hissing across the channel. The end fell fair and square across the shoulder of the clinging man, he caught it, and, still holding on to the weed with one hand, managed with the other to take a turn round his body.

Then he quietly let go his hold and dropped back into the water.

Davies held the boat steady under the lee of the reef, while Roddy pulled the rope in sharply hand over hand. A big wave came roaring through the channel, and broke in a flood of seething foam over the man's head, completely hiding him. When it passed he was floating, a dead weight at the end of the rope.

Using all his strength, Roddy managed to haul him in before another wave came, and then got hold of him under the arms, and with a tremendous effort dragged him in over the side.

"The poor chap's fainted," he said, as he laid him in the bottom of the boat. "Give way, Davies. The sooner we got him back to the Polly the better for him and for us, too."

WARM blankets and a hot drink soon pulled the stranger round. He had not much salt water inside him, but had evidently fainted from sheer exhaustion.

As he worked over him, Roddy saw that the young man was about twenty-three or four years old, tall, lean, but hard as nails. The muscles that swelled on his upper arms and the depth of his chest were proof that he was one of the sort who always keep themselves in good training.

The tan on his thin, hard-bitten face showed that he had been living out of doors for some time past, while his palms were like leather from much handling of oars and ropes.

Presently he opened his eyes and looked up at Roddy with a rather bewildered expression.

"Hullo," he said weakly. "'Fraid I've been giving a lot of trouble."

"Don't worry about that," answered Roddy, with a smile. "How d'ye feel?"

"Warm, thank goodness. Also as hungry as a starved wolf."

"We can soon put that to rights," said Roddy. "Dick, buck up and bring that soup along."

By Roddy's directions Dick had been warming some pea-soup over the galley fire. He hurried out with a steaming mug and a good chunk of crusty bread.

The eyes of the rescued man gleamed, and he almost snatched the mug from Dick's hand.

"My word, that's good," he said, as he finished up the last spoonful. "Forgive my bad manners, you chaps. I haven't had a bite for something like thirty hours."

"You don't mean to say you've been hanging on to that rock for that length of time?"

"No, not quite that, but it was the day before yesterday evening that I started into that thundering great cave, and, barring a stick of chocolate which was in my pocket, I've had nothing to eat since."

"You've been in the cave all that time?" exclaimed Roddy.

"Yes, more fool me! It came of not knowing the coast or the tides. I fastened my boat up too short. The tide lifted her, and the painter sawed through on a sharp edge of rock. Then she drifted off and caught on the reef opposite. I waited for another tide, hoping it might drift her back, but she'd got wedged somehow. At last I made up my mind to swim out to her, but when I reached her, I found she was too badly holed to be any use. I stayed by her on the reef till the wind began to get up, then as I saw I should soon be washed off I made for the big rock, only to find I couldn't climb up it. And that's where you found me."

"You must have had a pretty rotten time," said Roddy feelingly.

"I just about did. I'll never be able to tell you how grateful I was when I saw you'd spotted me, and were getting a boat out. But even then I didn't think you could reach me. It must have been pretty tough work, wasn't it?"

"I've known worse," answered Roddy, with a laugh. "But, if you don't mind telling me, what in the name of goodness took you into such a place as that cave? You must have known that it was a precious risky game, especially all alone."

The other changed colour, and hesitated.

"Sorry," said Roddy quickly. "I didn't mean to be inquisitive. And, anyhow, you ought to be asleep now and not answering my impertinent questions."

"But I don't mind telling you. Honestly I don't," answered the other. "Sit down, and I'll give you the whole yarn."

"Not now," said Roddy, with decision. "You'll go right off to sleep this minute. When you're rested you shall tell us as much or as little as you like."

"That's a bargain," agreed the stranger. "But one thing before you go. What's this craft, and where are you bound?"

"She's the Polly, and we're bound for Portglask. We hope to be in some time before dark."

"Portglask," repeated the other softly. "That's odd. Just where I was going myself. Know anyone of the name of Denny living there?"

"Rather. Drake Denny, son of Captain Denny, is one of my best pals, and a member of our Patrol. And now you'll kindly shut up, and get to sleep."

Roddy himself was uncommonly hungry. Dick gave him some hot coffee and bread-and-butter, then the two went on deck together, and found that the wind had backed right round to sou'-sou'-west, so that the Polly was running free, and rolling off the knots at a great pace.

"How's the castaway chap?" asked Barton from the tiller.

"Fine," answered Roddy. "Sleeping like a top."

"And will you tell me what sort o' crazy trick he was arter, trying to drown hisself in that there hole in the rock?"

"He's going to tell us himself when he wakes up," said Roddy. "And I've a sort of notion that his story may make rather interesting hearing."


"HULLO, here's the whole crowd waiting for us," said Dick Harper, as the Polly drew in alongside the quay at Portglask. "Your father, Roddy, and Drake and Arnold and Joe Morgan and Guy Griffith. Blest if we haven't got the entire Patrol."

Roddy had no sooner stepped ashore than the Seals fell upon him, fairly mobbing him, all asking questions at once.

"Steady on, you chaps," laughed Roddy, as he first shook hands with his father. "One at a time. I can't answer seventeen questions at once. Yes, Dick and I are feeling first-rate, father, and enjoyed it no end. The only thing I'm sorry about is that we lost our boat."

"Never mind about that, Kynaston," said a square-shouldered, red-bearded man who came pushing his way through the little crowd. "My name's Penney," he explained. "I'm the owner of the Polly, and I've come down to tell you how very grateful I am to you and Barton for what you've done. I've heard all about it from old Davies, and I'm proud that we've got fellows like you in Portglask. I'm going to offer Barton command of the Polly if he cares to take it, and I've a new boat for the Seals if they'll accept it from me."

Roddy flushed with pleasure. This present to his Scouts touched him far more than the smack-owner's personal praise.

"Thank you very much indeed, sir," he said gratefully. "The Seals will accept it with the very greatest pleasure."

"I've something else for the Seals," went on Mr. Penney, smiling genially. "A new recruit. Jack, where are you?"

A small, stocky boy, with brilliant red hair, came rather shyly forward.

"Can I be a Scout, Kynaston?" he asked.

"Any boy can be a Scout who is ready and willing to make the Scout Promise," said Roddy quietly. "Do you know it, Penney?"

"Yes," answered Jack Penney, looking Roddy full in the face. "And I'm quite ready to make it."

"That's good. Then we'll enroll you as soon as you've passed your Tenderfoot test."

Drake Denny came up quickly and laid a hand on Roddy's arm.

"What's this Dick tells me about your having picked up a castaway who knows father?"

"I don't know any more than Dick. The chap's aboard, and still sleeping like a baby. I don't want to wake him up, for he's had a pretty rotten time. By his own account, he was the best part of two days and two nights in a sea cave. We only picked him up in the nick of time."

"What are you going to do with him?"

"Take him up to our place for the night. If he's fit, I'll bring him over in the morning."

"All right. I shall expect you. Now I must get home, for dad will be wanting me."

Roddy took Mr. Penney aboard the Polly to see what had been done in the way of repairs. The castaway was still fast asleep on the stern locker in the cabin. Roddy had to wait an hour before he woke. Then he suggested getting a cab to take him up to the house.

But the other only laughed.

"Bless you, I can walk as well as you," he declared. "The soup and the nap have put me on my legs again."

"Do you mind telling me what your name is?" asked Roddy, as they started up through the lamp-lit streets. "Mine's Kynaston."

"Kirby Scott. I ought to have told you before. And that reminds me. I was going to tell you why I went messing about that cave."

"Never mind now," said Roddy. "To-morrow I'm going to take you over to Captain Denny's place. Then you can tell us. To-night you'd better have some supper and go straight to bed."

Roddy's advice was good. Scott was by no means so fit as he had made himself out to be, and after eating a few mouthfuls he turned so drowsy again that Roddy had to help him off to bed.

"He's got a wonderful constitution, that new friend of yours," said Dr. Kynaston to Roddy, as the boy came back into the sitting-room. "What he's been through would have killed a good many. I can't help wondering what he was doing there in that cave all by himself."

"We shall hear all about that to-morrow, father," said Roddy. "He seems a very nice fellow, don't you think?"

"He's got charming manners and a very pleasant voice," said Mrs. Kynaston, who was sitting sewing on the other side of the room. "I like him very much."

Next day, Scott came down to breakfast looking a different man. He had tubbed and shaved, and was dressed in a suit which Dr. Kynaston had lent him. Both Dr. and Mrs. Kynaston took to him greatly, and cordially invited him to stay as long as he liked.

"Don't be rash, sir," said Scott, with a laugh to the doctor. "You don't even know who I am yet."

"You're a friend of Roddy's," replied Dr. Kynaston, smiling, "and I can generally trust his judgment."

Roddy and Kirby Scott went off immediately after breakfast to Captain Denny's place. The quaint ship-house looked very pretty with masses of creeping roses in flower all over it, and the captain himself was busy in the garden.

"Hullo, Roddy, is this your castaway friend?" He greeted them in a voice which could have been heard half a mile out at sea. "How do you do, Mr. Scott? I don't know you, but there's something about your face which seems sort of familiar. Are you any kin to Christopher Scott that used to live at Aintree?"

"He was my father," answered Kirby Scott.

"Your father, was he?" boomed the captain. "Ha, I'd ha' known it by the cut o' your jib. I knew him well years agone. He made more than one trip to America along with me. And how is he?"

"Dead, captain," replied Kirby, his face clouding. "Drowned at sea."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said the captain solemnly. "A curious thing that. Here am I that have followed the sea all my days, living safe and warm ashore. And he, as was only a passenger now and then, lies under the waves. But come in and sit down, and have a glass of cider, and then you'll tell me about it."

The sitting-room was delightfully cool after the glare of the sun outside, and the bottled cider sparkled in long glasses.

"Did you ever hear of the Vesta, Captain Denny?" began Kirby Scott abruptly.

"The Vesta? Why yes. If I'm not mistaken, she was posted 'Missing' some time last winter. Sailing-ship she was, if I'm not mistaken."

"That's correct, sir," said Scott. "She sailed from St. John's, Newfoundland, bound for Swansea, on November 14th, and was spoken sixteen days later off Cape Clear. She was seen again off Hartland Point two days later, and that was the last report of her. It came on to blow heavily that night, and it is supposed that she foundered or sank in collision with some unknown ship."

"Aye, I remember reading it," said the captain. "Was it the Vesta your father was aboard of?"

"Yes. He sailed for home in her. I had a letter written by him just before he started, in which he told me he was coming by her. You know he always liked a sailing vessel better than a steamer."

"Aye, I remember that well," answered Captain Denny. "But what was he doing out in Newfoundland?"

"He was sent out by a company to report on a new coal field. The company went smash almost before it was started, and father didn't even get his pay. So he wrote to me that he meant to do a bit of prospecting on his own, in the hope of paying expenses. Next thing I heard from him, was that he'd found a big deposit of bauxite."

"Bauxite—that's Greek to me," put in Captain Denny.

"It's a sort of clay that they get aluminium from. I believe it's very valuable. Father said so in his letter. He told me that he had staked the claim, and was coming home at once, bringing specimens. I think he meant to form a company, for it's the sort of thing that needs a lot of capital to work. And that was the last letter I got from him."

Captain Denny shook his head.

"It's a bad job," he said. "It's cruel for a man to lose his life just when he's found a fortune. And it's hard on you, Scott, for I'm thinking you don't know where this claim lies, nor anything about it."

"Quite true, Captain Denny. But I'm doing my best to find out."

Captain Denny stared at the young fellow with a puzzled look on his face.

"I see," broke in Roddy. "You think there's a chance that you might find a clue among the wreckage of the Vesta?"

"That's it, Kynaston. Though, if I had nothing more to go on than the fact that the ship was last seen off Hartland Point, it would hardly be worth while to go hunting along the Welsh coast, a hundred miles away. But the fact is that I have pretty good proof that the Vesta was wrecked on this coast. A man named Llewellyn, a coastguard, wrote to Lloyds to say that he had found wreckage with the Vesta's name on the rocks close here."

"Llewellyn! Evan Llewellyn! Why, we know him quite well," exclaimed Drake Denny. "A very good chap he is, too."

"I'm glad of that," said Scott, "for I want him to show me just where he found this wreckage. If the Vesta went ashore on this coast, I think there may be a chance of finding her hull, and recovering some of my father's papers."

"But all this is a long time ago," said the captain. "You'd have done better to come along sooner."

"I couldn't," said Scott. "I was at Hong-Kong when I got my father's last letter. Then my ship went on round to Valparaiso and Rio. I only got home a fortnight ago."

"So you follow the sea for a living?" said Captain Denny. "I thought as much."

"I have my mate's certificate, sir. I've been with the Blue Ball Company for three years past. All the same, this has been my last voyage," he added sadly.

"What, a fine young fellow like you going to give up the sea?" roared the captain.

"It isn't I that's giving up the sea. It's the other way on," said Scott quietly. "I've gone colour blind. I can't tell red from green to save my life."

"That's bad—terrible bad," said the old captain, shaking his grizzled head again. "I'm right down sorry to hear it. But I've known cases like that before, and it's no use for anyone to think of navigating a vessel when his eyes play him tricks of that sort. And what are you going to do now, Scott?"

"First find out about this claim of my father's, if I can," answered Scott. "I've saved a few pounds and I can keep going for six months or so. If I can't find the papers, why I shall just have to look out for a job ashore. Luckily, I'm pretty strong, and I'm quite ready to tackle anything that comes along."

"That's the proper spirit," said the captain approvingly. "You'll do all right. I'm sure of that. Meantime, you're welcome to drop your anchor in this harbour if you've a mind to."

"And we'll help you find the wreck," said Drake. "Won't we, Roddy?"

"Of course we will," agreed Roddy heartily.

"Then I hope you'll let me do anything I can to help you in return," said Kirby Scott. "If I can give you a hand with your Patrol, any sea knowledge I have is yours for the asking."

Roddy started. He opened his mouth to speak, then hesitated and stopped.

"I mean it," said Scott.

Roddy stared at him a moment.

"We're a Lone Patrol," he said.

"What's that mean?" asked Scott. "I'm not up in Scout organisation, though I've seen Scouts all over the world."

"It means that we've got no Scoutmaster," said Roddy. "Would you—that is—oh, it's no use beating about the bush—will you be our Scoutmaster?"

"Me—but I've just told you I don't know the first thing about it."

"You'd soon pick it up," declared Roddy earnestly. "You're exactly the person we want."

"It would be splendid," added Drake Denny. "You see, you'd be up-to-date in navigation, and all that sort of thing. You could train us better than anybody."

"If you really think so, then I'm your man," said Scott. "And I tell you straight there's nothing I should like better."


"ARE we all here, boys?" asked Kirby Scott.

The Valiant, as the Seals had renamed the old barge, had been safely towed down to her new moorings, Mr. Penney having lent a tug for the purpose. She now lay in a small creek running off the harbour, just above Portglask, and this was the first meeting of the Patrol aboard her.

Roddy glanced round.

"No, sir. Jack Penney hasn't come yet."

"I wonder where he is," remarked Arnold Gillam. "I saw him only an hour ago, and he was going home then to change, and coming straight down."

"We'll give him a few minutes if you don't mind," said Roddy to the new Scoutmaster. "We want the whole Patrol here to-night, for there are a lot of things to settle."

"All right, Kynaston. We'll wait a bit," replied Scott.

Five minutes passed, but there was no sign of Kipper, as the Patrol had nicknamed Jack Penney.

Roddy went out of the cabin on to the deck. It was a fine, calm, clear night, with the moon shining brilliantly in a cloudless sky, but over the marshes by the waterside lay low white banks of mist silvered by the moonlight.

Putting his hands to his mouth, he gave the cry of the Seals.


It rang far through the calm night air, and then, faint from the distance, came the answering call.

"He's on the way anyhow," said Roddy to Drake Denny, who had followed him out.

"Listen. He's shouting again. And that's not the Patrol call, Roddy. Sounds more like 'Help!'"

"That's just what it is," said Roddy sharply. "He's in trouble of some sort. We must go and lend a hand." He put his head back into the cabin. "Kipper's got into some sort of a hobble," he went on. "He's calling for help. Drake and I are going to see what's up."

A minute later Roddy and Drake were running along the top of the sea wall which held the tides back from the strip of rich marsh pasture behind.

After travelling a couple of hundred yards, Roddy stopped and gave the Patrol call again. There was a moment's pause, and then came the answer, but oddly dull and indistinct.

"Kipper's voice, sure enough. But it sounds odd," said Roddy.

"Yes, muffled, as if he'd got his head in a bag," replied Drake. "It comes from right inland—back of the marsh. We'd better cut across."

He turned at right angles as he spoke, and dropping down off the wall made straight across the marsh. Roddy followed.

"Beats me what sort of trouble Kipper can possibly have got into," said Roddy. "It's all plain sailing, isn't it?"

"Clear as mud. There's a footpath all the way down past Gwynne's farm. Here's the path. We're on it now."

"Wasn't there some trouble about this path?" asked Roddy. "Didn't Gwynne say there was no right of way?"

"I believe he did. He's rather a crusty old fellow. But that's some time ago, and, anyhow, he's not likely to have done anything to Kipper."

By this time they had crossed the strip of marsh, and reached the bank and hedge which divided it from a pasture behind. The mist lay thick across the low ground, but it was only a bank a few feet deep, and the moon shone brightly on the blue slate roof of Gwynne's farm standing on the higher ground beyond.

At the stile Roddy gave the call again. The answer came at once—startlingly close, yet still in the same oddly muffled tone.

Roddy jumped nimbly on to the top of the stile, and stood staring across the field; but the mist was too thick to see anything at more than a few yards' distance.

"Jack, I say, Jack, where are you?"

The reply was a strange stamping sound, and a muffled roar.

"What on earth's up?" said Roddy in amazement.

"I believe it's a bull," answered Drake.

"A bull? That's cheerful. Yes, I can see something moving out there in the field. But where's Kipper? There's no tree. Jove, I hope the beast hasn't got him down."

"Not likely. He wouldn't have been able to shout. No, he's safe somewhere, but he's afraid to answer again for fear of rousing the brute."

"Well, it's up to us to get him out of it," said Roddy. "We must try to draw the beast off. I'll nip out a little way into the field and shout. That may draw Mr. Bull's attention off, and give Kipper a chance to do a bunk."

"All right. Only don't go too far. A bull can run a jolly sight faster than you can. Just remember that. And while you draw him off I'll make a round, and find young Kipper, and give him a hand."

"Here goes, then," said Roddy, and was jumping down when Drake stopped him.

"Wait. First you'd better tell Kipper what you're going to do."

"Yes, that's a good notion," answered Roddy. "Jack," he shouted, "I'm going to draw the bull off. Then you hook it back across to the other side of the field."

"All right," came the muffled reply, instantly followed by a fresh roar from the infuriated bull.

Roddy's heart beat decidedly faster than usual as he walked out into the field, and he clutched his staff very tightly in his right hand. He knew a deal more about the creatures of the sea than those of the land, and he would not have been half so nervous about tackling a shark as he was about handling this bull.

The mist, too, was horribly bothering, and he had not gone fifty paces from the stile before he had lost all sight of it.

But now he could see the bull, a great, dark bulk moving slowly in a circle, and now and then lowering his big head and tearing at the turf with its horns. Of Jack he could see nothing at all. It beat him utterly where the boy had gone.

"This ought to be about near enough," said Roddy to himself, and pulling up began shouting at the top of his voice.

Much to his disgust, the bull paid no attention whatever, but kept on prowling round and round as before.

"You brute!" growled Roddy. "I wish I'd got a stone to throw at you."

But stones don't grow in water meadows, and the only thing to do was to go nearer and make more noise.

Roddy didn't feel at all happy, but he was not the sort to shirk. So on he went until he was only a couple of score yards from the bull. Then he stopped again, and yelled at the pitch of his voice.

The result was electrifying.

With a snort the bull wheeled, and, catching sight of Roddy, gave a roar of fury, and charged like a thunderbolt.

Roddy turned, and ran for dear life. But he had no idea that so bulky a brute could move so fast, and he had gone no distance before the unpleasant conviction forced itself upon him that the bull had the legs of him, and that he would never reach the stile in time.

He ran as he had never run before, but it was no use. The bull ran faster, and the ground shook under his ponderous gallop as he gained upon the boy.

Roddy glanced back over his shoulder, saw the great curved horns and shaggy forehead hardly a dozen feet from his back, and wheeled at right angles.

The bull over-ran him a score of yards, and Roddy sprinted blindly through the mist, not knowing now in the least where he was going.

The bull, recovering himself, was on his heels again in a moment, and very soon made up lost ground.

Roddy dodged a second time, but now he was getting really frightened. He knew very well that he could not keep up such a pace for any length of time. Unless he could reach the hedge the bull was bound to run him down, and where the hedge was he no longer had the faintest idea. He was running blindly through the thickest of the mist.

His heart was thumping, there was a horrid tightness across his chest, he knew he could not keep up this wild pace much longer.

He was almost at his last gasp when Drake's voice rang out from the right:

"This way, Roddy. You'll be safe here."

With a last effort Roddy spun round once more. He had hardly got into his stride again when the ground gave way beneath his feet, and he pitched full on his face into a deep, muddy dyke.

Almost before he was down, two pairs of hands had hold of him, and he felt himself dragged hastily to one side.

Only just in time, for the bull, unable to stop himself, came crashing over into the ditch. Mud and water flew in every direction, as the big beast, bellowing furiously, struggled wildly to get out.

"Come on, Roddy," cried Drake. "Come on, or he'll trample all over us."

Gasping and soaked, Roddy managed to find his feet, and Drake gave him a hand up the far side.

"Where's Jack?" cried Roddy.

"Here. I'm all right," was the answer.

And then all three went scuttling away down the far side of the dyke as hard as they could pelt, not stopping until they reached the hedge.

"What about the bull?" panted Roddy, pulling up. "He'll be mired and drowned."

"Not he," replied Drake. "He's out already and looking for us again. Quick—over the hedge. We're not taking any more chances with that gay and festive animal."

Drake was right. Somewhere out in the mist the bull was snorting and tearing up the ground with his horns. Roddy waited no longer, but sprang up the bank, scrambled through the hedge, and made back across the water meadow towards the Valiant.

"Where on earth were you, Kipper?" he asked, when they were once more safe on the sea-wall. "I couldn't see a sign of you, and your voice seemed to come from underground."

"So it did," said Jack. "I was in a hole in the ground. A barrel sunk for wild-fowling. Jolly lucky for me I found it, or that brute would have flattened me out. And, as it was, I thought more than once that he'd come in on top of me. I was getting precious scared, I can tell you, and I'm no end grateful to you, Kynaston, for taking him off."

"Ugh, don't talk about it," returned Roddy, with a laugh. "I never knew that such a great beast could run so fast. But I'll tell you what, you chaps. Gwynne has no business to keep a savage creature like that in a field where there's a footpath."

Scott and the rest of the Patrol fully agreed with Roddy, and were for sending a letter to the farmer at once. But Roddy begged them not to.

"Gwynne's a cantankerous sort," he said. "He'll only send us a rude reply. Better let father speak to him. Father cured his wife of pneumonia last winter, and Gwynne may listen to him. It's no use having a row if we can help it."

"Not a bit," agreed the Scoutmaster. "All right, Kynaston, ask your father to speak to him. And as soon as he can, please, for that short cut across the fields will be useful to all of us, now that we've got the guardship in her new berth."

Roddy wasted no time, and found his father quite ready to do anything that he could.

Next afternoon, as soon as the doctor came in from his rounds, he and Roddy walked over to the farm. They found Gwynne in the yard taking the harness off his horse. He was just back from market, and was wearing his best suit of pepper and salt tweed, with a red tie and a square-crowned hard hat.

Roddy thought he had never seen a grimmer-looking man. Gwynne was short, but very broad, and as long in the arms as a gorilla. Bushy side-whiskers and a long, badly shaven upper lip gave him a still more ape-like appearance, while his eyes were small, greenish, and suspicious.

He looked up with a scowl as he heard the steps, but when he saw Dr. Kynaston his expression softened a little.

"How are ye, doctor?" he grunted. "But what brings ye here? There isn't no one sick as I knows of."

"Not at present," answered Dr. Kynaston, shaking hands. "But I'll tell you what, Gwynne, there'll be a call for my services pretty soon if you don't shut up that wild beast you keep down in the meadow."

"Wild beast! I don't keep no wild beast," said Gwynne.

"What do you call that bull, then?" smiled the doctor.

"Old Blunderbuss, you means. Bless you, he's as quiet as a cow. There's no sort o' harm in him."

"Well, all I can tell you is that he nearly finished off my son here and another boy," answered Dr. Kynaston drily.

"When was that?" asked old Gwynne sharply.

"Last night, about eight o'clock."

"Ha, I thought someone had been a-trespassing in my fields, and a-bullying of the poor critter," said Gwynne. "He was all over muck this morning."

"So was my son when he came home," replied Dr. Kynaston. "The bull chased him into the dyke."

"Then I'll lay he'd been worrying of it first," said Gwynne, glaring at Roddy. "Boys is always a-torturing of dumb animals."

Roddy very nearly laughed. The idea of any boy even attempting to "torture" the ferocious Blunderbuss was too funny for words. But his father took the ridiculous accusation more seriously.

"That's nonsense, Mr. Gwynne," he said. "My son is a Scout, and you ought to know that all Scouts are bound to be kind to animals. The facts are these: Jack Penney, Mr. Penney's son, was walking along the footpath, which he had a perfect right to do, when he was attacked by your bull. He would probably have been killed if my son and another boy had not come to his help."

"Attacked by my bull! Pack o' nonsense, doctor, and if it wasn't you, I'd say more. The critter wouldn't attack nobody unless they was to worry him first. You come along down with me to the meadow. I'll show you how quiet he be."

Dr. Kynaston was inclined to be indignant at the doubt thrown on his word. But Roddy pinched his arm, and his father understood.

"Very well, Mr. Gwynne. We'll come down with you."

They found Blunderbuss grazing peacefully enough. He had been taken out of the field, and was in the marsh just behind the sea-wall.

"Talk of him being savage," said Gwynne indignantly, pointing to the animal. "He looks it, don't he?"

"He may be quiet enough with those whom he knows," answered Dr. Kynaston. "But there's no getting over the fact that he'll go for strangers. There have been other complaints of him before, Mr. Gwynne."

"There won't be none any more, I'll warrant," said Gwynne. "You just watch now. A child could handle him."

So saying, he stepped stiffly down the inner slope of the sea-wall, and walked towards the bull.

"This is no proof," said Dr. Kynaston impatiently. "The animal may be quiet enough with him."

"You just wait a tick, father," remarked Roddy softly. "The old chap's still got his red tie on. Ah, watch that!"

As Gwynne came close to the bull, Blunderbuss flung up his great head, and stood staring suspiciously at his owner.

"Co' op, boy," said Gwynne soothingly.

"Co' op be hanged!"—or sounds to that effect, replied Blunderbuss, and, suddenly lowering his head, gave a hoarse bellow and began to paw the ground.

"Soh, then. Softly!" said Gwynne, and went a cautious step or two nearer.

The bull gave a mighty bellow and charged.

With a yell of dismay, Gwynne turned and ran at top speed back towards the wall.

"Help!" shrieked Gwynne. "Help! Draw him off. He's gone mad!"

His short, thick legs were going like the spokes of a wheel, his arms were jerking to and fro as he ran, and the look of terror on his whiskered face was simply ludicrous. If the situation had been any less serious, Roddy would have doubled up with laughter.

But, although the bull's long horns were tipped with brass caps, Roddy realised that the farmer was in a very tight place, and that if something were not done he would most certainly be caught and tossed, and probably badly damaged.

Like a flash he was off the sea-wall. He reached the bottom in two jumps, and, grasping his Scout staff bayonet-fashion, ran sideways at the charging bull.

The point of his staff caught Blunderbuss on the shoulder, and, driven with all the boy's weight behind it, staggered him badly, and threw him right out of his course.

With a bellow of fury, he spun round at his new assailant, but Roddy was prepared for that, and the moment he had delivered his blow ran round behind the bull, and sprinted back for the sea-wall.

Blunderbuss lost several seconds before he spotted Roddy again, but then he charged with right good will. But the wall was only a few yards away, and Roddy got there first, and was up it with a rush. In fact, he reached the top at the same moment as Farmer Gwynne.

"Look out. He's coming arter us," panted the farmer. "Take the stick to him. Don't let him get up. He'll kill the lot of us."

Sure enough, the bull never stopped for the wall. The force of his charge took him half-way up the steep slope, and he came scrambling on with his wicked little eyes gleaming with fury.

"Run! Out on the mud! 'Tis our only chance!" shouted Gwynne, and, turning tail, he bolted down the outer side of the bank and out on to the saltings.

But Roddy had no idea of running until he was forced. Grasping his staff in both hands, he brought it down with all his might across the bull's nose.

"That's stopped him. Give him another, Roddy," cried Dr. Kynaston, as he laid into the bull with his walking-stick.

Blunderbuss, dismayed by his reception, threw up his head, and Roddy gave him another good crack over the nose. That finished it.

Snorting with pain and fright, the big beast swung clumsily round, and went sliding back down into the field. Then he fairly turned tail and galloped away, and did not stop till he reached the hedge on the far side.

"Quiet as a cow, eh, Gwynne?" said Dr. Kynaston. "Hullo, where is the man?" he continued.

"I think he's having a swim, father," was Roddy's laughing remark.

"Mud-larking, more like," replied the doctor drily, as he turned and stared at Gwynne.

In his fright, the farmer had bolted right down into the saltings. The tide was about half out, and the mud as soft as treacle. Gwynne had gone right into the worst of it, and then the treacherous stuff had tripped him, and he had tumbled flat on his face. He was wallowing round like some prehistoric sea-beast, so coated with black slime that he looked like nothing human.

Even Dr. Kynaston, usually rather a grave man, had to laugh, and for some moments he and Roddy stood shaking, but both trying their best to choke down their mirth.

"Steady, Roddy," gasped his father, wiping away the tears that trickled down his face. "The old chap will never forgive us if he sees us laughing at him."

"All right, father," answered Roddy weakly. "Wait a jiffy. I'll peel off my boots, and go down and give him a hand."

He had his boots and stockings off in a trice, and waded out into the mud.

"Here you are, Mr. Gwynne," he said, pushing out his staff towards him. "Hang on to this. I'll tow you in."

The wretched Gwynne had sunk almost up to his waist, and it took Roddy all he knew to drag him out. And such a sight as he was never was seen on Portglask sea-wall. His face was so plastered with mud that he was almost blind, and Roddy had to lead him to the dyke which ran out under the sea-wall and help to sluice him down.

At last the worst of the slime was got rid of, and Gwynne, wet to the skin, shivering, and very crestfallen, was on top of the wall again.

"Quiet as an old cow, eh, Mr. Gwynne?" remarked the doctor.

"For goodness' sake don't say nothing more about it," begged Gwynne. "I'm free to admit I was mistook."

"I'm open to make a bargain, Mr. Gwynne," said the doctor. "You shut up Blunderbuss, and we'll keep our mouths shut, too. What do you say?"

"I says all right, sir," answered Gwynne. "And now if you'll be so kind as to go up to the house and talk to the missus in the parlour, I'll slip in the back way and change my things. I wouldn't like her to know what's happened. Women do talk so terrible."

Dr. Kynaston agreed, and he and Roddy kept Mrs. Gwynne in conversation while her husband got into the house unseen.

As they walked home Dr. Kynaston turned to his son.

"I don't think the Patrol will have any more trouble from Gwynne," he said, chuckling gently.

"I'm jolly sure we shan't," replied Roddy.


RODDY looked up from an eye-splice he was working on.

"I was thinking," he said slowly.

"Don't," said Drake Denny, who was the only other occupant of the Valiant's cabin. "You might damage your brain."

"Dry up, and don't rot. This is serious."

"Fire ahead," said Drake.

"Well, look here. Scott's been awfully decent, hasn't he?"

"Absolutely," agreed Drake. "He's bucked us up no end, and worked like a Trojan."

"Isn't it about time we did something for him?" said Roddy.

"You mean about finding the Vesta?"

"That's what I mean. I was thinking that, as you and I have more time to ourselves than the rest of the Patrol, we ought to be doing something."

"I'm game," said Drake. "But it's the weather that's been hanging us up. It's been blowing every day for the past week, and it's not good enough to risk the new dinghy at sea."

"That's true, but what about trying along the beaches? There are small coves that we could get down into from the cliffs, and some of these sea-caves have entrances from the landward side. My notion is that we might do a tramp down southwards to-morrow, and make a day of it."

"Right you are," said Drake. "Shall we ask Scott to come?"

"No use. He's going out in the Morgan's boat, long-lining."

"Then it's just you and I."

"Yes. Can you meet me on Pendang Head at eight? I'll bring grub and a rope, and you bring your ropes and candles."

Drake agreed, and sharp at eight next morning the two met at the place agreed, and started on their tramp down the coast. It was still windy, but the sky was clear, and the air bright and cool.

The cliffs were mostly very high and steep, and the only coves they passed for some distance were bounded by such tremendous precipices that it seemed better to wait until they had a chance of reaching the beaches by boat.

Roddy made a rough chart as he went along, noting down any deep cleft in the rocks or other place where wreckage was likely to have lodged.

Ten o'clock found the pair seven miles from Portglask, and so far they had not set foot on the beach.

"Tell you what, Drake," said Roddy suddenly. "That cave where we picked up Scott isn't more than two or three miles farther down the coast. Suppose we go straight across and have a look at it from above?"

"Good egg," exclaimed Drake. "Llewellyn, the coastguard, told me that he believed there was a way in from above."

"What—has he been there?"

"No, but his grandfather, who was one of the old Preventive men, told him about it when he was a kid. It's supposed to have been used by smugglers."

"Might find something interesting, then," said Roddy. "Anyhow, it'll be rather a lark exploring it."

It was not quite eleven when they reached the place. Roddy recognised it easily by the reef below, and the odd, pillar-shaped rock where he had found Scott clinging.

"Jove, it's a desolate-looking place!" said Drake as he looked round.

He was not far wrong. There was not a house in sight, and the bare headlands on either side were quite treeless. There was nothing but gorse and grey boulders, and the wind sweeping in from the open sea.

Roddy went to the very edge of the cliff, and peered over.

"You can't see the cave mouth," he said, "but it's right underneath us. Wonder if there's any way in from the top."

"It's going to be a pretty tough job to find it if there is," replied Drake. "Ten men might search for a month and never spot it."

"We'll have a try, anyhow," said Roddy. "Best thing will be to stick a staff in the ground and then make circles round it. That's the way they hunt plovers' eggs on the marshes."

"I vote we have some grub first," suggested Drake.

Roddy thought this was a good notion, so they picked out a big rock, and, making themselves comfortable under its lee, ate some of the capital sandwiches and cake which Roddy had brought in his haversack.

"Hullo, look at that rabbit," said Drake suddenly. "What's up with the little beggar?"

A half-grown rabbit had come out of the gorse a few yards off, and was running across right in front of them. But it was not running naturally. It lopped along, as though half paralysed, and, oddly enough, did not seem to pay any attention to the boys.

"It's hurt," cried Drake. "I'll pick it up and see what's the matter."

"No. Steady," said Roddy quickly. "It's not hurt. A stoat's after it. Wait. You'll see the stoat in a moment."

Sure enough, a few seconds later, a cruel little head, with heady-black eyes, was poked out of the bush from which the rabbit had come, and a lean, snake-like body, covered with close, dark fur, followed.

Roddy's fingers closed on a stone, and as soon as the wicked-looking little beast was clear of the bush he sprang up and shied the stone at it.

"Missed it," he exclaimed, as the stoat vanished like a flash. "Bad luck, I wanted to slay the little pirate."

"No, you hit it," answered Drake, dashing forward, and flinging himself on hands and knees under the prickly branches of the gorse. "Yes, here it is—dead, too. It was the stone bowled it over in here."

As he spoke, he threw out the dead body of the stoat.

"Saved one bunny's life, anyhow," remarked Roddy, as he picked up the small, limp carcase and examined it with interest. "Phew, how it smells! Almost as bad as a polecat."

He threw the dead stoat away and waited for Drake to come out. But Drake seemed to have disappeared in the heart of the gorse clump, and Roddy began to wonder what had happened to him.

"Drake, I say, Drake, are you going to spend all day there? Aren't you coming to help me find the cave?"

The stiff gorse rustled, and Drake crawled out backwards like a crab. His face was red with exertion, and his eyes were shining.

"No need to go any farther, Roddy," he said. "If I'm not jolly well mistaken, I've found the cave already."

Roddy stared.

"It's all right. I'm not humbugging. Come and see for yourself."

Drake ducked in again, and Roddy followed. Under the gorse the ground rose slightly. A few yards in, they came to a big, flattish rock. At its base was a hole about four feet wide and two high, running steeply down into the bowels of the earth.

"Here we are," said Drake triumphantly.

Roddy crept forward until his head was in the mouth of the hole.

"You're right, Drake. It's the mouth of something pretty big. I can feel the air blowing up through it. Salt air, too."

"What are we going to do?" asked Drake eagerly.

"Go down, of course. Let's have your rope, and I'll start and see where the passage goes to."

"Hadn't I better go first?" said Drake. "You see, I'm a lot lighter than you, Roddy. You could hold me a deal better than I could hold you."

"It might be a good idea. But go slow, Drake. You can't tell how steep it is. For all we know, it may be a regular shaft running right down to the sea level."

"I've got my torch, and plenty of matches as well. I'll be careful," said Drake, as he uncoiled the thin climbing rope which he carried wound round his body. It was a sixty-foot length of regular Alpine rope, the red thread in it testifying to its quality. It had been given to Drake by his father, and used by him in his bird-photographing expeditions on the cliffs around Portglask.

Roddy fastened the rope carefully around Drake's body, and Drake backed into the hole on hands and knees, and disappeared from sight into the blackness.

For some moments the rope ran out slowly. Then it stopped, and a flash of light from below showed that Drake had switched on his electric torch.

"It's all right, Roddy," came Drake's voice, sounding oddly hollow and faint. "There's plenty of room down here. And the slope's quite easy. Come on down."

So Roddy let the rope slide, and, following Drake's example, backed into the hole.

As Drake had said, the slope was quite gentle. As he descended, the passage widened, and the air grew cooler. The moist tang of sea water was unmistakable, but there was no sound of waves.

"Here we are," came Drake's voice. "Plenty of room to stand up."

Roddy stood up and looked round. The light of Drake's torch showed a vaulted passage running downwards at an angle of about one in five. The walls were limestone, and the passage was clearly water-worn. Up above was a tiny glimmer of daylight, showing the entrance through which he had just come. Below, the passage ran straight on, too far for the torch to penetrate.

"Looks as if we were on the right track, doesn't it?" said Drake delightedly. "Slaying that stoat brought us luck."

"Yes, there's not much doubt that this leads down to the cave," answered Roddy. "But don't be too cock-a-hoop, old chap. We may find that this passage ends up in a hole a couple of hundred feet deep. There's nothing quite so tricky as a cave in limestone. I know something about 'em, for I once went down an awful place called Gaping Ghyll on the Yorkshire moors."

"Better rope, then," suggested Drake.

Rope they did, leaving about twenty feet of line between them. Then Drake led the way down the passage.

As they went on, the slope grew steeper. The floor was smooth, and the moisture which oozed from the roof made it very slippery.

"Look out you don't fall, Drake," cried Roddy, and his voice boomed hollow down the funnel-like passage.

"All right," answered Drake.

The words were hardly out of his mouth before both his feet went from under him, exactly as though he had suddenly stepped on a sheet of ice. He fell in a sitting position, and shot away like a toboggan down a snowy hillside.

Roddy saw him go, and instantly braced himself for the shock. But his boots, though well-nailed, gave no sort of hold on the smooth, wet rock. Drake's weight pulled him off his balance, he made a wild grasp at the wall, found nothing to hold on to, and next moment was flying down the steeply sloping tunnel at a pace which increased every moment.

He did not lose his presence of mind. Turning over on his face he tried with all his might to brake with fingers and toes. But there was absolutely nothing to hold on to, and do what he would he could not stop their headlong descent.

Drake had either dropped his torch in the fall, or accidentally switched it off, and the light from above had vanished. It was in utter darkness that the two went whizzing downwards into the unknown depths.

Suddenly came a sharp scream from Drake. The weight on Roddy increased. Instinctively he knew that his chum had gone over the edge of some abyss, and, spreading his legs as wide apart as they would go, Roddy made a last desperate attempt to force them against the two opposite walls.

He succeeded. Both feet at once came hard against the two sides of the tunnel, and he stopped short. Next instant came a jerk on the rope which as nearly as possible tore him from his hold. Every muscle in his body was wrenched to the point of agony, and his ribs felt as if they were crushed by the iron grip of the rope.

For a few moments he hung gasping, quite unable to move. Then at last he got his breath back, and cautiously, very cautiously—for he was in terror of losing his hold—he managed to get his own torch out and switch it on.

The light showed up the passage steeper and narrower than when he had last seen it at the beginning of his fall. It showed, too, a black gap not six feet in front of him—a gap which reached from wall to wall of the passage.

Over the edge of this ran the rope, and vanished into the blackness beneath. It vibrated slightly, showing that Drake was still dangling at the end.

"Drake!" shouted Roddy. "Drake!"

His voice echoed weirdly down the tunnel, but there was no reply.


RODDY waited a few moments to get his breath again, for the strain of Drake's weight was cruel.

"Drake!" he shouted again.

To his intense relief, the answer came back faint but distinct:

"I'm here, Roddy. Can you hold me?"

"Are you hurt?"

"No—nothing to speak of. I couldn't answer before because all the wind was knocked out of me. But how about you?"

"I'm all right for the minute. I've got my feet wedged against the sides. I'm looking for something to hang on to so that I can pull you up."

Roddy tried to speak cheerfully, but he saw only too plainly that he and Drake were in a terrible fix. Wedged as he was, he dared not move. If he did, Drake's weight would drag him forward, and there was nothing to stop him from sliding down after him into the horrible pit which yawned so close in front. He turned the light on the mouth of it, hoping to see some projection large enough to get his heels against.

There was none, and his heart sank as he realised this.

He thought it over, and it occurred to him that the one possible chance would be to use his knife as he had on the cliff that day when he first met Drake.

If he could cut a hole deep enough to wedge the heel of one boot into, that would give him some sort of brace to pull against.

He managed to get his knife out of the sheath which was slung by a lanyard round his neck, and, holding his torch with one hand, started to dig with the other.

Disappointment met him again. Under the thin slime of mud was a layer of stalagmite, hard as glass. He could not even scratch it with his knife-blade. It would take a sledge-hammer and cold chisel to cut it.

He tried other spots as far forward as he could reach, but with exactly the same result. He could do nothing with it.

"How are you getting on, Roddy?" came Drake's voice from the depths.

"Badly, old chap. There's nothing to hold on to, and the rock's too hard to chip holes in with my knife. I'm going to wedge myself as tightly as I can against the sides, and see if I can pull you up that way."

"Take it easy, Roddy," answered Drake. "I can hang on all right."

In spite of his own desperate position, Roddy was impressed with the coolness of the other's tones. He had always known that Drake had more than his share of pluck, but it struck him now more forcibly than ever. He set his teeth, and vowed that, come what might, he would get him out or die with him.

Shifting himself very cautiously, he wedged his feet as firmly as possible against the two walls. Then, with a bit of string, he tied his electric torch firmly to his left arm, so that the light was thrown forward. Having done this, he took a long breath and called to Drake that he was going to pull.

Drake was no great weight for a fifteen-year-old boy, but still he scaled over eight stone. To pull in twenty feet of rope with a hundredweight at the end of it will tax the strength of a full-grown man, even if he is standing up or has the best of foothold.

Straining every muscle to cracking point, Roddy got in five or six feet of rope, then, with his head spinning from the fierce exertion, with the perspiration pouring down his face, and his heart beating so that he could hear it, he came absolutely to the end of his strength.

To make matters worse, cramp seized the thigh muscles of both legs.

Drake evidently understood perfectly what was happening.

"Roddy," he called.

"Yes," gasped Roddy.

"You can't do it, old chap."

"It's tough, but I'll have another try soon."

"No, you'll only slay yourself, or lose your hold and come down on top of me, and that will finish both of us. See here. I'm going to drop something and see how deep this hole is. There may be rope enough to take me to the bottom. If there is, you must let me down, and then, if I can't get out below, you must just go back for help."

"All right. Try it," said Roddy. "Got anything to drop?"

"Yes, I've got two or three coppers in my pocket. Keep quiet now. I'm going to try."

Roddy strained his ears, but though the silence was intense he could hear absolutely nothing.

"Did you hear it?" he asked presently, in a strained whisper.

"Yes, but I'm afraid it's a good way down," was the reply.

"Was it rock or water?"

"It wasn't water, and it didn't clink as if it fell on rock."

"It isn't good enough, Drake. I've got my wind back. I'm going to try again."

"Don't. You can't do it. You couldn't even if you were standing up."

"I'm going to have one more shot, anyhow."

Try Roddy did, but though he strained and tugged until he had used up the last ounce of his strength, the result was the same as before.

"It's no use, Drake," he said despairingly.

"I knew it wouldn't be. You've just got to let me down."

"Suppose the rope won't reach the bottom?"

"I think it will. If it doesn't I'll be near it, and I can drop."

Drake spoke as coolly and calmly as ever, but Roddy knew in his bones that he was putting this on to conceal the terrible danger of his position. For all either of them knew, the hole might be eighty or a hundred feet deep. A forty-foot drop from the end of the rope!

The horror of it made Roddy shudder.

Yet there was nothing else for it. Drake had said so, and Roddy knew that it was nothing more or less than the cold truth.

"All right," he answered in a voice which he tried hard to keep steady. "I'll let you down."

Cramp was racking Roddy, and he was weak as a child from his terrific exertions. It was all he could do to unfasten the rope from his own waist and pay it out slowly.

He watched it with a kind of horrible fascination as, foot by foot, it slid over the edge of the pit, and vanished. He grudged every inch of it, for once gone he could never pull it in again.

At last it was all gone—all, that is, except enough to take one turn around his own body—and by the weight he knew that Drake's feet had not yet touched the bottom of the pit.

"That's all," he said. "Are you anywhere near the bottom, Drake?"

"I can't tell. It's so beastly dark," the answer came back. "I lost my lamp when I tumbled."

"Haven't you any matches?"

"Yes, but they're in my haversack, and I can't reach them. Wait, I'm going to drop another penny."

Another aching pause, but again Roddy could not hear a sound.

"Well?" he gasped at last.

"It isn't far, Roddy," answered Drake steadily. "I'm going to cut loose and drop."

There was a moment's pause.

"I say, Roddy," said Drake again. "If anything happens, you'll give my love to dad, won't you?"

For the life of him Roddy could not answer. There was a lump in his throat which was near to choking him, and his eyes stung and smarted as they had not done for years.

Before he could get his voice back, he heard a slight snick from below, and at the same time the terrible pressure of the rope on his own ribs was gone.

Almost instantly came a heavy thud—then silence.

"Drake! Drake!"

Roddy's voice was raised to a scream.

But only echoes answered.

Again and again he shouted wildly, but still there was no reply. The depths were silent.

"He's dead!" groaned Roddy, almost beside himself with dismay. "He's dead! He's killed himself to save me!"


THE wonder was that Roddy did not lose his head altogether and follow his chum down into the pit, for at that moment he was nearly mad with the horror of the situation. But presently he managed to pull himself together and think collectedly.

Help—he must get help. And to do so he must clamber back up that sliding death-trap, down which he and Drake had fallen.

He pulled up the rope as rapidly as possible. The end with the clean cut from poor Drake's knife gave him a fresh stab of misery. In his mind's eye he saw his chum lying crushed and bleeding at the bottom of the awful abyss.

The picture almost unmanned him, but he set it aside resolutely, and turned all his energies to the task of getting back to the surface.

His own position was bad enough. Although the release from Drake's weight made it easier to move, he realised that, if he did not exercise the greatest possible care, he would most certainly go sliding helplessly down the steep, slippery slope, and crash into the depths of the pit, on top of Drake.

One thing was clear. He must get his boots off. Nails were worse than useless on this smooth, hard rock, with its treacherous coating of slimy mud.

First, he coiled the rope under him, so as to get something to prevent his slipping. Then very cautiously he withdrew one foot from the wall, and found that the rope did prevent his sliding any farther.

With fingers which shook in spite of himself he rapidly unlaced his hoots, took them off, and hung them around his neck. Then very slowly and carefully he turned, and, getting the coil of rope around one arm, set himself to crawl back up the passage.

For the first few yards Roddy expected every moment that he would lose his balance and slide helplessly back. But somehow he managed to hold on, and, after passing the place where Drake had fallen, he found the slope less steep, and was able to get on more rapidly.

Presently the little patch of grey, which was the mouth of the cave, came into sight, and a few minutes later Roddy stumbled out into broad daylight.

He looked at his watch. It was not quite an hour since he and Drake had started down that ill-omened passage. He could hardly believe it. It seemed like a week.

Now, where was he to find help? He looked all round in every direction. There was not one sign of human life except the smoke of a steamer far out on the western horizon. The last house that he and Drake had seen, as they walked down the coast, had been quite two miles back.

There was no other in sight. True, if he went inland he might find one, yet the idea of running miles across this wild country while his chum was perhaps dying for lack of attention drove him almost frantic. He felt that it was impossible, and he suddenly made up his mind that he could not do it.

Just outside the big gorse clump, on the spot where he and Drake had lunched, lay their two Scout staves and the second coil of rope.

It came to Roddy that with these he himself could reach Drake. He could lay the two staves side by side across the mouth of the pit, and the two ropes tied together should surely be long enough to reach the bottom.

It may have been an unwise decision. As it turned out, it proved to be so. But it must be remembered that the fearful strain he had undergone had to some extent unbalanced Roddy's usually cool head. At any rate, he took this decision, and at once proceeded to act upon it.

First he joined the two ropes together. This gave him over a hundred feet in all. Then he collected the remains of their luncheon and stuffed that into his haversack.

The next thing was to get himself and the two Scout staves safely down the passage. In order to do this he cut a stiff, short gorse stake, which he planted firmly in the ground at the mouth of the hole. Then he doubled the rope over this, and, holding the doubled rope with one hand, took the two staves in the other, and once more started down the narrow gloomy burrow.

He had some doubts as to the doubled line being long enough, but to his great relief there was just sufficient to take him to the mouth of the pit, and now he was able to peer over the side and look down into the shaft.

The sides were perpendicular, like those of a well; in fact, so regular that they might have almost been cut by human hands.

He turned his electric torch downwards, and its beams shone upon sheer rock gleaming with moisture.

A strong current of fresh salt air drew upwards from below.

But the bottom he could not see. It was beyond the reach of his torchlight, and he shivered again as he thought of Drake lying in the depths of that awful pit.

His next proceeding was to tie the two staves together and lay them across the month of the pit. They spanned it easily, and he reckoned that they would bear his weight comfortably.

With their aid he crossed the pit, and perched himself on the lower edge, with his feet dangling over the abyss. Seated here, he was in no danger of slipping, and he proceeded to pull the rope down and tie one end firmly around the middle of the two staves.

He worked quickly yet cautiously. Everything depended on himself, and he quite realised that any mistake would mean the loss of his own life, as well as failure of the last chance of rescuing Drake.

At last all was ready, but before he started down he leant over and shouted once more.

There was no answer. He had hardly hoped for one, having the dreadful conviction that Drake was already beyond his help.

He drew a long breath, and grasping the rope in both hands, wound his left leg into it, then swung gently off his perch, and went steadily hand under hand down into the depths.

The rope swayed sharply as he got lower, but he managed to fend off from the sides with his feet. The descent seemed endless, but as he went down he became conscious of a faint light beneath him, and all of a sudden the sides of the shaft fell away exactly like those of the inside of a decanter, below the neck; and he realised that he had come through into a second cave, which seemed to be of considerable size.

But he had no eyes for his surroundings. All his thoughts were centred on Drake, and turning his lamp downwards, he suddenly caught sight of his chum lying flat on his back immediately beneath him.

Another moment, and he was standing beside him—standing not on rock at all, but on a thick layer of clayey mud, into which his feet sank at once up to the ankles.

This mud was evidently the drip from the passage above, which, in the course of ages, had been washed down the shaft, and had accumulated in a hollow immediately below.

For the first time since Drake had cut himself loose a gleam of hope shot through Roddy's breast.

Though the fall had been a terrible one—quite thirty feet, as he could tell by the fact that only twenty feet of the joined rope lay on the ground beside him—yet at any rate he had fallen soft. Perhaps it was only the shock that had knocked the senses out of him. There was, at any rate, a chance that he had not come by serious injury.

He was down on his knees in a moment beside the other, and began feeling his legs and arms to see if any bones were broken.

They were all sound. He tried his ribs. They, too, seemed to be all right. He listened to his heart. It was beating faintly but regularly enough.

His spirits began to rise a little. It seemed clear that Drake was not seriously hurt. The first thing was to get him out of the mud into which, though it had saved his life, he was slowly sinking.

He looked round and found a smooth, dry place at a little distance, so, laying down his torch, he picked Drake up, and laid him there, first spreading his own coat to keep the chill of the rock from striking through him. It was very cool and damp down here in the cave.

The next thing was to find water. The rock was wet almost everywhere, and in many places beaded with great drops of moisture, and presently Roddy's light gleamed on a pool in a tiny hollow.

In his haversack he had a little telescopic tin cup, and filling it, he sprinkled some over Drake's face and moistened his lips.

But Drake's eyes were still closed, and Roddy grew nervous again. He loosened Drake's shirt, raised his head a little, and, fetching more water, dashed it in his face.

He had worked over him for five minutes or more and was beginning to get really frightened, when to his intense relief Drake gave a quick, gasping breath and opened his eyes.

"Hullo, Roddy, what's up?" he said in a weak, hoarse voice, and made an attempt to sit up.

"Lie still, Drake," returned Roddy, pushing him gently back. "You took a tumble, but luckily you found a soft place to fall on, and I don't think you've broken anything."

"Ugh! I remember now," murmured Drake, with a slight shiver. "By Jove, it was beastly!"

"How do you feel, old chap?" asked Roddy anxiously.

"A bit muzzy," answered Drake, trying to smile. "But I'm all right. There's nothing broken so far as I know."

He stretched his arms and legs as he spoke, and Roddy saw with deep relief that there really were no broken bones.

"But how on earth did you get down here," asked Drake suddenly.

"I went back and got the other rope. The two together were long enough."

"That was decent of you, old man," said Drake quietly. "All the same, I don't know how you managed it."

"Don't talk about it," answered Roddy. "I want to forget the last hour."

"So do I," said Drake gravely. "Especially as it was all my fault for tumbling down. And what's the next thing on the programme, Roddy?"

"For you to lie where you are and rest until you've got over the effects of that thundering tumble. Then we'll see about getting back to daylight."

"Strikes me that's going to be rather a job, eh?"

"Oh, I don't know. I think I can swarm up that rope again."

"Well, I can't," said Drake. "And to tell you the truth, I'm not going to try it, unless I'm absolutely obliged to. That shaft gives me the horrors. I vote we try downhill and see if we can't find a way out to the sea. There's light in this place, so there must be an opening of some sort."

"There's light, sure enough, Drake. But even if we can get down to sea level it won't do us much good. The mouth of the cave opens right into the sea. There's no beach at all, and, so far as I remember, the cliff's not the sort that one can climb."

"Perhaps we can find some other way out," said Drake hopefully. "Where there's one passage there are just as likely to be a lot more. And if the worst comes, and we can't hit on another, we've always got the rope to fall back upon."

The words were hardly out of Drake's mouth before there came from somewhere up above a dull rumble.

Both boys started.

The rumbling grew louder, there was a sharp snapping sound, then a whiz and a crash.

Next instant something fell with a tremendous thud into the mud only a few yards from where Drake was lying, and a shower of the soft stuff flew up, spattering them and the rock around in every direction.

Roddy turned his light upon the mud.

In the very spot where Drake had been lying a few minutes earlier was planted a huge, jagged boulder, weighing at least a couple of hundredweight.

Drake drew a long breath.

"Kind of lucky you shifted me when you did, eh, Roddy?" he remarked quietly.

"It does seem rather that way," agreed Roddy. "But I'm afraid that puts the hat on any chance of getting back the way we came. The remains of our staves and the whole of the rope are lying under that cheerful little pebble."

For a few minutes neither spoke again. The fact was that, although they had pretended to treat the matter lightly, the escape had been so desperately narrow that neither of them felt like saying much. And Roddy at least was very uneasy.

Roddy knew more about caves than Drake did, and he realised very clearly that the chances were all against their finding any way out of this tremendous rock prison.

They were about a hundred feet below the top of the cliff, and at least the same height above sea level. The mouth of the cave, which opened on the sea, was, he knew, never dry even at lowest ebb, and it was guarded outside by bad rocks and reefs.

The worst thing was that none of their friends knew where they were, so the chances of rescue from outside were of the slimmest.

Suddenly Drake sat up.

"Here, you lie still," remonstrated Roddy.

"Nonsense!" replied Drake cheerfully. "I'm quite fit again, barring that I feel rather as if I'd had a thundering good licking. If I stay here I shall only get stiff. Anyhow, we don't want to stop all night. Come on and let's do a bit of exploring. I'm fearfully keen to see where that light comes from."

"I don't believe you're fit to go messing about," said Roddy anxiously.

But Drake insisted, and with the help of Roddy's hand got on his feet.

"I'm really all right," he declared. "Nothing but a little muzziness in my head, and that will pass off. Come on. Let's go towards the light."

The place they were in was about thirty feet high and twice that width. The floor sloped gently downwards towards an arch, under which the faint grey light seemed to rise from below.

The two walked cautiously, for they had no notion where they were going to, and both were keenly mindful of their terrible tumble in the passage above. Fortunately the floor was rougher here, and gave better foothold.

It was perhaps fifty yards to the arch, and when they reached it such a sight lay before them as left them breathless, gasping with wonder and amazement.


IMMEDIATELY in front, the rock broke away into a sharp slope, which stretched downwards into gloom, which the eye could not penetrate. Exactly opposite, but below the level of the archway, was a hole or window in the rock, through which a shaft of daylight broke inwards, faintly illuminating the interior of a cave so immense that no cathedral could match it for size.

Roof and floor alike were invisible, and the two boys, standing side by side, stood gazing down into a vast, misty silence—silence which was broken only by an occasional low, deep roar, as a great swell rushing in from the sea flung itself against the rocks somewhere in the darkness far below.

Although the roof itself was hidden from their sight, from the dim heights above they could see, hanging like monstrous icicles, long, pale-coloured columns of stalactite. Some of these were of gigantic size, and as the roof from which they hung was invisible, they had the strangest and most threatening appearance imaginable. It seemed as though they floated in mid-air.

"Will they fall?" whispered Drake, actually afraid to speak aloud.

Roddy tried to laugh, but it was a poor attempt, and feeble as it was, the echoes that went whispering out through the darkness were literally terrifying.

"No, they're only stalactites, old chap. They've been there a few thousand years, and I dare say they'll stay a few thousand more. But what a cave!"

"What a cave!" echoed Drake. "Why, the whole cliff must be hollow. Roddy, it scares me. And those echoes are simply awful. For goodness' sake, let's get out of it as soon as we can."

"I'm with you there. But to get out we've got to get down to the bottom. We can't go back, and the only way is to go forward."

"What, down there?" groaned Drake.

Roddy realised that Drake's nerves had suffered from the shock of his fall, and that it was up to him to keep his chum's courage from failing.

"I don't think it will be so bad," he said cheerily. "Remember, we've got the rope. And see those pillars rising from below. They're stalagmites, and ought to be useful to help us down. Come on back, and we'll get the rope from under the stone."

They found the rope was all right, though coated with mud, and to their delight one of the staves had also escaped injury.

Returning to the archway, Roddy flashed his light downwards on the slope. The bright gleam showed it all sown with tall spikes of spar, which rose from the steep descent like trees growing on a hillside. From the depths below, other taller stalagmites reared their stony heads.

"Not much difficulty about that," said Roddy. "If I get a turn over the nearest of those big spikes we can simply waltz down to the bottom."

It was not quite so simple as he had pretended, for the whole side of the steep descent was crusted with the mineral brought down in course of ages by the slow drip from the roof above. This was so hard and smooth that it gave no sort of foothold.

Still, by going carefully and resting now and then against one of the pillars of spar, they finally reached the floor of the vast cavern, and stopped to get their bearings.


By going carefully they finally
reached the floor of the vast cavern.

The window was now high overhead, and the shaft of light which penetrated inwards through the cleft struck against the slope, about half-way up to the gallery which they had left.

"That must be an opening in the face of the cliff," said Roddy. "It's a good size, too. Big enough to get out if we can reach it."

"But it's a terrible long way up," replied Drake. "I don't suppose we can get anywhere near it."

"Don't croak, old chap," Roddy comforted him. "We've got down safely, and there's no reason why we can't climb up."

"Sorry, Roddy," answered Drake quickly. "Fact is, this place gives me the hump. It's so fearfully big and gloomy. It's cold, too."

"It is that," admitted Roddy. "Cold and damp. But come on. We mustn't waste time. This torch won't burn for ever."

"I've got a couple of candles in my haversack," said Drake. "So we've something to fall back on. But you're quite right. Let's push on, and see if we can get to the window."

The whole floor of the cavern was a forest of stalagmites. Some of the columns rose to a height of twenty or thirty feet. Some were whole and perfect, others smashed to pieces, evidently by falls from above. All were of the same pale, marble-like colour, all were wet and clammy with moisture. Now and then a drop like cold rain would splash upon the boys' heads as they struggled through the stony maze.

It was impossible to keep anything like a straight course or to step out the distance across the floor; but Roddy reckoned that they had come a good two hundred yards before the rock began to rise again towards the outer side of the cliff.

"Why, we're climbing again!" said Drake sharply. "I thought we should strike the sea between us and that outer wall. Where is it?"

"Over to our right," answered Roddy. "Can't you hear it? It's lower ground over that side, but it's quite clear that the sea has never touched this part of the cave. These stalagmites couldn't form if the tides ever came up here."

A few more steps brought them to a wall of rock that was almost sheer.

Drake looked up at tie opening, which was pretty nearly fifty feet above their heads.

"We'll never get up to that, Roddy."

"Hold the light. I'm going to try," was Roddy's answer.

The rock was rough and full of projections and crannies, and for the first part of the way Roddy went up at a good pace. Then Drake saw him stop and feel about for a hand-hold. He threw the light above him, and it showed a spur sticking out a good way above.

With a big effort Roddy managed to read it, and then climbed on more slowly, but quite steadily. Another few minutes and Drake saw his chum's figure outlined against the beam of light which streamed in from outside. He watched him scramble into tic opening and disappear. It seemed an age before he appeared again.

"How is it? Can we get out?" he asked anxiously.

"I can get out," answered Roddy. "But I'm afraid it's no use. The cliff's like the wall of a house, and there's deep water beneath."

"Can't we use the rope to get down?"

"Afraid it's not long enough. It looks to me to be more than a hundred feet above the sea. And, anyhow, neither of us could swim in the surf that's breaking on the foot of the cliff. It's blowing hard."

"Anything in sight?"

"Not a thing."

"Well, hang something out for a signal. Your hat might do."

"That's not big enough. No one's coming in near enough to spot a hat. We'll have to rig up something big if we want to attract attention. But there's time enough for that. We may be able to get out on our own. We haven't half explored this place yet."

"I wish we'd never put our heads into it," groaned Drake. "It gives me cold creeps."

Roddy climbed down and suggested that next they had better have a look at the lower part of the cave where the sea came in. So they turned to the right and made their way downhill.

They were guided by the solemn boom of the waves, which rushed in from outside; but it was quite a long distance and a fearfully tough scramble before they reached the place.

At last the light shone upon a great greenish pool. As they watched it, the water suddenly swelled, and with a deep, bellowing roar rushed many feet up towards them, flinging out a shower of keen salt spray, which spattered their faces and the rocks behind them.

Then it sank again—sank till it was almost out of sight, gurgling and hissing as it went, and laced with streaks of white foam.

In a few seconds it was up once more, driven forwards by the great surge which had broken on the cliffs outside, and which was forcing its way through the bottle neck connecting the cavern with the open sea.

Drake threw the light outwards.

"That's not much use to us," he said desperately. "The water's right up to the roof, and even if it wasn't, that sea would smash you to pieces."

"Yes, but it's high tide now, and blowing pretty stiffly, too. It won't be so bad at full ebb. But there's more of the cave beyond this bay. Let's go round and see if there's any way out on that side."

As they skirted the cave end of the inlet they came upon a narrow beach of pebbles. This was littered thickly with broken timber, seaweed, and all sorts of odds and ends brought in by the waves and stranded at high-water mark.

"I say, Drake, here's the place to hunt for the remains of the Vesta," said Roddy, as the rotten stuff crackled beneath his feet. "Suppose we rest a bit and build a fire and eat the rest of our grub?"

But Drake wouldn't hear of it.

"Let's get out of the beastly place," he said. "The gloom and the echoes and these pillars, which look like ghosts, are enough to drive one dotty."

Roddy saw he must yield.

"All right. We'll push on, then," he agreed.

Push on they did, and went uphill into a drier, more open part of the cave.

All of a sudden Roddy stopped short with a sharp exclamation.

"What's that?" he cried, pointing to a squarish, dark object, which lay right in front of them.

"A package of some sort," said Drake, hurrying forward and stooping over the find. "Yes, it's done up in tarred paper. Thank goodness, someone's been about."

"The smugglers Llewellyn spoke of. Not a doubt of it. Well, it's clear proof, anyhow, that someone's been here before us."

"Yes, and so there must be a way out," replied Drake eagerly.

"What beats me is how they got in—from the sea, I mean," said Roddy. "Certainly not through the place we've just left."

"Never mind that. The thing is to find the way out. Ah! here's a sort of track. See? Hurrah! now we'll soon be out of the beastly place."

Drake hurried forward, holding the light close to the ground. Undoubtedly there was a track of some sort, though it took Scouts' eyes to see it. They followed it up to their left, and after three or four minutes' walking over fairly good ground, it brought them to the cliff-like inner side of the cave.

"Here we are! Here's the passage!" cried Drake, as the light showed a dark opening in the rock wall.

He plunged recklessly into it, and Roddy followed. He was troubled about his chum's evident excitement. It was not like Drake, who was usually so cool and collected.

The passage trended upwards at a steady slope, and Drake almost ran up it. Roddy kept close behind, hoping with all his heart that nothing would prevent their getting out.

The passage curved to the right, and grew somewhat steeper. All of a sudden Drake uttered a hoarse cry and stopped short, pointing to a mass of rocks and rubble which blocked the tunnel to the very roof.

"We're done!" he groaned. "We can't get out! Oh, Roddy, why did we ever come down into this horrible cave?"

Then, without the slightest warning, he suddenly collapsed and fell in a heap on the rocky floor. The torch clattered to the ground and went out, leaving them both in pitch darkness.


"JUST what I expected," mumbled Roddy, as he felt in his pocket for matches. "Poor old chap, he's gone through enough to finish most fellows."

He struck a light, found the torch, which luckily had not broken in the fall, and switched it on again.

Drake lay all in a heap. His face was very white. He had evidently fainted.

Roddy was feeling none too fresh himself. The last climb up to the window had been a stiff one. But he wasted no time in picking up his chum, and, hoisting him on to his back, made his way slowly and wearily back into the great cave, and down the smugglers' track to the spot where they had found a package done up in tarred paper.

Oddly enough, there was here a hollow in the rock which was filled with fine yellow sand. Their own footsteps were plain in it, and so were others—larger ones.

It came to Roddy, with a queer shock, that these, though they looked perfectly fresh, had probably been made at least a hundred years ago.

There he laid Drake down, and, taking out a candle, lit it, and stuck it on a stone. He realised that they were in for at least a night in the cave, and made up his mind to get all as comfortable as possible for both their sakes.

Fire was the first necessity, so he went down to a sea-pool, and soon collected a big armful of wood, which he carried back to the sandy place.

Within a few minutes the gloom of the huge cavern was broken by crackling tongues of red flame. Then Roddy put out the candle, and went back for more wood. He collected enough to last for some time, and afterwards returned for seaweed, of which there was any amount on the little beach. Picking out what was dry, he made a comfortable bed for Drake, and afterwards laid one for himself.

There was nothing he could do for his chum except to wait until he came round. Drake was breathing easily enough, and Roddy shrewdly suspected that the chief trouble was that he had done too much on top of his fall. In that case, rest would be the best cure.

Feeling very nearly done himself, he took out one of his sandwiches, and ate it very slowly. Then he had a drink from a little pool of fresh water, which he found among the rocks, and sat down beside the fire.

The light, which broke through the window in the cliff face, was failing. Evidently the sun was setting. But the fire glow was delightfully cheerful.

Every now and then, when the flames spurted up, they shone upon vast stalactites which hung from above like enormous chandeliers, and were reflected back in a play of beautiful colour.

Rest and food did Roddy good, and presently he turned to Drake again.

But Drake had not yet come round. He was still unconscious, and Roddy began to be seriously troubled. Being himself a doctor's son, he knew that brandy was what his father would have given. But neither he nor Drake carried a flask.

Suddenly his eyes fell upon the package covered with tarred paper which Drake had been the first to see. It lay only a few yards from the fire. It did not look like anything useful; still one always connects smugglers and brandy, and he got up, took out his knife, and cut away the cords around it.

Not that they needed much cutting. They were rotten as punk, and so were the tarred coverings.

Inside was tobacco—black, rank stuff, which had been preserved all through the years by the treacle with which it had been mixed.

That was no use to Roddy, but the wrappers would make torches, so he left them where they were, and taking the candle, began prowling about amongst the rocks and stalagmites to see if there were any other trace of the long-past inhabitants of the cave.

Something crackled beneath his foot. He looked, and saw that it was a barrel stave, rotten with age. Close by was a deep recess between two monstrous columns of stalagmite.

Holding the candle, Roddy peered inwards, and saw a heap of little five-gallon kegs. There were nearly a score of them, all stacked as neatly as the day they had been left there.

"What luck!" he murmured, and seized the top one. But it was empty and dry. Some fungus had rotted away the wood, and the contents had long ago disappeared.

He tried another and another, but like the first they were empty. He was almost giving it up, when down at the bottom he hit upon one which still seemed sound. He picked it up and shook it gently. There was liquor in it.

With some difficulty he forced out the bung, and found that it was half full of some liquor that still smelt like brandy.

Roddy hastily filled his tin cup, and toot it across to Drake. He bathed his forehead with some of the brandy, and put a few drops between his teeth.

Almost at once Drake's eyes opened, and a little colour came back into his cheeks. He looked up at Roddy with a puzzled expression, and then at the blazing fire.

"Have I been making an ass of myself again?" he asked weakly.

"You collapsed up in the tunnel, old chap," said Roddy. "But it was my fault for letting you go tramping all over the place after that tumble. Now what you've got to do is to stay where you are, and not move at all."

"What—stay here all night?"

"It's night already, or near it. And we've got a fire, and a place to sleep in, and there's some grub left. What are you kicking about?"

"Father will be awfully worried," said Drake uneasily. "And so will your people."

"They'll feel pretty sure we shall turn up all right. Anyhow, we can't help ourselves, so you may just as well stop worrying, and make the best of a job that might have been a good deal worse. Take a drop more of this brandy, and then I'll fix up some supper."

Roddy mixed a little of the spirit with water from the pool, and made Drake drink it. Then he emptied the haversacks. They had still four good-sized sandwiches, a lump of cake, and two apples. There were matches, two candles, a spare battery for the torch, and a few other odds and ends.

"I've eaten my share," said Roddy. "Tuck into the sandwiches."

He made Drake eat two, and was delighted to see the colour come back to his cheeks. The brandy made him drowsy, and a few minutes later he was sound asleep.

Roddy himself was far too hungry to sleep. He had done more than Drake, and the one sandwich he had eaten was nothing like enough to satisfy him.

Seized with a sudden idea, he prowled softly off to the sea-pool. The tide had now fallen considerably, and, as he had hoped, there were plenty of mussels on the rocks. He collected a hatful, and, returning to the fire, roasted them in the glowing embers. They tasted quite good, and, finishing up his meal with a drink from the pool, he lay down on his seaweed, and was soon sound asleep.

He was roused by a whistle of wings overhead, and starting up saw that the light was once more pouring in through the cliff window.

The cave was lighter than he had seen it yet. Evidently it was a fine morning outside.

Roddy looked round for the bird whose wings he had heard, and caught a glimpse of something flitting away under the great stalactites which hung from the roof. He fancied that it was a rock-dove, but could not be quite sure.

Drake was still asleep, so Roddy raked together the embers of the fire, and went down for more wood. Then he collected a hatful of mussels and other shellfish, and went back.

Drake woke as he was roasting his collection, and at once tried to sit up.

But he dropped back with a groan of pain.

"Feeling bad, old chap?" asked Roddy anxiously.

"I'm sore and stiff all over," said Drake ruefully.

"How's your head?"

"That's all right. And I'm hungry, too. There's not much the matter with me, Roddy, except bruises, but I'm afraid I shan't be much use to you or anybody else to-day."

"Don't worry about that. Just lie still, and I'll get you some grub. Afterwards, I'll give you a good rubbing with some of that brandy. That'll limber you up."

"But this means sticking here in the cave another day," said Drake anxiously. "What are we to do about food?"

"We shan't starve. There are stacks of mussels, Here, try some. They're not bad."

It was a weird mixture they had for breakfast—broiled mussels and cake, washed down by cold water from the pool. But Roddy was comforted by Drake's appetite. He was sure now that there was nothing seriously wrong.

As they ate, they talked over the possibility of escape.

"We ought to hung some sort of signal out of that hole," said Drake. "The chances are that Scott or someone will come cruising down the coast to look for us, and we ought to put something out for them to see."

"I'll fix up a flag," returned Roddy. "But I'm precious doubtful about anyone seeing it. There are such a lot of gulls about that nothing of that sort would be noticed unless it's pretty big. But I've another notion. I'm going to rig up one of these kegs with a little flag on top, and a message inside, and set it afloat with the ebb."

"That's a top-hole idea," exclaimed Drake. "Put out the flag first, Roddy, and meantime I'll fix up a message on one of the kegs. I can cut it with my knife."

"Sure you're fit?" asked Roddy anxiously. "You mustn't move about."

"I won't. It'll give me something to do. I can't lie here and watch those beastly stalactites. They give me the jumps. I keep on thinking they're going to drop on my head and squash me."

So Roddy found a sound keg for Drake, and then set to work to make a flag. Two handkerchiefs fastened to the end of their remaining Scout staff were the best he could manage, and with this he climbed up to the opening.

It was a brilliant day, and the air and bright light were delightful after the gloom of the cave. But there was still a stiff breeze blowing, and the surf broke heavily over the reefs below, flinging up snowy clouds of spray, which shone with all the colours of the rainbow in the sun.

Roddy saw plainly that, even if his little signal flag were noticed, it would be quite impossible for any boat to stand in near enough to take him and Drake off.

Even if it could, he didn't see how he and his chum could get down to the boat. Their rope was not long enough to reach the sea level, and even if it had been there was nothing to which they could fasten it while they climbed down.

The more he thought things over, the less he liked them. He and Drake seemed so utterly cut off from help.

And, if they were going to be imprisoned in this cave for any length of time, the big question was food. True, there were plenty of mussels, and these would sustain life for some time. But the prospect of breakfasting, dining, and supping on roast mussels day after day was not exactly encouraging, and after fixing his flag in position with stones, he set his wits to work to find some other source of food.

He had arranged the staff so that the flag fluttered clear outside the opening, and was taking a last look at the sunlit plain of sea below when a bird came whizzing straight for tie aperture, then, seeing him, turned in a hurry and made off.

But not before Roddy had recognised it as a rock pigeon, and it suddenly occurred to him that he had already seen one of these birds when he first woke. Rock pigeons, he knew, breed in caves, and unlike other birds lay eggs every month up to winter.

Eggs! The very thought made his month water, and he scrambled back, and down the steep descent into the cave, intent on finding the nests, if there were any.

He was hardly on the floor of the cave when a pigeon flew in and went straight back into the dimness under the great stalactites.

Roddy watched where the bird went, and followed. It was a tough scramble among the close-set, slippery pillars, but at last he found himself climbing up towards the back of the great cave.

It was so dark in here that he was forced to flash his torch. The moment he did so there was a simply tremendous rattle of wings, and at least a hundred birds rose in a cloud from a ledge up above, and went whirling round and round under the roof.

"Got 'em, by Jove!" exclaimed Roddy in delight.

But it was not so easy as he thought, and he had all he could do to reach the ledge.

At last he got his head over the edge, and such a reek met him as nearly made him sick. The smell was appalling.

Sneezing and choking, Roddy struggled up on to the ledge, and found it heaped two or three feet deep with a mass of dry, rotten rubbish, the remains of generations of nests. The birds must have been building there, undisturbed, for centuries. He sank into this up to his knees, and the dust which rose nearly suffocated him.

But he hardly noticed this. His eyes were fixed upon dozens of little milk-white eggs which lay in pairs in small hollows on the top of the rubbish.

He pounced on them with delight. Some were hard set. He could easily tell which by holding them close against his light. These he left, but he filled his cap with fresh eggs.

In some nests were fat young squabs. He took half a dozen of the largest, wrung their necks, and stowed them in his pockets. Then he climbed quickly down again, and went back towards the fire.

"See here, Drake," he cried triumphantly. "Here's a top-hole feed for both of us."

To his utter amazement, Drake had vanished. The fire was still burning, and there was Drake's seaweed bed beside it, but of Drake himself no sign at all.


"DRAKE, Drake, where are you?" he shouted.

"'Sh! Don't make a row," came back the answer, and Drake's head popped up from behind a rock. His face was white, and he looked oddly excited.

"What's the matter?" asked Roddy, coming forward quickly.

"There's someone in the cave. I heard him quite close, but when I got up he hooked it."

"Did you see him?"

"Not plainly. Just got a glimpse of him in the firelight. He was creeping along the ground."

"Where did he go?"

"Down towards the sea-pool."

"You stay here. I'll find him," said Roddy, and quickly laying his eggs by the fire, he turned and ran down the slope towards the pool.

As he neared it, he suddenly caught sight of some large, dark object moving apparently on all-fours across the fringe of seaweed and drift-wood by the water's edge.

Roddy flashed his light on to it, but all he could see was that it seemed to be dark in colour, and to have a round head. Then it went straight into the water. It did not jump in as a man would, but slipped in without a sound or a splash.

The daylight coming in under the arch made the water look like green glass, and Roddy stood staring, waiting for the mysterious visitor to appear on the surface. But all he could see was a sort of dark streak deep down, which looked like a big fish swimming fast. Nothing broke the surface.

"Well, that's the limit!" he exclaimed at last. "Where's it gone to?"

"What was it?—that's what I want to know," came Drake's voice nervously, and, looking round, Roddy saw that his chum had followed him.

"Drake, don't be an ass," said Roddy half angrily. "You know you ought to keep still."

"How can I keep still with brutes like this wandering about the cave? It's simply beastly."

Roddy walked over to the spot where their queer visitor had crossed the little beach, and held the lamp close to the ground. All of a sudden he burst into a shriek of laughter.

"Don't do that," said Drake sharply. "I simply can't stand those beastly echoes."

"Sorry, old chap, but I couldn't help it. And a minute ago I was just as scared as you."

"What is it, then? Have you found out?"

"Yes," replied Roddy, with a grin. "Nothing but a seal. Here are the marks of its flippers."

"And I thought it was some sort of sea-devil," said Drake, looking half ashamed of himself.

Roddy led Drake back to the fire, and made him sit down again while he himself roasted some of the eggs. Their breakfast had been a slim one, and the eggs were a treat.

Drake had finished cutting their message on the keg, and Roddy weighted it with stone, so as to make it float upright, and fixed a little flagstaff on the top with a piece of lining from his coat as a flag.

The tide was still on the ebb, so he went down to set this afloat, and while he did so got another idea. There were probably fish in the pool If they could only catch some, here would be a splendid addition to their larder.

He felt in his pockets, and found a penny coil of water-cord. He always carried some because it was the best sort of string for splicing purposes. But line was no use without a hook, and of hooks he had none.

It was Drake who solved the hook problem. He produced a couple of large needles from the lining of his coat, and suggested that by heating them in the fire and bending them on a stone they might serve the purpose.

Roddy spent the rest of the morning over this work, and by dinner-time had two quite serviceable hooks. He had a file in his pocket-knife, and with this he cut rough barbs.

He baited his hooks with bits of mussel, and started to work at once.

The first hook had not reached the bottom before he had a bite, and at once hauled in a nice little pollack of about half a pound. They bit like mad, and in half an hour he had two dozen.

"We shan't starve, anyhow," he told Drake cheerfully, as he set to work to split and grill his catch.

They feasted royally on eggs and fish, and when the meal was over Roddy announced his intention of going up to the window again to see if anything were in sight outside. Before he started he rolled up a big bundle of the tarred wrappings from the tobacco bale.

"What on earth are you going to do with those?" asked Drake in surprise.

"Signals," said Roddy. "When night comes I'm going to light them. A blaze half-way up the cliff face is a jolly sight more likely to attract attention than that twopenny-halfpenny flag of ours."

"Yes, if there's anyone to see. Try it, anyhow, Roddy. It's a good notion."

It was precious hard work climbing with the bundle of wrappers on his back. But Roddy had rigged the rope across the worst of the inner rock face, and he got up safely.

He laid his bundle down, and made his way through the ten-foot tunnel to the outer air, and the very first thing that his eyes lit upon was a fishing-boat—a trawler—beating southwards.

By the way she was heading he saw that she must have passed quite close to the cave mouth. Now, alas, she was the best part of a mile away, and the distance was increasing every moment.

A groan escaped him. If he had only been five minutes earlier!

He watched her with straining eyes. The sun, which had been hidden behind a cloud, came out and shone full upon her brown sails and on the white water spraying under her forefoot. He could even see the men on deck, though they were much too far off for him to recognise their faces.

But the boat herself. Surely there was something familiar about that suit of sails. They were new, and cleanly cut and set. Yes, there was no doubt about it. She was the Polly herself, and that tall man at the tiller was Barton.

He waved his flag desperately. He knew it was useless. The whole face of the cliff was whitened by the droppings of sea-birds. The tiny square of white would, of course, be invisible.

He shouted for all he was worth. But the hoarse roar of the surf below was enough to drown a sound a hundred times as loud.

The Polly glided on, and he watched her vanish behind the next point.

For the first time since the boulder falling down the shaft had carried away their ropes, Roddy felt absolutely desperate.

The more he thought of it, the more hopeless seemed the situation. Rack his brain as he might, he could see no way of getting out of the cave. The shaft was out of the question, the smugglers' way was blocked, and there was not rope enough to reach the sea from this window.

True, he might swim out through the sea-pool. But what was the use of that? Even if he could get clear of the surf that pounded on the reefs outside, there was no beach anywhere in sight to land on. It looked as though he and Drake were condemned to eternal imprisonment in this awful cave.

He glanced back through the tunnel into its gloomy depths, where the only ray of light was the distant red glow of the fire, and shivered.

There seemed nothing for it lilt to go back and tell Drake that the Polly had passed. But on second thoughts he decided not to say anything about it. Poor Drake! He was feeling bad enough already.

For a quarter of an hour or more Roddy sat with his legs dangling over the depths, and then scrambled to his feet. Before returning into the cave, he took one more look out over the sunlit expanse of sea, and suddenly a sharp exclamation of surprise escaped his lips.

Round the point, behind which the Polly had passed some twenty minutes previously, a small vessel was just coming into sight, beating back against the wind.

Within a few seconds she was in full view, and Roddy could hardly believe his eyes when he saw that she was the Polly again.

The Polly, and coming straight back into the bay!

Snatching up his flag, he began waving frantically, and shouting at the top of his voice. He felt that it was no use. They would never see him.

In a flash he remembered the load of tarred paper he had brought up. A smoke signal. Here was his chance. They must see that.

He dashed back, picked up the bundle, and stacked it on the ledge outside, holding it in position with loose bits of rock. Then he waited. He would not light it until the Polly came opposite.

To his joy, he saw her tacking right into the bay. The moments dragged by as he watched her beating slowly up. The breeze had fallen light, and it seemed all that she could do to make headway against the tide.

At last she was opposite, and with shaking fingers he struck a match, and set light to his little heap of tinder. It blazed up instantly, but there was more fire than smoke, and his heart sank again. They would never see it.

Once more he waved his flag and shouted.

The Polly was now close enough for him to be certain that the tall man at the tiller was Barton. There were two other people on her deck. One, he was almost sure, was Kirby Scott, while the other smaller one was probably Arnold Gillam.

Scott had something under his arm. It looked like a telescope. Presently he put it to his eye, and began scanning the cliffs.

Roddy almost burst his lungs shouting.

Suddenly Scott dropped his telescope, and began wildly waving his hand. At the next moment the Polly's course was changed, and she stood straight in towards the cave mouth.

Roddy gave a yell of triumph. They had seen him at last.

Splendidly handled by Barton, the trawler ran in as close as was safe, and anchored. Then her boat was launched in a hurry, and with Scott, Barton, and Arnold Gillam in her came flying towards the rocks.

Although the wind had dropped, there was still an ugly surf breaking among the reefs, and her crew stopped pulling and lay to outside the white water. Arnold Gillam jumped up, and, standing in the stern, began signalling vigorously to Roddy.

"How did you get there?" was his first question.

"Am in opening of cave," replied Roddy, using his arms. "Can get down inside. Rope not long enough for outside."

"How can we reach you?"

"Opening up above. Long rope wanted."

Roddy saw Scott speak to Arnold. Then Arnold began signalling again.

"Glass falling fast. No landing-place near. Have you food?"

"Yes, fish and pigeons' eggs. But Drake ill. No time to waste."

Scott spoke again. Arnold went on signalling.

"Scoutmaster says he will bring boat into cave, and take you off."

"No," signalled back Roddy in great haste. "Too dangerous. We can wait."

He knew that the tide was already at half-flood, and that, with this swell running, a boat would not stand a ghost of a chance.

All the same, the prospect of another night in this gloomy cavern went horribly against the grain.

Then, all in a flash, another idea came to him. The boat could not come in, but if the tide were not too high he could go out.

Again he began to work his arms.

"Can you lie off cave mouth?"


"Wait there, and I will swim out."

"What about Drake?"

"Will bring rope and tow him out."

"Scoutmaster thinks risky. Had you not better wait?"

"Coming if Mr. Scott permits."

Roddy saw Arnold turn and question Scott.

"Very well. Try it. Good luck," was Arnold's last signal.


"DRAKE, the Polly's outside. Scott's close in with a boat."

Roddy's news fairly electrified Drake. Forgetting his stiff joints and aching muscles, he sprang up with a shout of delight.

Then he remembered, and his face fell.

"How are they going to reach us? They can't get into the cave."

"No, but we can go out to them."


"I'm going to swim it, Drake. I'll take the line out and tow you. Think you can stand it?"

"Jove! I'd stand anything rather than stick in here. Roddy, this place fairly gives me the horrors. I think I'd go crazy if I had to stay here much longer."

As he spoke, he was hastily picking up his kit.

But Roddy stopped him.

"We shall have to leave everything, and go as light as we can. It's not going to be any sort of a joke getting out. There's no wind to speak of outside, but there's quite a sea still."

Drake gave the other a quick glance.

"I was forgetting," he said. "Look here, Roddy, is it good enough? I know you're a fair swimmer, but don't go risking it. After all, it won't hurt us to spend another night here."

Roddy laughed.

"Don't worry, old chap. It isn't as if it was a long swim. I can do it right enough. It's you I was thinking of. You're not very fit, you know."

"What's it matter if I've got a rope to hang on to? It's a soft thing for me. Come along."

Roddy had brought the rope with him from the window, and leaving their haversacks and everything else behind, they went straight down to the pool. The tide was not yet half flood, and there was still a space of about five feet between the lowest part of the arch and the water.

If it had only been calm it would have been child's play to swim out. It was the waves that made it risky. They came running in, one after another, long, slow swells, breaking with a hollow roar against the rock-bound sides of the gloomy basin. The largest of them almost touched the roof of the low-pitched arch.

Drake watched them uneasily.

"Roddy," he said earnestly, "don't go. It's not good enough."

But Roddy was already unlacing his boots.

"I can dive if one of those big chaps catches me," he said. "Here, let's have the rope."

Drake saw that it was no good objecting, and he helped his chum to make the rope fast round his body. Roddy waded down into the black, cold water and struck out.

The inner pool was not large. A dozen strong strokes carried him out to the arch. There he paused, treading water, waiting his chance.

A tall swell swept in, its foaming crest almost touching the smooth black roof. It lifted Roddy and carried him back some yards. Then he struck out again, and swam with all his might straight under the low arch.

The rope dragged him badly, and he wished it had been possible to buoy it. Long fronds of tough, leathery seaweed floating in the water seemed to clutch at his legs and arms. The roar of the water breaking in this confined space was deafening, but he could see the light ahead, and he drove forward towards it with all his strength.

The light grew clearer. He was almost through when out in the more open space beyond he saw a wall of bottle-green water sweeping inwards. It was another big wave—big enough to fill the passage to the very roof. Roddy had just time to fill his lungs with air and dive before it was upon him.

He felt himself crushed downwards by a huge weight. The salt water roared in his ears. All was blackness and confusion.

His lungs felt as though they were bursting, his head throbbed terribly. At last he could stand it no longer, and struck upwards again.

He shot up into air and light, and the cool damp air filled his choking lungs. To his intense relief, he found that he had lost little distance, and striking out again with all his might, he soon reached the outer cave.

The water was rough, the rope dragged heavily, but Roddy swam steadily towards the entrance.

As he reached it, a shout rang out above the hoarse roar of the surf, and he caught sight of Arnold Gillam standing up in the stern of the boat, and waving to him delightedly.

The boat itself was right in behind the reef, and only just outside the mouth of the cave. Barton and Scott were at the oars and holding her there, just under lee of the big pillar rock, where Scott himself had been found, clinging for dear life, on the day of his rescue.

Another minute, and Arnold was helping Roddy over the side.

"Jove! I'm glad to see you, old chap," said Arnold eagerly. "That big wave scared us. How's Drake? Where is he?"

"At the other end of the rope," answered Roddy, shaking himself like a big dog. "We've got to tow him out. Three sharp jerks are the signal."

He gave them as he spoke, and at once the rope began to slacken.

There followed several anxious minutes. Most fortunately there was not another big wave, and each time that one of the smaller ones went sweeping inwards, Roddy and Arnold slacked off pulling.

"Hurrah, there he is!" cried Arnold, as his quick eyes caught sight of a dark object just appearing out of the inner gloom.

The rest was easy, and in a few moments more Drake, badly done, but wonderfully cheerful, was safe aboard the boat.

"Give way!" roared Barton in his deep-sea bellow, and away shot the boat.

The two pairs of powerful arms sent her flying safely across the welter of foam in the channel through the reef, and she did not so much as graze one of the hidden rocks.

"Now then, all aboard, and sharp about it," said Barton, as they came foaming up under the Polly's counter.

Roddy was struck by the evident uneasiness of the big man, but before he could ask any questions, Scott had hustled him and Drake below, and was routing out a change for them.

He made them both strip and have a good rub down with rough towels before the galley stove. Like most officers of the mercantile marine, he had some rough knowledge of surgery, and when he heard of Drake's tumble on the previous day he made him lie down on a bunk, and overhauled him carefully.

"Baddish bruises," he said at last. "Luckily nothing worse. I must say you got off cheap, Drake. Most chaps would have broken their necks falling that distance. But you've had a nasty shake up, and the best thing yon can do is to turn in. I'll bring you some hot stuff to drink and then you'd best have a snooze."

He went back into the galley, got a tin of condensed milk, put half in a mug, mixed it with hot water, and put in a spoonful of rum.

"Better for him than coffee," he explained. "And I want him to get to sleep before it comes on to blow."

"Ah," answered Roddy, "Arnold said the glass was falling. Can't we run home before it comes on?"

"I've never seen a quicker drop, even in the China Seas," said Scott seriously. "The bottom's simply falling out of the barometer. Rut it beats me what's going to happen. Go up and see what Barton says, and then come down for some grub."

On his way up Roddy tapped the aneroid which hung on the cabin wall. The pointer flopped down nearly a tenth, and by the index it had fallen a good half-inch since morning.

"Phew! there must be something brewing," he murmured. "The sooner we're inside Portglask Harbour, the better."

Big Barton was at the tiller, and the Polly under all plain sail was beating northwards out of the bay. She was not making much progress, for the breeze had fallen dead light, and was coming in shifty cats'-paws from the west.

All the brightness had gone out of the day. The sky was covered with a dull haze, while the sea looked like lead. The air, too, had a curiously oppressive feeling.

Barton's face looked anxious, but he smiled as he saw Roddy.

"Glad to see you safe, youngster," he said in his big voice. "I never did know such a chap for getting into trouble and out of it again."

"By the look of the glass and the sky, we're not out of the wood yet," was Roddy's answer.

Barton shook his great head.

"True enough. I'd give a week's wages to be alongside Portglask Quay this minute. This isn't no place to be caught in a storm."

"What do you think it is—wind?"

"I can't rightly say. It's funny weather this. Seems to me more like thunder than aught, else. I didn't like the look of it this morning. The dawn was too high and clear, and they do say that, from the top of Pendarg Head, you could see clear across to the Irish coast."

"Then what made you come out?" asked Roddy. "Weather like this is no use for fishing."

Barton gave a short laugh.

"Fishing indeed! It was you we was looking for, not fish. Aye," he continued, "Mr. Scott, he come down to my place first thing this morning in a nice way, and told me as you two hadn't come home, and he must have the Polly out right away to look for you. And Evan Llewellyn, he and young Morgan and Guy Griffith, they've started out afoot to find you."

"I'm awfully sorry we gave so much trouble," answered Roddy. "It was only our rope breaking that hung us up."

He went on to tell Barton of their adventures in the cave, and the big man listened with evident interest.

"But what beats me," said Roddy, "is how you came to turn and beat back just after you'd passed the south point over there."

"If you'll go forrard, and look up in the bows, you'll see," replied Barton.

Roddy obeyed, and there in the bows lay the keg with the message and the little flag—the same that he had set afloat on the ebb early that morning.

"Aye, we picked it up floating," said Barton. "'Twas young Gillam as spotted it. A mighty good notion it was, too, and saved us going miles along down the coast."

He broke off with an impatient exclamation.

"I wish this pesky wind wouldn't keep chopping and changing like this," he growled. "'Tis dead ahead now."

As he spoke he shifted the tiller and the Polly's head fell off sluggishly.

The air seemed to be growing heavier every minute, and up in the north the haze had thickened to a blackness, like the fog that broods over London on a windless day. The waves had ceased breaking, and at first sight of the squall Barton had taken the tiller from Roddy.

"We'll have to run for it," he said. "No good trying to beat into this. I reckon it won't last long, anyhow."

Next instant the full weight of the blast struck the trawler. She heeled till her lee gunwale was level with the water, then answering her helm fell off, and next moment was racing southwards at tremendous speed.

The roar of the wind was terrific. It almost drowned the bellow of the thunder. But the lightning, darting and dancing in every direction, was proof of the tremendous electric forces which had been let loose. Flash after flash seemed to strike the sea quite close to the vessel, as she scudded across the surface like a scared rabbit.

At first there was little sea, and the Polly drove on a level keel like a steamer. But soon the waves began to rise, and the motion grew tremendous. It reminded Roddy of that night aboard the Nelly Grey, only this storm was infinitely worse than that gale.

"Lucky she's got new gear," shouted Barton in his ear, as the two clung side by side to the kicking tiller. Even Barton's giant strength was glad of Roddy's help. "We've got sea room now, and the only thing is to run until this has blown itself out. It won't be long, I reckon."

But Barton was wrong. Instead of blowing itself out, the storm grew worse rather than better.

It was now six in the evening, the enormous thickness of clouds had bidden the setting sun, and it grew so dark that the shore was blotted from view. The gloom was broken only by the constant blaze of lightning.

Scott came clawing his way across the streaming deck.

"How about the Bishop?" he asked anxiously. "Shall we be able to see the light in this smother?"

"I'm hoping to run outside of it, mister," answered Barton. "If I can get around the North Bishop, we'll have open sea in front of us. We needn't to worry about the South Bishop."

"Let me help you with the tiller," said Scott. "Roddy, you'd best go down and get some food."

Roddy felt the advice was good. He gave up his place to Scott and went below. Cooking, of course, was out of the question, but with Arnold's help he got out some tinned meat and bread and butter, and the two had a good feed.

"D'ye think we're all right, Roddy?" asked Arnold rather nervously. "Seems to me it's blowing harder than ever."

"It's a bad gale," admitted Roddy. "But the Polly is in good trim, and you couldn't have a better man than Barton at the tiller. We shall be all right."

He stepped across to the glass and tapped it.

"Ah, it's beginning to rise. That means that the worst is over."

"It doesn't sound like it. It's thundering worse than ever."

"I'll go up and have a squint. I don't think it'll last much longer."

He was swinging himself up through the little hatch, and had just got his head outside, when there came a glare of light such as might have been caused by the sudden explosion of a powder magazine.

For a fraction of a second the whole of the Polly and her surroundings stood outlined in fire. Roddy saw Barton and Scott staggering backwards. He saw the long line of a bilge wave curling in flaming foam just aft, while the whole sky above seemed one great arch of furnace-like brilliance.

At the same instant came a crash as if the very heavens had fallen—a sound so tremendous that it struck him like a blow and flung him backwards, dazed and stunned. He fell all in a heap on to the cabin floor below and lay there.


"RODDY! Roddy! What's happened?"

It was Arnold Gillam's voice which roused Roddy to a sense of his surroundings. Everything was pitch dark, for the swinging lamp had gone out, and there was no light in the cabin. Water was washing about on the floor. Up above there were loud shoutings.

Roddy struggled up to a sitting position. He felt stupid and half deaf, and there was a nasty tingling sensation in his left side.

"I don't know," he muttered. "I believe we were struck by lightning. I'll go up and see," he went on. "Give me a hand, Arnold. And then light the lamp, if you can."

Arnold helped him to his feet. He felt blindly for the table, and stood clinging to it while the dizziness passed off. The Polly was rolling fearfully. He heard the crash of seas upon her deck, and the water was streaming down in a torrent through the open hatch.

Then a match was struck, and its tiny flame threw a thin gleam over the rough little cabin.

"It's no good. The lamp's broken," said Arnold.

"Never mind. I'll go on deck and see what's up," returned Roddy. "Call Drake. But don't come up till you get the word."

Pulling himself together, he scrambled up the companion and got on deck, but it was so dark that at first he could not make out anything. Then, as his eyes began to recover from the effects of the lightning, he saw to his horror that the mast was gone.

At that moment big Barton came rushing aft.

"That you, Kynaston? Get them other boys up. The Polly's done."

"What's up? What's happened?"

"Struck by lightning. Bursted the mast into kindling wood. Everything's gone over the side altogether, and I'm feared the wreckage has holed her. When you've got them others up, stand by to launch the boat."

"Arnold! Drake! Up you come!" shouted Roddy, leaning over the hatch.

They wasted no time in scrambling up, and Roddy bade them hold on tight and stay where they were until the boat could be got over.

"There's no great hurry," came a quiet voice behind him. It was Scott, who was still at the tiller. "We're safe enough for a bit," he continued. "The wreckage has made a sort of drag like that sea anchor of yours, Roddy. It's holding us head to wind all right."

"But Barton thinks she's holed."

"I dare say she is, but even so she won't sink just yet. And the longer we can stay by her the better for us. The worst of the blow is over, and presently the sea will begin to go down."

Another flash of lightning bathed the whole scene in bright white light, and showed the poor dismasted Polly wallowing helpless among the wild breakers. In spite of Scott's cheering words, Roddy's heart sank. Their case looked about as hopeless as it well could. Scott seemed to understand Roddy's feelings.

"It's really not so bad as it looks," he said. "The wind's veering north already. It's going round the right way. The eye of the storm has passed, and you'll probably see it drop as quickly as it came up."

"Any idea where we are?" asked Roddy.

"Not much. But we held her out to sea all we could, and I fancy we're well clear of the Bishop. One thing you can do, Kynaston. Get some lifebelts and make Drake and Arnold put 'em on. They may come in handy."

Roddy dived below and got the belts. The Polly was better provided in this respect than most craft of her kind. But there was now a foot of water on the cabin floor, and this and the sluggish motion of the poor little craft told its tale. She was leaking like a sieve, and Roddy knew that she was doomed. The only question was how long she would float.

He hurried on deck again, and told Scott.

"Never mind," said the latter. "We'll hang on a while yet. The wind's dropping."

He was right. The wind was falling fast, but it was raining hard, and so thick that, even if the Bishop or any other lighthouse had been quite close, they could not have seen it.

It was wonderful how quickly the storm passed. Within another quarter of an hour there was no more than a fair breeze blowing, and the rain, which was still falling heavily, was fast bringing down the sea.

Barton had got the pump to work, but though the water gushed steadily out of the scuppers it was clear that it was coming in far faster than it could be got out. And the worst of it was that the hole was out of sight, below the water-line. They could not possibly get at it.

"It's no use," said Roddy sadly. "We shall never be able to save her."

"I'm afraid not," answered Scott quietly. "Still, we ought to be grateful that it's no worse. If that flash had sunk her at once, as it very well might, we should have all been done for. The boat could never have lived in the sea that was running then."

"But the poor Polly" groaned Roddy.

"Ah, I know the way you feel about her," said Scott. "One does get fond of a craft after pulling her out of trouble."

He broke off and stared round.

"I wish it wasn't so abominably dark," he murmured. "If we could only see where we were we might have a chance to beach her. As it is—" he ended with a shrug of the shoulders.

The Polly settled fast. Her deck was barely eighteen inches above the sea, and the swell broke heavily over.

"She won't last more than another ten minutes," said Barton. "I reckon we'd best get the boat over, hadn't we, Mr. Scott?"

"Wait as long as ever you can," advised Scott. "Remember there are five of us. It's a big load for a bit of a tub like that."

"Aye, it is that. And the worst is I haven't a notion where we are. I reckon we ran a goodish way during that blow."

Silence fell among the little group who stood close together in the stern of the Polly, as the doomed craft sank slowly lower and lower.

"Time we was off, I reckon, if we don't want her to sink under us," said Barton.

"Got everything in the boat?" asked Scott.

"Aye, we've put in some biscuits and a barrel of water and a compass. There's no room to carry aught else but ourselves. Come on, boys."

There was little difficulty in launching the boat, for the deck of the trawler was almost level with the sea. They packed themselves in carefully and pushed off.

It was a very big load for so small a craft, and the boat lay dangerously low in the water. Fortunately the sea had gone down a lot, and the waves were not breaking any longer.

They pulled a few lengths away and waited for the end. It was not long in coming. Presently the Polly's stern rose slightly, her bows vanished, and she slid softly down under the black, heaving sea.

"We weren't any too soon," said Barton mournfully. "Give way, Mr. Scott. We may as well get as close inshore as we can. We'll be more likely to be picked up when light comes."

All alone in the black night the little boat crawled slowly across the long swells left by the gale. All in her strained their eyes for any light, but there was none to be seen. The rain still fell steadily.

No one spoke, and the silence was only broken by the slow wash of the waves and the creaking of the oars in the rowlocks.

"Look here, we shall all get the blues pretty soon," said Roddy suddenly. "Can't someone strike up a song?"

"I'll try," volunteered Arnold Gillam, and began on "Tom Bowling." He had a nice voice, and the others soon joined in.

"A good notion of yours, Roddy," whispered Scott in Roddy's ear. "Keep it up."

They did, but even so the time dragged sadly, and it seemed as though the night would never end.

The rain stopped at last, and it grew a trifle less inky black. Suddenly Scott declared that he could hear surf breaking somewhere near.

"Aye, I hear it, too," said Barton. "It sounds to me like a sand-bank."

"It must be," replied Scott. "If we were close to rocks we ought to see them."

They were all peering in the direction of the sound when Drake gave a sharp exclamation.

"Look out! There's a steamer bearing down upon us."

"Aye, the lad's right," said Barton. "There's her lights. A biggish craft by the look of her. Shout, all of you. Mebbe she'll hear and pick us up."

Shout they did, and pulled towards her.

She came on at a great rate, but did not appear to change her course.

They yelled again. The steamer was now within less than three hundred yards. She was plugging along at a good fourteen knots, and the sound of her engines was plainly heard.

"It's no use," growled Barton. "They won't pay no attention. We'd best make for that beach, whatever it is. At any rate, 'twill give us a chance to stretch our legs."


The shipwrecked party yelled again. "It's no use,"
growled Barton. "They won't pay no attention."

The steamer swept past without pausing.

"Look out for her bow wave!" cried Scott sharply, and pulled his oar hard.

He was just too late. A steep, wall-like wave came sweeping up, and broke clean over the counter of the overladen boat. In an instant she had filled and sunk, leaving her crew struggling in the water.

Roddy caught hold of the gunwale of the boat as she went down, and with the other hand grabbed at someone splashing alongside. It was Drake.

"I'm all right," said Drake coolly. "Look out for Davies, Roddy."

"I've got hold of Davies," came Big Barton's voice.

"Are you all there?" asked Scott. "Where's Arnold Gillam?"

"Here, sir," came Arnold's voice out of the darkness close at hand. "I've got a belt on."

"I reckon we'd best make for that beach," said Barton. "It can't be a great way off."

"But what about Davies? Can he swim?" asked Scott.

"I can't swim a bit, sir," answered the man in a half-choked voice.

"Here's an oar," said Barton cheerily. "Hang on to it, and I'll tow you ashore."

"How about the boat?" asked Drake. "Can't we tow her in?"

"It's not worth trying," returned Scott decidedly. "Not in this sea. She's too heavy, and would only wear us out. We'd never get her through the surf. Follow me, and all keep close, and don't lose sight of one another."

He struck out as he spoke in the direction of the land.

They could not see it, but the white line of breaking surf was just visible, and gave them their direction.

Roddy stayed by Drake, for though the latter could swim as well as anybody, Roddy knew that he was still very stiff and sore from the effects of his tumble in the cave.

Barton looked after Arnold Gillam, who was not much of a swimmer, though with his belt he was safe enough, and Scott towed Davies.

The white line grew nearer, and the noise of the surf louder. Soon Roddy found himself in broken water.

"It's all right," came Scott's strong, cheery voice. "The waves are not breaking badly. Watch your chance, and come in on top of one."

Roddy waited, treading water. A big swell lifted him.

"Now then, Drake," he cried. "Strike out for all you're worth."

Drake did so, and side by side he and Roddy shot shorewards.

"It's all right. We're in our depth," he shouted, as the wave broke in a crash of pale foam. "Get your feet down."

He seized Drake's arm and staggered forward, dragging the other up on to the bank.

Scott and Davies came plunging alongside.

"There's Barton just behind us. Ah, and Arnold with him," said Scott. "Well done, all of you."

"I wonder where we are," remarked Drake.

"A mud-bank by the feel of it," answered Roddy. "Come farther up. It's soft as pitch."

As he spoke he felt his feet sinking, and, seizing Drake, pulled him quickly forward.

Scott and Davies came hurrying after them, and Barton and Arnold just behind.

"Nice spot this," came Barton's tremendous bellow. "Must be one o' them Bristol Channel mud-banks."

"It is a bit sticky," admitted Scott. "It'll be better higher up. Let's push on."

Roddy, who had stopped for a moment to let the others catch up, felt that the mud was over his boot tops. It was sticky as well as soft, and he had difficulty in getting his feet clear.

They all tramped on together. It was impossible to go fast, for at each step their feet stuck as if they were walking on fly-paper.

They had not travelled fifty yards before a fresh line of white came in sight.

"Here's a go," said Barton in a disgusted tone.

"It's nothing but a bank. And goodness only knows how far we are from land."

He had pulled up as he spoke. Next moment he gave a sharp exclamation.

"Why, it's as soft here as anywhere," he cried, as he wrenched his feet free, and began moving again. "There's nothing solid to stand on at all."

All the others were moving their feet. They found that if they stood still in one place for more than a few seconds, they began to sink with alarming rapidity.

"Ugh, 'tis a regular mud-pie," growled old Davies, doing a sort of slow step-dance.

Scott's voice broke in sharp and distinct:

"It's not mud at all. It's quicksand."


THE words sent a cold chill down Roddy's spine. He had once seen an unfortunate pony bogged in a quicksand on a Yorkshire beach, and, though everything possible was done, they could not get the animal out, and in pity it had to be shot before the tide reached it. The idea that he and his companions were standing on the surface of such a living grave was horrible.

He stooped and felt the stuff. One touch was enough. He remembered the feel of it only too well. It was not mud at all, but that fine, flour-like sand which, when water-soaked, draws everything down into its depth.

"Quicksand," he heard old Davies mutter. "Then Heaven help us. We'd best ha' sunk wi' the Polly."

"There's no use in talking that way, Davies," cut in Scott's voice, sharp and clear. "It's not the sort of quicksand that swallows you up as soon as you put foot on it. You know that much already. All we've got to do is to keep moving. So long as we move we're safe. Besides, there's always a chance that we may find a bit of sound ground somewhere on top of the bank."

"That's the way to talk," said Barton approvingly. "Never say die, lads, until ye've got to. Forward all. Quick march!"

"And keep close together," added Scott. "Then if one sinks, the others can pull him out."

They tramped on in silence. Although Scott's brave words had put a little heart into them, each was secretly very near to panic. Scott led the way round the island. It was so small that—slowly as they went—it only took ten minutes to make the circuit.

And not one foot of firm ground could they find on the whole of it.

"What's the time?" whispered Drake in Roddy's ear.

"Haven't a notion, old chap, and I daren't stop and strike a match. I don't suppose my watch is going, either."

He took it out, and held it to his ear.

"Yes, it is going."

"What about your torch?"

Roddy tried it, but the soaking in sea water had finished the battery.

"It must be getting near morning," he said encouragingly. "Then something is sure to sight us, and we'll get taken off."

Drake did not reply, but Roddy heard him beginning to breathe heavily. Roddy grew desperately anxious. He knew that Drake had by no means recovered from his fall, and he wondered how on earth he would last till daylight. Even he himself was beginning to feel the strain of this ceaseless tramping. He put his arm under Drake's, and helped him all he could.

Old Davies began to lag.

"Keep it up, Davies," said Barton. "It's near high tide. Maybe the ground will be firmer on the ebb."

"I wonder if there's firmer ground under the water," suggested Arnold Gillam. "We might strike solid bottom there."

"I don't think there's a chance of it," answered Scott. "But I'll try."

"Best not, sir," said Barton sharply.

But Scott had already waded in.

Next moment he came staggering out.

"I don't want to try that again," he said gaspingly. "It's ten times worse than this. It was all I could do to break away."

Roddy himself was getting badly fagged, and he began to wonder how Drake kept up at all. They could not rest for an instant. At every step their feet sank, and the effort required to withdraw them was frightfully exhausting.

"Roddy, I'm done!" gasped Drake at last.

"You must keep up," exclaimed Roddy desperately. "Look, I believe that's the dawn beginning to break."

Drake pluckily staggered on a few steps. Then he stopped and would have fallen if Roddy had not managed to hold him up.

"Mr. Scott, Drake's done up. He can't walk any more," he cried.

"Try lying down. Flat on the sand. It throws your weight on a larger area. There's a chance that it may work."

Drake dropped flat upon the sand, flinging his arms and legs wide apart. Even so, the treacherous stuff began to swallow him, but by rolling over every few moments he managed to keep from sinking too far.

"Tell you what," said Roddy, struck by a sudden idea. "If we all stripped off our coats, and laid them down like a sort of carpet, one of us might lie on them and rest. We could take it by turns."

"Yes, it might work," answered Scott. "It's worth trying, anyhow."

Moving round and round in a small circle, they all pulled off their coats, and laid them down. While doing so, Roddy waited too long in one spot, and his right leg slipped in up to the knee. Scott flung himself flat on the coats, and seized hold of him, and, with a desperate effort, managed to wrench him free.

The sweat was pouring off them both by the time they had managed to get on their feet again, and Roddy was shaking all over with fright.

Scott ordered him to take first turn at lying down on the coats. He tried it, and to his intense relief found that they bore his weight. It was like scrambling out of deep water on to a raft, and he lay breathing deeply, and getting all he could out of his few moments of rest.

But he could not lie there long. It was horrible to watch the others, all so worn out that they could hardly stand, tramping endlessly round and round, unable to stand still for a single moment. He was up again very soon, and gave his place to Drake.

Presently they found that the coats would, by constant shifting, bear two at a time. And, taking turns, they managed to keep going, while slowly—very slowly—the cloud-laden sky turned from black to grey.

At last the dawn broke, and showed the narrow, dun-coloured sand-bank, with miles of dark, heaving water on all sides.

Far away to the south-westward, they saw the smoke of two steamers, but no sail broke the desert-like expanse of sea which lay to the north or east. The clouds lay heavy and leaden and not a gleam of sunlight brightened the gloomy morning. But the wind had fallen, and the sea was almost calm.

All six of the unfortunate prisoners on the quicksand were soaked to the skin. They were worn, pale, and exhausted, and it was quite plain that, unless help came soon, they must give up their hopeless struggle.

Scott had widened his circle, and was walking as near the water's edge as he dared. Roddy saw that he was staring at the sea. Scott turned and came back.

"Roddy, look across there," he said, pointing. "Do you see anything?"

Roddy, still ceaselessly moving his feet, stared in the direction indicated.

"Yes. Why, it's—it's our boat!"

"I thought so," said Scott, and his voice quivered a little with excitement. "She's drifted in, and grounded, and now the ebb is leaving her."

He turned to the others.

"Lads, I'm going after her. It's our one chance. If I get to her, and she isn't stuck in the sand, I'm going to try to beach her. Even if we can't float her, we can rest in her."

"I'll come and help, sir," said Roddy quickly.

Scott gave him a sharp glance.

"No, old chap," he said kindly. "You're too badly done. I'll take Barton this time."

"You'll be careful, sir?" begged Roddy. He had already grown very fond of the quiet, capable young Scoutmaster of the Seals.

Scott nodded, and he and Barton hurried away to the water's edge.

The others watched in desperate anxiety.

"Think they'll do it, Roddy?" murmured Arnold Gillam. "It's worse under the sea than up here. Scott only just managed to get out when he tried going into the water before."

Roddy did not answer. His eyes were fixed on Scott and Barton. Scott, he noticed, led the way at a run, going as fast as ever he could. He reached the water's edge in safety, Barton close at his heels. Almost at once he was in up to his waist.

"He's goin'. He's done!" shrieked poor old Davies.

There was a moment of dreadful suspense.

"No, he's found water deep enough to swim in. He's not in the sand. He's all right," shouted Roddy, as Scott flung himself forward and struck out.

The boat was barely thirty yards from the shore, and her cocked-up bow was already showing above the last of the ebb. A couple of minutes, then a shout went up from the four on the island, as they saw that the other two had reached her.

But she was fast in the sand, and when Scott and Barton put their feet down in order to lift her, they both began to sink in the slime.

"Try the bottom boards, sir," shouted Roddy. "Lift them out if you can, and use them to stand on."

The advice was good. With some difficulty Barton wrenched out the boards, and these gave him and Scott a firm foothold. Standing upon them, they tugged and wrenched with all their might.

"Hurrah! She's coming!" shouted Roddy and Arnold Gillam together.

A last heave, and the boat wallowed upwards. Of course, she was full of water, but she had buoyancy enough to float with her gunwale above the surface.

"The canvas bucket is in her. I tied it to the forward thwart," called out Roddy from the shore.

"Good man!" answered Scott approvingly. It was a bit of good seamanship which he appreciated. He had the bucket free in a minute, and began baling for all he was worth. Barton helped, using his great hands to scoop the water out.

Roddy could wait no longer.

"Let me come and help," he begged.

"All right," answered Scott. "But swim. Don't wade. The bottom is terribly bad."

Tired as he was, the hope of getting away had put fresh life into Roddy. He was instantly splashing out through the shallow water.

He used his cap to bale, and as the sea was luckily quite calm under lee of the bank, they soon had the boat empty and floating.

Within an hour from the time that Scott had first spotted her, the whole six were safe in the boat.

And now they found that they only had one oar. The other had been lost when they sank. But they had the bottom boards, and while one rowed on one side two paddled on the other, and, shaping their course due north, they made as much speed as their aching muscles allowed.

Roddy looked back at the low-lying bank of sand.

"Ugh, I hope I'll never see that again as long as I live," he said, with a shiver.

"So do I," answered Drake, who lay, looking very white and worn, in the bottom of the boat. "Where are you making for, Mr. Scott?"

"For the nearest point of coast. We're in the Bristol Channel. I can tell that by the colour of the water and the run of the tide. If we keep north we're bound to strike the coast. You see, the flood will be making soon, and that will give us a lot of easting."

Work as they might, progress was very slow. But after a time the morning began to grow brighter. The rain stopped, and the clouds thinned.

Presently Roddy stretched out his arm and pointed northwards.

"Isn't that land?" he asked sharply.

Scott looked up.

"Land it is. Skomer Island, if I'm not mistaken."

"Aye, and a craft o' some sort under the loom of it," added Barton. "But she won't be no use to us. She'll be rounding the island to the north'ard."

"It's a shocking long way to the island," said Arnold Gillam. "We shall be all day getting there at this rate."

"We shan't touch the island," answered Scott rather grimly. "The tide'll carry us miles to the eastward."

"Then we shall jolly well starve before we get anywhere," said Arnold, trying to laugh. But it was a poor attempt. He, like the rest of them, was growing weak for want of food. Their exertions on Quicksand Island had taken it out of them all fearfully, and they were not only hungry, but thirsty as well.

The wind had quite gone, and it was dead calm. Presently the clouds broke, and a gleam of sun leaked through. Roddy had given up his paddle to Davies, and now stood up and stared across at Skomer.

"Mr. Scott," he announced suddenly, "that vessel is not going north. She's heading south. And, if I'm not badly mistaken, she's the Dunlin herself."

"The Dunlin?" exclaimed Barton. "Aye, the lad's right. 'Tis the Bogey Man herself."

Scott shipped his oar, and, cupping his hands over his eyes, stared at the long, black craft.

"If she keeps her course, she'll run within a mile of us," he said, with a little thrill in his voice. "Up with the oar. Lash it to the forrard thwart, and tie a coat on it for a distress signal."

This was done, and, with straining eyes, they watched the gunboat slowly grow larger as she approached.

"Hurrah, they've spotted us!" shouted Roddy at last. "See, there's a signal. Yes, and they're coming straight down to us."

Soon she was near enough for them to see the white feather of foam sprouting under the keen stem of the long yacht-like craft. Another five minutes and she was within hailing distance.

"Boat ahoy!" came a voice. "What's up?"

"Everything's down except ourselves," shouted back Roddy. "We're wrecked, and hungrier than we were when you picked us up last time."

"Why, it's young Kynaston again, isn't it?" came back the cheery voice of Lieutenant Selby. "Wait a jiff! I'll slow down, and you come alongside."

Forgetting fatigue, they paddled like fury, and as the Dunlin lost way they drove the boat alongside. A ladder was dropped in a hurry, and all six scrambled aboard as fast as they could go.

"You're a nice chap," said Selby, greeting Roddy with a humorous smile on his keen, sunburnt face. "'Pon my word, you're a regular wrecker. But come below, all of you. By your looks, you've had a mighty rough passage this time. Quartermaster, get that boat aboard," he continued, "and tell my steward to hurry up with breakfast."

The good fellow could not do enough, for them. He routed out dry clothes. There are always plenty of "lammies" to spare in any ship of war. He got them baths. As for Drake, he put him straight into a bunk.

Breakfast was rushed forward, and the savoury smell of frying bacon and hot coffee came from the little galley aft.

Soon Roddy and Arnold and Scott and Barton were seated round the table in Selby's own cabin. Old Davies was being looked after forrard. He would be more comfortable with the crew. And all were tucking in with such appetites as the city man never knows.

While they ate they talked. Roddy told about his and Drake's adventures in the great sea cave, then Scott took up the tale of the storm, the wreck of the Polly, and the awful hours on Quicksand Island.

"My only aunt, you do manage to hit it, you chaps!" was Selby's comment. "And by this time, I suppose, your relatives and friends are preparing for your funerals. Strikes me, I'd better get my wireless to work. And I'll tell you what, I'm not busy. I'll run you straight back to Portglask."

"That's awfully good of you, sir," said Roddy gratefully. "Are you sure it's not taking you out of your way?"

"Not a bit. The trawlers have ceased from troubling for the present. As a matter of fact, that gale last night forced 'em all to run for shelter. I'm afraid it did a lot of damage."

He went on deck, and gave the necessary orders. When he came down again he found Roddy and Arnold dead asleep in their chairs.

"They've had a rough time of it, Mr. Selby," said Scott apologetically.

"Poor young beggars, I should think they had. Help me lift 'em on to the sofas. Then turn in and take a chair yourselves."

Roddy never woke until the Dunlin was safely anchored in Portglask Bay. He felt quite himself again when Selby roused him, and told him that the boat was alongside to take him and his companions ashore.

After thanking the kindly lieutenant most heartily for all he had done for them, the crew of the Polly were ferried in to the quay, where all their own people were anxiously awaiting them.

Roddy's first inquiry was for the guardship. He was afraid that she might have suffered in the gale, but much to his relief he heard that she was all right.

That thunderstorm, however, broke up the weather entirely, and for the next three days there were heavy showers and squalls, while the glass kept on dropping till it was down below twenty-nine inches.

On the fourth evening it began to blow in earnest, and Roddy and Arnold and Joe Morgan went up to the Valiant to snug everything down and make her safe against the weather.

The gusts were shrieking across the marshes, and even the creek was full of leaping white caps as they finished their task and started for home. On the sea-wall they could hardly stand against the gale.

"We're in for a proper storm to-night," remarked Joe Morgan, as the three struggled along, with their heads bent against the bellowing wind.

The words were hardly out of his mouth before there came a booming sound from the direction of the bay.

All three pulled up sharply, and stared out into the fast-gathering darkness. Next moment a streak of fire flashed upwards from the distance, and burst in a shower of sparks against the lowering sky.

"Ship on the Tusker," said Joe briefly. "This'll be a lifeboat job."


WITHOUT another word all three started running, and in a very few minutes were back in the town. They took a short cut straight for the beach, and as they reached it almost ran into Evan Llewellyn, who was hurrying in the same direction.

"It's a schooner on the Tusker," he told them. "And the sooner we get out to her the better. She won't last long in this sea."

"What about the crew of the lifeboat?" asked Roddy quickly. "Shall we fetch them out?"

"That's just what I want. I was looking for messengers," answered Llewellyn. "Wait, I've got the list of the names of the men, and their addresses."

"Oh, we know those," said Roddy. "Part of our job, you see. Arnold, you find Williams and Lloyd. Joe, you fetch Gault and Trinder and Fargus. Their houses are all close together; I'll manage the rest."

"My goodness, but they're smart, those lads!" said the coastguard, as he watched the three vanish in different directions.

They wasted so little time that within twenty minutes from the first signal of distress, the Portglask lifeboat was manned, and the Scouts, assisted by a crowd of fishermen, were sending her sliding down the greased ways into the sea.

Huddled under the lee of the harbour watch-house, the boys waited to see if they could be of any use.

Portglask was proud of her lifeboat. She was of the latest pattern, fitted not only with air reservoirs and cork belt, but also with self-acting valves to let out the water if she were swamped. She had a double bottom, and was self-righting.

Even so, it seemed a miracle that she could make her way against the hurricane fury of the great gale. The huge crested seas chased one another in a mad, roaring tumble, while the whole air was thick with spindrift torn by the fury of the wind from their tumbling summits. This scurrying mist stung the face like needles.

The lifeboat, driven by the strong arms of her crew, pressed slowly seawards across the furious billows. Now she vanished in a leaden valley, again she was tossed up high against the gloomy sky, while the hearts of those on shore beat hard as they watched her gallant struggle against the fury of the storm.

Presently she disappeared into the gloom, and strain their eyes as they might they could no longer see anything more of her.

"How long will she be?" asked Arnold.

Roddy shook his head.

"No one can tell. I only hope they get there in time. It's an awful night."

Joe Morgan, who had been standing a little in front of the other two, turned sharply.

"Did you see anything over there to the southward?" he asked sharply.

"No, did you?" asked Roddy.

"I thought I did. Yes, there it is again. Another rocket."

They all saw it this time, and there was a moment's silence as the streak of fire showed up through the black storm.

"But that's not from the wreck," said Arnold Gillam.

"Not the first wreck," answered Roddy very gravely. "It's another craft in trouble. What's to be done? There's no other lifeboat within miles."

"She's mighty close in," said Joe Morgan, as he stared out through the gloom. "She'll be on that shelf o' rock under the south cliff."

"What—opposite that strip of shingle?" asked Roddy sharply.

"Aye, that's it."

"That's barely fifty yards off the shore, as the tide is now."

"Aye," said Joe again in his quiet way. "It's not a ship's length from the shore."

"Then a rocket could be put over her easily," added Drake Denny, who had just joined them.

"Yes, if the chaps could get the rocket apparatus down on that bit o' beach," said Joe. "But that's the rub. There's only that narrow little footpath down the cliff. It's a bad place in daylight, let alone night, and a storm like this."

"But we could get down," cried Roddy eagerly.

"Mebbe we could, but what good 'ud that be?" answered Joe. "We couldn't get a line out to the wreck without the rocket."

"We might," put in Roddy quickly. "What about a heaving-cane?"

"What's that?"

"A leaded cane. Scott showed me how to make it. I've got one at home. I'll fetch it. Go on round, you chaps. I'll catch you up."

By this time a third rocket had risen from the wreck under the south cliff, and the few men who remained, braving the fury of the storm, had noticed it. Headed by Evan Llewellyn, the good fellows rushed off to get out the rocket apparatus.

But this took time, and then they had to haul it a mile round the cliff tops over a steep sheep path. They had hardly started before the four Scouts had met on the top of the cliff.

By this time it was so dark that it was impossible to see anything twenty yards away. But a dim light was visible swinging to and fro a little way out to sea, and a long way below them. It was the masthead light of the wrecked vessel.

Up on the exposed summit of the cliff the wind was fierce. It was almost impossible to stand against its fury. Down below, the giant breakers crashed against the rocks with a force that sent gusts of salt spray flying a hundred feet into the air.

"It's going to be an awkward job to get down," shouted Joe Morgan. He had to shout to be heard at all above the din of waves and wind.

"Better all hang on to my rope," advised Roddy.

"Not a bad notion," answered Drake. "I'll go first. I know the path better than the rest of you."

The path down the face of the south cliff was the sort that a nervous man might be pardoned for avoiding, even in broad daylight. It was not a yard wide anywhere, and it was steep as the roof of a house. In this black darkness and yelling storm it seemed sheer suicide to attempt to descend it.

But the boys were so full of the peril of the poor souls out there under that swinging lantern, that they hardly gave a thought to their own danger. And, lucidly, Drake knew every turn of that narrow descent as well as the stairs in his own house. He led them surely, shouting out directions as to where to turn, and how to step.

And so, very slowly, but quite safely, they came to the bottom, and the shingle crunched under their feet.

The wind was south-west, so here on the beach was a little shelter from the furious rush of the gale. Even so, when the gusts came they formed a sort of whirlwind which whipped the fine shingle into their faces.

"Can you see her, Roddy?" shouted Drake in his chum's ear.

"I think so. Just a black outline. Wait till I get out my torch. We must signal to her."

He unbuttoned his coat, got out his lamp, and began flashing a message in Morse.

For some minutes there was no reply.

"They must be all washed overboard," murmured Arnold, with a catch in his voice.

The next moment a light appeared. A blue flare was lit aboard the wreck, and its lurid light glared out through the darkness, and threw up the wild scene in strong relief.

They saw the whole of the ship, a small, single-funnelled tramp steamer. A wave had flung her clean on to the shelf, and she was stuck there, with her bow cocked high in the air, and the waves leaping over her like a cataract. Her mast was gone, and most of her superstructure, as well as all her boats, had shared the same fate.

Her bridge and deckhouse were still left, and under lee of the latter crouched a number of men.

She was barely forty yards from the shore, but the gap was filled with a mad chaos of leaping foam in which nothing built by man could have survived for five seconds.

As the flare blazed up Roddy rushed down to the water's edge. The flare, he knew, would last only a few moments. There was no time to be lost if he were to take advantage of the light.

In his right hand he held the throwing-stick. It was a piece of stout cane about eighteen inches long, with a head made of a pound and a half of lead. At the handle end was a becket or loop of leather spliced on with waxed thread, and to this Roddy rapidly made fast his coil of light heaving-line.

Holding the line in his hand, with the cane and lead hanging down like a pendulum, he spun round three or four times, then, as soon as the lead rose level with his shoulder, let go.

Roddy had practised this method of throwing during many a spare hour, and now his aim did not fail him. With a bullet-like whiz the leaded cane shot out in a great curve high above the roaring surf. Straight it flew for the deckhouse, behind which the wrecked crew were sheltering.

"Good shot, Roddy!" cried Drake. "Oh, good shot!"

And then, just as the blue light burnt down and died to a flicker, there came an answering shout from the wreck.

"Have they got it?" asked Roddy anxiously.

"Rather!" exclaimed Drake. "See, they're signalling that it's reached them."

As he spoke, a little flash of light came from the wreck. How it was made the boys did not know, but it gave them the welcome news that the line had reached the doomed vessel.

A few moments' anxious waiting, then came three jerks on the line, the shore end of which Roddy still held. He knew what it meant, and began to haul in.

Ordinarily speaking, in a rescue by rocket it is the rocket crew who send out the lifeline and hawser, on which is run the cradle, or breeches buoy. But the boys, of course, had not been able to bring anything more than the throwing-line, and, fortunately, the people on the ship understood this, and realised that they must themselves supply the stout rope to carry the cradle.

Presently Roddy had got all his line back, and found attached to the end of it a stouter cord. The others gave a hand, and they hauled this in as quickly as possible.

By the feel of it, there was something pretty heavy at the end, and, sure enough, out of the welter of foam there appeared the end of a hawser, and fastened to it another rope, strong, but not so heavy.

With his lamp Roddy signalled that they had these safe, and once more a feeble cheer came out of the blackness beyond.

"We must make our end fast to something," Roddy told the others. "Well up the beach, if possible. We ought to get the hawser stretched as high as we can over the sea."

"There's a pointed rock just below the foot o' the path," said practical Joe Morgan. "I reckon that'll do."

The wet hawser was weighty, but the four rushed it up the beach, and made it fast to the pointed rock with all speed. The storm was, if possible, worse than ever, and they all knew that the wrecked vessel might begin to break up at any moment.

As soon as the hawser was secured at the shore end, Roddy signalled again. By this time someone on the wreck, an officer probably, had managed to get hold of an electric lamp, and its little winking flashes replied to those of Roddy's lamp.

"They've got their end fixed to the stump of the mast," Roddy translated to his companions. "There's a man getting into the cradle. He's in. Now, then, haul away. Slowly, mind, and carefully. Don't be in a hurry. If the endless line fouls, we may tip the poor chap out, and drown him."

The lighter line, which had come ashore with the hawser, was endless—that is, it was a long loop running through a block attached to the broken mast just below the point at which the hawser was made fast. Its use was to pull the cradle to and fro along the hawser.

The four boys hauled steadily. They could see nothing except the curling foam, which gleamed in the darkness.

All they could hear was the crash of waves and the wild yelling of the wind, yet they knew that somewhere out in the blackness the first of the shipwrecked crew was being drawn slowly in towards the shore and safety.


Out in the blackness the first of the shipwrecked crew
was being drawn slowly in towards the shore and safety.

"Here he is. Steady, now!" cried Roddy, as a dim bulk came into sight just above the summit of the tall breakers, which arched upon the shingle.

He flashed his lamp, and its rays were reflected from the glistening oilskins of a figure which was slung in a roughly made cradle suspended from the hawser by a travelling block.

Another minute, and the man was safe on the beach.

"Hurrah!" shouted the boys, and Roddy flashed the news to the wreck.

"What's your ship, mate?" asked Joe Morgan.

"The Wendur, out o' Belfast," answered the rescued man. "We was bound for Milford, but the engines broke down soon arter it began to blow, and we couldn't do nothing but drift afore it. I tell 'ee, lads, I never thought to set foot on shore again."

"How many are there aboard?"

"Fourteen all told. We was fifteen, but the mate he was washed overboard when we struck."

"Fourteen—my word, we've got our work cut out for us," cried Roddy. "D'ye think she'll last while we can get 'em off?"

"She's hard aground," answered the man. "And she's pretty stout built. One o' them old composite ships. I reckon she'll hold out a bit yet. How's the tide, sir?"

"Flood just beginning to make."

"That's bad. She'll be liable to float off. And holed like she is, she'll most likely sink."

Roddy considered a moment. Then he turned to Drake Denny.

"Drake, you'd best go and get help. Find Llewellyn if you can, and tell him how things are. The rest of us can manage the hauling till you come back."

"I'll take a hand," said the rescued man eagerly. "I'm all right now I've got my wind back."

Drake went off at once. By this time the cradle had been hauled back to the wreck, and presently the signal came that another man was in it, and ready to be hauled ashore.

As they got him in there came a shout from behind them, and Drake raced back, with Llewellyn and four other men.

"I found them at the top of the cliff," he cried breathlessly. "They've got the rocket apparatus there. I told them we'd got a hawser across, so they left it, and came down to help."

"You've done mighty well, Mr. Kynaston," said Llewellyn warmly, as he came hurrying up to the Scouts. "Mighty well, and I congratulate you. However did you manage to get the line across?"

"Throwing-stick," answered Roddy briefly. "I'm glad you've come. The tide's making, and there are thirteen men still aboard."

"We'll have 'em off all right," said Llewellyn confidently, and at once set to work.

With the help of the fresh hands, the rescue work went on apace, but even so it took a long time to get the men ashore. And the tide, driven in by the weight of the gale, rose much more rapidly than usual, so that soon only a narrow strip of shingle remained uncovered at the base of the cliff.

The thirteenth man to come ashore was the engineer, a big, red-headed Scot.

"She's breaking up fast," he told them. "I'm awfu' feared she'll gang to pieces afore ye get the skipper oot of her."

"Hurry—hurry!" shouted Roddy. "Out with the cradle as fast as you can."

They rushed it out at full speed, and a deep gasp of relief went up as they saw the signal once more—the signal that the captain had taken his place in the sling.

"Now then," roared the burly coastguard. "In with him, quick."

They hauled away with all their might.

Suddenly the line seemed to catch. Next instant the hawser itself slacked, then fell away.

"The man's gone. He's done for!" groaned Llewellyn, as he stared out into the tossing waters.

But Roddy dashed forward down to the edge of the waves, and the other three Scouts followed.

The moon had risen, and although it was completely hidden by the masses of clouds driven up from the Atlantic, yet it was not quite so dark as it had been.

"Haul in the hawser," he shouted. "I believe I can see him hanging on to it."

This was done at once, but when they had got in a part of the slack they found that it tightened, and they could do no more. Evidently the mast had wedged in the wreckage. The endless rope was jammed, and in consequence was useless.

"I see him," shouted Roddy again. "Come on, you chaps. We can't let him drown in sight of the beach. Form a chain."

He seized one of Drake's hands as he spoke, and Joe took the other.

Roddy, heading the line, rushed forward into the raging surf.

The first wave that broke took him clean off his legs, but he was up again in a moment, and struggling forward, his eyes fixed on a dark object which was floating only a few feet away.

Before the next wave came he had grasped it with his free hand.

Then the second wave broke, roaring over the boy's head with stunning violence.

Again he was thrown down, but still he clung to the captain's collar with the grip of a bulldog, while Drake held on to Roddy with equal strength.

By this time Llewellyn and several of the other men had followed the example of the Scouts, and formed a second chain. Between the lot of them, Roddy and his insensible burden were somehow dragged back to safety.

The poor captain lay limp on the soaking shingle like a dead man, and Roddy himself was in little better case.

The men had cheered Roddy's plucky feat, but now they stood round aimlessly. Luckily, Drake had his wits about him. Dr. Kynaston, who was "honorary surgeon" to the patrol, had already given them several drills in "Treatment of the nearly drowned," and Drake did not waste a minute in getting to work upon the patient.

Llewellyn helped him to turn the insensible man over on his face, and, kneeling across him, Drake began artificial respiration on the Schäfer system.

One of the rocket men had a flask of brandy.

"You give him some o' this," he said, offering it to Drake. "That'll do him more good than pumping him like that."

"Kill him more likely," returned Drake sharply. "But give the others a nip, if you like. And then some of you rig a man-sling. We'll have to lift him up the cliff. He won't be fit to walk to-night."

Then he went on pumping again, swinging forward and back like a pendulum once in every four or five seconds.

Roddy was bruised, and had had the wind knocked out of him, but he soon came to himself, and was delighted to see how excellently Drake was carrying out instructions. He offered to help, but Drake refused.

"He's coming round," he said triumphantly. "He's breathing again."

"So he is. Good man, Drake. Keep it up a bit longer, then we must get him under shelter as soon as possible."

As he spoke, a wave bigger than any yet came curling up out of the darkness, and fell with a stunning crash within a few yards of where the captain lay. A flood of foam washed up the beach and reached nearly to the foot of the cliff.

"Quick!" shouted Roddy. "Lend a hand here. We must get away from this, or we shall be washed out."

There was no time to wait for the sling. Llewellyn and another of his men picked up the Wendur's captain, and hurried him to the path. At the foot two others took hold, and, with Roddy's electric torch to light them, they began the steep scramble.

The path ran with foam and rain. It was fearfully slippery. And the raging gale beat upon them furiously, trying to wrench them from their precarious footing.

They clambered a few feet, then one man slipped, and they only just saved themselves from falling. Roddy glanced back. The beach was gone. The waves had reached the foot of the cliff.

"We shall never do it," he groaned.

"Here, catch hold," came a shout from above.

Two of Llewellyn's men had managed to reach the top, and had dropped a rope over the side of the cliff.

With that help the worst was over, and within a quarter of an hour the whole party of rescuers and rescued were safe upon the cliff top.


THERE was little sleep for anyone in Portglask that night. The storm grew worse rather than better, and as the hours dragged by, and the great gale still shouted through the black sky, anxiety increased for those in the lifeboat.

Roddy wanted to stay up till she came back, but his father put his foot down, and ordered him off to bed. Drake, too, stayed the night at Dr. Kynaston's house, and, like Roddy, was sent to bed.

Both were so done that they were asleep almost as soon as their heads touched the pillow.

It was the sun shining full in his face which woke Roddy. He sat up with a start, and looked at his watch.

"Half-past eight!" he exclaimed in a horrified tone, and was out of bed like a shot.

Drake was still snoozing peacefully in the opposite bed. The sun was not on his face.

"Drake, you lazy pig, wake up!" shouted Roddy. "It's half-past eight."

"Talk about being lazy! It doesn't look as if you'd been up a long time," retorted Drake sleepily. "Race for the bath."

They tubbed and dressed in record time, and bundled down to get the news.

Mrs. Kynaston was in the dining-room.

"Yes, they're safe in," she replied in answer to Roddy's eager inquiries. "The lifeboat got back about four. They had a terrible time, I hear, but they saved all the crew. Two of the poor fellows were badly hurt by the fall of a spar. Your father is with them now in the Cottage Hospital."

Breakfast was not a meal to be neglected after the hard work of the previous night, but Roddy and Drake wasted no time over it, and as soon as they had finished, posted off down to the beach.

As so often happens after a night of heavy gale, the sky had cleared, and though a stiff breeze was still blowing, the sun shone brilliantly on the whitecaps dancing in the bay.

Roddy looked across towards the south cliff.

"The Wendur's gone," he said.

"Yes, and so's the other ship," answered Drake.

"By Jove, there's a third craft ashore," exclaimed Roddy, pointing across to the north side of the bay. "Look—on the rocks below Sir Richard Ferguson's place."

At this minute Evan Llewellyn joined them. Roddy noticed that the coastguard's face had a worried look, which was unusual. As a rule, Llewellyn took things very quietly.

"Morning, Mr. Llewellyn," he said. "I see there's another wreck. What is it?"

"You mean over on the north side there," answered the coastguard. "No, that's not a third wreck. It's the Dinmore, the same craft as went on the Tusker. She came off at the top o' the tide, and the wind took her across over there. A bad job it is, too."

"A bad job—how do you mean?" asked Roddy quickly. "She's a deal nearer shore than she was before, and that's not a bad place to beach her. They ought to be able to salve her easily enough."

"Salve her!" repeated Llewellyn. "D'ye mean ye don't know what's inside her?"

"I know nothing about her," said Roddy. "I've only just come down to the beach."

"Then I'll tell you," returned the coastguard. "She've got a little matter of two ton o' dynamite in her hold."

Roddy gave a low whistle.

"That's cheery," he remarked.

"Cheery—I should think it was, especially after the way the sea treated that ship last night. Every bit of cargo in her must have been shifted. The wonder is she didn't blow up long ago."

"But she's all right now," said Roddy, glancing at the wreck. "She seems firm enough on the ground. There's no danger of the stuff exploding."

"I'll allow she's all right where she is now," replied the coastguard. "But soon as the tide begins to flow she'll start bumping. Chances are that she'll float clear over the top of that bit of a bank she's lying on, and go right ashore in the cove under Sir Richard's house. If she does, she'll hit the rocks hard enough to start up the dynamite; and if that goes off I wouldn't give a week's wage for what'll be left of Sir Richard's house. It'll be blowed into dust."

"He's quite right, Roddy," put in Drake. "There's deep water between that bank and the shore. I know the ground well. I've fished there."

"Then what are you going to do?" demanded Roddy of Llewellyn. "You can't leave her where she is."

"We've wired to Milford for a tug to tow her off," answered the coastguard. "I only hopes as she'll come up in time."

"Haven't you got anything here fit to do it?"

"Nothing at all," was the answer. "There's naught to do except wait for the tug."

They stood on the beach, straining their eyes out to sea. But time passed, and there was no sign of the tug. The tide had turned, and each wave washed a little farther up the beach.

There was a sound of a horse's hoofs coming fast up the road. A big man with a heavy moustache came trotting sharply on a tall bay.

"Llewellyn!" he shouted, as he pulled up behind them.

Llewellyn saluted, and hurried back up the beach.

"Why, it's Sir Richard himself," said Drake.

"Look here, Llewellyn, isn't that tug coming?" demanded the big man.

"She'll hardly be here yet, Sir Richard," answered the coastguard.

"If she doesn't come soon, that wreck will be afloat," said the baronet sharply. "And with the wind as it is, she'll go ashore right under my place."

"I know that, Sir Richard. But what can we do?"

"I don't know what you can do. But it's your business to do something. You don't suppose I'm going to have a couple o' ton o' dynamite let off under my drawing-room windows, do you?"

"If there was anything as I could do, I'd do it fast enough," answered Llewellyn doggedly.

"Use your brains, man. Think of something. Better blow her up where she is than let her float right into the cove.

"She'd do a sight o' damage, even where she is," said the coastguard doubtfully.

"Couldn't she be unloaded?" suggested Roddy modestly.

"That's a good idea," exclaimed Sir Richard. "Why don't you unload her, Llewellyn?"

But Llewellyn shook his head.

"It couldn't be done, Sir Richard. The stuff's down in the lower hold. Under water most like. And, anyway, there be tons of other cargo atop of it. It would take a gang of men hours to get down to it."

"But anything's better than to risk its exploding," retorted the other impatiently. "Something must be done. Get a gang together. Tell 'em I'll give them five pounds apiece if they'll get the wretched stuff overboard."

"Very well. I'll try, Sir Richard," answered Llewellyn, and, saluting again, he hurried off.

Sir Richard sat in his saddle and stared out to seaward.

"Not a sign of that tug," he growled. "And the tide's rising fast. I hope to goodness Llewellyn won't waste time."

He looked terribly worried and anxious. Small wonder, for Fergus Hall stood so close to the sea that, if the dynamite did explode, nothing could save the fine old house. It would simply be shattered to atoms.

A fresh idea for dealing with the danger suddenly shot through Roddy's mind.

"Sir Richard," he cried eagerly, "couldn't we manage to sink her? She's a wooden ship. It seems to me that if some big holes were bored in her bottom, then, as soon as the tide lifted her off the bank, she'd sink. There's a good five fathom of water inside the bank. Once she was at the bottom of that, she'd be safe enough."

Sir Richard brought his big hand down on his knee with a smack that made his horse jump.

"You've hit it, my lad," he almost shouted. "That's the notion. We must have been a set o' dundering blockheads not to have thought of it before. That's what we'll do, and even if the owners kick up a row, it'll be cheaper to settle with them than to build a new house. I'll ride round, get out a boat, take a couple o' my chaps, and do it."

"Wait a moment, Sir Richard," cried Roddy, laying his hand on the bridle. "We can do better than that. Our patrol boat is in the basin. It'll be quicker to row straight across from here than for you to ride round and get your own boat out."

"You're right, my boy," answered the other. "We'll do it. You and your friend hurry on and get the boat out. I'll stable my horse at The George, and join you at the basin. I'll bring a couple of big augers."

In a quarter of an hour they had reached the wrecked Dinmore.

She was an old-fashioned, square-rigged craft of four or five hundred tons burden. She was massively built, even for a ship of her age, and it was this that had saved her from becoming a total wreck when she first hit the Tusker.

As it was, her hull seemed still fairly sound, though her masts were gone, and her deck swept as clean as a prison floor.

She lay on the shoal canted over on her starboard side in some five or six feet of water.

"We haven't much time to waste," said Roddy, as he shipped his oar, and caught hold of an end of rope dangling over the battered side. "Tide's rising fast."

"Yes, she'll be afloat in less than an hour," remarked Drake. "Make fast, Roddy."

All three tumbled aboard without loss of time. The hatches were battened down, and it was hard work to get the forward cover off.

The moment they had done so, up rose a cloud of pungent, suffocating vapour, and all three staggered back choking and coughing.

"Here's a pretty go," said Sir Richard grimly. "What on earth are we to do now?"

"We can't go down there, sir. At least, not yet," answered Roddy, rubbing his smarting eyes. "But if we leave the hatch open perhaps it'll clear after a bit."

"What has made such fumes?" asked Sir Richard. "Is it the dynamite?"

"No, sir. Dynamite doesn't smell like that. Most likely it's a drum of acid that's burst."

"Acid on top of dynamite! My word, that doesn't sound healthy," exclaimed the baronet in sudden alarm.

"I don't think it will do any harm," said Roddy. "Dynamite won't explode unless it gets a shock of some sort."

"You seem to know a lot about it," said Sir Richard, glancing sharply at the Scout.

"I've seen dynamite burnt in a fire," explained Roddy quietly. "It just burnt up like so much wax, and didn't explode."

"H'm, that's some comfort, anyhow," replied the other, as he went up to the hatch again.

"Phew, it's as bad as ever," he murmured. "It'll be an hour at least before anyone can face it. And the tide's beginning to lift her already. I'm afraid we shall have to give it up as a bad job, and trust to the tug arriving in time."

"Let's' try the after-hatch first," said Roddy. "The fumes may not have reached the after-hold."

"Right. We'll do that," agreed Sir Richard.

The after-hatch was so tightly battened down that it took some minutes to force it off, but when this was done, they found that the air was breathable. They could smell the fumes, but they were nothing like so bad as those from the forward hold.

"Think it's safe to go down, Roddy?" asked Drake rather anxiously. "If the burst drum had either carbolic or sulphuric in it, there'll be a layer of poisonous air down below there."

"That's quite true," broke in the baronet. "And I'm not going to allow you boys to risk your lives. I'll go down myself. After all, it's my own business."

"No, Sir Richard, that would never do," said Roddy earnestly. "If the fumes caught you, we could do nothing. You'd be too heavy for us to pull out. The best dodge will be for me to go down with a rope. Drake here can keep my electric torch, with the light turned on me, and if you see me heel over, why, you can just haul me up at once."

Sir Richard could not help agreeing that this was the best plan, and a rope was found and tied round Roddy's body. Then he wetted his handkerchief in water, and tied it over his mouth and nose. Taking the big auger, he rattled rapidly down the ladder into the gloomy depths of the hold.

The others waited anxiously. Presently Roddy's voice came up from the darkness:

"It's all right. I can breathe. But there's a lot of water here. I shall have to get across it to drill the holes in her."

Drake turned the light down, and its rays were reflected from a great pool of dark water lying some twenty feet below the deck. Roddy dropped cautiously into this. It was up to his waist, but he waded through, and soon they heard the sound of the auger "biting into the tough timber of which the ship's skin was built.

"He's taking a precious long time about it," said Sir Richard at last.

"You must remember what a lot he's got to cut through, sir," answered Drake. "It isn't as though he had only one set of planking to bore. A wooden ship has two skins. How are you getting on, Roddy?" he shouted.

"All right. I'm almost through," came back Roddy's voice, echoing oddly up from the great hollow beneath.

"Ha, there she goes!" exclaimed Drake, as he heard a sudden rush and splash of water. "Look, Sir Richard, it's coming through in a regular fountain."

"Yes, I see it. But what's he doing? Why doesn't he come up again?"

"One hole's no good," explained Drake. "He's got to make three or four. It takes a long time to get water enough into a ship to sink her."

"I hope he won't be long," said Sir Richard uneasily. "She's lifting a lot, and beginning to bump."

He was right. The tide was rising fast, and the wreck was lifting with every wave that broke. They could hear her stout frame groan and complain as she worked farther up on the bank on which she had stranded.

However, there was nothing to do but wait and make the best of it, and hope that Roddy would, he able to finish his job in time.

It seemed to Drake that the second hole took a much longer time to cut than the first.

"How does it go, Roddy?" he asked.

"Just finished the second hole," came back the answer, but the voice was very faint and hoarse.

Drake waited anxiously. He heard the sound of the auger being withdrawn, and a fresh hiss and splash of spouting water. It was difficult to see what Roddy was doing. The battery of the little torch was nearly exhausted, and its light was hardly strong enough to reach the bottom, of the hold.

Suddenly came a heavy splash. The rope was jerked sharply.


"QUICK, Sir Richard, quick!" cried Drake. "He's fallen back into the hold," and with all his might he began hauling in the rope.

Sir Richard gave a startled exclamation, and pulled for all he was worth. Up came Roddy, the salt water dripping from his limp body in showers.

In a minute he was up on the deck, lying there very white-faced, and with his eyes closed.

"He's gassed," said Drake, as he quickly loosened the rope, and pulled the handkerchief away from Roddy's mouth. "Turn him over on his face, Sir Richard. We'll have to try pumping him."

Sir Richard, looking anxious and frightened, hastened to obey, but as he picked the boy up, Roddy opened his eyes.

"It's all right," he murmured faintly. "No need to try the Schäfer business on me, Drake. The fresh air will put me to rights in no time."

"Jove, he's a good plucked 'un!" breathed the baronet. "Here, Denny, help me get him into the boat. The sooner we're off this blessed wreck, the better."

"There's no great hurry, sir," said Roddy, trying to smile. "I've got two good holes in her. That'll stop her floating for a bit. Only wish I could have managed another. Then she'd have sunk all right."

"You've done uncommonly well, my lad," returned the baronet warmly.

"I believe she'll sink before she can drift into the cove," said Roddy. "There's a lot of water in her already. If you don't mind waiting awhile I'll go down again, and see whether I can put one more hole in her."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," put in Sir Richard decidedly. "I'd rather stand the chances of her blowing up than let you run such a risk. If you're fit to stand, we'll go ashore at once."

As they left the wreck, she was already heaving and straining. It was clear that she would be moving within a few minutes.

Several of Sir Richard's people were waiting anxiously on the beach of the cove in front of the house. He told off one of them to take Roddy up to the house, and get him a change of clothes. He and Drake remained on the beach, where they were joined by one of the other Scouts.

"She's floating," said Drake presently.

So she was—and bumping badly as she worked her way over the top of the hard ridge on which she had grounded.

"We'd best get back a little," continued Drake. "If she blows up now we shall run the chances of getting hit."

They moved back and took shelter behind some rocks. The Dinmore was over the bank now, and the tide was carrying her in towards the mouth of the cove.

Sir Richard's face grew more and more anxious. He sent a man up to tell everyone to keep away from the front of the house.

"She's making straight for those rocks," he said to Drake. "I'm afraid it's all up. She's bound to go smash if she hits them."

"We've plenty of chances still," replied Drake stoutly. "Even if she does hit them, she may not explode. And I don't believe she'll ever reach them. Look how low she is in the water. Her Plimsoll mark is three feet under, and she's filling all the time. Remember, she's got a bad leak, as well as those two big holes Roddy made in her."

Drake spoke confidently, but even he had his doubts. The wrecked Dinmore was already over the five-fathom deep which lay between the shoal and the month of the cove. It seemed to him about even chances whether she would cross it and go to the rocks before she sank.

Yard by yard the tide carried her towards the rocks at the western point of the little cove.

"It's no use. She's bound to hit them," said the baronet in despair.

The words were hardly out of his month before Drake, who was watching the wreck intently, saw her bow lift a trifle.

"No," he shouted. "She's going to sink. Watch, she'll go stern first."

Up went the bows slowly but surely, and in another minute the stern was level with the sparkling waves. Then, without any fuss or commotion, the poor, battered old craft slid downwards, and vanished beneath the water.

"Hurrah! Roddy's won," cried Drake delightedly, and Sir Richard and his men took up the cheers.

"Phew, I wouldn't go through the last few hours again for a good deal," said the baronet, as he took Drake by the arm. "Now you'll come up to the house and lunch with me," he continued. "You and Kynaston. No, I won't let you off. I'll send a man round to your people to tell them I'm keeping you."

Just as they got up to the gardens they met Roddy, looking quite himself again, and very smart in a suit belonging to Sir Richard's eldest son, who was a sublieutenant in the Navy.

"Your two holes were enough, you see," said Six Richard. "And, look here, Kynaston, I shan't forget in a hurry what you Scouts have done for me to-day. Now come to lunch. If you aren't hungry, you ought to be."

Sir Richard introduced them to Lady Ferguson, and then they went to lunch.

Roddy's people were not well off, and at home both he and Denny—though they always had plenty to eat—usually fared very plainly. The lunch at Fergus House was by far the most swagger meal they had ever sat down to, and they both did justice to the cold partridges, the trifle, and other good things which were provided.

After lunch Sir Richard took them over the house. There were some fine pictures, and a wonderful collection of old weapons.

One thing which greatly took the fancy of both the boys was a model of an old three-decked wooden battleship. She was complete to the last rope and spar, and from each porthole grinned a tiny model cannon. It had been made by an old sailor, who bad actually served under Nelson, and who had been in the employ of Sir Richard's grandfather.

Sir Richard asked no end of questions about the patrol, and when at last the boys took their leave they felt that they had made a good friend.

How good they did not know until next morning, when Roddy got a letter from Sir Richard.

My Dear Kynaston, it ran,

Lady Ferguson and I wish you to accept the enclosed as a little recognition of your good work in saving our home from a very serious danger.

Knowing how keen you are on Scout work, we suggest that you spend it for the benefit of the Seal Patrol.

With kindest regards from us both,

Yours very sincerely,

Richard Ferguson.

Roddy could hardly believe his eyes when he found that the enclosed was a cheque for fifty pounds. He gave a whoop of delight, and, stuffing the cheque into his pocket, bolted off to find Drake and tell him the good news.

"We'll fix up the Valiant properly now," said Roddy, as he and Drake walked together along the sea-wall, bound for their guardship. "I vote we lay the whole bottom properly with cement, and make a regular floor with a clean cement face. You see, we can keep that clean by washing it down, and it'll be ever so much better than the old wooden bottom."

"Quite the best thing we can do," agreed Drake. "And then we want some good charts for the cabin. We can get the best now. And we'll rig up a flagstaff, and hare a proper set of signal flags."

"And a jolly good supply of wood for winter fires," chimed in Roddy. "We'll buy a lot of old wreck timber, and cut it up ourselves."

By this time they had reached the old barge, which was lying snug in her mud berth in the creek.

"Hullo! what's this?" exclaimed Drake, as he pointed to a big package lying just outside the cabin door. "Have you begun to chuck around your wealth already, Roddy?"

"I haven't even cashed the cheque yet," declared Roddy. "But the thing's got a card on it. What's it say?"

"Why, it's addressed to you. Here, let's open the door and get it inside."

The case was tremendously big, and took both boys to carry it in.

Roddy got out a hammer and chisel, and they set to work eagerly to prise it open. As soon as he had got the cover off, and pulled out the layer of soft packing, he gave a shout of delight.

"Drake, it's the model! The Nelson model. I say, this is ripping of Sir Richard. There's nothing he could have given me that I'd have liked as well."

"It's awfully decent of him," said Drake, beaming. "But you ought to have it at home, Roddy. It's your own. He's given it to you, not the patrol."

"Nonsense! It's for the guardship. We must make a shelf for it, and put it up. Won't the rest of the chaps be pleased? I don't suppose there's another patrol in the country that's got anything to touch it."

They spent the rest of the morning making the shelf, and getting the model into position. As they walked home, they talked again of the money, and all they could do with it.

"We ought to do something for Scott," said Roddy. "He's done no end for us. I wish to goodness we could find the wreck of the Vesta."

"So do I," agreed Drake. "Only I don't quite see how the money is going to help us to do that."

"No, I suppose not," was Roddy's thoughtful reply. "The only thing will be to have another search, ourselves."

"I'm a bit shy about trying again," sail Drake rather ruefully. "We made such a howling hash of it last time. It was really our fault that the Polly was lost."

"I said so to Mr. Penney," answered Roddy, "but he only laughed. He said that she was insured, so he hadn't lost anything, and that he was giving Barton command of a new trawler."

"Penney's doing jolly well, I hear," said Drake. "He's building three new trawlers. Welsh fishing has bucked up a lot in the last few years. And that reminds me. We might go out and try for a few whiting ourselves. It's turned out quite a decent afternoon."

Roddy agreed, and they went down to the beach to get their boat. As they passed the quay, a short, sharp-featured, shabby-looking man with reddish hair was leaning over the sea-wall.

"Hullo! there's Ormston," said Roddy.

"Ormston—who's he?"

"The man who was the skipper of the Nellie Gray. The one who picked up my cousin and myself off the buoy that day Dick and I went fishing and got sunk."

"Oh, I remember. Ormston went poaching, didn't he, and got run in by Selby?"

"That's the chap. He got fined pretty heavily, and all his nets were confiscated. Then his owners kicked him out."

"That was poor luck," said Drake. "He's out of a job, then, I suppose."

"He looks like it. D'you notice how shabby his clothes are? I say, Drake, I wish I could do something for him."

"He wasn't over polite to you and Dick, was he?" remarked Drake, with a grin.

"Not particularly," admitted Roddy. "But I don't think he's a bad sort, and I know he's a fine seaman. You ought to have seen the way he handled the Nellie Gray in that gale."

"Well, why not talk to Mr. Penney about him? If he's building new trawlers, he might find him a job."

"I'll do it," said Roddy, as he jumped into the boat, and shipped his oar.

Roddy was not the sort to forget anything once he had made up he mind to do it, and that very evening, when they came back from fishing, he sounded Jack Penney on the subject.

Jack promised to speak to his father, and a day or two later Mr. Penney sent for Roddy, and asked him about Ormston.

Roddy meantime had found out all he could about the ex-skipper of the Nellie Gray, and was able to give such a good account of him that Mr. Penney promised to do his best for the man.

Eventually he did give him command of one of his new trawlers, and Ormston handled her well, and made good catches.

Roddy never gave the matter another thought. It was just one of the good turns which he, as a Scout, felt it his duty to do, whenever the chance came. He did not even know that Ormston knew to whom he owed his new appointment.

But Ormston knew well enough, and Roddy's good turn had more important results than he or anyone else could have dreamt of.


ABOUT three weeks later, Ormston himself turned up one evening at Dr. Kynaston's house, and asked for Roddy.

When Roddy came into the room, the first thing he noticed was that Ormston was looking a deal better fed and better dressed than when he had last seen him; the second was that he had a very large parcel roughly done up in newspaper under his arm.

"Evenin', Mr. Kynaston," said Ormston shortly. It was not his way to waste words. "I got something here as you might like to see."

With that he tore the paper off the parcel, and showed a very dirty and worn-looking lifebuoy, which was attached to a broken piece of iron rail.

"I dredged this here up near the Gannet," he continued. "It come up in the trawl, and I saved it."

Roddy stared. He wondered what on earth this ancient relic could have to do with him.

"You look here at this name on it," went on Ormston, handing the buoy to Roddy.

The canvas covering of the buoy was very rotten and discoloured, but taking it to the light, Roddy made out the letters S.S., then a V and an E. Next came a blank, and another letter, of which only part remained, but which looked like a T. The last letter was an A.

Roddy gave a great start.

"S.S. Vesta!" he exclaimed.

"Aye, that's what I make it. Warn't she the slip as your Mr. Scott is a-looking for?"

"Of course she is. I say, this is good of you, Mr. Ormston. Then you think the wreck lies somewhere off the Gannet?"

"I shouldn't wonder," replied Ormston. "But mind ye, in spite o' the iron as it's tied to, that there lifebuoy may hare drifted a goodish way from the ship as she belonged to."

"Anyhow, it's proof that she went down somewhere near the coast," put in Roddy eagerly. "We've got some notion where to look for her now. I can't tell you how grateful I am to you."

"You knows the proverb about one good turn deserves another," said Ormston, with something approaching a twinkle in his eye. "If I finds anymore stuff I'll let ye know. Good night."

The very next morning Roddy started off to find Drake, and consult him as to what was best to do. But on his way to Llantyre, whom should he run into but Lieutenant Selby, who was in shore-going kit and carrying a rod in a canvas case.

"Hullo, Kynaston, I was just coming round to see you," said Selby. "Here's my herring-chaser laid up with a cracked steam-pipe, and I'm on my own till she's out o' the hands of the tiffies."*

(*Tiffies—dockyard artificers.)

"Good business!" exclaimed Roddy. "Good business for us anyhow, even if it isn't for the Dunlin. Have you had breakfast?"

"Rather. I was going to suggest a day's fishing somewhere inland."

"Right you are! Do you mind my fetching Drake Denny first? I want to see him. We can go straight on from his place. There's a good brook which runs in just beyond Llantyre. Nice lot of sewin still running up from the sea."

"Sewin—they're the same as sea trout, aren't they?"

"Exactly the same. Jolly silvery chaps, and quite big, too. My rod is at Denny's place."

"That'll suit first-rate. And what are you and the noble Drake planning? Had any more wrecks lately?"

"Several," laughed Roddy, and told Selby about the dynamite ship and the Wendur.

"And what's that thundering great parcel you're carrying?" inquired the lieutenant presently. "It looks as if it might be salvage from one of these wrecks."

"As a matter of fact, it is salvage," answered Roddy. "But it's from an older wreck than either of the ones I've been telling you about. It's from a ship called the Vesta, that is supposed to have sunk somewhere off the Gannet. I was just going to see Drake, and ask him if he has any idea as to how we could find the wreck. Fact is, you see, there are papers and ore specimens aboard her which belonged to the father of our Scoutmaster, Kirby Scott. We're uncommon keen to find them."

Selby was much interested, and asked a lot of questions.

"I'm rather afraid that your Captain Ormston was right," he said, shaking his head. "A thing like that lifebuoy might have drifted the mischief of a long way from the place where the ship sank. You've got a big job before you, Kynaston."

"I was afraid so," said Roddy ruefully. "But I mean to have a shot at it all the same."

"What's the depth around the Gannet?" asked Selby after a moment's consideration. "It's shallow a good way out, isn't it?"

"Yes, not more than four fathoms for a long way round," answered Roddy.

"Then if this ship had gone down anywhere near the shoal, her masts would have been sticking up out of the sea," said Selby.

"Yes, but she may have been dismasted in the storm. It was a very bad one, I believe."

"Even so, the stump would have been visible in twenty-four feet of water. I take it that she was a biggish ship."

"Twelve hundred tons, I believe," said Roddy. "But then, again, she may not have sunk on an even keel."

"Yes, there's that to be thought of. It seems to me that the best thing you can do is to offer a reward for news of the wreck. The trawlers are more likely to hit on her than anyone else. Just let it be known that you'll give a fiver to any skipper who can report her. There's always a chance that one of them may get his nets hung up in her remains."

Roddy thought this a good plan, and so did Drake, while the other members of the patrol cordially agreed.

But days passed and no news came. Roddy and Drake took the dinghy out on the first calm day, and rowed miles around the shoal, hunting for traces of the wreck. But they found nothing, and at last returned back, tired out and rather down in the mouth.

"I wonder if it would be any use to rig up a water telescope," said Roddy, as they pulled home. "You know what I mean—a watertight box with a glass bottom. You can see a long way down in clear water with it."

"If we only knew where to look," replied Drake. "But, you see, we don't. You can't work twenty square miles of sea with a water-telescope. I wish we had a balloon."

"A balloon?" exclaimed Roddy.

"Yes. Didn't you see that in the last naval manoeuvres they used aeroplanes to spot the submarines when the submarines were running submerged? They say that, if you're up five hundred feet, you can see a submarine when she's thirty or forty feet under."

"I did read it, but I'd forgotten all about it. What a scheme! I wonder if we could hire a balloon."

"We might try," said Drake. "Anyhow, we'll ask."

As they pulled in to the basin where they kept the dinghy, the first person they saw was Selby, who was still on leave, and still amusing himself by trout-fishing.

"We'll ask him," said Drake, as he jumped ashore. "I say, Mr. Selby, d'you know where we could hire a balloon, and how much it would cost?"

Selby burst out laughing.

"Well, you chaps are the limit. Can't you find any cheaper way of breaking your necks than going up in a balloon?"

"We're not specially anxious to break our necks," grinned Drake. "But we thought, if we had a balloon, we might be able to spot that wreck from it."

"Oh, that's the little game, is it? And not a bad notion, either. But, my dear fellows, you wouldn't have much change left out of your fifty pounds after you'd hired a balloon. It costs like fun to fill one of those things with gas. Then you have to hire a man who understands it, and when it's all ready you're absolutely at the mercy of the wind. You might wait a month for the right wind, and even then you'd only be able to sail over the shoal once. You wouldn't go back and forth, you see."

Drake's face fell.

"It strikes me that an aeroplane would be a Jolly sight more useful," said Roddy.

Selby started slightly.

"An aeroplane," he exclaimed. "By Jove, that reminds me. My pal Pat Allen is at Milford. He's an R.N.F.C. man, and he was trying a new waterplane only yesterday. I wonder if I could get hold of him? I'll wire him."

They went straight off to the post office, and sent the telegram, answer prepaid. Then they returned to Dr. Kynaston's house and had tea.

About an hour later the maid brought in a telegram for Selby.

"It's all right," he told them. "If the weather stays fine he's coming over to-morrow."


"HALF Portglask's down on the beach," said Drake, as he came running into the room where Dr. and Mrs. Kynaston and Roddy were breakfasting. "The news has got out somehow, and they're all waiting to see Allen arrive."

"But he isn't there, is he? He said he wouldn't be in till nine at the earliest," replied Roddy, as he jumped up from the table.

"Don't hurry. There's not a sign of him yet," remarked Drake.

"Sit down and have a cup of coffee, Drake," said Mrs. Kynaston, who was looking rather worried. "I don't half like Roddy going up in this machine. I don't think it's safe."

"But it really is," Drake assured her. "You see, it isn't like flying over land, Mrs. Kynaston. You don't get the dangerous air-eddies over the sea, and if anything goes wrong the pilot can always come down on the water. Lieutenant Selby has been up lots of times, and he says he feels safer in a waterplane than on top of a motor-bus."

"Well, I've given my consent. I suppose I must abide by that," replied Mrs. Kynaston, with a sigh. "But I shall be glad when Roddy is safe home."

Drake finished his coffee, and the two went down to the beach. As Drake had said, there was a big crowd staring seawards, waiting for the plane.

"Hullo, Kynaston, feeling nervous?"

It was Selby who greeted the boys in his usual cheery fashion.

Roddy laughed.

"Nervous—what about? I'm Looking forward to this trip more than I ever did to anything yet. And I'm frightfully obliged to you for arranging it for me."

"There he comes! There he is!" rose a shout from the crowd.

A little dot, looking no bigger than a gull, had appeared against the pale blue autumn sky. It was far to seaward, and very high in the air.

"Here's Pat all right," said Selby. "Coming like smoke, too. You'll hear his engine in a minute."

The dot grew larger rapidly, and soon, they could see the sunlight reflected from the shining surface of the wide-stretching double planes.

Presently came a faint rattling like the noise made by running a stick along close-set wooden palings. This increased until it sounded like a volley of distant musketry, and travelling at a mile a minute, the great biplane hurtled above the smooth waters of the bay.

Roddy and Drake never took their eyes off the plane. Presently, at a height of about three hundred feet, the pilot cut off his engine, and in perfect silence the great, graceful machine came swooping downwards on to the water. Just before he reached the sea the pilot switched on again, and the plane, supported by her floats, came tearing across towards the shore at the rate of a fast motor-launch.

Then Allen switched off once more, and the plane lay heaving gently on the soft swell.

"Come on, Kynaston," said Selby. "Jump into the boat. Pat's not coming ashore. He doesn't want to be mobbed."

The dinghy was ready. Selby, Roddy, and Drake jumped in and pulled off.

"Hullo, Pat, how are you making it?" cried Selby, as they shot alongside.

"Absolutely top-hole. She's running like a dream. This new Blew engine knocks spots out of anything I've struck yet," was the reply, as Allen, a tall, lean, bronzed-faced man of about twenty-five, leant out from his pilot seat and shook hands with Selby.

"I'm jolly glad to hear it, and I hope you'll rake in lots of prizes with it. Here's your passenger, Patrol-leader Roderick Kynaston."

"So you're the wrecker, are you?" greeted Allen, with a friendly smile. "Crawl in, my son. I don't want to waste any of this sunshine. We shall need it all if we're to spot this sunken craft of yours."

"It's awfully good of you to take me, sir," said Roddy earnestly.

"Not a bit. Always glad to do a good turn for a Scout—let alone for a pal of Selby's. That's right. Stand on the float, then swing yourself up behind me."

Roddy was up in a moment. He found himself in a small seat immediately behind Allen, and a little above him. There were foot-rests below, one on each side of Allen's seat. The big, eighty horse-power Blew engine was just behind him, and the propeller behind that again. Overhead arched the upper plane covered with a fine, strong, yellowish material, and on either side of his seat were uprights just in a comfortable position to hold on to.

"Better put your coat on before you start," said Allen. "It's jolly cold moving so fast over the sea. And here are some goggles. I expect you'll need 'em."

Roddy pulled on his overcoat, and hung the goggles over his cap. His eyes were good, and he secretly rather despised the idea of needing goggles.

"Now, are you ready?" asked Allen.

"Quite, thank you," answered Roddy.

"All right. Give her a spin, Selby."

Selby leant over and gave the propeller a twirl. Instantly the engine burst into life with a tremendous crackling roar, and the biplane went gliding away seawards at a great rate.

The pace increased. Her floats skipped from one wave top to another. Then all of a sudden the splashing ceased, and the wind in Roddy's face hardened to a gale. He looked down. To his amazement the sea was already fifty feet beneath him, and seemed to be sinking swiftly away.

For a few moments Roddy could do nothing but stare downwards and watch the fascinating spectacle of the little waves growing smaller and smaller, until the whole sea seemed to become as flat as a pond. At last he lifted his eyes, and turned to look behind.

He could hardly believe his eyes when he saw that the shore was nearly two miles away. The houses looked like toys, and the people mere black dots.

On either side he could see the tall headlands which guarded the mouth of the bay. They, too, had shrunk strangely. The plane was travelling at a height of quite five hundred feet above the surface of the sea.

Allen turned his head.

"Going some, isn't she?" he said. "How d'ye like it?"

"Gorgeous!" answered Roddy enthusiastically.

To his surprise, his voice sounded like the thinnest kind of whisper. He could hardly hear it.

"Gorgeous!" he bellowed at the top of his voice, but even so, his answer only just reached the pilot.

Allen, who seemed to take his steering very easily, beckoned to Roddy to lean over.

"If you want to speak to me, put your mouth close to my ear," he said. "We don't carry silencers on aeroplane engines."

Roddy nodded to show that he understood. The tremendous roar of the engine and the terrific rush through the air had at first confused him, but now he was getting the hang of his surroundings, and beginning to enjoy it all immensely.

It was colder, however, than he had believed possible, and he was uncommonly glad of his coat. Also the wind bit so that tears were streaming down his cheeks, and he was only too glad to pull the despised goggles over his smarting eyes.

"Here's the Gannet, isn't it?" remarked Allen presently.

Roddy, looking downwards, saw that the water below was of a brownish tinge. This was darkest in one patch and shaded off on all sides to the usual green.

"I'll go right across," continued Allen. "You watch out for your wreck."

Roddy nodded, to show that he understood, and leaning over, stared down into the water. Once or twice he fancied that he saw something, but each time it proved to be merely a particularly shallow patch, or else simply a mass of drifting weed.

It amazed him to see how clearly he could spot objects beneath the waves. Once he distinctly made out an old anchor lying at the bottom of water which he knew must be ten or twelve feet deep. And large fish were clearly visible moving through the shallow sea.

Within an incredibly short time the plane had crossed the shoal.

"Look out! I'm going to bank," said Allen.

He pulled the cloche over, and at once the wide-winged machine began to come round. As she did so, every stay and spar seemed to groan and complain, while she tilted so that she seemed almost to be standing upright on one wing.

Roddy found himself looking straight down over his left shoulder into the sea, and instinctively he tightened his grip on the uprights on either side of his seat.

The plane was round in a moment, and once more on an even keel. Allen looked round with a smile.

"Bit steep, eh, Kynaston? Make you feel nervous? But you needn't be afraid of her skidding."

"I shan't next time," answered Roddy, with a laugh.

To and fro the big plane rushed, quartering across the great shoal as a hawk does over a stubble.

The crews of half a dozen fishing boats at work on the rim of the shallows stared upwards. Among them Roddy recognised Ormston's new command, The Maid of Sker. From the great height at which the plane was sailing he could see the lines of nets, like dark pencil marks, across the water.

"Afraid your wreck must be somewhere else," said Allen at last. "She must have sunk in deep water. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll make a circle right round the outside of the shoal. Then, if anything is visible, you're bound to spot it."

Roddy never lifted his eyes from the water. He was deeply disappointed that so far he had seen nothing resembling the wreck.

Allen rose a little, and sent his big aircraft whirling along the outer edge of the Gannet. They sped down the western side, and were turning along the southern rim when Roddy gave a sudden shout.

"There's something below us," he cried in Allen's ear. "A dark patch in deepish water. It may be only a rock. I can't tell for certain. Will you drop and see?"

"That's no use," replied Allen. "We must go higher, not lower. The higher you are the deeper you can see."

As he spoke, his hands were on the control, and the plane tilted upwards, rising in a sharp spiral.

Roddy's eyes were glued upon the dark object which he had caught sight of lying on the shelving edge of the shoal, and it struck him as most strange that, although he was being carried rapidly away from it, yet all the time it grew more and more distinct.

His excitement increased as he saw that it was indeed a ship—and, though dwarfed by distance, apparently a good-sized craft.

"It's a ship all right," he shouted to Allen. "A three-master. I can spot the stumps of her masts. She's lying on her side on the edge of the bank."

"That's good enough," replied Allen. "Then we'd better go and buoy her. Look out, I'm going to volplane."

As he spoke, he cut out the engine, and pulled over the cloche. The plane's bow turned downwards, and she slid forward at terrific speed. It reminded Roddy of the first time that he had gone down a hill on a toboggan, only this was smoother far and three times as swift. For the moment he could only gasp. It seemed to him that he had left everything inside him sticking to the sky.

But the feeling passed, and before half the descent was finished he was enjoying it quite keenly.

Almost before he knew it there was a slight splash as the floats touched the water, and the machine went gliding away across the small ripples at great speed.

"I can't see the wreck any longer," said Roddy in dismay.

"Never mind. I know pretty well where she lies. We shall be just about over her when we stop. Have you got your buoy ready?"

"Yes, here it is," answered Roddy, as he quickly lifted the tiny kedge which he had had specially made for the purpose.

"Over she goes, then. This is just about the right spot."

Without a moment's hesitation Roddy leant over and flung out the little kedge. The coil of light but strong rope whizzed through his hands, then slacked as the kedge reached the bottom.

"About six fathoms," he said, as he tossed out the small, white-painted buoy.

"That's no great depth," replied Allen. "Nothing to worry a diver. I'm jolly glad you've found what you were looking for, and I only hope your Scoutmaster's stuff is still safe inside her. Now, if you're all right, we'll nip back to Portglask. I dare say it will relieve the minds of your people to see you safe home again."


"SIX fathom—why, bless you, that's nothing! I've been down more than twice that depth many a time."

The speaker was a short, powerfully built man of about thirty, with a square chin and clear blue eyes. His name was Isaac Rundle, and he was the diver whom the Scouts had hired to go down to the wreck.

The Patrol were making a day of it. They were all aboard the tug which was anchored at the edge of the Gannet, on the spot marked by Roddy's buoy.

"What's the deepest you've ever been?" asked Arnold Gillam.

"Just over twenty fathom. That was to the wreck of the Circe off the Scillies. But that's nothing to what some chaps have done. There's one went down thirty-two fathom in the Indian Ocean. But he couldn't work more than ten minutes at a time at that depth. The pressure's too great for any man to stand for long, and he's bound to come up very slow or else he may get 'bends' as we call it."

"Bends?" questioned Roddy. "What's that?"

"Diver's palsy. It's a nasty thing. Kills some chaps and leaves others all crippled."

"Well, there's no danger of that here," said Roddy.

"Not a bit, Mr. Kynaston. This here's what you might call child's play compared with some of the jobs we chaps have to tackle."

"I only hope this is really the Vesta," said young Jack Penney. "It'll he a horrid sell if it's some other ship."

"Well soon find that out," began Rundle cheerily. "Here, Ben, put on the helmet for me, and I'll be all ready to go down."

His mate lifted the great polished copper helmet, with its thick plate-glass peepholes, and placed it over Rundle's head. Giving it a slight turn, it clicked into its fittings in the breastplate, and became automatically watertight.

The ladder was already fixed over the side of the tug, and Rundle, hardly able to move owing to the enormous weight of his dress, staggered across to it and began to descend.

The Scouts crowded to the rail to watch the descent, while Rundle's mate, Ben Hammond, began to work the pump.

There was not much to see. Rundle walked straight down the ladder and slowly but steadily vanished from sight. The only signs of his progress downwards were the slow movement of the air-pipe and life-line, as they were dragged overboard, and the bubbles of air that sparkled upwards.

"There's the five-fathom mark gone over," said Roddy presently. "He's nearly down."

"The line has stopped running out," exclaimed Drake a moment later. "He's on the bottom."

"Or on the wreck," put in Arnold.

"That's not likely," said Roddy. "It's hardly to be supposed that we should have anchored right on top of the wreck. Ah, I thought so! There's the line running out again. And see the bubbles. He's walking along the bottom."

Now came a long wait. No one said anything. They were all desperately eager to learn whether the wreck was really that of the Vesta. Hiring the diver and the tug had made a big hole in the Patrol's nest-egg. They hoped greatly that the money would not be wasted.

"The life-line's moving," said Joe Morgan suddenly. "See—little jerks. It's a signal of some sort. What's it mean?"

"Aye, it's a signal right enough," said Ben Hammond. "It's the 'all right' signal. That means as Isaac has found the ship, and that she's the one as you're a-looking for."

"Hurrah!" shouted Roddy, and the rest of the Patrol joined in the cheer.

"How long will he be before he finds the things?" asked young Guy Griffith.

Ben Hammond laughed.

"That's something as no one can tell," he answered. "'Tis always a nasty job to get about a ship under water. It's terribly dark for one thing, and then a diver has to be uncommon careful as his pipe doesn't get pinched or his life-line tangled. Doors generally stick, too, for the wood swells when it's soaked, and he's likely to have to use his hatchet. He may be an hour, he may be two."

There was nothing to do but wait and watch the bubbles.

Minutes dragged by. Luckily it was a most perfect day, and the sea as calm as a pond, so there was no anxiety on that score. But the waiting was very trying. There was always the chance that Rundle would not be able to find the papers or specimens.

So far, the Patrol had managed to keep Mr. Scott quite in the dark as to what they were doing. The fact that he was away in London, on business, made this the easier.

All of a sudden the life-line and tube ran out sharply. Ben looked up uneasily.

There came several jerks at the line.

Ben gave a startled exclamation.

"Something's wrong. I'm afeared he's had a fall. Here, Mr. Kynaston, you work the wheel I've got to pull him up."

In a moment all was excitement.

Roddy sprang to the pump; Ben seized the line and began to haul on it.

But he had not got in more than a fathom or so before it went slack, and almost instantly a bloated figure shot to the surface.

"He's blowed hisself up," exclaimed Ben. "Shut his valve," he explained, "so the air has filled his dress."

As he spoke, he towed Rundle alongside, and they quickly lifted him aboard. Ben quickly unscrewed the helmet and took it off.

Rundle's face was white and twisted with pain.

"I got a tumble," he said faintly. "The companion was rotten and broke under me."

"Are ye much hurt, lad?" asked Ben, as he took a flask from his pocket and handed it to the other.

"I've broken a rib, I'm afeared," said Rundle. "I'm proper sorry, Mr. Kynaston, I don't think as I can go down again to-day."

"Of course you can't," replied Roddy quickly. "You've got to be stripped and bandaged. Help me carry him into the cabin, you chaps."

"Bless you, I can walk right enough as soon as I get the dress off," declared Rundle.

When the dress was off, Roddy found that a rib was snapped. He bandaged it tightly, and made the diver lie down.

"I can't tell you how sorry I am to give you all this bother, Mr. Kynaston," said poor Rundle. "But I'll go down again for you, free o' charge, when I'm better."

Roddy hesitated a moment.

"Why shouldn't I have a try?" he began. "You see, it's a fine day, the water's not deep, and everything is ready, and there's Hammond to manage the pump."

"You ever been down before?" asked Rundle.

"No, but I'm not afraid."

"I don't reckon you are, Mr. Kynaston," answered the diver, with a smile. "But it's a ticklish job for one as doesn't know the ways of it."

"All the same, I should like to try it," said Roddy quietly.

Rundle stared hard at the boy.

"You've grit, anyhow," he commented. "Well, if Ben Hammond don't object, I won't say no."

Ben, for his part, said that if Isaac didn't mind he had no objection, and told Roddy to take off his coat, hat, and boots. Then he set to work to dress Roddy in the same kit which he had just taken off Rundle.

First, a huge pair of woollen stockings, which were drawn over Roddy's socks and tucked in trousers. Then a second pair even bigger than the first.

Two immensely thick woollen jerseys came next, and two equally heavy pairs of woollen drawers.

"Anyone would think you were going to the North Pole, Roddy," laughed Drake Denny.

"Phew, I feel more like the equator," gasped Roddy.

"Aye, you may be warm now. But wait till you gets below," retorted Ben Hammond, as he made Roddy put on a third pair of stockings still thicker than the first two. "You won't be any too warm then, I'll warrant. Now you're ready for the dress," he continued.

The dress was of solid sheet indiarubber covered with thick twill. The cuffs were made so as to make a watertight joint at the wrists, but Roddy had to soap his wrists before they could be fitted.

The collar was double, the inner part tied round Roddy's neck, while the outer, of thick vulcanised rubber, had holes into which fitted the screws of the breastplate.

When the breastplate was put on and clamped to the rubber top of the dress, Roddy declared that he felt like a mummy, and that he would never be able to move.

But there was more to come yet. A woollen cap was put on his head and a big belt fastened round his body. The latter was meant to carry the life-line.

"Now you get to the top o' the ladder, and I'll finish you there," said Ben.

"I'm finished already," groaned Roddy, as he waddled across to the desired spot.

Ben followed, carrying the diver's boots. These were huge affairs made of leather, gun-metal, and wood. To the bottom of each was fitted a sole of lead, weighing 16 pounds.

"Now you're all right except for the helmet," said Ben. "And see here. Don't you hurry going down, and as soon as you've got your head under just swallow two or three times. That'll make you feel better. And don't be frightened of the noise the air makes coming into the helmet. See this valve at the back of the helmet?" he went on. "That's the inlet valve. And this here's the outlet. If you wants to come up in a hurry, you gives one turn here, and that stops it. Then the air'll fill your dress and up you comes like a balloon."

"I see," said Roddy.

"But don't you try that unless you have to," continued Ben. "Remember as you've got the life-line. Here's the signals. I've written 'em down on Isaac's slate so you won't forget them. And here's your hatchet and hammer and lamp slung around your waist. Now I'm a-going to put the helmet on, and when I give a tap on the top of it, you starts down."

He lifted the great polished helmet as he spoke.

"Good luck, old chap," said Drake. And the rest of the Patrol echoed the wish heartily.

Then Ben planted the helmet over Roddy's head, gave it the one-eighth turn which settled it in its socket, and screwed home the front glass.

Now Roddy could no longer speak to the others nor hear what they said. He was literally buried alive in a suit of enormous thickness and tremendous strength. He was completely cut off from the outer world.

Ben signed to him to get upon the ladder. Roddy, who felt almost as helpless as a child, did so, and then Ben hung over his shoulders two great leaden pads, each weighing no fewer than forty pounds. The weight bent Roddy double, and he wondered how on earth he would be able to move.

There came the signal tap on top of his helmet, and with it a curious thudding sound. The pump had begun to work.

In obedience to the signal Roddy began to descend the ladder. For the first time since he had asked Rundle to let him go down, a feeling that was almost terror came upon him.

But he remembered how much hung upon finding the papers and specimens left by Scott's father, and he forced himself to go on down.

As his weighted feet entered the water they at once felt lighter. When the water reached his waist half the weight had gone, and by the time he had his head under the change was amazing. All the leaden heaviness vanished, and he had suddenly become so light that he had to clutch the sides of the ladder tightly to prevent himself from floating upwards.

Remembering his directions, he went down slowly. The light grew dimmer at each downward step. It was like plunging into a greenish fog.

When he was about six feet under, he began to feel difficulty in getting his breath. There was a horrid roaring and crackling in his ears. He stopped and swallowed three or four times, and the unpleasant sensations passed.

His feet touched ground. He was on the bottom of the sea!

He let go of the ladder and turned in the direction of the wreck. With all this enormous weight of lead upon him, he had expected to find walking on the sea bed much the same as walking on land. Instead, he felt as light as a feather.

He found that, although everything beyond a little distance seemed vague and unreal, yet objects close at hand stood out quite clearly. He started when a shoal of small fish swam right up in front of his face and stared at him with goggle eyes.

The ground was firm sand with ledges of rock cropping out here and there. Crabs crawled away from under his feet. Mussels clustered on the rocks.

Ahead loomed up indistinctly a long, mound-like object. It was the wreck. He quickened his pace, and soon reached it.


Ahead loomed up indistinctly a long,
mound-like object. It was the wreck.

The Vesta lay on her side. She was covered with weed and slimy growths, in which he could plainly see the marks of Rundle's feet.

He scrambled up, and followed the marks to the hatch. His hands felt cold and numb, and he had some difficulty in getting a good grip, but presently he had safely reached the hatch. Before descending he signalled that he was all right, then down he went, and, steeling himself against any horrible sight there might be, he entered the nearest cabin.


ANYTHING more dismal than the inside of that cabin Roddy could never have imagined. The curious pink light of his electric bull's-eye showed up every detail with almost startling plainness. There were the bedclothes tumbled in a corner of the bunk just as the occupant had left them when he was roused—probably by the fall of a mast.

They and the carpet, the curtains, and everything of the kind, were reduced to mere pulp, but the furniture remained almost uninjured, only covered by thin, slimy growths.

It needed only a few moments to satisfy himself that this was not the cabin he required. The discovery of a sextant proved that it had belonged to one of the ship's officers.

He left it, and tried the next. This was empty. A third was evidently that of a passenger, but not Mr. Scott's.

The door of the fourth was half open. As Roddy entered there was a sudden swirl in the water, and a cloud of sediment rose, dimming the light of the bull's-eye so that it was almost impossible to see.

Roddy started back, his heart beating rather rapidly.

"It's only a fish," he murmured, a little ashamed of himself for his nervousness.

He waited a few moments until the fog had cleared a little, then stepped boldly into the cabin.

As his lead-soled feet came down, it seemed to him that he had trodden upon a length of thick cable, only that whereas a cable would have remained where it was, this suddenly withdrew itself—so suddenly, indeed, that Roddy slipped and almost fell.

Badly startled, Roddy grasped at the door jamb, and tried to back out. Before he could do so the living cable had wrapped itself around his right leg, and next instant he felt a blow on his chest like that of a hammer.

He was flung backwards towards the door, and, falling against it, pushed it to. He was shut inside the tiny room with his horrible and mysterious assailant.

An ordinary person in the upper air and in a reasonably good light can, to a certain extent, see to both sides as well as in front. A diver cannot. His range of vision is limited by the plate glass front of his helmet. Also, owing to the stiffness of the dress, he cannot easily bend his head.

Although Roddy still held the lamp for the moment, he was quite unable to make out the nature of the creature that was attacking him.

His thoughts flew at once to the devil fish, the awful octopus with its eight cord-like arms, but almost at the same moment he remembered that these creatures are rare on British coasts, and in any case do not grow to a dangerous size.

And then, while he struggled frantically to regain his balance, a huge serpent-like head rose level with his own, and the electric light was reflected in two long, narrow eyes, below which gaped a month armed with white, shining teeth.

Reality was almost as had as imagination. He was face to face with a conger eel of immense size.

Owing to the clouds of sediment which dimmed the water and made it thick as a London fog, Roddy was not able to see the whole of the great coils at once, but from what he could make out, the monster was of the proportions of a python.

Often and often, when out long-lining, Roddy had helped to haul in large congers. He had seen them six feet long and weighing eighty pounds. He remembered well how they barked and fought, driving their teeth into oar blades and thwarts. He had once met an old fisherman whose left hand was maimed as the result of a bite from a large conger. Small wonder that the sight of a creature such as now opposed him filled him with terror.

For a moment he felt numb and half paralysed, just as one does in a bad dream. But the feeling lasted only a second or two, then his natural pluck came back, and he grasped the short-handled axe which hung in a sort of holster attached to his belt.

As he did so, the conger struck at him again. Its great head drove forward exactly like a snake striking, and the force of the stroke sent him off his balance again. Fortunately its teeth struck the metal of his breast plate and did no harm.

But the ferocity of the brute sent a cold chill through Roddy. He realised that if those fangs met in the rubber part of his dress, they would shear through as scissors cut cloth, letting the water in and drowning him.

He pulled the hatchet from the holster and made a desperate blow at his enemy.


He pulled the hatchet from the holster
and made a desperate blow at the great eel.

Water is so dense a medium compared with air that it seemed to Roddy as if his arm had lost half its strength. But although the blow was almost a blind one, he felt that it met the body of the great eel. And by the fearful contortions of the monster he hoped that he had done it serious damage.

Again and again he struck, but the eel was whirling round so madly that he failed to hit it again.

Suddenly he realised that his air supply was running short. The beat and rush of the pump sounded fainter, his lungs were beginning to ache, while the blood hammered in his head.

No wonder, for the air pipe was caught and pinched in the door. At all risks he must get the door open again in order to save himself from suffocation.

He half turned and groped blindly for the handle. The water was in such commotion that he could hardly keep his feet. He was being swung about like a bubble. Also it was so thick that even the powerful ray of the lamp could not penetrate the fog.

He found the handle. As his fingers closed upon it, suddenly the whole weight of the eel struck him—struck him with such force that breath and sense alike were nearly knocked out of him.

The next thing he knew, the brute had a coil of its sinewy, slimy body around him, and he was being dragged down by its weight.

Again the creature struck at him, and he felt its teeth grate on his helmet.

He knew the risk of using his axe blindly. If its razor edge cut through his dress, his fate was sealed. But there was no time to think of this. He made a fierce blow, and the keen blade bit home with a force that jarred his arm.

For a moment he was lifted and swung to and fro like a cork. Then the coil around his waist fell away, and with a frantic effort he jerked the door open, and swung himself out into the alleyway.

He was sick and giddy with the struggle, but there was yet work to do. Bracing himself, he reached forward and, seizing the outer handle of the door, dragged it to. Dead or alive, the eel was now harmless. It was a prisoner inside the cabin, and he himself was safe.

For some seconds he stood quite still, leaning against the bulkhead, drawing deep breaths of the air which now came through freely enough. As he thought of what he had gone through he found himself shivering violently.

He began staggering back towards the companion. For the moment his one idea was to get away out of the wreck, and back to the upper air and the daylight.

But as he set foot upon the lowest step of the ladder he stopped short. The effects of the shock were passing away; his natural pluck reasserted itself. He felt that he could not go back empty-handed and confess that he had failed to finish his work.

He turned again resolutely, and deliberately opened the door of another cabin. Here was no fish or other monster, but all the same Roddy shrank back, drawing his breath with a sharp gasp. For the light of his lamp fell full upon something lying upon the floor—something which gleamed palely under the rays.

It was a skeleton—the skeleton of a man still dressed in the remains of what had once been a suit of clothes.

Roddy's first impulse was to leave the cabin and its contents. But it was necessary to search it first. For all he knew, the remains might be those of Mr. Scott himself.

Under the bunk was an ordinary cabin trunk. Roddy pulled this out. On the lid were the white-painted letters G. M. S. still distinct, in spite of their many months under water.

G. M. S.—George Michael Scott. That was the name of Kirby Scott's father, and Roddy knew that his quest was ended.

But he would not stay a moment longer than necessary in this abode of the dead. The trunk could be better examined above. He managed to get it up on deck, and then to the foot of the ladder.

Arrived there, he signalled for a rope to be sent down. This was done promptly, and making fast the trunk, it was at once hauled up.

Roddy followed, and never in his life had he felt a greater sense of relief than when at last he got his head above water, and saw the bright sunlight shining through the thick plate glass of his helmet.

When he had managed to struggle clear of the water he found that he could do nothing but stand on a rung and grip the sides of the ladder. The enormous weight of lead and diving suit made it impossible for him to climb aboard.

But Hammond was ready to help. He lifted the weights from Roddy's shoulders, and helped him up on deck, and there he was rapidly stripped of his under-water equipment.

"Phew, but I'm glad to get out of that!" were his first words, as the huge helmet was lifted off. "Oh, but it's good to get a breath of real fresh air once more."

"You've found the papers?" asked Drake Denny eagerly.

"I found old Mr. Scott's cabin," answered Roddy, his face growing grave. "The trunk is his. What are we to do, Drake—open it, or leave it for his son?"

Drake shook his head.

"I don't know what to say, Roddy."

"But I do," broke in sturdy Joe Morgan. "I know something about stuff as has been under water. You let it dry in the box there, and 'twill all go stiff and mouldy. If you want to read what's on the papers, the sooner 'tis unpacked and spread out in the sun, the better."

"That settles it, then," said Roddy. "We'll unpack at once."

"Have you got all you wants, Mr. Kynaston?" inquired Ben Hammond. "For if so, we might as well up anchor and run back to Portglask."

Roddy asked him to wait a few minutes until they had opened the trunk and seen what was inside it. Then, if the papers and specimens were there, they could start at once.

Drake and Arnold carried the trunk down into the cabin of the tug. The rest of the Patrol accompanied them. The lock and hinges were quite rusted away, and only the straps held the trunk together. They had no difficulty in opening it, but it was quite another matter to sort out the soaking mass of clothes and odds and ends that filled it.

"Here's a letter-case," said Roddy suddenly, as he lifted out a sodden leather case from under the rotting remains of a suit of clothes.

He opened it with great care, and the very first thing inside was a large envelope containing a sheet of parchment.

They spread it out. Water-soaked as it was, the writing had not run badly, and a minute was enough to show that it really was the long-sought plan.

"And here are the specimens of ore," exclaimed Arnold, as he pulled out a canvas bag from the bottom of the trunk. "By Jove, Roddy, won't Mr. Scott be pleased?"

But Roddy did not reply. He was thinking of the whitened bones lying on the floor of that little cabin at the bottom of the sea—all that remained now of their Scoutmaster's father.


"YOU'VE done splendidly, Roddy," said Kirby Scott. "Splendidly! I am more obliged to you than I can say. Everything is here—the plan, the title deeds to the claim, and the ore specimens."

"I'm jolly glad we managed to get them," answered Roddy. "And now can you start your company at once?"

"No. What I must do first is to go straight out to Newfoundland and see the people on the spot. I have taken a lawyer's advice, and he tells me this is the best thing to do. There are taxes and dues to pay on a claim of this kind, and if they are not paid, the whole claim may be forfeited."

"There's no risk of that, is there?" exclaimed Roddy, startled.

"No, don't worry. I'm all right until a year is up. But the year expires in less than a month, and I'm not taking any chances. I'm going by the very next boat, and that leaves Liverpool to-morrow morning."

"To-morrow morning?" echoed Roddy in dismay.

"Yes, I must get away to-night. I'm sorry to leave you in the lurch, but everything is well in hand, and you and Drake Denny can manage the Patrol between you."

"We shall get on all right," declared Roddy. "All the same we shall miss you horribly."

"I'm glad of that," replied Scott, with a laugh. "It's nice to be missed. But I'll be back almost before you've had time to miss me. And, see here, Roddy, I want you to come to Liverpool with me."

Roddy stared.

"Yes, I mean it. I was thinking things over last night, and I don't see why you and the Patrol shouldn't make a good thing out of the wreck."


"In this way. A ship of that size is sure to have a valuable cargo in her, and some of that cargo will still be worth money, in spite of its having been under water for so long. Now, the Vesta has long ago been written off as a total loss, and the owners have been paid her value by the underwriters. My notion is this: that you should go to the owners, Messrs. Jarvis & Son, of Liverpool, tell them you have located the wreck, and ask them if they will make you a price for the remains."

"But we shouldn't have money enough," objected Roddy.

"No, I know that you have spent a lot on this diving expedition. And as that was all for my benefit, I'm going to make up the price. I can spare fifty pounds out of my savings and still have enough for my trip to Newfoundland. Add this to what you have left, and you'll have plenty."

"And you think we should get our money back?"

"Think! I'm sure of it. Why, the fittings alone will fetch double the money. The best thing you can do is to go into it with Rundle, on shares. If you offer him a fourth of all that's recovered, I think you'll find that he'll jump at it."

Roddy was quite willing to be guided by Scott, and so were the other Seals.

That night Roddy slept in a snug little hotel down by the Liverpool docks. Scott's boat sailed at nine, so the Scoutmaster was not able to accompany Roddy to the office of Messrs. Jarvis. Roddy saw him off; then as soon as the big steamer had started, made his way straight to the shipowners.

He was kept waiting for a few minutes in a small anteroom, where the table was littered with nautical periodicals and almanacs, then ushered into a snug-looking office, where a bearded, middle-aged man sat at a large roll-top desk.

He swung his chair round and gave Roddy a keen look through his glasses. He was evidently surprised at the youthfulness of his caller.

"Well, Mr. Kynaston, what can I do for you? Are you looking for a ship?"

"Not in that sense, sir," answered Roddy, with a smile. "As a matter of fact, I've found one, and I want to buy it."

Mr. Jarvis took off his glasses and peered at Roddy rather suspiciously. He evidently thought the boy was trying to make fun of him.

"It's one of your ships, sir—or rather what remains of it," explained Roddy. "It's the old Vesta."

"Our Vesta that was wrecked last winter?"

"That's it, sir. She lies on the Gannet in six fathoms of water."

"You found her?" exclaimed the other.

"With the help of Lieut. Allen and his waterplane," smiled Roddy.

"You're a venturesome youngster. I'm full of work now, but if you'll come back a little later, we'll go into the matter."

"My train goes at two," said Roddy.

"Well, look here, be back at one and lunch with me. Then we'll talk it over."

Roddy accepted. He went off and wandered about and looked at the ships for a couple of hours. When he returned, Mr. Jarvis was ready for him.

He took him to a big restaurant and ordered such a lunch as Roddy had never sat down to, and Roddy told him the whole story.

The shipowner was vastly interested.

"You should have the wreck like a shot if it was mine to sell," he said. "Unfortunately it is not. It belongs to the underwriters, who have paid the insurance. Inform them, and they will either make you a price or hold an auction."

"An auction!" exclaimed Roddy. "Then the price may be run up?"

"Not likely. You'll get it for fifty pounds, I should think. And now I'll drive you to the station, for your train goes in a quarter of an hour."

Before Roddy went to bed that night he wrote to the underwriters about the Vesta, and two days later got a letter informing him that the auction would be at Milford on the following Saturday.

Roddy called a meeting of the Patrol, and it was agreed that he should go and do the bidding. With twenty pounds, which were left out of the fifty which Sir Richard Ferguson had given them, and Kirby Scott's fifty, he would be able to bid up to seventy. Joe Morgan, who had accompanied his father to several wreck auctions, gave it as his opinion that fifty was the very outside that anyone would be likely to bid.

On Saturday morning the whole patrol rolled up early to see Roddy off, and Joe's father and Evan Llewellyn, the coastguard, helped to make up quite a crowd.

"Good luck, old chap," cried Drake Denny as the train moved out.

"Good luck, Roddy. Don't let 'em bluff you out," shouted Arnold Gillam.

Arrived at Milford Station, Roddy asked his way to the auction-room. He felt a trifle nervous when he found himself in the middle of a crowd of men who were gathered in a big room with a raised desk at the end of it. They were mostly seafaring men, with a sprinkling of regular business people, and they stood about in knots, talking to each other in low voices.

Roddy was much the youngest person in the room, and he saw that some of those present stared at him curiously, as if wondering what on earth brought him into such a place.

Presently the auctioneer mounted his desk. But Roddy soon found that there was a lot of business to be done before the Vesta was offered. A couple of yachts, several trawlers, a motor-launch, various boats, and a quantity of ships' stores were put up in various lots. Some of the latter went wonderfully cheap, and Roddy longed to bid. They would have been so useful for the guardship. But he felt that he had no right to do so, and waited in silence for the wreck.

It came at last.

"The next lot, gentlemen," said the auctioneer, "is the wreck of the sailing-ship Vesta. She lies in six fathoms off the sou'-west corner of the Gannet Shoal, and has a valuable cargo aboard her. I won't guarantee her condition or tell you that she can be raised, for to be honest with you I don't know what state she's in. But there's seventy ton of copper ore aboard her, and a quantity of seal oil in tins. Now, then, what am I bid?"

There was a moment's silence.

"I'll say five," said an elderly man, with a face the colour of well-seasoned mahogany.

There was a general laugh.

"Five—it's absurd!" cried the auctioneer. "Still, I'll take it as a starter. Come along, gentlemen. Speak up, please."

"Ten!" said Roddy.

Everyone stared at him, and he got rather red.

"What are you going to do with a wreck, my lad?" asked a sandy-whiskered man.

"I haven't got one yet," replied Roddy, smiling.

"Had you there," chuckled a man standing next to sandy whiskers. "Had you there, Rolston."

"I'm bid ten. Any advance?" said the auctioneer.

"Fifteen!" came a voice from a corner.

Roddy peered across. The bidder was a tall, shabby man with a big nose. He did not look as though he owned fifteen pence, let alone fifteen pounds.

"Twenty!" said Roddy boldly.

"Thirty!" retorted the man in the corner.

"Come, now. That's a bit better," said the auctioneer. "That's a beginning. Any gentleman say fifty?"

"Forty!" said Roddy.

"It's a big price you're offering, my lad," said the man called Rolston in a low voice. "She may be worth it, but just remember it costs a deal o' money to get the stuff to the surface."

"Thanks," answered Roddy, "but I'm acting on good advice."

"Fifty pounds!" cut in the hoarse voice of the shabby man.

Roddy began to feel uneasy. Was he going to lose the wreck after all?

"Sixty!" he said sharply.

Everyone in the room was staring at him. But Roddy was not blushing any longer. He was too excited to pay attention to the other people.

"Sixty-five!" said the other doggedly.

Roddy's heart leapt. It seemed that the other was nearing the end of his resources.

"Seventy!" he cried quickly.

There was a moment of silence.

"Seventy I'm offered," said the auctioneer. "Seventy pounds."

He raised his hammer.

"Going! Going!—"

The shabby man glared at Roddy, but he did not make another bid.

Down came the hammer.

"Yours, sir," said the auctioneer to Roddy. "Name and address, please."

Roddy settled up and got his receipt. Then he went off to find Isaac Rundle, whose home was in Milford.

Rundle was delighted to see Roddy. The boy's pluck in going down to the wreck had pleased the diver vastly. He took him into a cosy sitting-room and made him sit down in his best easy chair.

"And now, Mr. Kynaston, what can I do for you?" he asked.

"Tell me how you are, first. How's that broken rib getting on?"

"First rate. Doctor says it's mended up already. He's going to let me get back to work in a week."

"That's good, for I've got work for you to do if you'll take it on. I've bought the wreck of the Vesta, and I want to get the cargo out before the winter."

"Bought the old Vesta? Well I never! What's in her, Mr. Kynaston?"

"Seventy tons of copper ore for one thing," replied Roddy. "And a lot of seal oil and other stuff. I want to know if you'll work it with us on a quarter share."

Rundle made a rapid calculation.

"All right, mister," he said cheerfully. "I'm your man. And if I could, I'd go out to-morrow. 'Tis a pity I'm not able to yet, for we may get rough weather any time now. I don't know that you wouldn't be wiser to get someone else as could get to it at once."

"I'd a jolly sight sooner wait for you," said Roddy. "And so would all the rest of us. We'll just trust that the Seals' luck will hold, and that we'll get decent weather next week. How about the tug?"

"Don't you worry about that," returned Rundle. "I'll see to all of that and the dress, and I'll bring Ben Hammond along, same as I did before. I'll write you a letter to say what day we'll come, and you can bring all your boys along if you've a mind to."

A few days later Roddy got the long-expected letter saying that Rundle would be ready on Monday, and that he would bring a second diving dress in case Roddy liked to go down with him.

Monday morning dawned fine and clear, and long before the tug was due the six Seals were waiting on the quay.

At last the tug hove in sight, and the Patrol greeted her with a cheer. They tumbled aboard in a hurry, and the tug turned and plunged out to sea again, bound for the Shoal.

Roddy's wreck buoy was still in position, and in a very short time the anchor was down, and the squat little craft lying quietly at her cable, rising and falling gently to the slow breathing of the long, smooth swells.

Rundle had brought an extra hand along to run the second pump, and Roddy wasted no time in getting into his dress.

"We'll be down a bit longer than you was last time," said Rundle just before his helmet was screwed on. "If you gets tired, why, don't be ashamed to go up for a spell. It's kind of rough on a new hand to stay down the whole four hours."

"All right. I'll go up if I feel I ought to," answered Roddy. "But I jolly well hope we'll break out some of that copper before we see daylight again."

"We'll do that all right," said Isaac Rundle cheerily, and those were the last words Roddy heard before his huge copper helmet was dropped over his head, and the pump began to beat, sending the air gushing through the inlet valve.

Rundle went first down the ladder, and Roddy followed. All his nervousness was gone. His whole energies were bent upon getting to work as soon as possible.

This time they had not so far to go to find the wreck. The tug had been moored right on top of her. This was very necessary, for the cargo would have to be sent up in slings as it was broken out.

Reaching the foot of the ladder, he found himself within a few paces of the dim bulk of the poor old Vesta. The sun, right overhead, showed her up plainly, and some thirty feet above her hung the tug, looking oddly long and narrow compared with her appearance above water.

The first time Roddy had visited the wreck he had been quite in the dark as to the internal arrangements. He had had to grope about blindly. He was much better off now. Mr. Jarvis had given him a full plan of the ship, and he had studied this until he knew the whereabouts of every hatch and hold and ladder in her, and felt that he could have found his way about her blindfold.

As he scrambled over her side he had already made up his mind just where the ore was stowed.

It was slow and tedious work getting down into the lower hold. When two divers work together in a confined space they have to be very careful about their life-lines and air-pipes. It doesn't do to get them tangled.

Presently Roddy and Rundle were safe in the hold. Here it was pitch dark, and they both had to use their lamps. Even so, their movements stirred up so much sediment that they had to stand quite still for some moments to let it settle.

Soon the water was clear enough to see their surroundings, and there in front lay a heap of large sacks. Some had burst and the contents had fallen out. They looked like blocks of dark stone.

"Hurrah!" cried Roddy, quite forgetting that his voice could reach no other ears but his own.

Rundle had taken the slate from his belt and was writing. He held the slate to Roddy.

"It's all right," he had written, "the stuff's here and you've got your money's worth, and maybe a bit over."

IT took Rundle and Roddy a full week to clear the more valuable portion of her cargo out of the wreck. Even then there was a lot left worth having. But the weather, which had held up wonderfully all this time, suddenly broke, and they had to leave the remainder till the following spring.

When the ore and the other stuff had been sold, and Rundle had taken his share, and all expenses had been paid, there remained a sum of nearly four hundred pounds.

This was handed over to Dr. Kynaston and Captain Denny, to hold in trust for the benefit of the Seals.

That winter was a busy one for the Patrol. The guardship was at last properly fitted out. Maps and charts were bought, a flagstaff was put up, and a complete set of signal flags purchased.

A proper library was started, and the last and biggest improvement of all was the installation of a small but complete set of wireless, for which a licence was obtained from the postal authorities.

It was nearly Christmas before Scott came back. Everything had gone well, the claim had proved to be very valuable, and he had found no difficulty in getting capital to work it.

"I'm not going to sell," he told Roddy. "I'm going to work it myself. And I mean to spend my holidays at Portglask, and help the Seals all I can. And I'll tell you what, Roddy, I want you and Drake and the rest of the Patrol to spend your next summer holidays with me in Newfoundland."

"You don't mean it?" gasped Roddy.

"Indeed I do," said Scott, with a laugh. "I'm by way of being a rich man now, and it's hard if I can't repay all the good turns the Seals have done for me by doing one for them."


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.