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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(WRITING AS T.C. BRIDGES)

THE ROGUE WHALE

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A THRILLING STORY OF TWO BOYS AT SEA


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First published in The Children's Newspaper: #240 (20 Oct 1923) - #258 (23 Feb 1924)

First book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-02-12
Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57



CHAPTER 1. — THE SQUALL

"EIGHT big ones and four small," said Colin Kemp as he finished tying the claws of the last of the lobsters, and placed it with the rest in the basket. "Not so bad, Kit. They ought to fetch a good price on the beach."

His twin brother steadied the little dinghy as Colin baited the last lobster pot.

"Hurry up, Col," he said; "I don't half like the look of the sky. The sooner we are back in the cove the better."

Col cocked a careless eye at the thunder cloud rising black above Penstone Point.

"Does look like a squall," he agreed. He dropped the weighted pot overboard with a splash and picked up an oar. "Right you are," he said. "Let her go."

With the oars dipping and rising with clockwork regularity, the small boat shot away over the long oily swell toward the high rock point which guarded the North end of Tarnmouth Cove. The brothers were experts in handling boats. They had to be, for their livelihood depended on their skill.

The cloud rose quickly; it was blue-black, with a rolling white edge, and presently a hoarse mutter of thunder shook the sultry air. As Kit and Col rounded the point a puff of cold wind ruffled the glassy surface, a black shadow cut off the sunlight, then, with a blaze of lightning and a splitting crack of thunder, the storm was on them. The wind was off shore, and though the cliffs cut off the worst of it, it took the boys all they knew to pull against it.

"Just as well it didn't catch us outside," panted Col as he tugged at his oar.

Kit heard, but did not answer. His eyes were fixed upon a small launch which, half hidden in the driving rain, was a little behind them, and about a hundred yards to the right. Her crew consisted of one, a boy of about fourteen, and at a glance Kit saw that all was not right. Apparently there was something wrong with the engine, for the little craft did not seem able to forge ahead against the gale, and was barely holding her own.

"That chap's in trouble," said Kit. "Col, we'll have to give him a hand."

Col glanced at the launch.

"The silly ass!" he grumbled.

"Fancy trusting to an engine in weather like this!"

But even as he spoke he was swinging the dinghy round with a powerful stroke.

For a moment the force of the wind sent the dinghy skimming like a bubble broadside, then the twins got hold of her and drove her flying toward the launch. It was time, too, for now the engine had struck work altogether, and the wind had taken charge and was driving the launch like a chip out to the open sea. The boy had placidly shipped a pair of oars, but he was too small to handle them, and as the gale increased in violence the launch was driven right back out of the harbour.

The twins said nothing, merely pulled like fury. Both knew that their one chance was to get the boy aboard the dinghy before he and they were too far out. In the sea that was already running outside no small craft could hope to live.

Driven by two pairs of strong arms the dinghy rapidly overtook the drifting launch, but before they caught her up they were quite outside the sheltering points and pitching in an ugly, steep sea.

"We'll have a job to get back," thought Kit, but he did not say it aloud. He needed all his breath for pulling.

At last the dinghy was alongside the launch. The waves flung the two craft together, and it was all that the twins could do to avoid a collision which would have staved in the dinghy like an egg-shell.

"Jump!" shouted Kit.

The boy was white as a sheet, but luckily he kept his head. He scrambled into the bow of the launch, and, waiting till a wave lifted her, made a frantic jump. He just reached the dinghy, and pitched all in a heap right on top of Col, who was pulling stroke, knocking him backwards off the thwart.

Before anything could be done a wave broke over the dinghy, half filling her.

"The launch! It's our only chance!" cried Col as he scrambled up; and Kit pulled like mad in a desperate effort to reach it before the dinghy sank.


CHAPTER 2. — A FIGHT FOR LIFE

A WAVE picked up the dinghy and flung her against the launch, and somehow Kit managed to grasp the stern of the launch and tumble aboard.

Col grabbed the boy, and as the two jumped together the dinghy actually sank under their feet. The launch was not much better, for the water was washing about in her a foot deep, and every wave broke over her.

"Get her head to it, Col," cried Kit, "and you, kid, help me bale."

Col swung out the oars, and with a desperate effort got the launch's head to the wind; the other two baled their hardest. Once the launch was bow on to the run of the sea, she did not take so much water; but, even so, enough broke inboard to keep the balers busy. And by himself Col could only just hold the heavy little craft in position. The tide was running out, and with that and the gale they were drifting rapidly out to sea.

Kit, baling hard, spoke to Col.

"She won't last long at this rate," he said quietly. "Seems to me our only chance will be to beach her on the Galloper."

"A slim chance," replied Col, glancing at a long line of thundering surf half a mile out to sea, where the waves broke white on a dangerous sandbank known as the Galloper. "But just as you say..."

Digging his oars in, he altered the course so that the direction of the drift was straight for the bank.

The farther they went the harder the gale blew, and the higher grew the waves. The spray broke over the launch in a continual cloud. No one spoke, but all three knew that it was just a chance whether they could keep the launch afloat until she grounded.

The water shoaled; the launch was tossed in a mad welter of foam. Suddenly there was a tremendous bump as the keel struck hard sand. A big wave lifted her and flung her forward. Another crash, the bottom opened, and next instant all three were struggling for dear life in the thundering surf. The boy went down, but Col caught him on one side and Kit on the other.

The next few moments were a nightmare of roaring waves and sucking undertow, and if the twins had not been as tough as wire they would never have survived. Once Kit went down, and Col dragged him up; then Col dropped into a hole, but Kit held him till the wave drew back. Then all three went stumbling forward, and the next they knew they were lying face down, panting, on the hard, wet sand.

Kit was the first to get his breath.

"Phew! but that was a bit of a fight, Col," he said hoarsely.

"I feel as if I'd been sandpapered all over," replied Col ruefully. "How's the kid?"

"I'm all right, thanks," said the boy. "I say, it was fine of you to come after me."

"It would have served you jolly well right if you'd been drowned," said Col severely. "Messing about in a launch with weather coming!"

"It wasn't my fault," declared the boy. "The engine stopped firing. She's never played a trick like that before."

"She won't play it again," said Col grimly.

The boy did not seem particularly worried.

"Oh, Dad will get me something better!" he answered.

"Who is your Dad?" enquired Col.

"Carton is our name. I'm Cecil Carton."

Col started slightly.

"Are you Guy Carton's son?"

"Yes. And here he is, coming in his big launch."

The swift summer storm was passing as quickly as it had come, and a large launch was in sight, tearing out at full speed between the Heads. Cecil Carton sprang up and waved his arms vigorously.

Col looked at Kit.

"Guy Carton. That's the big shipowner. I say, Kit, it might be a chance for Uncle Nat."

There was an unusual gleam in Kit's grey eyes.

"It might be," he said quietly.


CHAPTER 3. — CAPTAIN NAT

A BOAT from the launch had no difficulty in getting the boys off the bank, and they were pulled rapidly up to the launch herself. A very tall man with grey hair and a thin, anxious-looking face was waiting for them.

"Cecil!" he cried. "You are safe?"

"Right as a trivet, Dad. But I'd have been done for if it hadn't been for these two chaps. And they've lost their dinghy."

Mr. Carton turned to the twins.

"You are the Kemps, are you not?" he asked.

Col answered:

"Yes, sir. I'm Colin, and this is Kit."

The great shipowner looked at the two brothers, each of exactly the same height, each with brown faces, curly hair, and straight grey eyes. A smile lit his tired face.

"I shall want a lot of introducing before I can tell you apart," he said. "But first I offer you my very grateful thanks. There are few lads of your age who would have had not only the pluck but the seamanship to do what you have done."

Kit and Col both flushed hotly.

"It was nothing, sir," they said with one voice.

"It was a great deal, my boys," said Mr. Carton gently. "I have lost one child at sea, and if the other had gone I think I should have gone too."

Kit looked up.

"We're sorry, sir," he said softly.

Mr. Carton took him by the arm.

"Come below, both of you. You must not stand here in the wind in your soaking clothes. You too, Cecil. You must all strip and have a rub down and a hot drink."

Kit and Col protested that they got wet most days, but Mr. Carton insisted, and they followed him into a beautifully furnished cabin where a steward brought them rough towels and a change of clothes. By the time they had changed the big launch was back at her moorings, the sun was shining, and tea was on the table.

Such a tea! Hot scones, new bread, fresh butter on ice, strawberry jam, and a great dish of hothouse fruit. It was two years since Col had seen anything like it. When they had finished Mr. Carton spoke.

"Boys, it is easy enough to say that I am grateful. It is not so easy to prove it. Now, will you do me a favour and tell me what I can do for you?"

The twins looked at one another; they both grew rather red. It was Col who spoke.

"Could—could you give Uncle Nat a job, sir?" he stammered.

Mr. Carton looked puzzled.

"Uncle Nat?" he repeated.

Kit explained.

"He is Captain Sibley, sir. He has looked after us nearly all our lives, for our people were killed in a train accident when we were quite small. He has done everything for us, and now he has lost his ship—and his ticket."

"It wasn't his fault," put in Col.

The shipowner nodded.

"I remember now. He was master of the whaler Portland: she was cast away on the Pribylovs, and the Admiralty Court decided that it was his fault."

"But it was not," cried Col. "It was his mate's fault, and he did it on purpose because he had a grudge against Uncle Nat. He wanted to go poaching the seal rookeries, and Uncle would not let him."

"Have you proof of this?" demanded Mr. Carton, his voice suddenly sharp.

"None, sir," answered Kit, "except Uncle Nat's own word; but that Col and I would take against the world."

"At any rate you are good advocates," said Mr. Carton, and sat silent for a few moments. Then he spoke again. "I would like to see your Uncle and have a talk with him. Do you think he would call on me this evening—say about eight?"

"Of course he would," cried Col. "I'll tell him, sir." He sprang up. "He will be expecting us. If you don't mind, we'll go now."

Mr. Carton smiled at Col's enthusiasm.

"Yes, go if you wish, but do not get too excited. I do not promise anything, remember."

"That's all right, sir, and thank you for a jolly good tea."

"Thank you too," added Kit gravely, as he got up.

Mr. Carton shook hands with them both.

"I shall see you again," he said. "Cecil and I are not going to forget you."

Five minutes later the twins were swinging rapidly down the street.

Near the outskirts of the village they came to a tiny cottage standing in a wee strip of beautifully kept garden. A big man in his shirt-sleeves was busy with a hoe, and as the boys came up he turned.

"So here you are," he said in a deep rich voice which fitted exactly with his fine figure and great lion-like head. "I suppose you've been sheltering from the squall?"

"Not much shelter, Uncle Nat. We were on the Galloper during the worst of it."

Captain Nat stared at his nephew, but Col had already burst info his story.

"Wasn't it a bit of luck?" he ended, with shining eyes. "Just the very man who can give you a job, Uncle Nat. And he wants you to go and see him at eight o'clock this evening as ever is."

Captain Nat showed none of the interest which Col had fully expected from him. On the contrary, his face took on that sad, resigned expression which it had so often worn since the disastrous end of the voyage of the Portland.

"What's the matter, Uncle?" exploded Col. "Don't you want to get a ship again?" he demanded.

"That is the dearest wish of my life," replied. Captain Nat. "That, and to prove that the loss of the Portland was not my fault."

"Well, but Mr. Carton will give you a ship," insisted Col.

Captain Nat shook his head.

"He can't do that, Col. His ships are all passenger vessels, and however much he wished to do so it would be impossible for him to give command of such a ship to a man like myself who has lost his ticket. The law would not allow it."

Kit and Col gazed at one another in dismay. This was a point of view that had never even occurred to them, and their hearts sank like lead as they realised that it was the true one.


CHAPTER 4. — CAPTAIN NAT POCKETS HIS PRIDE

IT was Kit who broke the silence. "But you will go and see Mr. Carton, Uncle Nat?" he begged.

"Even if he can't give you command of one of his ships, he may find you a shore job."

Captain Nat hesitated, and Kit, knowing his pride, was dreadfully afraid that he would flatly refuse to have anything to do with the millionaire.

And this, indeed, was Captain Nat's first thought; but then it came to him that, after all, he had others besides himself to consider. It was not fair to the boys to keep them hanging about Tarnmouth, fishing for a living and without prospect of doing anything better. No, he must pocket his pride and do as Kit had asked him.

"Very well," he said at last; "I will go to see Mr. Carton."

Then he turned quickly away and went into the house.

"He doesn't want to go a bit," said Col.

"But it is quite right that he should go," replied his brother; and they left it at that.

At half-past seven they finished their simple supper. At a quarter to eight Captain Nat, wearing the only good suit of clothes that he had left, and with his head a bit higher than usual, went striding up the street. It was exactly eight as he rang the bell at the front door of Mr. Guy Carton's big house up on Prospect Hill.

The butler had evidently been told to expect him, and took him at once to Mr. Carton's study. It was a great, airy room, hung with a number of fine pictures of the sea and of ships.

Mr. Carton, who was writing at his desk, got up at once.

"This is very kind of you, Captain Sibley," he said, so cordially that, in spite of himself, part of Captain Nat's ill- humour vanished at once.

"Do sit down," he begged.

Captain Nat sat down and looked at the shipowner. Ship captains, as a rule, are not fond of ship-owners, but Captain Nat found himself pitying this one, Mr. Carton's face was so haggard, and the lines round his eyes showed such signs of grief and suffering.

"First," said Mr. Carton, "I want to say that you ought to be very proud of those two boys of yours. It was a splendidly plucky thing that they did today, and they showed not only pluck but seamanship."

If he had thought for a week Mr. Carton could have said nothing better calculated to please the other. Though he never let them think so, in his secret soul Captain Nat was enormously proud of the twins. They had been his so long that he looked upon them almost as his own sons.

"They are good lads, Mr. Carton," he said simply.

"And what are you going to do with them, Captain Sibley?"

"They will follow the sea, sir, but I hope with better luck than mine," answered Captain Nat.

"But you are still a young man, Captain Sibley. You should not speak as if your career were over," said Mr. Carton.

"You know my story, sir," said Captain Nat bitterly.

"I have read the case, but now that I see you I am the more inclined to believe, as your nephews do, that losing your ship was no fault of yours."

"It was not," replied Captain Nat grimly, "but as the Court declared that it was I have no remedy."

"For how long was your ticket suspended?"

"For two years; but it might just as well have been for good."

The other nodded.

"Yes; as a shipowner I understand that. It is a case of giving a dog a bad name. But when does your suspension end?"

"Not for another six months."

Mr. Carton considered a moment.

"It means some delay, but, after all, that does not matter. I have an offer to make to you, Captain Sibley."

Captain Nat said nothing, but inwardly he was filled with a sharp excitement.

"It is no easy task," went on the other warningly, "yet, if you are the man I take you for—and it is my business to size up men—it gives you a chance of making good. Not only that, but of making a sum of money sufficient, perhaps, to secure the future of yourself and those two fine lads. Now listen to me. I have a proposition to make to you."


CHAPTER 5. — A GENEROUS OFFER

"NEARLY two years ago," said Mr. Carton, "my daughter Sybil was ailing, and the doctors said a sea voyage would make her well, so I sent her for a cruise around the world in my steam yacht, the Mercy. You have probably heard what happened?"

"I know that the yacht was wrecked in the Indian Ocean and all hands lost."

"No," said Mr. Carton. "All were not lost. There was one survivor, the mate Mr. Crale. He was picked up at sea by the tramp steamer Trojan, and from him I learned what really happened. Off the Chagos Archipelago the yacht was attacked by a gigantic bull whale, and stove so completely that she sank in ten minutes."

"Sunk by a whale!" repeated Captain Nat, in amazement. "I have been whaling all my life, and I never heard of a case of an unprovoked attack on a Ship even by a sperm whale."

"Nor I," answered Mr. Carton, who was deathly pale. "Yet this brute did attack without provocation. What is more, Mr. Crale believes it to be the same beast that sank the whaler Bedford three years ago, and has since attacked another vessel."

"I heard of the Bedford business, but the Bedford's boats had attacked the creature, and there is more than one case on record of a whale sinking a whaler. For instance, the Essex, though that was many years ago."

"In this case there is no doubt about it," said Mr. Carton decidedly. "And this monster ended the life of my dearly loved daughter. Captain Sibley, I am not a vindictive man, but a creature of this sort is a danger to all ships that pass. I wish it to be destroyed. Will you undertake the task?"

Captain Nat's eyes flashed.

"With all my heart, sir," he exclaimed.

"That is the answer I should have expected, and it pleases me that you do not even ask on what conditions I give you this commission. They are these: I fit out a whaler for you for a regular cruise. You do your best to kill this particular rogue whale, but you will be at liberty to kill other whales as well. And, after actual expenses are paid, half the profits will be yours."

"It is a very generous offer, sir," said Captain Nat gratefully. "But how am I to identify this particular whale?"

"Mr. Crale will go with you, and will be in command until your suspension is at an end. He tells me he can be certain of the whale. It is not only its size, but it has other marks by which it can be known, especially a curiously crooked jaw."

Captain Nat nodded.

"Then he's a rogue right enough," he said; and after that the two fell to discussing details of the proposed voyage.


CHAPTER 6. — A STRANGE CHANCE

SOME weeks had gone by since the events of the last chapter, and the scene had changed.

Col stood staring out under cupped hands across a sea that glowed like molten gold under the sun glare. The heat was terrific, yet tempered by a light easterly breeze before which the whaler Triton, a square-rigged ship of about 400 tons, forged slowly westward across the Indian Ocean.

Col turned to his twin who stood beside him.

"I do wonder if we shall ever find the brute," he said.

Kit did not answer, but Col's words reached the ears of a tall, spare, melancholy-looking man who stood close by.

"Ay, lad; we shall find him," he said in a tone of intense conviction.

"But the Indian Ocean is so big, Mr. Crale," objected Col. "And Uncle Nat says that sperm whales rove for thousands of miles."

"Not this one," answered Mr. Crale. "It wasn't fifty miles from here that he sank the Mercy, nor much more than that distance from here that the Bedford fought him. He's not like any ordinary whale; and it is my firm belief that he haunts the Dalton Deep and never goes far from it."

"Is this the Dalton Deep?" asked Kit.

"Ay; that's what they call it, and I reckon there's nearly four mile of water beneath the ship's keel this minute. But it isn't all that deep, and there are islands not a great way off to the westward."

"Islands?" questioned Col eagerly. "Desert islands?"

"Some of 'em," he said. "There are said to be sixteen thousand islands in the Indian Ocean, and only about six hundred of them inhabited."

Col's eyes widened, but before he could speak again there came a sudden shout from aloft. Col jumped as if he had been stung.

"A whale?" he cried.

Mr. Crale was staring up at the crow's-nest, a tub-like arrangement at the main royal masthead, where, in a whaling ship, a lookout is stationed from dawn until dark.

"No," he said; "not a whale. It's a boat he has seen."

He raised his glasses to his eyes, focused them carefully, and gazed for a minute or more in the direction indicated by the look-out.

"Ay, it's a boat," he said. "A ship's boat, too, by the look of her. I reckon she's in trouble."

He shouted an order to the man at the wheel. The ship's course was altered, and her bow turned in the direction of the tiny dot now just visible to the naked eye as it heaved over the summits of the great slow swells.

All was excitement. The whole of the watch on deck, some sixteen men, were staring at the boat.

"A whaler's boat, most like," said Jupe, a giant mulatto, who was the Triton's star harpooner. "Ah reckon she's been fast, and lost her fish."

"And her ship, too?" questioned Col.

"Dat's so, Ah guess," replied Jupe.

The breeze stiffened, and the Triton bore down more rapidly on the boat.

"She's a whaler's boat all right," said Kit presently. "See, she's double-ended."

"And in a bad way," added Col. "No one is rowing. I say, Kit, I'm afraid her crew are all done for."

"It looks like it," agreed Kit gravely.

Soon they were near enough to see that men lay sprawled in the bottom of the boat—five of them, in all.

"Too late, I'm afraid," said Mr. Crale heavily; but Col gave a sudden shout. "One's moving. They're not all dead."

A few minutes more and the derelict boat was right under the side of the whaler, and willing hands were lifting her occupants aboard.

Three were beyond help, but two were still alive. One of these was a little yellow-skinned Portuguese, the other was apparently English.

His appearance was not prepossessing. He was a thick-set man, with a sallow face, sharp features, and narrow, deep-set eyes. His lips were black with thirst, but he was still conscious.

As they lifted him over the side Captain Nat came on deck. He had been busy in his cabin and was totally unaware of what had been taking place. Col eagerly began to tell him what had happened.

"There are only two of them," he wound up; "and by the look of them we haven't found them much too soon."

Captain Nat stepped quickly to the side, but as his eyes fell upon the sallow-faced man he stopped short, and both his nephews saw his expression change and grow suddenly hard and stern.

The twins stared at him in astonishment.

"Heavens above!" they heard him mutter. "What an extraordinary chance!"

"What is it, Uncle Nat?" questioned Col. "Do you know him?"

"Too well," replied Captain Nat curtly. "That is Simon Blaskett, my mate in the Portland."

"What! The man you told us about?"

"The same," replied the other in a low, harsh voice. "The scoundrel who lost me my ship and who did his best to ruin me."


CHAPTER 7. — "THERE SHE BLOWS!"

THE twins were impatient to know more.

"But how does Blaskett come here?" demanded Col.

"We shall know soon enough," replied Captain Nat, speaking in the same harsh, unnatural voice. Neither of his nephews had ever seen him so strongly moved.

Mr. Crale meantime was putting water to Blaskett's lips. The man snatched at the mug and drained it. "More," he said thickly.

"That's enough for the present," Mr. Crale told him. "You'll kill yourself if you take too much."

Blaskett scowled at the other, and Col shrugged his shoulders. "Sweet creature," he remarked.

Captain Nat had not moved. Blaskett had not yet seen him at all. Mr. Crale was speaking to Blaskett.

"What is your ship?" he asked.

"What was my ship you'd better say, mister," replied Blaskett in his harsh, unpleasant voice. "I was second mate of the Dundee until that mad whale sunk her."

Col started forward, but his uncle's big hand caught and held him. Mr. Crale was gazing at Blaskett with eyes full of horror. "What, another?" he asked hoarsely.

"I don't know about another," said Blaskett. "But by the way that all-fired brute charged us, I'd think it wasn't the first time he'd done the trick. He was a bull whale, the biggest I ever set eyes on. Must have been all of eighty feet long, and his lower jaw crooked like a crossbill."

"The same," replied Mr. Crale, in a low, thick tone. "The same that sunk us in the Mercy, and that stove the Portland." He paused. "And you are the only survivors?"

"Two boats got clear," Blaskett told him, "but the big bull finished the other. Looked to me as if he bit it clean in two. It was only because he was so busy with it that we got clear. But we'd no grub and only one keg of water, and we've been afloat eight days."

Kit shuddered. The thought of what these unfortunate men must have suffered was ghastly.

"Give me some more water," demanded Blaskett, "and a drop of rum in it wouldn't go amiss."

"You had better be taken below," said Mr. Crale. "Then you shall have something else. But bread-and-milk will do you more good than spirits."

Blaskett scowled again. "I reckon I know what's good for me," he snarled. But Mr. Crale took no notice.

As two men picked Blaskett up Captain Nat slipped aside behind the deck-house.

"I will wait till he is better before I tackle him," he said significantly. "But if he thinks that he is going to remain upon this ship he is mistaken."

"What will you do with him, Uncle?" questioned Col. "Will you maroon him?"

Captain Nat's grim face relaxed into a smile.

"We don't do things like that nowadays, Col. I shall wait until we run into some port in Madagascar or Mauritius. There he will go straight ashore."

Blaskett and the other survivor from the Portland were carried below, and the Portland's boat was hauled up on deck; then Captain Nat spoke to Mr. Crale, and orders were given for the burial of the three dead bodies. Captain Nat himself read the service and the crew stood by in silence.

The boys listened with bared heads and hearts full of pity for the three poor fellows who had come to such a terrible end. When all was over Mr. Crale turned to Captain Nat.

"That's one more to the score," he said, and there was a strange light in his eyes. "We've got to get him, Captain Sibley."

"Never fear, Mr. Crale," responded Captain Nat. "We shall get the brute."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before there came a prolonged hail from the crow's nest. "There she blows!"


CHAPTER 8. — A LONE WHALE

CAPTAIN Nat looked up.

"Where away?" he shouted.

"On the lee beam. A big lone whale, about five miles off."

Kit, standing close by Mr. Crale, saw that queer gleam come again into his sunken eyes.

"The rogue," said Mr. Crale breathlessly.

But Captain Nat shook his head.

"Don't be too sure. I'm not thinking we'll find him as easy as that." Then he turned and shouted out orders.

The ship was kept off, and at a steady pace approached the spot where the whale had been seen to blow. So far, though she had been at sea for nearly three months, not one whale had been sighted, and now the excitement on board was tremendous. A whaling crew, down to the youngest lad aboard, work on shares, and it is to the interest of all to kill as many whales as possible.

Though the great days of whaling are past, of late there has been a revival of the industry, and both oil and spermaceti find a ready market.

When about two miles from the place where the whale had been last seen the boats were lowered. For weeks past the men had been drilled in their task, and now the activity with which they sprang barefooted to their places was wonderful. Mr. Crale took one boat, and of this the twins formed a part of the crew.

Young as they were the boys could handle the long oars with the best, and dropping them into the well-matted rowlocks they fell instantly into stroke.

Four boats were put down and rowed out in fan shape, so that at two miles from the ship they covered a front of a mile and a half. Each boat was thirty feet long, sharp at bow and stern, six and a half wide amidships, and with a bottom so round and buoyant that it rode the swells like a duck.

Each was equipped with 380 fathoms of two inch line, five harpoons, three lances, a hatchet, and a sharp knife. Each had a water keg, a case of biscuits, a lantern, a first-aid case, and was fitted with mast and sail. The boat was worked with four oars and steered with an oar 22 feet long, run through a grommet on the stern port.

"Easy now," said Mr. Crale in a low voice, and they stopped pulling while Mr. Crale, standing up, scanned the silken swells on which they were swinging.

"Full time for ole whale to come up," murmured Jupe, the big mulatto, and almost as he spoke Kit's sharp eyes caught a darkness under the clear water barely a cable length ahead.

"There!" he whispered sharply, and pointed.

"Jimmy, but it's him!" muttered Jupe, and at that instant the sea broke and a huge mass, looking as if modelled out of india- rubber, rose to the surface, and a jet of vapour rushed up into the clear air.

"Spring! Spring!" snapped Mr. Crale. In a flash he was a new man. His very face had changed, and his eyes flashed with fierce excitement.

How they pulled! Yet they did not forget that a whale is one of the most easily frightened of all sea creatures. The oars dipped noiselessly, feathered perfectly, and in dead silence the boat flashed upon the giant beast.

The two boys were so excited that they could hardly breathe. Having their backs to the whale, they could not, of course, see what was happening. Then all of a sudden they both smelled an odour like a great bank of seaweed, and right under the blade of his fourteen-foot oar Kit saw a wide blackness, and realised with a gasp that it was the flukes of the giant whale.

"Now!" roared Mr. Crale; but Jupe hardly waited for the order.

"Take dat!" he shouted at the pitch of his tremendous voice, as he flung the razor-bladed harpoon with such force that it sank a good three feet into the black, shining mass.

"Stern! Stern all!" bellowed Mr. Crale.

The next thing the boys were conscious of was a report like that of a six-inch gun and a deluge of foam as the whale's huge flukes struck the water almost alongside the boat. Then the boat spun dizzily as it swung to the tow-line, and next moment was flying across the sea at a furious speed.

As usual the creature ran to windward, and at such a pace that the boat literally shot from one wave crest to the next, striking each in succession with a sound like a pistol shot. The air whistled past their ears as if a gale were blowing.

Col was the first to get his breath back.

"Mr. Crale," he called out—"Mr. Crale, is it the rogue?"

Mr. Crale shook his head. "No," he said,— "no. It is not the rogue."


CHAPTER 9. — DANGER

ON and on went the whale with undiminished speed, towing the boat behind him as easily as if it had been a chip. Within a very few minutes they had passed the Triton, crossing her bows about a mile ahead of her.

"Will she follow us?" asked Kit.

"She's got to pick up the other boats first," Mr. Crale told him.

Kit said nothing, but it occurred to him that at the pace they were travelling they would get a long start before the Triton could follow them up.

This idea, too, was evidently in Mr. Crale's mind, for presently he ordered them to try to pull up on the whale so that Jupe might lance it. But, though they hauled till they were breathless, they could hardly gain a yard.

"How long will he go like this, Jupe?" asked Col of the harpooner.

"All de day and all de night by de look ob him," growled Jupe. "I done put the iron too far back. It ain't hurting him no more'n a skeeter bite, and he'll run till he gets tired."

"Unless he stops and mills," put in Mr. Crale.

"Ah wish he would," said Jupe. "De breeze is getting up, and we's in fer a wet ride."

He was right; and as the breeze freshened the spray broke over the boat so heavily that it was like a blinding mist. Often they were unable to see the whale, which still travelled at the same mad speed.

"Mr. Crale's looking worried," said Col in his brother's ear.

"I don't blame him," replied Kit. "There's weather brewing. What's more, it will be dark in little more than an hour."

With startling suddenness the strain ceased, and, though the boat still moved forward, her pace rapidly slackened.

"Back her! Back her!" ordered Mr. Crale, and the crew obeyed.

When her way was quite stopped and she floated motionless on the heaving swells, the boys had time to look round.

"Why, the whale has gone!" gasped Col in dismay.

"He's done sounded," explained Jupe. "Jest dived down deep to see if he can't fool us."

But he didn't stay down long. A minute later up shot the whale again, bouncing to the surface a hundred yards or more ahead of the boat.

"Plumb out o' reach!" growled Jupe, as the great black monster set off again at the same mad speed.

The breeze kept on stiffening, and a quantity of hard-edged clouds was showing in the south-east. Mr. Crale, who was now looking really worried, whispered something to Jupe. But the big mulatto shook his head.

"No, sah, I wouldn't do dat," he said. "He can't keep dis up very much furder. Ah reckon he's nigh due to run deep or start a- milling."

But the whale did not do either. He kept on, and now every wave was splashing inboard, and the crew had to bale hard. The Sun was hidden by clouds, the sea had darkened; and, as for the Triton, she had completely vanished.

Kit now knew that what Mr. Crale had suggested was to cut, but he was well aware how unwilling either he or any of the men would be to lose such a prize. For a whale such as this to which they were fast would yield oil and spermaceti worth at least 500.

More water came splashing aboard, and Kit and Col were baling hard when they became aware that the furious pace had suddenly slackened.

"Watch out!" roared Jupe in hurricane tones. "He's turned. He's going to mill."

Kit looked up, and saw the huge brute coming straight for the boat. His mouth was wide and the gap between the two jaws was wide enough to swallow the boat and everything in it.


CHAPTER 10. — THE FLURRY

FOR the moment Kit was almost paralysed by the appalling sight. He felt as if he were standing between the metals of a railway line watching an express engine bearing down upon him at full speed.

Luckily this lasted but a second. He heard Mr. Crale shout:

"Out oars! Pull, two! Stern, three!"

Mr. Crale himself handled the enormously long steering oar, and the light boat spun like a top, so that the whale, rushing blindly like a bull, missed it by a couple of yards. As it came thundering by, flinging up the spray on either side of its ponderous carcass, Jupe, standing up, hurled a lance with such vehemence that the whole of its shaft disappeared in the huge body.

"Lay off!" roared Mr. Crale, and the boat steered swiftly away. Only just in time, for the whale's huge tail, swinging sideways, descended upon the water with a deafening crash, missing the boat by barely a yard.

Down went the whale, vanishing in a circle of ragged foam, while the line whizzed out of the tub in which it was coiled, and flashed over the side at racing speed.

"It's all right," cried Jupe. "Doan't yo' worry. I done got him dat time. He won't stay down long."

Jupe was right. The rush of the line slackened, and as the slack was rapidly hauled aboard the sea heaved just ahead, and up shot the great black bulk of the whale into the air.

It looked so stupendous that Kit and Col held their breath. It rose till fully half of it was up-ended above the sea, a black column formed of tons upon tons of solid flesh; then down again with a force that flung up the water into towers of foam, while the boat tossed and spun like a chip in a whirlpool.

"Pull!" shouted Mr. Crale, and instinctively they obeyed. In an instant a second lance was sunk deep into the monster.

"Stern! Stern all," roared the officer.

"Dat's done it!" cried Jupe in high delight. "We's sure got him dis time. See, he's a-going into his flurry."

As he spoke the monstrous beast rolled over on its side, then suddenly began shooting round in a wide circle at amazing speed. The crew of the whale boat pulled for dear life, and only just managed to save themselves from the blind, headlong charge of their terrible enemy.

But the struggle did not last. In a very short time the flurry ended, and the whale's mighty body lay rolling slowly in the swell, the waves breaking over it as though it had been a half- tide rock.

"Say, boys, you done got your first whale," said Jupe, in high good humour.

"Yes, but what are we going to do with him?" asked Kit, glancing doubtfully at the great empty circle of tossing sea and the dark clouds which had now covered the whole sky.

"De ship will be along right soon," Jupe assured them. "Meantime I guess we'll make fast."

The boat was pulled up to the whale, and Jupe set to work to cut a hole through the flukes with a boat spade. Through this the harpoon rope was made fast, then all hands settled down to rest for a while after their violent exertions.

A drink of water and a biscuit apiece was served out, and as they ate and drank they anxiously watched for sight of the ship. But though their eyes ached with gazing, the enormous circle of sea remained empty. There was not a sign of the Triton. What was worse, darkness was already beginning to close in.

"Ah reckon we'se got to spend de night in de boat, arter all," said Jupe at last.


CHAPTER 11. — HEAVY WEATHER

COL put his lips close to Kit's ear..

"Kit," he whispered hoarsely, "I don't like the look of the sky."

"No more do I, Col," replied Kit. "If this was at home I should say it was going to blow pretty hard before morning. But perhaps the signs are different here."

"I'll ask Mr. Crale," said Col; and he did so.

"Yes, there'll be weather before morning," agreed Mr. Crale, who was looking rather anxious. "It's lucky for us that we have the whale to lie to. And luckier still that we have a full breaker of water. But sit tight, my lads. And if you can sleep a bit you'd better do so. There's nothing else to be done for the present."

The twins knew that the advice was good, and, stretching themselves in the bottom of the boat, were soon sound asleep.

Kit was the first to wake. It was a splash of salt water in his face that roused him, and as he sat up he realised that it was pitch dark and blowing very hard.

Though the boat was partly sheltered by the great bulk of the whale's body the tops of the seas were breaking right over her, and the whale itself was heaving up and down to the send of a tremendous heavy swell.

Next moment Col scrambled up.

"Phew, but it's a regular snorter!" he exclaimed. Then, as he noticed the height of the waves, "I say, I should never have thought that even a whale boat could live in this."

"She wouldn't live very long if it wasn't for the whale," Mr. Crale told him rather grimly. "It is not only that the body acts as a breakwater, but the oil draining from it smooths the sea."

"Then you think, we are all right, sir?" asked Col.

"At present, yes. But if it blows harder I can make no promises."

There was no more sleep that night for any of the crew of the whaler. They sat crouched on the hard thwarts, baling by turns, and listening to the steady roar of the gale.

It was cold, too. Though they were right in the heart of the Indian Ocean the wind was raw and bit through their soaked clothing. The night seemed endless, and in spite of their best efforts to keep up their spirits they were none of them happy. Even the boys knew well enough that they must be drifting at a great pace and that the Triton would have all she knew to look after herself.

In any case she would have no notion where to look for them. At times the squalls were terrific and they had to bale desperately to keep afloat.

And so the long hours dragged by till at last a sickly yellowish tint in the east told that, somewhere behind the great pall of cloud, the sun was rising. Slowly the light increased, but all it revealed was a wilderness of tossing waves crested with white foam caps.

Col shivered.

"I almost wish it had stayed dark," he said. "If it's been like this all night I don't see how in the world we have ever kept afloat."

"Don't you be ungrateful, Col," returned his brother. "We are afloat; that's the great thing. And I'm sure the gale is dropping."

Mr. Crale heard what Kit said.

"You are right, Kit. The wind is falling," he said. "Now I am going to serve out rations." One biscuit each was what he gave them, and a cup each of water. "Make the most of it," he said. "We shall have to be careful, for it may be another twenty-four hours before we are picked up."

By the time they had munched their biscuits it was daylight, but, much to their disappointment, there was not the faintest sign of the Triton. Presently, however, Kit, whose eyes were particularly good, turned to Mr. Crale. "There's something over there, sir," he said, pointing to the north-west. "It isn't a ship. I almost think it's land."

Mr. Crale took a pair of glasses from their case, focussed them carefully, and stared in the direction indicated. "You are right," he said presently. "It is land, and by the set of the wind and the current I should say we were drifting straight toward it."


CHAPTER 12. — WAR!

THOUGH still blowing hard it was soon certain that the gale was going down; the clouds began to thin, and after another hour the sun broke through, turning the great surges to the richest, deepest blue. And now the land loomed up quite distinctly.

"Right smart for an island," said Jupe. "And old whale is sure drifting straight for it."

"I wish it was the ship," said Mr. Crale, shaking his head. "It looks to me as if we should lose our catch."

"You mean the whale won't keep, sir?" asked Kit.

"No. In this temperature you have to begin cutting up pretty soon. At the end of twenty-four hours the carcass will begin to swell, and then it is useless."

"That's poor luck," said Col. "It will be frightful to lose the whale after all the trouble we've had to kill it."

"If dere's niggers on dat island dey won't waste him," put in Jupe.

"What sort of natives are we likely to run into, sir?" asked Kit of Mr. Crale.

"That is more than I can tell you," replied the mate. "But, as I said the other day, it is only a few of these islands that have any inhabitants."

"But that is quite a big island," said Kit.

"Big or little, let us hope there is no one on it. The natives in these seas have none too good a reputation," was Mr. Crale's reply.

The clouds blew clean away, the sun blazed down, but the breeze remained fresh, and, whether it was the wind or the current that took them, it was plain that they were drifting straight for the land at a fairly rapid pace.

As they got nearer they could see that this was no coral island, but high land with biggish hills in the centre, and presently Mr. Crale, who had been gazing at it through his glasses, said, rather gravely, that he could see smoke rising.

"So there are natives," said Kit. "What are you going to do, Mr. Crale?"

"We must land," replied the mate. "We have no food or water to risk cruising in search of the Triton. When we get a little nearer we will cut loose from the whale, and sail in near enough to take stock."

By midday the whale, with the boat still attached to it, was less than three miles from the island, and Mr. Crale gave the order to cut loose. They then hoisted the big sprit sail and ran down toward the land.

The smoke was no longer visible, and there was not a sign of any human being. They passed a high point covered thickly with pine trees, and a deep bay opened beyond.

"There's a topping harbour," exclaimed Col, "And look! There's a stream running in. Hurray for a jolly bathe in fresh water!" Then, glancing at Mr. Crale, Col saw the expression on his face. "Why, what's the matter, sir?" he exclaimed.

"I don't like it," said the mate. "There are certainly people on the island, and they don't show themselves."

"Perhaps they're shy," suggested Col, with a chuckle.

"It is the sort of shyness that I don't like," said Mr. Crale sharply. "If you knew these seas at all you would know that there is no worse sign than for the natives to hide themselves in this way." He spoke so curtly that Col and Kit were rather dismayed.

"Then what are we going to do?" asked Kit.

"Work in cautiously and be ready for trouble if it comes."

As Mr. Crale spoke he turned the whaler into the mouth of the bay. The place was beautiful beyond description, but the silence which hung over the wooded shores was decidedly uncanny. Half way to the beach the inlet narrowed. Suddenly the silence was broken by a sharp splashing, and from out of the mouth of an unseen creek two great canoes, each holding some thirty men, came shooting at tremendous speed.

"Fighting canoes!" snapped the mate, and swung the whaler like a top. But the breeze which had helped them in now suddenly failed; the whaler lost all way, and floated helplessly while the great canoes drove down upon her with almost the speed of two steam launches.

"I guess dis is whar de war starts," said Jupe, grasping a spare lance.


CHAPTER 13. — KIT'S STRATAGEM

MR. CRALE spoke curtly.

"Put that down, Jupe! Put it down!" he ordered.

Jupe obeyed and lowered his lance, but he looked puzzled and half sulky.

"I'll do it if you says so, boss, but dey'll sure make hash of us ef we don't fight dem," he remarked seriously.

By all appearance Jupe was right, for it would have been difficult to see anything more ugly than the look of the islanders. Stocky, strongly-built men, with skins the colour of coffee, they were all armed with spears, and it was plain as paint that their one object was to wipe the white men off the face of the earth—or, rather, the sea.

And every moment the two big canoes were getting closer, while the whaler, without wind enough even to give her steerage way, lay apparently at their mercy.

But Mr. Crale had all his wits about him.

"What's the good of one whale lance against a lot like that?" he asked sharply. "Load up that bomb gun, Jupe, and just be quick about it!"

Jupe's face cleared like magic as he quickly obeyed.

The bomb gun is a weapon carried by all whaling boats. It is a heavy rifle with a short barrel, and fires a small bomb on the end of a sort of stalk. The stalk is placed inside the barrel, but the bomb projects.

Whalers, as a rule—sperm whalers especially—do not like this weapon, and use it only in great emergency. But at a pinch the bomb can be fired right into the whale, and, if well aimed, the bomb will explode inside its carcass and destroy the whale almost instantly.

Jupe had it ready in a matter of seconds, and ran it out, aiming straight at the leading canoe.

"Shall I shoot, boss?" he asked eagerly.

"Not till I give you the word," said Mr. Crale. "Just remember this, all of you: that once a shot is fired, that ends all chance of our landing. And you know yourselves what chance we stand if we have to put to sea again without fresh water or food."

They did know it, and even Jupe looked grave. He glanced at the oncoming canoes and shrugged his great shoulders.

"Dey sure means trubble, sah," he said. "I don't see no chance ob making peace wid dem coloured gents."

"Jupe's right," said Col. "There's no way out without a fight."

"And Mr. Crale's right, too," answered Kit quickly. "If we do have to fight them, it puts the hat on our landing and getting water or food."

"Then what on earth are we to do?" demanded Col; and as he spoke Kit's eyes flashed, and he suddenly sprang to his feet.

"The whale!" he cried. "There it is, in sight, drifting round the point! Show it them, Mr. Crale."

"Good idea, Kit," replied the mate quickly; and, jumping up, began making rapid signs to the natives and pointing out the whale to them.

At first they did not pay any attention, and they were now so close that every feature of their fierce, threatening faces could be plainly seen.

Some were standing brandishing their spears and seemingly ready to hurl them. Nasty-looking weapons they were, with long heads barbed with fish bones.

It was an ugly moment.

Then, all of a sudden, a tall man, who was standing up in the stern of the first canoe, and who, by his greying hair, was evidently older than the others, seemed to realise what Mr. Crale meant. At any rate, he saw the whale, and suddenly shouted out to the excited natives some words which, of course, the white men could not understand.

In a flash every eye was turned to the whale, and what happened then was like a transformation scene. From every throat came wild shouts of delight; the spears were dropped, and both canoes swung round and went off towards the whale as hard as ever they could paddle.

"It has worked," said Mr. Crale, with a sigh of deep relief. "Thanks to you, Kit, we are safe for the moment."


CHAPTER 14. — THE WHITE MAN

FOR the moment the fates were on their side.

"And here's a breeze!" cried Col. "Come on; let's get after them!"

Sure enough, the glassy water of the bay was rippled by a strong cat's-paw, but this time coming right off the land.

In a trice the sail of the whaler filled. Mr. Crale put her about, and, with the wind almost dead aft, the long, light craft went bowling away in pursuit of the canoes.

"My word, she can sail!" exclaimed Col admiringly. "We're actually catching them."

It was true. Although the canoes, each driven by a score of powerful paddlers, were travelling almost as fast as eight-oared racing shells, yet the whaler was overtaking them.

The breeze stiffened every minute, and soon the whaler was abreast of the canoes and beginning to pass them. Mr. Crale kept her well out and away from the canoes, but the natives paid no attention to the white men. It was the whale they were thinking of—nothing else.

The tide was still making into the bay, and the big black carcass came steadily on with it. But it was still a good way off, and meantime the whaler was gaining fast on the canoes.

Kit spoke.

"Suppose we run up to the whale, sir," he said to Mr. Crale. "We could start cutting it up, and have some good chunks ready for these chaps by the time they get there."

Mr. Crale considered for an instant.

"Not a bad idea, Kit. It will prove to them that we are friendly. What do you say, Jupe?"

"I say dat one mighty good notion, sah!" agreed the harpooner, as he hastily got out his sharp blubber spade.

The whaler reached the whale nearly two hundred yards ahead of the first canoe, and Jupe, who had spikes on his boots, sprang on to the great smooth body and rapidly hacked off a huge chunk of blubber, which he flung down to the boat.

The natives, seeing what was happening, stopped uncertainly, and for a moment seemed about to turn hostile again. But when Mr. Crale held out the great dripping chunk of blubber towards them they seemed to understand, and began to paddle again.

"Here you are," said Mr. Crale in a friendly tone, as he handed over his greasy armful, and if the natives could not understand his words they certainly caught his meaning. He motioned them to the whale, and in no time they were swarming all over it.

"Not the first whale they've tackled," said Mr. Crale as he watched them get lines fast.

Jupe nodded.

"Dey knows what dey's doing all right, sah. But all de same I'm plumb sorry to see five hundred pounds worth ob good blubber chewed up by dese here niggers."

"Never mind, Jupe," replied the mate, with a smile. "It's saved our skins anyhow, and I fancy you'd sooner have your life than any amount of cash."

Jupe grinned.

"Foh a fact, sah, cash ain't no use onless you got de breaf to enjoy it," he admitted.

Very soon the canoes went away towing the whale. The grey- haired chief made signs to Mr. Crale to come with them to the beach, so the sail was lowered, and the crew of the whaler got to their oars.

Though the wind was off shore the tide was running in strongly, and the huge carcass of the whale came along fairly easily.

Presently they reached the creek from which the canoes had come out, and saw that, though not more than fifty yards wide at the mouth, it opened out beyond, and that at its inner end was a broad beach of yellow sand backed by trees, and among the trees a village of native houses built with tall conical roofs. Behind, a great slope covered with trees towered towards the intensely blue sky. Here the crew of the whaler paused, waiting for the canoes to catch up.

"I say, that's pretty!" exclaimed Col, but Kit did not answer. He was staring hard at something on the beach.

"What's the matter, Kit?" demanded Col.

Kit pointed.

"Look at that chap standing over to the left," he said. "If my eyes are not playing me tricks, that's a white man."


CHAPTER 15. — WHAT BURTON TOLD THEM<

A WHITE man it was, though dressed in native rig, and everyone in the whaler stared at him.

"A bit of luck for us," said Col. "We shall have someone to interpret for us."

"If he still remembers his own language," said Mr. Crale.

Col stared.

"Some of these beachcombers have been in the islands so long that they go native altogether," explained Mr. Crale, "but we shall soon know. Here are our friends with the whale, and here are the rest of the population coming down to see what is up."

He was right. The moment the canoes towing the whale came in sight scores of natives, mostly women and children, came trooping down to the water's edge, a host of canoes were launched, and all paddled out, shrieking with joy.

With amazing speed they hitched on to different parts of the whale and helped to tow it in. They were far too busy to pay much attention to the visitors, though from the way the children stared it was clear that a white man was a great novelty to them.

"Pull in," ordered Mr. Crale. "I don't think we shall have any trouble now."

The keel of the whaler grated on the sand, and as they pulled her up the white man came slowly towards them.

He was about fifty, the gaunt wreck of what had once been an enormously powerful man. His hair was long, and his beard was thick and matted. His skin was burned to saddle colour, but his fair hair and eyes showed that he was of Saxon stock.

Mr. Crale met him.

"Are you English?" he asked.

The other gazed at him for a moment.

"I was once," he answered. "They used to call me Burton, if I remember right—Chad Burton."

"My name is Crale," replied the other. "I am mate of the whaler Triton."

"And you got fast to that whale and he towed you out of sight of your ship. That's how it was, I reckon," said Burton.

"That's how it was," agreed Mr. Crale.

"Well, for your sake I wish he'd towed you somewhere else," said Burton.

"Why?" asked the mate.

Burton shrugged his gaunt shoulders.

"You'll find out soon enough. This island isn't what you might call a health resort."

"It's mighty pretty," put in Jupe. "What seems to be de matter wid it, Mister Burton? Am de fever bad?"

"It's not the climate to which I am referring, though that's a bit hotter than I like it. It's the people."

"They ain't hurt you, Mister," said Jupe.

"No, because I'm too useful to them."

"How's dat, sah?"

"I've taught 'em how to keep their end up against Karun's crowd at the other end of the island. That's why they give me bed and board. Also it's why they've kept me here for the past fourteen years." He paused and his eye ran over the new-comers. "And it's for the same reason they'll keep you folk," he added significantly.

"Keep us!" cried Jupe indignantly. "I'd like to see dem do any such thing."

As he spoke he straightened his huge body and his eyes glowed with a sudden fierce light.

Burton gazed for a moment at the big mulatto.

"You're a fine man," he said, "but fourteen years ago I was as fine or finer. Wait till you've been here for fourteen years."

"Ah don't reckon to stay fourteen hours, let alone fourteen years," retorted Jupe. "What you say, Marse Crale?"

"Well, I don't know about fourteen hours, Jupe," said Mr. Crale quietly. "My notion was to wait here for the Triton, but I hope she will turn up in a day or two at latest."

"And if she does she won't find you," said Burton, with such an air of deadly certainty that Kit and Col, who had been listening in silence to this conversation, exchanged glances of dismay.

"What do you think he means?" whispered Kit.

Col shook his head.

"I should say he's had fever," said Kit; "and it's got into his head."

But Col didn't answer; he was wondering.


CHAPTER 16. — THE BROWN GHOSTS

AT this moment the air was rent by such a deafening chorus of yells and shrieks that the boys spun round, thinking that there must be an attack by this Karum person of whom they had just been told.

"It's all right," said Chad Burton rather scornfully. "They've beached the whale. That's all. Look at 'em swarming all over it, like flies on a joint."

"A fairly high joint, too," remarked Col with a sniff of disgust.

"They'll like it all the better for that," said Chad. "The beach won't be fit to live on for a week to come."

Kit was gazing at the natives, who were clambering in dozens over the giant carcass of the whale, hacking and carving at it with every sort of tool. A light came into his eyes.

"It strikes me that this is our chance," he said in a low voice.

"How do you mean?" questioned Col eagerly.

"To slip away, and light a signal fire up the hill. They're so busy they'll never notice us. What do you say, Mr. Burton?"

"Call me Chad," said the other. "But it won't work, my lad. They've got eyes at the back of their heads, those chaps. It's true you might get away into the bush without their noticing, but they'd spot the smoke almost before it rose, and then you'd have to look out for trouble."

"But if we don't signal our people in the Triton they will never know where we are," replied Kit.

Chad Burton shrugged his gaunt shoulders.

"Try, if you've a mind to. I've told you what will happen."

"We are bound to try it," put in Mr. Crale. "As Kit says, it's our only chance to get picked up."

Chad shrugged again.

"Then go quietly. Just drift away. And when you're out of sight in the bush keep inland round to the left of the hill, and don't start your fire until you're well round the shoulder of the mountain." He grinned sourly. "But you'll never get the chance of making the fire, anyway, and if you take my advice you won't try it."

"We must try it," replied Mr. Crale firmly. "Come on, boys."

Taking Chad's advice, they scattered and strolled away. None of the natives seemed to pay any particular attention, and in a few minutes the four—for Jupe was with them—had slipped in under cover of the thick bush which bordered the beach.

"And dat's all right," said Jupe. "Dem niggers is too busy wid de ole whale to take notice ob anyting else."

It seemed that he was right, for, though they waited and listened for a minute or more, there was no sign of anyone following them. But the noise on the beach was like the chattering of a thousand sea-gulls.

Mr. Crale beckoned them on, and as Chad Burton had advised they kept well to the left. The ground rose steeply and was covered with jungle so dense that they could not see more than a few yards in any direction. The branches met overhead, cutting off the sun, and were matted with creepers, some hung with bright, purple flowers and others set with spiky thorns. Enormous butterflies of gorgeous colours hovered over the flowers, and under their feet the ground was like a wet sponge.

As they climbed higher the bush was not quite so thick, and here and there splashes of sunlight leaked through the heavy canopy of leaves. The heat was terrific, and all were soon dripping with perspiration.

At last the party rounded the shoulder of the hill, and reached more open ground.

Mr. Crale stopped.

"Here's the place," he said. "Now for the fire, and be quick about it."

"All very well to talk of being quick," grumbled Col. "But there's not a bit of dry stuff anywhere."

He was right. All the wood was green and wet, and it took a long time to collect anything that would burn. At last a pile was ready, and at the bottom they put handfuls of chips which they had cut with their knives.

"I guess dat'll burn all right," said Jupe.

"Then light it," ordered Mr. Crale, curtly.

Jupe knelt down, struck a match, but before he could put the flame to the chips a dozen dusky figures came flitting, silent as so many ghosts, out of the surrounding bush.


CHAPTER 17. — THE GOLDEN NECKLACE

IT was Col who saw them first.

"Watch out!" he shouted, and as he spoke one of the natives was upon him, and had flung his arms round him. Col fought like fury, but the man's naked body was greased all over, and he could get no hold on him at all. Kit was caught by two men, so was Mr. Crale, and both were downed before they had a chance. A big fellow sprang at Jupe, but the harpooner, in spite of his great size, was quick as a cat.

"No, yo' don't, nigger!" he roared, as he sprang to his feet, and with his big bare fists he gave the fellow such a crack on the side of the head that it knocked him head over heels.

But two more of them were on Jupe in a twinkling. One he tore off him as if he had been a child, and flung him at the other, knocking them both silly. But a third came behind him, caught him round the ankles and tripped him, and before he could rise two more were on top of him.

Jupe fought like a tiger, and the boys saw with horror that another of the natives, a big fellow, was brandishing a great fish spear, and plainly meant to finish Jupe with the gruesome- looking weapon. Mr. Crale saw it, too.

"Keep quiet, Jupe!" he shouted. "Keep quiet, or they'll murder you!"

Jupe was furious, but he had sense enough to lie still, and to their intense relief the big fellow lowered his spear. The natives then proceeded to tie their prisoners' hands behind them, and when they were certain that they were quite helpless they led them back to the beach.

The first person they saw there was Chad Burton.

"What did I tell you?" he said, with that curious grin on his bony face. "You didn't light any fire that I could see."

"What's the good of rubbing it in?" snapped Col quite angrily.

"What are they going to do with us now?" asked Mr. Crale of the old beach-comber.

Chad shrugged in his usual fashion.

"Naga will talk to you, I expect," he said. "I only hope he won't do anything worse than talk, but he's a queer-tempered beggar." He spoke in their own language to the natives, and they answered him. "Yes, you're for Naga all right," he told Mr. Crale, "and I'm to come along and interpret."

The chief's house was the biggest in the village. Like all native houses, it was very dark inside, and it was some moments before the boys' eyes became accustomed to the gloom and they were able to see the chief.

Naga was huge. He had three chins, and his brown arms were as thick as the boys' legs. His looks were not improved by the weird patterns tattooed in blue all over his great ugly body. Round his enormous neck was a necklace made of gold coins, and these the boys saw with amazement were newly-minted English sovereigns.

He scowled at the prisoners and snapped out something in a thick, greasy voice.

Chad Burton answered, and the two talked for some moments. Then Chad turned to Mr. Crale.

"He's in a nasty bad temper," he said. "Talks of putting you in the Place of Sacrifice, which means that you'll be left tied up to starve in an old ruined temple up the hill."

Mr. Crale answered boldly.

"Tell him that if he tries any tricks of that sort our ship will come and smash his village to smithereens."

Chad shook his head.

"Not a bit of use threatening him. No ship ever comes in here, and he knows it. Look here, Mr. Crale, your only chance is to sing small. I've told him of your bomb-gun, and if I let him think you'll help him against his pet enemy, Karum, you will be all right."

"Oh, let him think anything he likes," returned Mr. Crale curtly, "so long as you don't make any promises on our behalf."

Chad grinned in his queer, dismal way.

"Leave it to me; I'll fix it," he said, and turned again to Naga.

What he said the others could not, of course, understand, but they saw that the scowl left the fat chief's face and was replaced by an almost amiable expression. Then Naga spoke to the guards, and the ropes that fastened the white men's arms were untied.

"It's all right," said Chad.

"Naga says you can go, only if you try to leave the beach again you will be clubbed at once."

"Cheerful old bird, isn't he?" remarked Col. "I say, Chad, tell him we're half-starved, and want something to eat."

"I'll see you get some," replied Chad. "But you had better clear out now while the old boy is still in a good temper."


CHAPTER 18. — WHAT CHAD TOLD

CHAD was as good as his word.

He took them to his own hut and set them down to grilled fish, cassava porridge, and bananas. There were also fresh coconuts, the milk of which is one of the most delicious drinks in the world.

"I say, you do yourself well," said Col to Chad. "This fish is simply topping."

"Wait till you have lived on it for fourteen years," growled Chad. "Then you'll feel you'd give the rest of your life for a grilled beefsteak with onions and fried potatoes."

"Doan't yo' worry. Yo' shall have dat dish afore you're a heap older," said Jupe, as he helped himself to a golden banana so ripe that as he peeled it the soft flesh broke in his big hands.

Mr. Crale spoke.

"Burton, I wish you would tell us something about this island. It seems a queer place. One thing puzzles me badly. You say no white men ever come here, yet the chief was wearing a necklace of English sovereigns which looked to me to be brand new."

"It's a queer place all right," said Chad. "I reckon one reason ships don't come here is because of the danger. There are reefs for miles round, and they're always changing. Volcanoes under the sea, that's the trouble. Anyway, it's right out of the track of any trading ships, and no craft except whalers ever cruise in these seas."

"Then what about those gold coins?" put in Mr. Crale.

"They're off a wreck," Chad answered. "About seven years ago we had a hurricane, the worst I ever saw. It took big trees up by the roots and carried 'em hundreds of yards. I saw rockets going up out to sea, and reckoned there was trouble, but I never saw the ship. When the storm blew off, all the beaches were thick with wreckage, but I reckon the best of it was over on Karum's part of the island.

"A month or two later some of Naga's fellows made a raid across the swamp and came back with a lot of stuff, among it these sovereigns. My notion is that the ship was a liner carrying bullion from Australia to England, and got driven out of her course by the hurricane and piled up on one of these reefs."

"Den dere's mebbe a heap more gold over in dis here Karum's country," said Jupe eagerly.

"Likely there is," agreed Chad; "but, seeing I've not been there since, I can't tell you."

"Why haven't you been there?" asked Kit.

Chad grinned sourly.

"I'm getting a bit old for fighting through those swamps. I don't go unless I've got to."

"What swamps?" demanded Col.

"You'll learn right enough before you're much older," prophesied Chad gloomily. "You see, this island is really two: two big chunks of high land connected up by an isthmus. Rummiest place you ever saw. One part is a sort of knife-edge of rock too narrow for anything to cross unless it was a goat, the rest is flat and the ugliest kind of swamp, full of alligators and snakes and—"

A dull roar cut him short, a sound like that of a monstrous train passing through a giant tunnel. The earth trembled, heaved, and from outside came piercing yells of terror.

"An earthquake!" cried Mr. Crale as he leaped for the door.


CHAPTER 19. — COL MAKES NEW PLANS

CHAD never moved; he merely sat and grinned, and as the roar passed and the ground steadied again Mr. Crale came back into the hut, looking a little sheepish.

"When you've been here as long as me, you won't worry about a little thing like that," said Chad. "Why, bless you, we have a quake like that about once a week, and a very big one every few months. As I've told you, the whole island is volcanic."

"Ugh, it scared me," said Col. "But, Chad, do you mean to say these earthquakes don't do any damage?"

"The quakes don't do any harm to speak of," replied Chad. "But I'll admit the tidal waves do. After a big quake I've seen a wave twenty feet high come rolling into the bay. We had one only two years ago that washed the village away and more than fifty of Naga's folk with it. If I hadn't had my eyes skinned I guess I'd have gone too."

"Sounds cheerful," remarked Col. "Strikes me we'd better keep well back from the sea."

"Well, don't go off into the bush," said Chad, "for if you do there'll be trouble. But I've warned you of that already."

He got up.

"I'm going to have my sleep," he said. "I always sleep for an hour or two after dinner. Helps to pass the time, and if you take my tip you'll do the same. There's an empty hut next this one, and you'll find some grass mats."

As they were all pretty tired with their night in the boat Chad's advice sounded good; but, though the hut was shady and the grass mats clean, the natives were still making such a row down on the beach that the boys could not sleep. They slipped out and crossed the beach, getting to windward of the whale, where they sat on a rock and watched what was going on.

Col spoke.

"That fellow Burton is a queer bird, Kit."

"A bit on the gloomy side," allowed Kit. "If what he says is true, it's going to be a tough job to get away from this precious island."

"But surely Uncle Nat will come and hunt us up," said Col.

"Yes; but will he find us? Even if he sights this island, he's not likely to put in unless he sees smoke. Why, even if he passed the mouth of this little bay he wouldn't have a notion that we were here."

Col frowned.

"It's a bit of a fix, I'll allow, Kit. We must put our heads together and see what we can do. For me, I've no notion of acting as unpaid army to that fat pig Naga."

"Nor I," said Kit. "We've got to escape."

Col's eye fell on a canoe pulled up on the beach near them. In it were some fishing lines.

"I've a notion," he said quickly. "Suppose we get these beggars to let us go out fishing. At first we'll, stick around in the bay and not go far. Then when these chaps have got a bit careless we might make a bolt for it."

Kit nodded.

"It's not a bad notion. But as you can't talk their lingo you'll have to wait till Burton wakes up."

"Not I," returned Col. "I'll make them understand all right."

He picked up a line from the canoe and went up to a big, hulking native who was stretched on the sand near by, but who, he shrewdly suspected, had been told off to watch them. To this man, who was a great, powerful fellow, he made signs, pointing first to the sea, then the canoe, then pretending to haul up a. fish.

It was so well done that the man caught his meaning at once, and, getting to his feet, grinned, nodded, and went to the canoe. Then he paused, and, pointing away to the mouth of the bay, picked up a paddle and made a motion to show someone paddling very fast. Then he frowned horribly, and took out his knife and pretended to draw it across his own throat.

"All right, Samson," said Col laughing. "I get you. If we try to bolt we're to be chopped. And now let's get to it."


CHAPTER 20. — THE GIRL IN THE OUTRIGGER

SAMSON, as Col called him, made no further objections, and presently he and the boys were afloat.

It was funny fishing. The water was so brilliantly clear that they could see the fish swimming ten or fifteen feet below the boat in and out among the beautifully coloured weeds and coral. As for the fish themselves, they were all the colours of the rainbow, and their shapes were as curious as their colours.

Kit pulled up a thing about as big and as round as a child's football, but covered with, ugly-looking spikes. It had a tail at one end, and at the other a beak just like a parrot's. It was what is called a parrot fish. Then Col, who had got a longer line, and was dangling his bait close to the bottom, brought up a thick-set fish with gaudy blue and red stripes.

As he pulled it out of the water it suddenly blew up with a pop like an exploding paper bag.

"What a brute!" exclaimed Col. "It scared me stiff. I wonder what we shall get next."

But before he could bait his hook again, Samson gave a yell, and began rapidly hauling up the stone which they were using as an anchor.

"What on earth is up now?" cried Col, as Samson seized his paddle and sent the canoe swirling out toward the sea.

"Another canoe!" answered Kit, pointing. "And—and there's a girl in it!"

Sure enough, a canoe was running past the mouth of the bay, and in it one person only, a girl.

The canoe was a tiny thing, but outrigged—that is, it had a second hull connected with the main one by cross pieces. Also it carried a small sail, and, though the breeze was light, it was bowling along at a good pace.

"Who can it be?" exclaimed Col. "And why is Samson so keen to catch her?"

As he spoke, the big native turned and made signs to the boys to pick up the other paddles and help him to drive the canoe.

"All right," said Col, as he snatched up his paddle. "Give us a hand. Kit. This is rather a joke."

"I'm not so sure," Kit answered.

"I'd like to know first why this fellow is hunting her."

"She's probably one of Karum's crowd," Col told him. "Get to it, Kit. This may be our chance to find out something about things."

Kit set to paddling, and the canoe, with three paddles driving it, went foaming along at a great rate. As for Samson, the great muscles in his back and arms stood out like cords, and it was quite clear that he was desperately set on catching the girl.

"I don't half like it," said Kit. "We don't know what he'll do with her if he does catch her."

"We shan't catch her," replied Col. "Not in this breeze. And look at the way she handles that canoe of hers. I don't believe she is the least bit scared of being caught. In fact, it looks to me as if she is just trying to draw us off."

It almost seemed as if Col was right, for the girl's canoe did not appear to be going all out. It was moving at just about the same pace as its pursuer, and keeping less than a quarter of a mile ahead. As for Samson, he was still working like a machine. Whoever was fooling it certainly was not he, for he paddled as if his life depended on catching the girl.

Suddenly Kit stopped paddling.

"The wind's changing," he said sharply.

As he spoke the sail of the girl's canoe quivered and her canoe lost way. As Kit had said, the breeze had come right round, and was now driving the little outrigger right into the mouth of the bay.

Samson, too, saw it, and a triumphant grunt burst from his straining lungs.


CHAPTER 21. — "THANK YOU, ENGLISH BOYS!"

THE girl put up her helm and began to beat into the wind. The little canoe lay over and drove across the small blue waves at wonderful speed.

"My word, she can sail!" cried Col in great admiration.

"Yes, she's trying right enough," replied Kit rather drily, "but we shall catch her now. You see if we don't."

Kit was right, for the girl's canoe had now to travel zig-zag fashion right into the wind, while Samson was able to keep a straight course. Col watched a moment.

"You're right, Kit. At this rate we certainly shall catch her. But I think we can fool old Samson. Just wait a jiffy."

"What are you going to do, Col?" asked his brother. "Don't upset us. It would be dangerous. There are too many sharks about for any game of that sort."

"Don't you worry. That's not my idea. The dodge is to splash a lot and not do much else. If we can hang up the chase for five minutes the girl will be able to get round that point of land to the left, and once she's round it she'll get the wind again and be able to laugh at us."

"All right," said Kit. "Only be careful, for if Samson suspects us he's quite liable to turn nasty."

Samson, of course, heard the boys talking but equally, of course, did not understand a word they said. But he half turned his head and scowled at them as if to say, "Stop talking and get on with the job." Col began to splash with his paddle; and Kit, though he pretended to be paddling hard, no longer put his back into it.

Even so, the big native used his paddle to such purpose that the light canoe shot on at a great rate, and at the same time the breeze began to drop and the girl's canoe lost pace.

The boys' canoe came nearer and nearer.

"I say, Kit, this will never do," said Col. "We're catching her up hand over fist."

Just then the girl looked round. She was a slim little thing, brown of skin but not so dark as most of the natives. And now for the first time she seemed to realise how near her pursuers were, and the boys distinctly saw a frightened expression on her face.

"Back water, Kit," snapped Col. "She's scared stiff."

"No. Samson would spot it like a shot," answered Kit. "Wait a jiffy. I'll do something."

He did. Paddling with frantic energy, he made a stroke which missed the water altogether, and promptly fell forward on his face, bumping into Samson, and knocking him right off his stroke.

Samson turned, and his face was one hideous scowl. He hissed out some words which sounded like the spitting of an angry cat. Kit put on an apologetic expression and picked himself up, at the same time holding on to his left wrist as though he had hurt it.

Samson made some remark which the boys did not understand, and perhaps it was just as well, for it certainly was not a blessing. Then he began paddling again like fury. But the delay, short as it had been, made all the difference. The girl had gained several lengths; and luck was with her, for a fresh puff filled her sail, and her little canoe lay over and fairly shot through the water.

"Good for you, Kit," said Col in a low voice. "That was a capital wheeze. It's done the trick, too, I believe. Another quarter mile and she'll be able to go about and round the Point."

"Don't be too sure," said Kit. "That's only a catspaw, and won't last. She is not out of the wood yet."

He was right, and now both Kit and Col became very anxious, for their canoe was gaining again, yet they did not dare to try the same dodge a second time. They were forced to pretend to paddle, though really they were doing next to nothing to help the canoe along.

Once more the breeze died away, and the girl's sail began to flap ominously. Samson gave a grunt of triumph, and dug out harder than ever. It was amazing how the fellow paddled. He was more like a machine than a man.

Nearer they came and nearer to the girl's canoe, but now again the clear blue of the water was darkened as a puff came ruffling in from the sea.

"It's her last chance," muttered Kit.

The girl knew this as well as he did, and suddenly out flashed her paddle and she began driving her canoe toward the puff.

Samson grunted again, and paddled harder than ever.

Col grew desperate.

"I'll kill him before he lays his black hands on her," he threatened.

And almost as he spoke the breeze filled the girl's sail, and in a flash she put her helm over. Like a hare doubling from under a greyhound's jaws, her tiny craft answered and shot away toward the Point.

Samson saw it was hopeless and with a growl of anger stopped paddling.

The girl looked back, and waved her hand.

"Thank you!" she cried in clear English. "Thank you, English boys, I know it was you who saved me, and I won't forget it."

Col and Kit sat staring at each other, the most astonished boys in the whole of the Indian Ocean.


CHAPTER 22. — A NEW ARRIVAL

COL was so astonished at the girl's voice that he nearly fell off his seat.

"She—she spoke English!" he gasped.

"Not being deaf, I am aware of that fact," replied Kit, a little drily.

"But—but who is she?" exclaimed Col.

"I am every bit as keen to find out as you are," said his brother, "but as Samson here can't tell us, even if he wanted to, the best thing we can do is to get back and see if Chad knows anything about her."

"My word, old Samson does look savage!" said Col. "It's funny, too, for these natives don't seem to think a lot of their women. But perhaps she was the daughter of old Karum or some big chief on the other end of the island."

"She meant a lot to Samson," agreed Kit. "He's furious. There's no more fishing for us today, Col."

Kit was right, for Samson, turning the canoe, began paddling straight back to the beach.

It was the hottest part of the afternoon, and the obnoxious odour of the whale was bad enough to make the twins feel positively ill. But the natives didn't care. They were still as busy as ever chopping up blubber, and boiling it down into oil, and cutting off great chunks of whale beef, some of which they were cooking over the fires on which they boiled the blubber.

Samson left the boys on the beach and went straight to Naga's house.

"I only wish we could understand their lingo," said Kit, as he and Col hastily made their way to windward of the carcass of the whale, and thence towards the hut where they had left Chad sleeping. "I only hope Chad can tell us."

Chad was still asleep, and was by no means pleased when the boys roused him with their story.

"Talked English, did she?" he growled. "What colour was she?"

"Brown as far as I could see," Col told him. "But it might have been sunburn."

Chad grunted.

"Likely some kid saved off that wreck I told you of. Or she may have been a chief's daughter who'd learned English off some chap like myself."

"But you'd have known if there had been another white man on the island," urged Col.

"How would I have known? Don't I tell you it's years since I've been over in Karum's country? It isn't what you might call a health resort for people from Naga's side," he ended sarcastically.

"Then why was Samson—this big native who took us out—so keen to catch her?" questioned Kit.

"Keen! Of course he was keen," growled Chad. "Every mother's son this side is mad to catch any one of Karum's people. Naga has put a price on the head of Karum's folk, and Karum returns the compliment."

"What would they have done with her if they had caught her?" questioned Kit.

"Killed her, most like. Or else made a slave of her. But I've had enough of your chatter. Why can't you let a man sleep?"

Chad dropped back and closed his eyes. The boys looked at one another, then slipped off.

"I'm glad we didn't catch her," said Col, and Kit nodded. They went back to the beach, and from a spot well to windward watched the natives busy with the whale. There was nothing else to do. Mr. Crale came and joined them, and they told him all about the girl who had spoken English. Mr. Crale looked thoughtful.

"I wish we could get into touch with her," he said. "She might be able to tell us something about that other side of the island, and what our chances would be if we could get there. To be quite honest, I don't half like the look of things here. This fellow Naga is a bit of a brute, and we are absolutely in his power."

"But surely Uncle Nat will look for us?" said Col.

"Aye, he'll look, lad, but this isn't the only island in these seas, and you've got to remember we drifted a mighty long way last night. And if he does sight this island, he will naturally be looking out for smoke or some sort of a signal from us. Yet, so far as I can see, that is out of the question for us to send up."

He spoke so seriously that the boys felt anything but happy. The prospect of spending months, even years, on this unknown island, practically slaves to the unpleasant Naga, was a very ugly one. And just then came a shout from the natives, and they looked up.

A boat—an English boat—was in sight at the mouth of the inner bay.


CHAPTER 23. — BLASKETT'S BAD NEWS

FOR some moments all three simply stared, hardly able to believe their eyes. Then Col leaped to his feet.

"They've found us! Uncle Nat has found us!" he shouted, and ran towards the water edge.

Kit was for following him, but Mr. Crale laid a hand on his arm.

"Steady, Kit. Don't get excited. There is only one man in that boat."

Kit looked, and saw that the mate was right.

"Only one man," he repeated. "What does it mean?"

"We shall soon know," replied the other. "See! He is coming straight in."

The boat had her sail up. That was why Col had not at first seen that her crew consisted of one man only. Now, as there was no breeze in the narrow channel, the solitary occupant of the boat lowered his sail, and as the canvas fell with a run Kit and Mr. Crale got a good sight of him.

Kit gave a sharp cry.

"It's—it's Blaskett!" he exclaimed.

Mr. Crale pulled up short, and with hands cupped over his eyes gazed at the man in the boat.

"You are right," he said, in a low voice. "It is Simon Blaskett. But what on earth is he doing here alone?"

By this time Col, too, had realised the identity of the newcomer. He came running back.

"It's that pig Blaskett," he shouted. "What does he want here?"

The others did not answer. They were both worried and anxious.

Kit, for once, felt certain that even if his uncle had found out where they were, the last thing he would have done would be to send Blaskett after them. He had told them that he had to keep the fellow under his eye, and get rid of him at the first opportunity.

Blaskett pulled straight in to shore.

Several of the natives were waiting for him, but they did not seize him. They seemed to think that he was one more of the whaling party. Mr. Crale went straight up to him.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

Blaskett looked up, and there was a slight sneer on his thin lips.

"That's not exactly a kindly greeting for a brother in misfortune," he replied.

"You are no brother of mine, either in fortune or misfortune," returned the other bluntly. "And you have not answered my question."

Blaskett shrugged his shoulders.

"Just as you like," he said. "As you don't spare my feelings, I don't see why I should be tender with yours. If you want to know, I am the only one left out of the crew of the Triton."

The three gazed at him dumbly. Col was the first to find his voice.

"What have you done with my uncle's ship, you scoundrel?" he cried.

Blaskett's thin lips curled again, but he remained quite calm.

"I don't know what cock-and-bull story you have in your head, my young friend," he answered. "But I can guess. On this occasion, however, no one can put any blame on my shoulders. It was the bull-whale—the rogue whale, I believe you call him. He did the trick."


CHAPTER 24. — THE SCENT OF GOLD

COL staggered as if someone had hit him. Kit went very white. As for Mr. Crale, his face grew suddenly pinched and grey.

"I beg your pardon for what I said just now, Mr. Blaskett," he said. "Perhaps you will be good enough to tell us what has actually happened."

"It was simple enough," replied Blaskett, paying no attention to the ring of natives who surrounded him and the others. "When you were towed away yesterday by that whale, Captain Sibley had to wait to pick up the other two boats; then he followed you. But by that time you were out of sight and night was coming on. In the darkness we missed you. The captain, however, was not too anxious, for he believed you would kill the whale and lie under its lee during the gale."

"We did," put in the mate.

"This morning," Blaskett went on, "we sighted this island, and Captain Sibley said that he hoped to find you here. The reefs are dangerous, and we had to work in very slowly. About an hour after sun-up a whale was sighted, but though it was a big one, Captain Sibley would not put down a boat.

"All of a sudden, and without any warning at all the brute charged the ship. All the time we were just crawling through a tangle of reefs with white water spouting all round us. There wasn't room to turn; there wasn't room to do a thing; and, anyway, I don't believe there'd have been time, for that great brute came as fast as a torpedo. He struck us just forrard of midships on the port side, and stove us like we'd been no more than a Thames barge.

"I was on deck and looking over the rail, and the shock knocked me right into the sea. I started to swim for the nearest reef, though I didn't reckon I'd get far—too many sharks cruising around. Next thing the Triton rolled right over and went down like a plummet, and the suck came pretty nigh pulling me down, too. But somehow I got up to the top again, and the first thing I saw was this boat floating. It was the one I came aboard in, and she'd been lying in chocks on the deck. I managed to climb into her, and that's the only reason I'm alive."

For some seconds no one spoke. Even the natives seemed to realise something of the feelings of the white men who listened to Blaskett's story. Then Mr. Crale gave a kind of groan.

"It's just the way it happened to the Mercy," he muttered.

Kit stiffened.

"The murderous brute!" he said, with startling fierceness. "But I will kill it and rid the seas of this horror. Yes, if I spend my life at the job I will do it."

Just then the big man whom they called Samson came up. He spoke to Blaskett and pointed to the big hut.

"What's he want?" demanded Blaskett.

"He means that the chief wants to see you," explained Mr. Crale. "Naga, his name is, and he is pretty much of a brute, Mr. Blaskett."

"He hasn't done anything to you," said Blaskett.

"No; he is keeping us to help him in a war he's got on with the chief at the other end of the island," replied Mr. Crale. "He won't hurt you if you are civil to him."

"But how shall I make him understand? I don't talk their lingo."

"There is a white man named Burton who will interpret. You will find him there," Mr. Crale told him; and Blaskett was led away.

Kit and Col watched him go.

"This is a bad business, lads," said Mr. Crale gravely.

"It's awful!" groaned Col. "To think that we shall never see Uncle Nat again!"

He dropped on a rock and covered his face with his hands. But Kit's face was like a stone.

They saw Blaskett go into the chief's house, and Chad, too. Then there was a long wait.

None of the three spoke. The boys were thinking of Uncle Nat, trying to realise the fact that they would never see him again. As for Mr. Crale, what he most thought of was that now there was no ship to take them off, and that it looked as if they might have to spend the rest of their lives on this beautiful, yet horrible, island.

It grew dark, the fire-flies began to fill the air with blue sparks, and the three went silently back to their hut. Presently they heard voices outside—Chad's and Blaskett's.

Blaskett was speaking.

"Gold sovereigns, Burton. A whole string of 'em round his great, fat neck. I tell you I mean to find put where they came from."

There was a harsh laugh from Chad.

"Don't you go messing with them, Mr. Blaskett, or you'll surely get into trouble."

"Trouble!" repeated Blaskett. "I can stick a bit of trouble if there's a parcel of good English gold at the other end. I tell you I'm on their track. No use asking you if you know where they come from?"

"Not a bit. And they won't be no use to you, anyway. There's no shops on this island."

"You make me tired," said Blaskett. "Think I'm going to stay here? Not much! Some way or other I'll have that gold, and, when I've got it, hey for South America and a rare old time!"

Mr. Crale turned to the boys.

"I might have thought of this," he said grimly. "If that fellow once scents gold there'll be trouble not only for him, but for all of us."


CHAPTER 25. — TROUBLE COMES

THE loss of their ship and their uncle was such a blow to the two boys that for a time they had no thought to spare even for Blaskett.

The twins had adored their Uncle Nat, who had been more than a father to them ever since they could remember.

It seemed impossible to believe that they would never see him again or hear his cheery voice. For the next day or two they moped about, saying very little, and looking so desperately unhappy that both Mr. Crale and Jupe were sorry for them.

"It's sure hit dem bad, Marse Crale," said Jupe, as he watched the two sauntering slowly across the beach, side by side. "Ah guess we got to try and rouse dem up some ways."

"They'll get roused up before long, Jupe," answered the mate gravely. "If I'm not very badly mistaken, there's all kinds of trouble brewing."

"Yo' mean dat Blaskett," assented Jupe.

"Yes; it's Blaskett I am afraid of," replied Mr. Crale. "I fear there is no doubt but that he is planning mischief. He has been spending hours alone with Naga."

Jupe nodded sagely.

"Yes, sah, and ef yo' asks me he's a-planning to get dat dere gold."

"Of course he is. And Burton tells me that the gold, if it exists at all, is on Karum's side of the island."

"Den dat means war, sah."

"Just so. Chad Burton told me last night that preparations are on foot already and that Naga is making ready to send an expedition against his old enemy."

"Den I reckon dey'll want us to help?" said Jupe.

"That is a certainty," replied Mr. Crale, with a shrug of his shoulders.

"And are yo' going to help, boss?"

"Most certainly not," answered the mate curtly.

Jupe mopped his face with a coloured handkerchief. The heat was awful.

"Den we got to get away somehow," he said at last.

"Just so, but the question is how. Naga suspects us and we are watched all day. Even at night some of his men are always near our hut."

"It's a mighty bad job," said Jupe slowly. "Ah reckon we better talk to de boys, boss."

As he spoke Kit and Col came hastily into the hut.

"Mr. Crale," began Col quickly, "Chad's Just been telling us that we have to get ready for an expedition. That fellow Blaskett has persuaded Naga to tackle Karum's people. Of course it's the gold he's after. What are we going to do?"

"That is exactly what Jupe and I have been discussing, Col," said Mr. Crale. "One thing I am quite definite about, and that is that we are not going to help Blaskett in any of his abominable schemes. If it comes to that I would sooner use our harpoon gun against him and Naga."

"But they won't let us get near our gun or our boat unless we are with them," said Kit. "And Chad says that Blaskett and several of his men will be in our boat, and that they will put our two other men, Bliss and Horton, in one of their boats and hold them hostages. Blaskett has got the whole thing planned out."

Mr. Crale shook his head.

"It's a bad look-out, boys," he said. "When do they talk of starting on this expedition?"

"Tomorrow morning," said Kit.

"And will Burton go?"

"He doesn't want to, of course, but he's been at the beck and call of Naga for so long that I expect he'll cave in and go."

"I reckon we got to get dat boat," said Jupe.

"We can't do that, Jupe," said Kit. "She's pulled right up on the beach, and watched all the time. Long before we could launch her we'd have the whole village about our ears. Our only chance is to take to the woods."

"And dat ain't a mighty fat chance either, Marse Kit. Yo' remember what come last time we tried dat."

Kit did not answer. No one seemed to have anything to say. They gazed at one another in an uncomfortable silence.


CHAPTER 26. — SOMETHING BREWING

THERE was a long pause.

"We must tackle Chad," said Kit at last.

"That's not a bit of good," said his brother dolefully. "Chad's been living in this steaming island so long that his mind has sort of melted. Phew! Isn't it hot this evening?" he added, fanning himself with his cap. "I wonder if there's another earthquake brewing."

"Good thing if there was," said Kit. "It might give us our chance."

"Unfortunately these things never come at the right moment," said Mr. Crale drily. He got up as he spoke. "I am going to tell Bliss and Horton," he went on. "I don't suppose for a moment that they have any idea of what to do, but it is as well they should know what is going on."

Bliss and Horton were the two A.B.'s who had completed the crew of the whaler. Quiet, well-conducted seamen, they had so far been content to take things as they came, but Mr. Crale knew that they would obey his orders, and that they were to be relied upon in any emergency. They had been given a little hut next to that in which Mr. Crale and the boys lived.

When Mr. Crale had gone Col turned to Jupe.

"Haven't you got anything to suggest, Jupe?" he asked. "There must be some way of getting out of this fix."

"Ef dere is ah can't see it, Marse Col," replied Jupe despondently. "And it's so mighty hot ah jest can't think straight."

"It certainly is hot," agreed Col. "And the sky looks queer out to seaward."

Jupe got up and looked out. He nodded.

"It suah does. Dere's something a-brewing."

"Perhaps it will come tomorrow and put the hat on this silly expedition," said Col hopefully.

"Den dey'll only go de next day," Jupe replied, and just then one of the island women who waited on them appeared carrying a calabash full of some sort of steaming stew and a platter with a quantity of fruit.

"I'm fed up with this stuff," growled Col. "Even a tin of bully beef would be a treat."

"Chad Burton, he's done lived on dis heah grub for fourteen years," said Jupe. "Yo' better eat while yo' can, Marse Col."

Mr. Crale came back and the four sat down to supper.

It was a gloomy meal, for not only were all four in bad spirits, but the heat was suffocating and seemed to be growing worse all the time. The air was so deathly still that every little ripple on the beach a hundred yards away sounded as if it were at their feet. The village itself was strangely silent.

Jupe got up and looked out again.

"I'd suah have said dere was a storm coming," he observed, "but de sky am still clear ober de sea."

"It may be a cyclone," said Mr. Crale. "It's getting near the season for them. I wish we had a barometer."

"I guess the bottom would be dropping out of it," said Col. "A cyclone takes a long time to brew, doesn't it, sir?"

"Yes. It depends on which way it's coming. I've known one take forty-eight hours to work up," replied the mate. "But let us go outside. Perhaps it will be a little cooler."

There was precious little difference inside or out. The air seemed dead, and even the natives felt it.

The white men lay at full length on the beach, perspiration streaming from them. They all felt so limp that they could not talk, and hardly seemed to care what happened. There was no sign of Blaskett, and Chad Burton did not come near them.

The sky remained clear; at any rate the big southern stars were visible. A little sheet lightning played on the horizon, but that was a thing which happened almost every night.

At last Mr. Crale got up.

"We'd better get into the hut," he said. "It's not too safe to sleep in the open. It means fever, and we've got no quinine."

So rather reluctantly the boys followed him into the hut, and lay down on their grass mats. For a long time the boys turned and tossed restlessly. Then Col quieted down, and after a while Kit, too, dropped off to sleep.

How long he slept he did not know, but he dreamed that he was back in the whale boat, that they were fast to the rogue whale, and that the brute was coming for them with open mouth. It hit the boat with a mighty crash, and Kit woke with a fearful start, and the sound of the crash still in his ears.

The crash was real enough. It had been caused by the departure of the whole roof of the hut. The night was full of a deep, steady, sustained roar, and for a moment Kit could not imagine what had happened.

Then someone grabbed him by the arm.

"Kit, the storm!" came Col's voice out of the darkness. "Get out of this or the whole thing will be down or top of us."


CHAPTER 27. — SHELTER

QUITE what happened next Kit hardly knew, but somehow he and Col together managed to creep out of the ruins of the hut into the veiling darkness outside.

Next moment the wind caught them. Such a wind! It was like a solid wall. The air was full of sand and spray, indeed of great gouts of salt water ripped from the raving sea. The roar of it was beyond conception. The noise stunned them so that they could hardly think.

"It's a tornado all right," said Col, with his mouth close to his brother's ear. "I say, where are the others?"

At that moment someone bumped right into the pair.

"Golly, who's dat?" gasped a hoarse voice.

"Kit and Col, Jupe," shouted back Kit. "Where's Mr. Crale?"

"I done got him right hyar," replied Jupe. "We ain't hurt neither of us—not yet, anyways. But say, dis suah is our chance to get away from dem natives."

"What, in this?" exclaimed Col, and just then a gust caught him and Kit and sent them flat on the ground.

"Doan't yo' try to get up," advised Jupe, who, in spite of his great strength, had also been floored by the appalling force of the gale. "Jest creep after me. Dere's a big rock a little way off. Ef we kin get in behind dat ah reckon we kin get our breath."

It was wonderful how he found his way in the pitchy darkness; but find it he did, and presently they were all four in comparative safety under lee of a big outcrop of rock.

"Where are Bliss and Horton?" was Mr. Crale's first anxious question, and instantly came the reply in Horton's voice:

"Here, sir. We heard her coming, and Bliss and me thought of this here old stone and made straight for it."

"Then we are all safe," said Mr. Crale—he had to shout to make himself heard; any ordinary speech was lost in the elemental din which filled the earth and sky.

"There's Chad," put in Kit.

"And Blaskett," added Col.

"I hope Burton is safe," answered Mr. Crale, "but as for Blaskett I have no desire for his company."

"Ah hope de wind's blowed him clean off de island," growled Jupe.

"It feels as if it would blow the island itself away," said Kit. "Mr. Crale, how long will this last?"

"I can't tell," was the answer. "If it's a cyclone it will probably go on for twenty-four hours. But I'm inclined to think it is simply a tornado, in which case it may blow over in a couple of hours."

"It will put the hat on that fool expedition of Naga's, that's one good thing," said Col.

"I can't see that," said Mr. Crale, still shouting so as to make himself heard. "The natives knew something was coming, and pulled their canoes well up and weighted them with sand. I saw them doing it. Tomorrow may be perfectly fine again, and once that fellow Naga has made up his mind to a thing I fancy it would take a lot to turn him. I am inclined to think that the best thing we can do is to take advantage of the storm to make ourselves scarce."

"That's what Jupe said," added Col, "but though I'm as keen as anyone to slip off I don't quite see how we're going to get far in this. Why, the trees on the hillside are tumbling like skittles."

"Not while it's like this, of course," agreed Mr. Crale. "We must wait until it has moderated a little, and then go."

"Where do yo' reckon to go, sah?" asked Jupe. "Ah doan't reckon we could ever launch de boat in dis heah wind."

"Boat! Good Heavens, no!" exclaimed Mr. Crale. "What we have to do is to find our way across the island to Karum's side. From what Burton has told me I think he will be easier to deal with than Naga. Are you all agreed?"

"We are," said Kit, speaking for himself and his twin.

"And me, boss," added Jupe.

"We'll go anywhere you go, sir," declared Horton.

"Very good," said Mr. Crale. "Then, as soon as ever I give the word, you follow me. You all understand?"


CHAPTER 28. — MAKING A BOLT FOR IT

MR. CRALE was right. This storm was not a typhoon, but merely a sort of tornado. After blowing furiously for a couple of hours the wind dropped as rapidly as it had risen. Then, all of a sudden, down came the rain.

It was the sort of rain that never falls in England. It came in cataracts, roaring on the torn beach and broken forest like a hundred Niagaras. The weight of it was so tremendous that for a moment Kit and Col felt as if they were being flattened right out on the ground; but Mr. Crale was instantly on his feet.

"This is our chance. If we want to get away we must start at once," he cried.

At this moment a figure came stumbling in upon them out of the drenching darkness.

"So I've found you at last," said a hoarse voice.

"Why, it's Chad!" exclaimed Col. "Are you coming with us?"

"Coming where?" asked Chad.

"Anywhere out of this," replied Col recklessly. "We are fed up with this Blaskett business."

"We are going to Karum's end of the island," said Mr. Crale. "Burton, will you come with us and show us the way?"

"No, thank you," Chad answered. "I'll take my chances here. As I told you before, I've no use for those swamps, especially in weather like this. All the same, if you've made up your mind to go you won't get a better chance."

"How do you mean?" asked Col.

"Naga's hut got flattened out, and a bit of it caught him a crack over the skull. No, he's not dead, but it will be an hour or two before he'll be fit to give any orders. And as for his folk, most of them are too busy trying to dig their household goods out of the beach to pay much attention to anything else."

"Blaskett! Where is he?" questioned Mr. Crale.

"I reckon he's with Naga; so, if you are going, the sooner the better."

He paused. "All the same, it's foolishness," he added. "You'll only stick in that poison swamp and be alligator's meat before morning."

"Didn't you say something about another way?" asked Col. "A sort of rock saddle between the swamp and the sea."

"Yes, but it's worse than the swamp," replied Chad curtly. "Anyone who tried it without a guide would break this neck in double quick time."

"Sounds cheerful," said Col. "All the same, anything is better than staying here. You're sure you won't come, Chad?"

"I've told you," returned Chad. "And now I'm off." He turned, then paused a moment.

"Any of you got a compass?" he asked.

"Yes," said Mr. Crale. "I have a small luminous compass."

"Then after you've turned the flank of the mountain keep a course nor'-west by north. Good-bye and good luck to you. I don't suppose I shall ever see any of you again."

Next moment he had vanished in the direction of the beach, while the others followed Mr. Crale into the bush.


CHAPTER 29. — WHEN THE SUN ROSE

THEIR previous attempt had been made in broad daylight, and even then they had found it none too easy to force their way through the forest. Now half the trees were down and lying in heaps tangled with cord-like creepers, while, owing to the darkness and the roaring downpour of rain, it was impossible to see a yard in advance.

Without Mr. Crale's compass they would all have been hopelessly lost before they had gone fifty yards, and even with its help progress was terribly slow. They travelled in single file, each within touching distance of the next. And when one fell, which happened on an average about once a minute, all the rest had to stop until he was on his feet again.

At the end of an hour they had crossed the lowest part of the jungle and reached the first shoulder of the hill.

The rain was still pouring down relentlessly. Every hollow was a pond, and torrents were foaming down the steep hillside.

There was not one of the party who was not badly bruised, while the tremendous exertion of wading through the mixture of sticky mud and water had left them breathless and exhausted.

Reaching an open space, Mr. Crale called a halt.

"Has anyone a watch?" he asked.

"I've got one," replied Col. "But I can't even tell whether it's going."

Jupe spoke. Like many coloured men he had an almost uncanny sense of time.

"Ah reckon it's mighty nigh five o'clock, Marse Crale."

"Then it will be dawn in little more than half-an-hour," said Mr. Crale. "And I think the best thing will be to wait for the light."

"Dat's good sense, boss," agreed Jupe, as he plumped his great frame down on a fallen log, and made room for the twins beside him.

It was a trying business, sitting there in the soaking blackness; but luckily it did not last long. Within half an hour the intense gloom had changed to a kind of greyness. Then the rain began to slacken, and inside another ten minutes there was light enough to see their surroundings.

"Gwine to be a right fine day," said Jupe cheerfully, as he rose and shook himself like a huge dog. "Ah guess we'd better be moving."

Mr. Crale merely nodded, and the party started again.

Within a very few minutes the rain stopped, and a pink glow bathed the top of the great hill above them.

As the light increased, it showed the fearful havoc caused by the storm. Up there on the hillside many trees had been torn out by the roots, leaving great pits which brimmed with water. The soil was like treacle, in which their feet sank over their boot tops at every step. Very soon the Sun was full up and the sopping forest steamed under its hot rays.

The boys noticed that Mr. Crale kept on looking back.

"Do you think those beggars of Naga's are after us again, Jupe?" asked Col.

"I guess dey'll have dere work cut out ef dey are," replied the harpooner. "No, Marse Col, we've got a right good start, and if we kin cross dat nasty old swamp, ah reckon we'll fool dem fellows."

The party was now travelling down hill, and suddenly Kit pointed.

"There's the swamp," he said.

"Why, it doesn't look so awfully bad," said Col, as he gazed at the flat, green expanse of mangrove tops which lay beneath them; "and it's not more than half a mile wide," he added.

Cheered by the thought that they had got so far, the whole party quickened their pace and soon found themselves on the edge of the swamp.

"Not quite so nice as you thought it was," said Kit in a low voice to his brother.

Col did not reply, but stood still, staring uncomfortably at the most horrid mess of mud and water that anyone could well imagine.

The swamp consisted of pools of inky black slime and mud banks, which were almost as black and even more slimy. These banks were covered with the curiously twisted and gnarled roots of mangrove trees. And it was plain on the face of it that the only possible way of crossing would be by climbing over these roots. As for the mud, it was evidently bottomless.

"A mighty nasty-looking place, Marse Crale," said Jupe.

"I quite agree with you, Jupe," replied the mate drily, "but it's either this or that."

He pointed as he spoke to a tremendous cliff which rose sheer as the wall of a skyscraper some half a mile to the left.

"What do you say, men?" he added. "Is it the swamp or the cliff?"

"Ah guess ah can creep better dan ah can climb," said Jupe, showing his white teeth in a broad grin, "De swamp fer me."

"I vote we try the swamp first," said Col. "What do you think, Horton?"

Bliss and Horton agreed, and without another word Mr. Crale swung himself into the branches of the nearest mangrove. The others followed.


CHAPTER 30. — GREEN EYES AND YELLOW FANGS

FOR a little distance they got on well enough; but then came a wide gap filled by a pool of black, oily-looking water, and there was nothing for it but to try to work around the top of it.

They had nearly reached this point when there came a sharp crack, a splash and a cry. Horton had trusted himself to a branch too thin to bear his weight, and had dropped plump into the morass beneath.

Bliss, who was next him, managed to catch him by the collar, and hold his head above the scum, but could not pull him out.

Jupe, who, in spite of his immense bulk, was as active as a cat, came to the rescue.

"Hold on, Bliss," he cried. "Ah'll give yo' a hand."

Steadying himself, he got hold of a long branch, and by main force wrenched it from the stem.

It was just as he was doing this that there came a shout of alarm from Bliss, and Col and Kit were almost paralysed with horror when they saw the head of an immense alligator just above the surface of the pool, and ploughing swiftly toward the unfortunate Horton.

It looked as if Horton's fate was sealed, for not one of the party had a gun or a pistol.

But Jupe was equal to the occasion. Turning like a flash, he made a great spring on to a mass of roots which showed above the mud close to the spot where Horton was trapped. He swung up his great cudgel, and as the hideous brute came within striking distance, brought it down with every ounce of his tremendous strength on the alligator's nose.

So great was the force of the blow that the tough branch was shattered to splinters.

The alligator's scaly tail rose high in the air and came down with a crash which spattered everyone with slime.

Then the creature disappeared altogether into the darksome depths of the pool.

Dropping his broken club, Jupe turned, caught hold of Horton, and he and Bliss between them dragged the man from the mud like a cork from a bottle.

"Dat was a mighty close pinch," remarked Jupe, as he wiped the mud from his eyes with the back of his hand.

"I'd have been pinched sure enough, Jupe, if it hadn't been for you," said Horton, with a plucky attempt at a smile. "All the same, if I'd known that these here things lived in the swamp, I'd have voted for the cliff-face every time."

"Look out, Jupe!" sang out Col suddenly. "There's another of the brutes!"

"There's more than one," added Kit. "Look! The water is alive with them!"

He was right, most dreadfully right.

One after another, the heads of a dozen or more of the huge swamp lizards rose silently out of the scummy depths, their greenish eyes glinting in the sun under their great horny eyelids. And each one began moving steadily toward the little group who clung precariously to the mangroves.

Mr. Crale spoke up.

"Get back, all of you!" he ordered sharply. "Get back! It's our only chance!"

The moment they turned the alligators quickened their pace. One drove straight at Jupe. The big harpooner seized a branch over-head, and, as he swung himself up, a pair of jaws like giant scissors and armed with curved yellow fangs, each three inches long, clanged together like a steel trap barely a yard beneath his feet.

"Golly, dat was close!" gasped Jupe. "Ah wish ah had ma lance, yo' great, ugly brute. Ah'd learn yo', ah would."

"Come oh, Jupe!" cried Col sharply. "Come on!"

Jupe gave one more glance at his baffled opponent, then followed the others as they went rapidly back by the way they had come.

It was a very discouraged little party who gained firm ground on the wrong side of the swamp. Mr. Crale saw this and, like a wise leader, gave them no time to brood.

"We can't cross the swamp," he said. "That is clear. But there is still the cliff. The saddle may not be as bad as Chad Burton made out. Anyhow, there are no alligators there. Are you game to try it?"

"We are that, boss," replied Jupe, and started at a run.

"Just as well not to waste time," said Kit in Col's ear, as they followed. "If I'm not very much mistaken I spotted some of Naga's chaps up on the hill-top behind us." Col glanced back. He whistled softly.

"You're right," he said. "Run as hard as you know."


CHAPTER 31. — AT THE TOP OF THE CLIFF

COL hurried forward and caught up Mr. Crale.

"They are after us," he said. "We've just spotted some of the natives coming over the top of the hill."

Mr. Crale glanced back, measuring the distance with his eye.

"Nearly a mile," he said. "We can do it if we run."

He led the way at a double, and the rest followed.

By this time the sun was blazing down, and it was no joke travelling at such a pace over the very rough ground which lay between them and the cliff face.

Still, they reached the head of the swamp without seeing any further sign of their pursuers, and here they paused to take stock of the ground.

"I say, Kit, we can never climb that," said Col in a low voice to his brother. "It's like the side of a house."

And Kit, gazing up at the face of the black volcanic rock, towering to a height of between two and three hundred feet, felt that Col was right.

This cliff ran back to some little distance south of the swamp, becoming lower in that direction, but where it merged into the southern end of the island its face was covered with thick brush, so that it was impossible to say just how steep it was.

"We must turn south a bit," said Mr. Crale sharply. "Follow me!"

Turning obliquely to the left, he led the way through dense brush up a slope which became steadily steeper. Within a few minutes walking became impossible, and they had to climb, clinging to roots and stems and creepers.

The growth was so thick that it was impossible to see where they were going; but Mr. Crale led them straight up the precipitous slope.

Great jags of rock thrust themselves out from among the tangle of greenery. The climb became more and more difficult and the pace slower.

"Pretty stiff, isn't it?" panted Col, as Kit stopped to give him a hand up from one ledge to another. "I wish I knew where those black fellows were."

Kit dashed the perspiration from his streaming forehead.

"We shall know soon," he said. "We can't be far off the top."

Mr. Crale still led them. For a man of his age the way in which he climbed was wonderful.

The brush grew thinner, the cliff-side steeper, so that it was no longer possible to climb straight up it. They had to zigzag from side to side, wherever the broken ledges gave foothold.

Suddenly Jupe, who was just ahead of the two boys, stopped and looked back.

"It am all right," he called to them. "Ah can see de top."

"But can you see the black fellows?" asked Col.

"Yes, ah can see dem, and ah reckon ah can fix dem too!"

Reaching down a long arm, he helped the two boys up to the ledge on which he stood, and a couple of minutes later the whole party were standing on the rim of the cliff.

Jupe peered over.

"Dere dey are," he said. "Say, what ah want is some real big rocks."

"No difficulty about that," said Col as he pounced on a great jagged lump of stone.

It was so big that he could not lift it, but Jupe swung it up with perfect ease, and laid it on the edge of the cliff. Bliss and Horton rolled up two more large stones, and soon there was a pile of ammunition ready on the ledge.

Jupe stood waiting, staring fixedly down into the brush below. Suddenly he stooped and seized the biggest stone.

"I say, Jupe," said Col, "you'll slay them with that, won't you?"

"Ah guess dat's dere look-out," replied the big harpooner gruffly. "Ef we all don't stop dem, ah reckon dey'll kill us mighty quick."

As he spoke he rolled the rock over the edge. It fell with a crash some fifty yards below, rebounded, then went whizzing and bounding down the steep hill-side, cutting a wide swathe through the brush. As it went it dislodged other stuff, so that in a moment a small avalanche of all kinds of rubbish was roaring down the hill.

"That's got 'em!" exclaimed Col, turning rather pale.

It had. There was no doubt about that. Wild shrieks pealed high above the thunder of the avalanche, and naked brown figures were seen scattering in all directions, running for dear life.

"That's enough, Jupe," said Mr. Crale quietly. "They won't trouble us any more."

"Not for a while anyways," muttered Jupe as he stood gazing down at the great scar on the slope below.


CHAPTER 32. — THE KNIFE EDGE

ALL danger of pursuit being over for the present, the fugitives had time to look round.

They found themselves on the bare summit of a sharp-edged ridge, which ran in a straight line almost due north and south, and was the only dry land connecting the halves of this singular island.

To the right, as they faced north, was the slimy mangrove swamp out of which they had been driven back by the alligators. To the left was a great bay encircled by lofty cliffs, and connected with the sea to the eastward by a narrow channel, or fiord.

This bay, judging by the colour of the water, was of immense depth. Its surface was as smooth as oil, unruffled by a breath of wind. What with the gigantic height of the cliffs, the dark colour of the rock which composed them, and their utter bareness and bleakness, the place had a singularly repulsive appearance.

None of them, however, had much attention to spare for the bay. It was the ledge they gazed at, the ledge which was now their only means of escape.

"It suah looks ugly," remarked Jupe, shaking his head; and Jupe's words voiced the opinion of all the others.

Truly, an uglier-looking place it would have been difficult to imagine. Growing narrower and narrower, the ledge tapered to a regular knife-edge until in the centre it appeared to be as sharp as the stem of a racing yacht.

"It makes my skin creep to look at it," whispered Col to Kit.

"Then don't look at it," advised Kit.

Mr. Crale spoke.

"It's a nasty-looking place, men," he said, "but as it's our only road to safety we are bound to cross it. If you will wait here, I will go and have a look at it."

Bliss stepped forward.

"No, sir," he said respectfully. "Begging your pardon I am the one to try it. If anything happened to you we'd all be done in. Besides, sir, I'm younger, and, if I say so myself, I've got a pretty good head."

Without waiting for any reply, the good fellow went forward, and presently was scrambling on hands and knees along the perilous ledge. With their hearts in their mouths, the rest stood watching him intently.

The ledge grew more and more narrow until at last Bliss had to give up crawling, and sit astride it, one leg dangling over the swamp, the other over the black bay, while he pulled himself forward with his hands.

"He's passed the worst," said Col in a half-smothered voice. "It gets broader just beyond."

And just then Bliss was seen to stop.

"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Crale hoarsely; but no one answered.

For some moments Bliss remained where he was, then they saw him cautiously turn round and work his way back toward them. In a few minutes he was with them again. His face was white.

"It's no use, sir," he said, shaking his head sadly. "There's a break in the ledge, right in the middle. A bit chipped right out, so to speak. It's only about six feet wide, but it's six feet deep too, and the rock as smooth as a pane of glass and mighty nigh as sharp. Nothing without wings would cross there."

For a moment no one spoke. It was Col who broke the silence.

"But Chad Burton said there was a way. He told me that if you had a guide you could cross it."

"No guide would be any use there," said Bliss quietly.

Col did not answer. Instead, he walked to the western side of the ledge and looked over. He turned and beckoned to Kit, and Kit went across to him.

Col pointed downwards.

"See that ledge?" he said eagerly, pointing to a narrow bulge in the cliff-face about a man's height beneath them. "I believe that's our road. See, it runs quite a long way—as far as you can see. If I could get down to that ledge, I believe that I could work my way across. Give me a hand down, Kit. I'm going to try."

For a moment Kit gazed at his brother in silence, but Col faced his gaze steadily, and Kit knew that for once his harum- scarum brother was in deadly earnest.

"All right, Col," said Kit quietly, "only I'm coming too."

Col opened his mouth to remonstrate, but something in Kit's face silenced him.

By this time the others had realised what the boys were about, and the plucky Bliss volunteered to go instead.

But Kit appealed to Mr. Crale. "He's done his share, sir. It's our turn."

And Mr. Crale, though with evident reluctance, consented.


CHAPTER 33. — THE LEDGE

JUPE helped them down, first Col, then Kit.

The ledge, when they reached it, proved wider than they had at first supposed. While the rock on the eastern side gave no foothold whatever, on this side the tilt of the strata gave a certain amount.

With their faces close against the cliff, the twins worked their way slowly forward. Col led the way, carefully testing each new foot and hand hold before he left the last.

The ledge trended slowly downwards, so that in a little time the boys were twenty or thirty feet below the knife-edge.

The heat of the sun out here on the bare rock-face was terrific, and presently Col paused to wipe the perspiration from his eyes.

"Not so bad, is it, Kit?" he said cheerfully. "We shall do it all right."

"I hope so," replied Kit, trying to copy Col's cheerful tone.

The trouble was that he had seen what Col had not yet noticed— that the ledge along which they were moving broke away some fifty feet farther on and seemed to disappear completely.

"Ready?" asked Col. And again they moved forward.

It took perhaps five minutes to cover the next fifty-feet, then, as Kit had feared, they came to an absolute standstill.

"This is a bit of a bore," said Col, looking round.

"Don't look down," said Kit sharply, but he was too late. Col had already looked down that awful depth toward the sea, and Kit saw his brother's face change and his eyes begin to go glassy.

He seized him roughly.

"Look up at the cliff, Col. You're all right. I've got you."

He felt Col shiver all over, and for a dreadful moment feared it was all up. He himself had only the scantiest hold, with the fingers of his right hand driven into a narrow crevice overhead. If Col collapsed he could not hold or save him.

"It's all right," he said again. "It's only a little fit of giddiness. Keep quite still and it will pass."

"I'm—sorry," said Col harshly. "Hang on to me a minute, Kit. I'm feeling hideously sick."

Kit tightened his grasp. If Col went he would go too. After all, as he thought to himself, what did it matter? Uncle Nat was gone. They had no one left.

Then in a flash his thoughts went back to Mr. Crale and Jupe and those two good fellows Bliss and Horton. They all depended upon Col and himself. Their lives hung on the success of finding a way across.

"Col," he said, and his voice was sharp and crisp, "brace up! We've got to do it. It's not our lives we have to think of, but those of the others. And, by Jove! I believe I can see another ledge below us."

"Can you?" Col's voice was suddenly as keen as Kit's. "All right, old son. The giddiness has passed. I'm myself again. You can let go. I shan't fall."

As Kit drew his left arm slowly away from his brother he breathed a sigh of relief. The crisis was over. Now if they could only reach that lower ledge all might still be well.

He saw it plainly now, but it was more than six feet below them. It meant hanging on with both hands to the ledge on which they stood, then dropping to the one below.

The very thought of it made his head reel. But it had to be done, and the less he thought about it the better. He began quickly to explain the thing to Col.

"I'll go first," he said.

And just then came a voice, apparently out of space yet clear and pure as a bell:

"No, don't try that lower ledge. It is no good. The one above you is the right one."


CHAPTER 34. — THE GIRL WHO SPOKE ENGLISH

AMAZED beyond words, Kit stared upwards, and saw, outlined against the sky almost exactly above him, a face which he instantly recognised as that of the girl whom he had seen in the little sailing canoe off the mouth of the creek on the day when he and Col had gone fishing.

Only her head was visible, but Kit could see that she was lying stretched on the summit of that awful razor edge.

"Not the lower edge," she repeated. "That is no use. Try the upper one. Go back a few yards and you will find you can reach it quite easily."

Kit and Col wasted no time at all in following out the girl's orders, and, sure enough, they found no great difficulty in reaching the ledge to which she was pointing.

Once on this ledge they saw that it was broader and far easier than the one along which they had previously been struggling, and they were able to move along it with quite good speed.

The girl, whose nerves must have been of steel, crept back along the edge, keeping level with them, now and then calling down a word of advice. Almost before they knew it they had scrambled up to safety.

The girl stood waiting for them. She was a slim little thing of about fourteen years old, and now that the boys saw her close at hand they knew in a moment that she was no native.

Kit thrust out his hand. "I—I say," he stammered, "we should have come to most horrible grief if you hadn't helped us."

"Tit for tat," replied the girl, with a ghost of a smile. "You saved me the other day when that big man of Naga's tried to catch me."

Col broke in.

"But who are you?" he demanded. "You are English."

"Of course I am English," said the girl, in a slightly offended tone. "I am Sybil—Sybil Carton."

"But—but," gasped Kit, "you were drowned."

The girl's face changed. Tears came into her eyes.

"Did—did Daddy think so?" she asked quickly.

Kit pulled himself together.

"We all thought so," he answered. "You were in the Mercy when the whale wrecked her, weren't you?"

"Yes," replied Sybil. "Yes; and, of course, Daddy didn't know that the natives saved me. But, oh, you will take me back to him, won't you? I am so tired of being all alone here on this island, and I had given up hope of getting back."

"I wish we could," said Kit gravely. "But see here, Sybil. The first thing is to get the others safe over this side. Naga's fellows are after them. When we have got them across, then we can tell you everything."

"I will go back and show them," said Sybil quickly. "It looks horrid, but it isn't so bad if you know the way."


CHAPTER 35. — A GLIMPSE OF THE ROGUE

MR. CRALE'S first question, when he reached the spot where the boys were waiting, was "Who is this wonderful girl?" But before Kit could answer there came Sybil, running lightly back along the ledge, and Mr. Crale nearly collapsed. "Sybil!" he gasped. "Sybil alive and well!"

Jupe, all his white teeth showing in a beaming smile, seized Sybil's small hands in his huge ones.

"You'se jest de bravest little leddy dat old Jupe has eber seed in all his life," he exclaimed.

Sybil flushed through her tan.

"I'm not half so brave as these two boys," she declared. "I should never have dared to start along the ledge without knowing my way."

Mr. Crale spoke.

"We won't argue about who is bravest, Sybil," he said quietly. "We have a great deal to talk over and explain, and just at present we are all very tired and dreadfully thirsty. If you can show us some place where we can sit in the shade we can have a quiet talk."

Sybil turned and pointed. "There is a cave just over there, Mr. Crale. It is a favourite place of mine, and I always keep a good supply of water there."

The cave was only a small one, yet big enough to shelter all seven from the blazing sun, and there was water enough to give each of them a good drink.

"Golly!" said Jupe as he wiped his lips. "I neber did enjoy no drink better dan dat one."

The cave faced the strange bay, and from its mouth they could see right across into the southern end of the island.

"Shall we be all right here, Sybil?" asked Mr. Crale. "Is there no danger of Naga's men crossing the swamp and getting behind us?"

"They won't do that," replied Sybil confidently. "They are afraid of the alligators. And Karum's men are all fishing, so you needn't bother about them." She stopped short and gazed at Mr. Crale. "But is it really you?" she asked. "It is all so wonderful I can hardly believe it."

Her lips were quivering, and Mr. Crale laid his brown hand gently on her arm. "It is myself all right, my dear child. I had no idea that anyone else was left from the wreck of the Mercy. Tell me, how did you escape?"

"Indeed, I hardly know myself," said Sybil. "I remember the awful crash when the whale hit the ship, and the next thing I knew I was in the sea. I came up and caught hold of something floating. It was a hatch cover, and I climbed on it. I was half drowned, and I think I had hit my head, too.

"I felt as if it were all an ugly dream, and I believe I became insensible. The next thing I remember was being picked up by brown men in a canoe. They brought me to this island, and took me to Karum. He talked to me, but I could not understand. Then I fainted and was ill for a long time. His wife Vanda nursed me, and she and I are great friends. She taught me their language, and has been very good to me." She paused. "But please tell me about Daddy and Cecil. I am longing to hear about them. How are they?"

Kit answered: "They were all right when we saw them last. It was your father who sent us out to try to kill the rogue whale."

"You mean the horrid creature that sank our yacht?" said Sybil. She looked at Mr. Crale. "But how did you come here, Mr. Crale? I thought everyone was drowned but me."

Mr. Crale took up the story and told how he had escaped from the wreck of the Mercy. Then he went on to tell what Kit and Col would never have mentioned: how they had saved Cecil Carton in the squall, and how her father had sent them with their uncle on this expedition.

He went on to explain how the whale-boat had come ashore on Naga's beach, and then about Simon Blaskett's appearance and the terrible news which he had brought.

"Oh!" exclaimed Sybil, looking at Kit. "Then that dreadful whale wrecked your ship, too?"

Kit could not trust himself to speak. He merely nodded.

At this moment came a startling interruption. Out of the glassy depths of the great bay beneath them there rose the giant form of a monstrous whale. The enormous creature shot clean out of the water, to fall again with a crash that sent thunderous echoes booming up and down the tall black cliffs.

Jupe leaped to his feet. "De rogue whale!" he shouted. "De old rogue hisself! Ah couldn't be mistaken. All seed his crooked jaw."

"Yes, it's the rogue," said Sybil. "He lives there. Karum says that he has always lived there."

For a few moments there was silence, while all gazed down at the waves which rolled outward from the spot where the monster had vanished and broke heavily against the cliffs.

Kit drew a long breath. "We know where he is now," he said in a curiously quiet voice, "and some day, if we live, we shall have him."

Mr. Crale shock his head. "That is for the future, Kit," he said. "In the meantime we have something else to think of, Sybil, what are our chances on this end of the island?"


CHAPTER 36. — THE STORY OF THE GOLD

SYBIL looked at the mate. "But what made you come over here?" she asked.

"It was the only thing to do," responded Mr. Crale gravely. "This wretched fellow Blaskett has done nothing but make trouble since he arrived on the island, and it was he who persuaded Naga to start fighting with Karum again."

"But what ever did he do that for?" asked Sybil in surprise. "There hasn't been any fighting since I came to the island, and, from what I have heard, I'm sure Naga would want Blaskett to help him if he did start a war with Karum."

"He did," Mr. Crale answered. "And Naga meant to rope us in as well. We were told that the expedition had arranged to start this morning; that was why we made up our minds to get away at once."

Sybil nodded.

"You took the chance of the storm, I suppose?" she said.

"Yes. That gave us an opportunity to get away from the village; but we should never have got here without you, my dear."

"Oh, I have been watching for you every day," said Sybil. "Karum told me that some white men had come to the island, though, of course, I did not know who they were. That was why I came round in my canoe that day. But you have not told me yet why Blaskett has stirred up this war."

"Because of the gold," explained Mr. Crale. "Naga has a necklace made of English sovereigns. Blaskett saw them, and, of course, his one idea was to find out where they came from. I believe Naga told him that they came from the north end of the island."

"Oh, that horrid gold!" burst out Sybil. "Why couldn't it have sunk with the poor ship? It has caused nothing but trouble ever since Karum found it."

"Karum found it!" broke in Col. "Tell us," he added.

"It is very simple," said Sybil, "and very horrid. Years ago a great big ship, a liner I think she must have been, was wrecked over there." She pointed, as she spoke, in a north-easterly direction. "I do not think anyone was saved, but a lot of wreckage seems to have been washed up on the beach. Then, one day, Karum himself found a huge iron case, with a lot of gold in it, wedged among the rocks at the seaward end of one of the reefs. It was quite some way below the surface, but he dived down to it and got out whole handfuls of gold. He has hundreds of pounds buried under the floor of his house, but be wants more. And now it is I who have to get them for him."

"You!" exclaimed Col.

"Yes. I am the only person he trusts, and, you see, he has got too old and fat to go after them himself."

"But how do you get them?" demanded Col.

"I dive," Sybil answered; then, with a shiver, "I hate it. There are all sorts of nasty things in the deep pits under the reef."

"This is a curious business," said Mr. Crale. "But, Sybil, these people seem to have treated you fairly well. Do you think they will be equally civil to us if we go down to the village?"

Sybil looked doubtful.

"I don't think Karum would kill you," she answered, "but I'm quite sure that if Naga began to fight him he would want to make you help him."

Jupe shrugged his great shoulders.

"Ah'm suah thinking that we'se climbed out ob de frying-pan into de fire."

Col cut in.

"Not quite that, Jupe, for, at any rate, if we help Karum we shall be on the opposite side from Blaskett."

"And dat Blaskett's got our whale boat an' ma gun," growled Jupe.

Kit spoke up.

"Sybil, do you know it's getting near midday, and that none of us has had a bite since last night? Do you think, if we went down to Karum's place, he'd run to a breakfast?"

Sybil sprang up.

"You poor things! You must be starving. Come with me, and I will find you something to eat."

"You don't think there will be trouble?" asked Mr. Crale.

She shook her head.

"Karum will be very glad to see you. The fact is that he has been in no end of a fright ever since he heard you had arrived. I think he was sure that Naga would want you to attack him, and he's getting old and nervous. He will treat you quite well, only I am afraid that he won't let you go."

Jupe spoke up.

"Missy, ah've got anoder notion. Yo' got a canoe, ain't yo'?"

"Why, yes, Jupe, I have a canoe," replied Sybil.

"Den what's de matter wid yo' fetching it to some quiet place on de beach, an' den we could wait till night an' all start away?"

Sybil shook her head.

"It would be splendid if we could do it," she said, "but it is quite impossible."


CHAPTER 37. — IN HIDING

COL looked at Sybil in astonishment.

"Why is it impossible?" he demanded. "They give you a free hand, don't they?"

"Yes," said Sybil. "Karum is not unkind, and he allows me to go about alone, but he takes very good care that I can't leave the island. That tiny canoe of mine will only hold two people, and Karum's big canoes are pulled up on the beach just in front of the village. I could not take one of those without being seen; and even if I could, I could not launch it alone. I don't see how we can get hold of anything large enough to take us off the island."

"Wait till night," suggested Kit. "Don't you think that after dark we could manage to sneak one?"

Sybil considered a moment.

"We might manage that," she said slowly, "but it would be a very big risk if they caught you."

Jupe spoke up suddenly.

"I'll take all de risk," he said. "If all has just one oder wid me, ah'm jest suah ah can get away wid one ob dem canoes."

They spent the next half hour in thoroughly discussing Jupe's suggestion, and at last his plan was decided on. Meantime, the thing to do was to find some place where they might hide until nightfall without their presence being suspected.

"We could stay up here, of course," said Kit. "But it would be a long way down to Karum's place, and it's no joke finding our way through these woods in the dark."

Sybil spoke.

"I know a very good place where you can hide. It's a little bay just this side of Karum's village. A splendid place, for the natives never go there. They think it's haunted, and it's taboo. We will go at once. Then I can get my own little canoe and bring you some food from the village. You must be wanting some breakfast badly."

The woods in this northern part of the island were even thicker than those to the south, and under Sybil's leadership the party had no difficulty in reaching their destination without being seen.

The bay was a tiny place, a creek rather than a cove, about a hundred yards across. The woods came down quite close to the water, and there was only a narrow strip of yellow sand between their thick shade and the clear blue sea.

Sybil left her friends stretched on the ground in the cool shade, telling them she would be back in about half an hour with breakfast.

She was as good as her word, for it was barely half an hour before she came shooting into the creek in her tiny canoe. A moment later she had run the light craft up on the sloping beach, and was unloading various provisions. The boys were hurrying down to help her, but she motioned them back.

"You must not show yourselves," she said as she met them. "Do remember that if any of Karum's people see you our plan is spoiled and we shall never get a canoe. I could not find very much food," she continued. "But here are some baked yams and some fish and bananas, and I have a dozen ripe coconuts as well."

"We are much too hungry to be particular, Sybil," said Col. "That fish looks topping, and the yams will be a real treat. There were none over on Naga's side of the island."

The others seemed to share Col's opinion, and all made a thoroughly good breakfast.

Sybil watched them as they ate with evident pleasure.

"Now," she said, when they had finished, "I think I had better go back to the village. It will not do for me to make Karum suspicious by being away too long; but I will come again before dark, and in the mean time I should advise you all to get a good sleep. We shall not get much tonight."

"A jolly good notion," said Col, with a yawn. "It is precious little we got last night, and I for one am tired as a dog."

So Sybil paddled off in her canoe, and five minutes later the rest were peacefully sleeping under the cool shade, lulled by the sound of the little waves playing on the smooth beach.


CHAPTER 38. — A SOUND IN THE NIGHT

THE sun had just set when Sybil appeared again, and they welcomed her gladly.

"Is it all right, Sybil?" asked Col eagerly.

"It could not be better," Sybil answered, smiling. "Karum's men have been fishing all day, and they have had a most tremendous catch. Tonight they will all eat so much that they are sure to sleep soundly. What is more, they have left two of their largest canoes moored just off the beach, instead of pulling them up as they usually do."

"That's topping," exclaimed Col. "How soon can we go?"

"Not yet," Sybil answered with decision. "We must wait for quite three hours, so as to be sure that they are all asleep."

"But won't they be looking for you, Sybil?" asked Mr. Crale.

Sybil laughed.

"They gave up worrying about me long ago. Why, sometimes I go right out to sea in my canoe."

The waiting was the most trying part of the whole day, for all, even Mr. Crale, were most keen to get away from the island. But it was not until about half-past ten that Sybil would allow them to move.

"You are to come, Jupe," she said. "And I will take you, Kit."

"What! Not me?" exclaimed Col, in a tone of extreme disappointment.

"No! Two will be quite enough."

For a moment Col looked almost sulky. "You can go instead of me if you like," said Kit; but Mr. Crale interfered.

"No," he said. "Sybil is right. Jupe and Kit had better go. Jupe, you are in command. I give you a free hand."

Col recovered his temper very quickly.

"It's quite all right, old man," he said to Kit. "Go ahead, and good luck to you."

With Sybil as their guide, Jupe and Kit made their way quietly through the thick, dark forest, and within less than twenty minutes had reached the edge of the clearing behind Karum's village. Here Sybil stopped.

"It's all right," she whispered. "The cooking fires have died down and there is no one about. Now follow me quite closely, and whatever you do don't make the least sound."

In order to reach the beach the three had to pass actually between the huts. Kit's heart was beating rather fast as he tiptoed close by the wall of one of these buildings, but the only sound he could hear was the deep breathing of sleepers within. There did not seem to be anyone about.

Although there was no moon, the great Southern stars shone brilliantly, and out on the white beach there was more light than they liked. Still no one moved, and they gained the water's edge without hearing any suspicious sound.

Silently Sybil pointed to the two canoes which were floating, moored, a little way out from the beach. Jupe nodded, and, picking up Sybil in his great arms, waded straight into the sea. Kit followed, and the pair moved through the warm salt water as silently as two otters.

Another minute, and Jupe had placed Sybil in the nearer of the two canoes. He held it while Kit scrambled aboard, then, while Kit balanced it, he himself climbed in. Out came Jupe's knife, he slashed the mooring rope, then he and Kit picked up the paddles and sent the long, light craft shooting soundlessly toward the mouth of the bay.

It was not until they were rounding the point that Jupe spoke. "Bless you, Miss Sybil, dat was easier dan liftin' a old hen out ob a chicken house," he said, with a throaty chuckle.

"We'd never have done it but for you, Sybil," said Kit. "And now the next thing I want to know is where are we going to when we have picked up the others?"

Before Sybil could reply, Jupe suddenly stopped paddling and held up a hand for silence.

"Hst!" he murmured presently. "What's dat I hear?"

Kit, too, ceased paddling, and the canoe floated silently on the long, slow-breathing swells.

For the moment the only sound that Kit could hear was the gentle splash of the waves on the point close by, but presently he caught another and much more regular sound.

"Paddles," he said in a low voice. "My word, Jupe! Then Karum's folk heard us after all."


CHAPTER 39. — WEDGED ON THE REEF

BUT Jupe shook his head.

"No, sah!" he replied, with emphasis. "Dat ain't no one following us. Dat sound comes from over der"—pointing to the south.

Kit listened again.

"You are right, Jupe," he said presently. "It's a canoe, or, rather, several canoes, coming from the south end of the island. Naga's people, I suppose. What are we going to do now?"

"Get out ob sight just as quick as eber we are able," replied Jupe. "Whar can we go to hide ourselves, missy?" he asked of Sybil.

Sybil pointed to the shore.

"There is a reef between us and the beach," she said quickly. "I think that the tide is high enough for us to get behind it, and we shall be quite hidden there."

Almost before she had stopped speaking, Jupe and Kit were paddling hard toward the shore, and within a very few minutes the canoe and its occupants had driven in behind a low reef of coral rock where they were quite hidden from anyone approaching. The three occupants sat quiet as mice, peering out into the starlit darkness.

"By de sound dere's more dan two canoes," whispered Jupe presently.

"More like six, I make it," replied Kit in an equally low voice. "I suppose there is no doubt, Jupe, that this is Naga's little lot?"

"Dat's just exactly who dey is," said Jupe. "Ah reckon it's dat rascal Blaskett has put Naga up to dis game."

"Won't be much game about it, Jupe," said Kit, "not if Naga's crowd catch Karum's people asleep. It strikes me it will be a massacre." Sybil spoke up sharply.

"Kit, they mustn't! Naga's men mustn't kill Karum's people. I couldn't bear it. They saved my life and they have been kind to me; and just think of all the women and babies. Naga's men won't spare any of them once the fighting begins."

For a moment there was dead silence, while the steady beat of the paddles in the distance grew more and more distinct.

"Dis am a mighty bad job," said Jupe gravely. "What yo' want us to do, Miss Sybil?"

"Go back and warn the village," replied Sybil without a moment's hesitation.

"If we do dat we lose de canoe, missy, and all our chances ob eber getting away from dis here old island."

"I can't help that," said Sybil. "I think I would rather stay here all my life than have Karum's people murdered."

"She's right, Jupe," said Kit. "I think we ought to go back, and if Mr. Crale was here I feel sure that he would say the same. But it's for you to decide. Mr. Crale put you in command."

Jupe paused a moment, and now the steady beat of the invaders' paddles was nearer than ever. In the starlight his dusky face had a very troubled look. Indeed it was a very serious decision to make.

"All right, Marse Kit," he said at last. "I'll take the responsibility. You turn her right round, an' we'll go back to de village. Smart now, for dere ain't a heap ob time. Naga's folk is coming real fast."

With a quick twist of his paddle Kit swung the canoe's head round. Then Jupe dipped his, and the two together sent the long, low craft swinging forward to the breach in the reef through which they had entered. But the faint starlight was treacherous, and, unknown to them, just at the angle of the entrance, a great spur of rough coral rock lay hidden close beneath the surface.

As they turned the canoe her bow struck this, and the next instant she was fast on it, and a swell rolling in through the gap lifted her and forced her high upon the reef, where she remained hard and fast.

"Sakes, but we's done it now!" growled Jupe, and at once sprang out, waist deep, into the water.

"Gib us a hand, Marse Kit. We got to get her off ob dis some ways, an' mighty quick, too."

Kit did his best to help him, but the canoe was a very different craft from Sybil's little toy. It was over thirty feet in length and strongly built, with an outrigger, and really required four men to handle it. Though Kit and Jupe hauled and tugged for all they were worth, the canoe remained fast wedged on the spur of coral.

"She's jammed, Jupe. We can't possibly clear her," said Kit, in despair. "What in the world are we going to do?"

"We shall hab to wait for de tide to rise," answered Jupe glumly.

"Then it will be too late to be of any use," said Sybil sharply. "Look! Oh, look! Naga's canoes are in sight. Jupe, this is dreadful! We must do something. We must warn Karum's people somehow."

Kit looked out to sea. Sybil was right. Naga's canoes were just visible as a dark patch against the starlit sea. There were eight or ten of them in all, and, although they were paddling quietly, it was plain that within a space of less than ten minutes they would be in the bay. And then it would be too late to do anything to warn Karum or his people. They would all be surrounded and killed before they were well awake.

As Sybil had said, there was no mercy shown in these tribal battles, and Kit had no doubt that she knew what she was talking about.


CHAPTER 40. — A SURPRISE PARTY

KIT spoke up. "Sybil, there is only one thing to do. I must leave you here with Jupe while I go back by land to the village. I can get there ahead of the canoes and warn them."

"No, Kit!" answered Sybil quickly. "Karum would not believe you. It is I who must go."

Like a flash she was out of the canoe, and, without even waiting the help of Kit's hand, had jumped to the nearest point of rock.

"One moment, Sybil," said Kit sharply. "Tell Karum, if there is time, to send some of his men to line the shore of the bay. Naga's canoes are sure to come close in to the point, and if Karum's chaps had a few stones handy they might sink some of them."

"A good idea," Sybil answered. Then, with a little wave of her hand, she darted away into the brush.

Meantime, Jupe had been working with all his might to get the big canoe clear of the rocks between which it was wedged. The tide was rising, and this helped. Kit joined in, and after some five minutes of very hard work the canoe floated freely.

"Dat's good," panted Jupe. "You get in, Marse Kit."

Kit clambered quickly into the canoe.

"Wait a jiffy, Jupe," he said, as he glanced in the direction of the invading fleet. "We shall have to wait here for a few minutes until they have passed. I say! I hope Sybil will be in time."

"Don't you worry about dat," replied Jupe. "De little missy, she know what she's about, and ah reckon as dat Blaskett is gwine to get de surprise ob his life."

By this time Naga's canoes were almost opposite the bit of reef behind which Jupe and Kit were hiding, and Kit could see that there were seven canoes, and an eighth craft which was no other than their own whale-boat. He touched Jupe on the arm.

"Jupe," he whispered, "that's our boat. Couldn't we manage to get it back?"

"Ah guess we'll try mighty hard," Jupe answered. "Ah reckon dat it's Blaskett who's in it."

The enemy canoes were now moving slowly and cautiously towards the mouth of the bay. It was plain that they were anxious to make the surprise a complete one. Kit, of course, was very glad that they were not hurrying, for it would give Sybil more time to reach the village.

The canoes passed the reef within less than fifty yards, and for a moment or two Kit was afraid they might see him and Jupe. But they passed on, and one by one slipped out of sight around the southern point of the bay.

Kit strained his ears, but could hear nothing except the low plash of ripples on the reef.

"Jupe," he whispered, "I am afraid Karum had not time to send any of his men to the point."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before there came a terrific yell, followed by a loud crashing.

"Ah don't know so much about dat," remarked Jupe drily. "It sounded to me mighty like as if old Karum's men were getting busy!"

Another crash, and on top of it wild screams and yells.

Kit seized his paddle.

"This is our chance, Jupe," he said breathlessly. "Let's go for em."

"Ah'm ready," replied Jupe; "but ah wish ah had dat biggest harpoon ob mine."

"What's the matter with this?" said Kit as he lifted a bulky object from the bottom of the canoe. It was a war-club made of some sort of dark, heavy wood, and ornamented with a double row of shark's teeth.

Jupe took it and swung it once.

"Dat's suah useful," he remarked.

Then, laying it down, he picked up his paddle, and in a moment the canoe was outside the reef and flying towards the point.


CHAPTER 41. — THE CAPTURE OF BLASKETT

THE noise going on inside the bay was fiendish. Added to the crashes, shouts, and shrieks, there had come the deep, heavy boom of an explosion.

"Your gun, Jupe," panted Kit, paddling furiously.

"More noise dan harm, I reckon," replied Jupe, looking back over his shoulder. "See here, Marse Kit. Dis here canoe ob ours looks jest like all dem oders. What yo' say to running up beside de whale-boat and trying to catch dat Blaskett?"

"Topping notion," replied Kit briefly.

A few more strokes and they were in the thick of it. A nice mix-up it was, too, for about twelve big war canoes were all tangled up in a bunch, and their crews were fighting hand-to-hand with spears, clubs, paddles, and anything that came handy.

It was too dark to say which was which, but there was light enough to make out the whale-boat, which was so much higher in the sides than the canoes.

The whale-boat was a few lengths behind the canoes, and not actually taking part in the battle. As Kit and Jupe spotted it there came from it a flash and a roar as the harpoon gun spoke again.

"Now's our chance," said Jupe swiftly. "If we kin get alongside while dat Blaskett is a-loading her we suah ought to catch him. You paddle, Marse Kit," he said swiftly, "den, when we git alongside, you'll leab Blaskett to me."

Kit paddled like fury, and the canoe rapidly approached the whale-boat. Kit's heart was in his mouth; but if Blaskett saw the canoe at all he must have supposed that it belonged to his own party. With one last dig of his paddle. Kit shot her alongside.

There were at least a dozen natives in the whale-boat, and in the bow Kit caught sight of Blaskett in the act of jamming a fresh cartridge into the whale-gun. Long odds, but Jupe never stopped to think of them! With one bound he was out of the canoe and in the whale-boat.

He landed right on top of one native and knocked him flat. Another, who was in the act of flinging a spear, swung round upon him; but, before he could use his spear, Jupe's war-club sent him spinning.

Springing over the bodies of the two prostrate men, Jupe was on top of Blaskett before that gentleman had any idea of the arrival of a stranger in the boat. Indeed, the first intimation that Blaskett had of Jupe's presence was a huge hand seizing him by the scruff of the neck and forcing him down on top of the gun, where he lay insensible.

"Look out, Jupe!" shouted Kit suddenly, for one of the crew of the whaleboat had recovered from his first surprise and was in the act of aiming an ugly-looking spear at Jupe's back.

Even as he spoke, Kit knew that his warning was too late. In sheer desperation, he swung the broad-bladed paddle which he had been using, and flung it with all his might at the native.

More by good luck than good aim the paddle caught the man square, and he folded up like a pair of scissors. Before he could recover his breath or his feet Jupe was on him, and, picking him up neck and crop, slung him out of the boat as easily as if he had been a herring.

"Now will you be good?" roared Jupe, and whether it was his bull-like voice or his tremendous feat of strength, at any rate the rest of the natives in the whale-boat went down on their knees and begged for mercy.

"Yo' come right aboard here, Kit," said Jupe, as he stood up swinging his great club, and Kit lost no time in obeying.

"Now, yo' niggers, yo' get into dat canoe and go home jest quick as yo' can paddle."

It must have been Jupe's gestures rather than his words, but, at any rate, Naga's men seemed to understand, for one and all they lost no time in obeying, and, picking up the paddles, turned the canoe and went off at a good pace.

Kit and Jupe were left in the whaler, of which the only other occupant was the insensible Blaskett.

"Topping!" cried Kit. "We've got back our whaler. Now, if we only had Sybil we could go straight back and pick up Mr. Crale and the others."

"Well, den, de best thing is to fetch little missy," said Jupe. "It looks to me like as if Naga's folk had had mighty nigh all dey wanted. See! Dere's some ob dem coming back."

"Blaskett's coming back too," said Kit. "Coming back to life, I mean. I had better tie him up before we do anything else."

With sailor-like deftness, Jupe made the ex-mate fast. While he did so the bunch of canoes broke up, and four of them—all that were left of Naga's lot—turned and came flying out of the little bay at top speed, hotly pursued by six of Karum's warcraft.

They came flashing past the whaleboat at a tremendous rate, and within a few minutes had disappeared into the night.

"Now's our chance, Jupe," said Kit quickly. "Let's run straight into the beach, pick up Sybil, then clear out as quickly as we can."

Jupe gazed beachwards. He shook his head.

"It ain't going to be dat easy, Marse Kit," he remarked gruffly.


CHAPTER 42. — SYBIL SAYS "NO!"

A MOMENT later Kit understood the reason for Jupe's remark, for two more of the big canoes, crowded with men, were foaming towards them from the direction of the beach.

"Who are they?" asked Kit swiftly.

"Dem's Karum's folk, and dey's after us," replied Jupe. "You see, dey knows dat dis boat came in wid Naga's canoes."

Kit whistled softly.

"You mean they take us for enemies?" he said.

Before Jupe could answer, the big canoes had reached them, coming up one on either side of the whaler, and in a flash half a dozen natives had leaped into the boat.

All were armed with clubs or spears.

"Jupe!" cried Kit. "Jupe! Drop that club of yours. Drop it, I tell you! If you start a fight, they'll wipe us out."

For a moment Jupe hesitated, but, angry as he was, he had the sense to see that Kit was right, and he let his club drop into the bottom of the boat. Even then things still looked ugly, for Karum's men were flushed with victory and wildly excited.

Kit faced them boldly, and pointed to Blaskett lying tied up in the bow of the boat.

"Steady on, you idiots," he said sharply. "We are your friends, and you have to thank us for saving you from Naga's men."

Though the natives did not understand what Kit said, their leader, a great gaunt fellow with a gaudy headdress, seemed to realise that there was more in this than met the eye. He gave a sharp order, and the spears which threatened Kit and Jupe were dropped. But they themselves were seized and tied up as firmly as Blaskett.

Jupe was furious, but Kit consoled him.

"It will be all right when we reach the beach. Sybil will explain."

The beach was crowded with men, women, and children. Among them were a number of prisoners, who were getting pretty roughly handled.

"They'll quite massacree us befoah ebber Miss Sybil can stop dem," growled Jupe.

Kit was not happy, for it looked to him as if Jupe was not far wrong. But he had not much time for thought, for the next moment the crew of native paddlers had driven the whale-boat right up on to the beach and she was surrounded by a horde of yelling savages.

All of a sudden a voice rose high and clear above the tumult. The crowd parted and there came Sybil. Kit was amazed to see how readily the natives made way for her.

"My word, she's slating them!" he said to Jupe.

There was no doubt about it, for, although neither Kit nor Jupe could understand a word of what Sybil did say, the tone in which she spoke was quite enough. As for the natives themselves, they took it like lambs.

In a flash Sybil was in the boat, and snatching a knife from the nearest native, began to cut away the lashing which bound Kit's wrists and ankles.

"You mustn't be angry with them, Kit," she begged. "They didn't understand, you see."

"You haven't wasted much time in making them understand," smiled back Kit, as he scrambled to his feet, and, taking the knife from Sybil, freed Jupe.

"What's the next move, Sybil?" he asked. "Now that we have got our boat back, Jupe and I thought it would be a jolly good chance to clear out."

Sybil shook her head.

"We can't do that," she answered. "I only wish we could, for I am just as anxious as you to get away from this island."

"Why can't we go?" put in Jupe. "Dese niggers seem to do jest what you tells dem."

Sybil shook her head again. "There is just a chance they might let us go, but they would never let Blaskett."

"Blaskett!" growled Jupe. "Ah doan't see what he's got to do wid it. Dey's welcome to keep him as long as dey likes."

"You don't understand, Jupe," said Sybil, in distress. "They won't keep him; they will kill him. They—they do dreadful things to prisoners."

Kit spoke up.

"You are right, Sybil; we can't leave him. We had better go straight to Karum."


CHAPTER 43. — THE TRIAL OF BLASKETT

KARUM sat in state in his big hut. Like Naga he was an immensely fat man, but as Sybil brought him in Kit saw at once that Karum was in every way a much finer type than the chief of the southern end of the island.

Karum smiled graciously and beckoned his two visitors to come and sit beside him. He then made a long speech, which Sybil translated very briefly.

"He says that he is very much obliged to you for what you have done and that you are his honoured guests. He is going to give a great feast and he hopes your appetites are good."

"I reckon ma appetite is all right," said Jupe, "but what about Mr. Crale and dem oders?"

"That is all right," said Sybil. "A canoe has been sent to fetch them. These feasts are a dreadful nuisance," she added, in a lower voice, "but you will have to stay for it."

"Ah don't want to stay heah a minute longer dan I has to," growled Jupe. "How soon do you reckon we kin get away, Missy?"

"I wish I knew, Jupe," said Sybil, rather sadly. "You may be sure I will do all I can."

Just then Mr. Crale, with Col and the two sailors, came into the hut, and had to be solemnly introduced by Sybil to Karum.

Col managed to squeeze in next to his brother, and began eagerly asking questions. Kit told him what had happened, and explained to him why they were obliged to remain on the island for the present.

Col frowned.

"Blaskett again!" he said. "Kit, that fellow is our evil genius. I don't want to be horrid, but I'd give a good deal to know that we were quit of that scamp for good. You take my word for it, he will manage to cook up some fresh trouble."

By this time the women were bringing in dishes of baked fish and roast pork, as well as yams, bananas, and other fruit. The boys were quite hungry enough to enjoy a meal, but this feast was much too much of a good thing. It went on and on.

Karum allowed Sybil to go off early with his own daughters, pretty brown-eyed girls, but it was long past midnight before the others were able to get away to their sleeping quarters, so tired that they simply dropped down on their mats and were asleep almost at once.

Kit was the first to wake. He shook up Col, and the two went down to their morning swim. Sybil met them coming back and told them that breakfast was waiting, and a few minutes later the whole party were seated cross-legged on the floor around the dishes which two native women had brought in.

"Karum is doing us well," observed Col, as he helped himself to a delicious red mullet.

"I would give it all for a cup of tea and one slice of English bread," said Sybil, with a little sigh. "If you asked me what I should like best of anything in the world, I should say a piece of white bread and butter."

"You shall have it before very long, Sybil," said Col consolingly.

Just then a noise was heard outside and Sybil jumped up.

"We must not wait to talk things over now," she said. "It is time to go to Karum. They are taking Blaskett there."

Karum sat in state in his big hut. His wife Vanda and his children stood behind him, while Mr. Crale's party were given mats on which to sit. Then Blaskett was brought in, and with him a big, hard-faced native whom the boys at once recognised as the man Naga had set to watch them, and whom they had nicknamed Samson.

First one of his own chiefs stood forward and made a speech.

"He is telling them all about Blaskett," Sybil explained to the others. "He says that Blaskett came here secretly by night in order to kill Karum's people. He says that it was bad enough for Naga's own men to attack like that, but that it was worse for a white man who had no reason to help Naga. He says that Blaskett deserves to die, and that he ought to be flung from the cliff at the 'Place of Death.'"


CHAPTER 44. — A BAD BUSINESS

MR. CRALE looked very serious.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "the chief is perfectly right, and I hardly see how we can interfere."

Kit looked up at him quickly.

"But, good gracious, Mr. Crale, we can't let them kill a white man in that fashion."

Mr. Crale shrugged his shoulders.

"Of course we can't, but we shall make ourselves highly unpopular by stopping it."

Sybil broke in. "Wait a minute, Mr. Crale. Blaskett is going to have a chance of defending himself."

"But how can he?" asked Col, in a quick whisper. "He can't talk their lingo."

"No, but that big man with him will translate."

Blaskett began to speak, and, much though the boys disliked him, they had to own that he talked uncommonly well. He said that he did not want to come at all, but was forced by Naga to take charge of the whale-boat. He vowed that Naga had threatened to kill him if he did not go.

"I did not hurt any of your people, Karum," he said. "It is true that I fired the gun, but I did not put any bullet into it. If I had to fight anyone," he continued, "I would much rather fight Naga than Karum. Naga is a bad man. Those other white men," pointing as he spoke to Mr. Crale's party, "will tell you the same thing. Naga treated them so badly that they had to run away."

"He is a clever knave," said Mr. Crale in a low voice. "That was a stroke of genius, bringing us into it."

All that Blaskett said was faithfully translated by the man Samson, and the boys, watching Karum's face, saw that he was a good deal impressed. He stopped Blaskett, and asked him a question.

As soon as Blaskett understood from Samson what the chief had said, he spoke out loudly and plainly. "It is true what I say. I would far rather fight for Karum than for Naga, and I will promise to fight for him if he wishes me to do so. I feel sure that the other white men will be glad to help."

Jupe made a growling sound in his throat and started to get up. But Mr. Crale pulled him down.

"Quietly, Jupe! If we say that we will not fight we are simply playing into Blaskett's hands."

"There's not much risk of Blaskett being thrown to the sharks," said Col to Kit. "Next thing that will happen, Karum will probably make the beggar his prime minister."

As events proved Col was not far wrong, for Karum swallowed Blaskett's story like so much milk, and, after a little more talk, ordered the ex-mate to be set free.

As the man walked out of the hut he cast a glance of triumph at Mr. Crale's party.

The trial over, Kit and Col, together with Mr. Crale and Sybil and Jupe, went back into their sleeping quarters to talk things over and try to plan their escape.

"Marse Col," said Jupe, "we'se in de same fix as befoah. Dat Blaskett, he's after de gold, and he ain't agoing to let us get away wid de whale-boat until he can fill her wid de gold."

Kit turned to Sybil.

"Where is the gold, Sybil?" he asked.

Sybil looked troubled. "Karum made me promise faithfully that I would not tell anybody," she answered.

"Oh that's all right!" said Kit quickly. "A promise is a promise, and you are quite right not to say anything."

Jupe spoke up. "If you all asks me I tink de best thing for us to do is to get away from heah jest as quick as eber we can scoot. De whale-boat is lying on de beach. What's de matter wid running off wid her tonight?"

He turned to Sybil. "What yo' say, missie?"

Sybil looked thoughtful. "It might be managed," she said. "I mean we might get hold of the boat, but how are we going to manage about food and water?"

"Isn't there any sort of storehouse we could raid?" asked Col.

Sybil shook her head.

"No; there is nothing of that sort. It would be quite impossible to get enough food for all of us unless Karum ordered it to be got ready."

Before evening Kit and Col had discovered that Sybil was perfectly right. There was no store of provisions in the village, and the most they could hope to get hold of would be a bunch or two of bananas. To set out without a good stock of food was utterly out of the question.

In the evening they had another talk, and it was decided to ask Karum outright if he would allow them to leave the island.

"I will go," Sybil said. "Yes, please, I mean it," she went on quickly. "Karum likes me; and, besides, I am the only one who can talk the language."

So off she went and the rest waited anxiously. They had not long to wait, for in less than a quarter of an hour Sybil was back.

"Well?" asked Col eagerly.

"It is—it is not so bad, Col," she answered bravely. "Karum says—" She stopped, choking a little. "He says that you may go, but—but that he will not let me or Blaskett go."

"Not let you go?" repeated Col. "Then, of course, none of us go."

"But you must," begged Sybil. "You might get help and come back for me."

Mr. Crale spoke up curtly.

"No, Sybil. Nothing would induce me to leave you here with Blaskett. Such a thing is not to be thought of for one moment."


CHAPTER 45. — SYBIL GOES FOR GOLD

TWO days passed. The party were well-treated, fed on the best, and allowed to go about as they pleased. Yet they knew that they were watched, while the whale-boat was guarded so that they could not go near it. The worst of it was that Blaskett was constantly in and out of Karum's hut.

"We've got to do something," said Col despairingly, as they sat together after breakfast on the third morning after the defeat of Naga's people.

"Ef yo' asks me dere's only one ting to do," growled Jupe. "Catch dat Blaskett and tie him up somewheres."

"We could never catch him," said Kit. "He is always with Karum."

At that moment Sybil came in, and Kit saw from her expression that something was troubling her.

"What is the matter, Sybil?" he asked.

"Nothing much, only I shall have to be away all today," she answered. "Karum wants me."

"I know," said Col sharply. "He wants you to go and fetch more gold for him. Isn't that it, Sybil?"

"I didn't want you to know," said Sybil, "but as you have guessed it, yes, that is what I have to do."

"Then we'll go with you," cried Col.

Sybil shook her head.

"You forget, Col. I have promised," she said gently.

Col bit his lip. "I'd forgotten. All right. But are you sure you will be all right?"

"Quite right," Sybil answered him. "I only came to tell you. Now I must go at once."

They saw her cross the beach and disappear into the woods, and Col frowned.

"I hate her going alone on a job like that," he grumbled.

Kit looked up. "Why shouldn't we follow her?" he asked. "It is true that she has promised Karum not to tell anyone where the gold lies, but we are under no such promise."

"Good idea, Kit," agreed Col eagerly.

"Yes; but we have to dodge the natives," said Kit. "That won't be too easy."

"We'll start in the other direction," said Col. "We know the reef lies to the north-east. What do you say, Mr. Crale?"

"Try it if you like, boys," said the mate; "but you will have to be very careful."

Jupe looked out. "Dere's no one watching jest now," he told them. "Ah reckon you kin slip into de bush widout no one seeing you."

Col nodded. "Come on, Kit," he said; and the two strolled away out of the hut.

"Jupe's right. There's not a soul about," said Col. "Nip into the bush, old chap."

A moment later and the twins had plunged into the welcome shade of the forest. They had Mr. Crale's compass, so kept their direction easily.

At first they crept along very quietly, every now and then stopping to listen. But they heard no suspicious sound, so they quickened their pace. Soon they reached higher ground, where the bush was not so thick, and at last gained the top of the ridge.

Suddenly Col pointed. "There's Sybil," he said. "See! About half a mile away, crossing that bit of open ground. Come on, quickly!"

But Kit caught him by the arm and pulled him down behind a rock. "Not yet," he whispered. "There's someone following us."

"One of Karum's spies?" questioned Col.

"Wait. I'm not sure," answered Kit. "A native wouldn't have made so much noise. Listen! Surely that's the sound of nailed boots on rock?"

He poked his head up cautiously. "I thought so. It's Blaskett," he murmured.


CHAPTER 46. — TRACKER AND TRACKED

COL wasn't surprised; it was always Blaskett.

"Of course," he said, in a low voice, "we might have known it. What shall we do, Kit?"

"Let him pass," Kit whispered. "I don't think that he has spotted us. He's too keen on watching Sybil."

Kit was right, for Blaskett came straight up the track, passing them so closely that they might have touched him. He was peering this way and that, yet quite clearly he had no suspicion that anyone was watching him.

Gaining more open ground just beyond, he stopped, and, shading his eyes from the sun's glare with cupped hands, gazed towards the spot where the boys had seen Sybil a few moments before.

The boys heard him give a satisfied sort of grunt, then he went on with that long, slouching step which was so like that of a prowling wolf. In a minute or two he was out of sight in the thick scrub that covered the slope.

"He's spotted her all right," said Col, in a low voice. "What shall we do, Kit?"

"Follow quietly," was Kit's answer. "I don't think for a minute that the beggar will interfere with her. My notion is that he will hide himself close to the water's edge, and try to find out where the gold lies."

From the lofty ridge on which they stood the boys could see the whole of the north end of the island spread out like a map, with the blue sea stretching away beyond. It was a wild and rugged piece of country, sparsely wooded with patches of dark scrub, and littered with huge rocks.

"There's Sybil," said Kit, "not far from the edge of the cliffs."

"And there's Blaskett," answered Col, pointing to the gaunt figure of the man as he skulked from rock to rock on the slope beneath them. "He's got a good start, and we can push on in safety now."

It was ideal country for trailing. There was little chance of Sybil seeing Blaskett, and still less of Blaskett noticing that he was being followed. The boys kept their eyes on Blaskett, and, as Kit had prophesied, the man took up a position among some rocks on the top of the cliff and disappeared from their view.

Sybil meanwhile had vanished over the edge of the broken cliff, and the boys saw her making her way cautiously along a reef of tumbled, fire-blackened rocks, which ran like a huge breakwater for a quarter of a mile out to sea.

Kit touched Col on the arm and pointed to the right. "See that patch of scrub over there, Col? If we get to the far side of it we can reach the edge of the cliff without risk of Blaskett spotting us."

Col nodded.

"You're right," he said.

Just as Kit had hoped, the long tongue of scrub forest reached right out to the cliff top, and presently the boys found themselves looking down some forty or fifty feet into the sea. They were a few hundred yards or so to the right of the ledge, while Blaskett's hiding-place was about as far to the left. Both he and the boys were able to see the whole of the ledge, though neither could see the other.

The ledge at its seaward end forked like a snake's tongue, and in the cleft was a calm pool of blue water. When Sybil reached the fork of the reef she stopped, and the boys saw her turn and gaze shoreward.

Apparently satisfied, Sybil turned seaward again and clambered down over the rough rocks to the water's edge. Then she made her way for some little distance along the left-hand prong of the reef, when she stopped again. The boys, watching her, saw her step out on to a great slab which overhung the water, go down on hands and knees, and gaze over the edge of the rock into the calm sea.

"That's where the gold is," whispered Col. And his brother answered, "I expect you are right."

A couple of minutes passed, and Sybil remained in the same position, still staring down into the depths.

"What is she after?" asked Col sharply. "What is she looking at?"

"I wish I knew," said Kit. "Whatever it is, she does not seem to like it."

Sybil remained in the same position for some moments, then got up and began searching for something.

"She's got a stone," said Col keenly.

A stone it was, a good big one, and, lifting it in both hands, Sybil flung it from the ledge into the water. It fell with a great splash.

"It's a shark," said Col suddenly. "She must be trying to scare off a shark."

"Surely she wouldn't be crazy enough to go into the water if one of those brutes were about!" Kit exclaimed.

"If only Blaskett wasn't so close I'd go and see," said Col, who was looking very anxious. "I say, can't we do something?"

"There is no need to," replied Kit. "Look! She has given it up. She is coming back."


CHAPTER 47. — BLASKETT HAS A TRY

WHATEVER it was that Sybil had seen it had evidently frightened her, for she came straight back along the reef towards the shore. As she began to climb the cliff Kit rose to his feet.

"What are you going to do, Kit?" asked Col.

"Follow her back," replied Kit, "and see that Blaskett doesn't start playing the fool."

"Blaskett!" repeated Col. "You can take my word for it that he won't follow her. If I am not blundering very badly, the next thing he will do is to go and look for the gold."

Kit gazed at his brother for a moment.

"I hadn't thought of that, but perhaps you are right."

"I know I am right," said Col confidently. "Anyhow, Blaskett can't leave his hiding-place without our seeing him, so we may just as well wait here and watch. Sybil knows her way. She will be safe enough."

The two boys crouched down again on the edge of the cliff and waited. For some time nothing happened. Sybil was now out of sight behind the tongue of scrub, and as for Blaskett, there was no sign of him.

"Blaskett is waiting till Sybil is out of sight," said Col at last. "He won't be long now, for she must be half-way back up the hill."

Blaskett, however, was not taking any chances, and Kit's patience was almost exhausted before at last he and Col saw the man's long, raw-boned figure rise from its hiding-place in the opposite rocks. For a moment or two Blaskett stood staring inland towards the ridge, then, apparently satisfied, he began to make his way down the steep slopes to the reef.

"I told you so," said Col. "The gold draws him like a magnet."

"But if there's a shark there he can't get it," said practical Kit.

"You won't catch Blaskett chancing any sharks," grinned Col. "He's much too fond of his own skin. Anyhow, let's wait and see."

Blaskett seemed to find the reef very rough, for he was a long time in getting out to the spot where it forked. Then the boys saw him climb down to the water's edge, as Sybil had done, and work his way to the big, overhanging slab. Going to the outer edge of this, he stood staring down into the water.

"Wish I knew what he was looking at," murmured Col. "Do you think he can see the gold, Kit?"

Kit shrugged his shoulders.

"He sees something, anyhow," said Col sharply. "Look! He's beginning to chuck his things off."

Sure enough, Blaskett was peeling off his clothes. He stripped to his trousers. Then, instead of taking a header, as the boys or Sybil would have done, he cautiously let himself down by his hands and dropped into the sea.

"It's the gold, Kit! I am sure it's the gold. You wouldn't see Blaskett in the water unless there was something big to tempt him."

Blaskett was swimming round and round in a clumsy sort of fashion. Then the boys saw him put his head under and try to dive; but it was quite clear that he had had little practice in that kind of thing, for the next moment up he came, blowing and snorting.

"What a hopeless ass!" growled Col scornfully. "Why, he can't even get himself under water."

"Wait," said Kit. "He's going to try again. See: He's going feet foremost this time."

Down went Blaskett, feet foremost, as Kit had said, and this time he vanished beneath the surface. He was under for, perhaps, five seconds. Then up he came, shooting half out of the water like a cork from an over-charged bottle. At the same time he let out a yell which pealed wildly across the blue water and along the desolate cliffs.


CHAPTER 48. — THE KEEPER OF THE GOLD

THE boys leaped to their feet.

"What's the matter with him?" gasped Col.

"Looks as if something had got him by the leg," replied Kit, and started running towards the reef. Col followed.

Blaskett, meantime, had managed to grasp a spike of rock which projected from the reef just above the level of the water, and was hanging to it with both hands. All the time he was screaming for help at the top of his voice. Whatever had hold of him was dragging him down with fearful force, for the muscles of the man's arms were standing out like cords.

The top of the reef was a mass of broken rock, seamed with great rifts and crevices, but the boys in their excitement never gave a thought to its danger, and went tearing and leaping along as if it were level ground. Kit was the first to reach the spot, and, flinging himself flat down on the big slab, stretched a hand down to Blaskett.

Never in his life had Kit seen such terror on a human face. But for the moment he did not realise what was the matter.

"Give me your hand," he cried. "We will pull you up."

"You—you can't. I daren't let go. It's got me by the legs."

"What's got him?" demanded Col.

"A—a rope," groaned Blaskett. "Something has got a noose round both legs, and there's a ton weight behind it."

And then Kit, staring down through the water, recognised the truth.

"Col," he said thickly, "Col, Col, it's a devil-fish, an octopus." For a second or two the twins gazed at one another in utter dismay. Then Kit spoke.

"Give me your knife, Col."

"What are you going to do, Kit?" Col questioned sharply.

"Cut him loose," said Kit briefly.

"You can't!" cried Col, in a voice of agony. "The brute has more arms than one. It will only get you."

"I don't think so," said Kit calmly. "It isn't a big one, and it looks to me as if all the suckers that it isn't using to hold on to the rocks are round Blaskett's legs. Anyhow, I am going to try."

As he spoke, Kit was tearing off his clothes, and, before Col could interfere, his brother, knife in hand, had dived off the rock into the sea.

Kit was a fine swimmer. He dived deep, but was careful to go well clear of the devil-fish. As he shot downward he passed the rim of a great iron tank covered with red rust. It was wedged crookedly between two spurs of the reef, and its upper edge was about six feet below the surface.

The water was clear as glass, and Kit could see by the marine growths which surrounded the tank that it had been there for a goodish time.

Blaskett's bare feet were just clear of the top of the tank, and round both ankles Kit could see what looked like coils of thin, dark rope. It was plain what had happened. The squid had taken up its quarters inside the tank, and Sybil had seen it and been too wise to enter the water. Blaskett, in his greedy haste, had never noticed the thing.

Kit saw with relief that this was not one of the monsters which live in the great sea caves in the foundations of the island cliffs, but a comparatively small animal. Yet a squid at best is a nasty thing to tackle, and Kit had often heard his uncle speak of their amazing muscular strength.

But if Blaskett's life was to be saved the brute had to be tackled, and Kit with two or three vigorous strokes drove himself up to the edge of the tank. He caught a glimpse of the horrid thing, its body about the size of his own head, with jet-black eyes and a horny, parrot-like beak; then he made one fierce slash with his knife. Col always kept a razor-edge on his clasp-knife, and the keen steel shore through one leather-like tentacle, which fell away writhing like a severed worm. Then, as he could stay down no longer, he shot up to the surface for breath.

"It's all right, Col," he panted. "I've cut one of the brute's arms, now I'm going to try again. Watch, and when I cut pull for all you're worth."

"Be careful!" rang in his ears as Kit dived again.

To his dismay, he saw that the octopus had flung up another arm, and was still holding Blaskett with two. And the force which it was exerting was fearful. Blaskett's knees looked as if they were being pulled out of their sockets.

Again he was over the edge of the tank, again he made a sickle-like slash, and felt the blade grate as it cut through the tough tentacle. Now only one arm held Blaskett, and Kit risked a second cut.

But his knife met the arm at an angle and slipped on its rubber-like surface, and before Kit could dive clear another arm had shot out of the darkness of the tank and wrapped itself round his left wrist.


CHAPTER 49. — THE END OF THE BATTLE

KIT had one chance left, one only. Two of the sea devil's arms were cut through. That left six. Of these two were holding Blaskett, and two at least the beast needed to keep its grasp upon the inner side of the old tank.

That meant that two only remained. If, then, he could manage to cut through the coil which had just fastened upon his left wrist there was but one more to deal with.

The only question was whether he could stay under water long enough. Already his head felt like bursting.

But Kit did not lose his presence of mind, and, once more drawing back his knife, he slashed with all his force at the snake-like tentacle gripping his arm.

The blade drove through it, struck the edge of the tank, and snapped off quite close to the haft. Before Kit quite realised what had happened the last arm had uncoiled like some horrible spring, and fixed itself over his shoulder.

Kit struck at it with the slump of the blade, but this was useless. There was no edge left to cut with, and what made it all the worse was that this last arm had been flung right over his back so that the only part he could hack at was as thick as his wrist.

And now his lungs were nearly bursting, and at last his heart failed him. Another few seconds and the end must come. Col, he knew, could not help him. He still managed to keep his lips closed, but his head was going, and the agony he was suffering was almost beyond bearing.

He gave one last frantic struggle, and, as he did so, he found himself rising. For the moment he could hardly believe his senses, but then he saw what had happened. The octopus had lost its hold, and he and Blaskett and the ugly brute that held them both were shooting up together.

Next moment his head was above water, and the joy of filling his lungs once more with fresh sea air was so intense that for the moment he forgot everything else.

Then he heard Col's voice.

"Catch hold of the rock!" his brother cried in agonised tones. "Quickly, before the brute gets you under again. I've got Blaskett."

Kit clawed out blindly, his fingers closed upon the ledge above, and he gripped the rock like grim death. The octopus was writhing horribly, and the water all around was black with the contents of its ink bag.

Kit dragged himself a little higher, but he still had the great tentacle clinging around his shoulder, and the feel of it sickened him. It was like being in the coils of a snake.

"Hold on!" Col shouted. "Hold on! I'll tackle the brute."

Col had something in his hands. It was a boat-hook, one which Blaskett had brought with him, and he was jabbing furiously at the body of the sea beast. He drove the point right through its tough, globular centre, and as the steel bit home Kit felt the suckers relax, and, clinging to the rock with one hand, he tore the horrible arm away. At last he was free. Then, breathless and almost exhausted, he managed to clamber up out of the water.

Col had dropped his boat-hook and had hold of Blaskett again. Only just in time, for the man's hold on the ledge had slackened, and he was on the point of dropping back into the sea.

"All right, Col. I'll help," said Kit.

"You can't," panted Col. "I'll manage." But Blaskett was a dead weight, and it was beyond Col to get him up, unaided; so Kit laid hold, and between them the twins dragged the man up and laid him on the flat surface of the ledge.

Col turned to Kit.

"I—I thought you were gone," he said chokily. "And—and I couldn't help you."

His voice broke a little, and in Kit's throat there was a lump.

"You helped splendidly," he managed to say. "It was the way you pulled that made the brute let go. Anyhow we are all right now."

Col turned to Blaskett.

"That is more than he is, Kit. If I'm not much mistaken, he is badly hurt."


CHAPTER 50. — THE CHANCE COMES

BLASKETT was indeed badly hurt. He lay flat on the rock shelf with his eyes closed, and his face the colour of putty. He seemed to be almost insensible.

After some discussion the boys carried the inanimate body ashore to the shelter of some rocks, where they gathered a quantity of dry grass and made a sort of bed, on which they laid Blaskett. The wretched man groaned once or twice, but did not speak.

"What's the matter with him, Kit?" asked Col bluntly.

Kit shrugged his shoulders.

"His back is hurt, I think. It was the strain of that awful beast pulling him down."

"What about you, Kit?" asked Col. "The brute had hold of you properly."

Kit smiled.

"Except that I am a bit sore and stiff, I am as right as rain. Now we had better get back as quickly as we can and bring Mr. Crale to have a look at Blaskett."

The twins knew their way now, and wasted no time in climbing the slope to the ridge. Here they stopped a minute to recover breath, and, while they did so, sounds came faintly to their ears from the direction of the village.

"What's that?" asked Col.

"Shouts, I think," Kit answered.

"Does that mean they've missed us?" asked Col.

"I don't think they would make such a row about it even if they had," Kit told him. "The best thing we can do is to jog on and find out."

As they hurried down the hill the sounds died slowly away, and when they reached the thick belt of trees which bordered the beach all was quiet again.

"It's all right, Kit," said Col. And just as he spoke a slim figure slipped out from behind the trunk of a great tree and Sybil stood in front of them.

"Oh, boys!" she gasped. "A most dreadful fight has been going on in the bay."

"You don't mean that Naga has been attacking again!" exclaimed Col.

"I don't know for certain," replied Sybil, who was looking very tired and pale, "for I did not see the beginning of it. But I am almost sure that is what has happened."

"What is Mr. Crale doing?" Kit asked quickly.

"I don't know any more than you," replied Sybil. "But how do you come to be here?"

Kit told her quickly what had happened, and Sybil shivered when he spoke of his battle with the devil-fish.

"And now," he ended, "we have to get help for Blaskett. The man is very bad, and if he is left too long I am afraid he may die. Col, you had better stay here with Sybil, and I will scout and see if I can find Mr. Crale or any of our people."

"You'll be careful, old man?" begged Col, and Kit promised, then he crept forward through the bush.

Reaching the edge of the beach, he crouched down and peered out. The first thing he saw was that all the large canoes had gone: the next, that there was hardly anybody on the beach.

Not one man was visible, but presently he noticed that the women and children were out on the rocky reef to the left of the bay, all staring out across the sea to the south.

Just as Kit was wondering what he had better do he heard a voice behind him.

"Dat you, Marse Kit?"

And, turning quickly round, he found himself face to face with Jupe.

"I am suah glad to see you," said the big harpooner. "Marse Crale and me, we been waiting for you all. Whar's Marse Col and little missie?"

"Just a little way behind us. But what's happened, Jupe?"

"Dere's been de biggest burst up yo' ebber seed. Jest arter yo' and Marse Col went off after little missie we seed ebbery man-jack in de village jest a-runnin' down de beach. Marse Crale, he suspicioned what was up, and him and me and de odder two chaps, we jest bolted for de woods, and I guess old Karum was too busy to look for us, for we've been laying here ebber since."

"But you haven't told me what was the matter, Jupe," said Kit. "Was it Naga attacking again?"

"It suah was," replied Jupe. "Dat black nigger ain't got sense enough to know when he's had enough. Yo' see, dis time Karum was ready for him. Ebber since dat last fight Karum hab had scouts out along de coast, so, 'stead ob Naga surprisin' Karum, it was jest de odder way about. Karum's men hab whipped Naga's out of dere boots, and dey is a-chasin' dem all de way home."

Kit sprang to his feet.

"All the men gone!" he exclaimed. "Then this is our chance, Jupe—our chance to get away."


CHAPTER 51. — THE ESCAPE

JUPE agreed.

"Dat's jest 'zackly what Marse Crale say," he said. "All we was a-waiting for was you two an' little missie."

"The whale-boat! Can we get the whale-boat?" exclaimed Kit.

Jupe grinned.

"We got dat all right," he answered, "and de water beakers is filled, and Bliss and Horton, dey is huntin' grub right now."

"Then you go and help them, Jupe," said Kit quickly. "I'll fetch Col and Sybil."

The next few minutes were one tremendous rush. Mr. Crale and his party made no bones about ransacking the huts in search of food, and between them they managed to get a goodly load.

Haste was everything, for they wanted, above all things, to get away before the women returned.

Luckily the women were far too busy watching for the return of the war canoes, and there was no one to interfere with the start of the whaler. In little more than a quarter of an hour from the time that Kit had reached the edge of the beach the party were aboard and pulling hard toward the sea.

As they passed the reef the women saw them, and the way they shrieked was a caution. But noise does no harm, and very shortly the whaler was past the point, and for the moment safe. A light southerly breeze was blowing, and, quickly hoisting their sail, they drove before it at a fair pace.

"Which way was you thinking of going, sir?" asked Bliss of Mr. Crale.

"The first thing we have to do, Bliss, is to pick up this man Blaskett."

Bliss looked almost sulky, and Horton frowned.

"We can't leave a man to die, Horton," said Mr. Crale, and though he spoke quietly his voice had a resolute ring. "Anyhow, we have a good start, and the delay will not be a long one."

When the whaler reached the northern end of the island her crew found Blaskett where the boys had left him. He could not move his legs, and groaned when they lifted him and carried him to the boat. His injury had not improved his temper, and, when at last they had got him flat on his back in the bottom of the boat, he lay there silent and scowling.

The wind was failing as they sailed out again, and Kit noticed that Jupe was looking doubtfully at the sky.

"What's the matter, Jupe?" he asked, in a low voice. "Is bad weather coming?"

"Ah reckon it would be better for us if it did blow a piece, Marse Kit," replied the big man. "What I'm skeered of is a flat calm, for dem niggers kin paddle a heap faster dan we can row."

Sure enough, the wind was failing fast, and the sun blazed down on long, glassy swells.

Mr. Crale began to look anxious. He spoke to Jupe.

"I think our best plan will be to get round to the other side of the island, and try to find some place where we can hide the boat and lie up till wind comes."

"Dat's de only ting to do, boss," replied Jupe, as he put over his steering oar and set a course around the northernmost point of the island. The little puffs of wind grew lighter and lighter and less and less frequent, until the boat lost way completely.

"Get the oars out," ordered Mr. Crale.

"About time, too," Kit heard Horton mutter, as he set to pulling. "Next thing we know, we'll have those niggers on top of us."

The heat was scorching, the whaler pulled heavily, and, to make matters worse, the tide was setting strongly against them. All were anxiously watching the sea toward the south, expecting every minute to see Karum's war canoes in sight.

Suddenly Col nudged Kit.

"There they are!" he whispered; and Kit, straining his eyes through the sun blaze, saw a long, slim craft shoot into sight around a point of land about two miles to the south. The first canoe was followed by another and another, until four were in sight. Each was manned by at least a score of natives, and it was plain that they were moving much more rapidly than the whaler.

They all pulled—pulled till the perspiration nearly blinded them; but near the Point the tide was stronger than ever, and the whaler seemed to crawl. The war canoes were moving two feet to the whaler's one, and each moment showing up more and more clearly.

There was not a cloud in the sky, not the faintest sign of a breeze, and it seemed a dead certainty that the whaler and her crew must be caught before they had covered another mile.


CHAPTER 52. — THE DERELICT

AT last they were round the point and out of the worst of the tide rip. All eyes were on the coast, looking for any little cover where it might be possible to hide the boat and themselves from the eyes of their pursuers.

There was nothing of the sort. On this side of the island tall cliffs of dark rock dropped sheer into deep water. There was not even a reef behind which they might shelter.

"It doesn't look exactly hopeful, Kit," whispered Col in his brother's ear.

"Not too good," allowed Kit, "but we must just keep on pulling. We may find the sort of place we are looking for around the next point."

"I wish I could think so," muttered Col, "but I am afraid it's all cliff like this. That big bay where the bull whale lives is only just beyond, and there wasn't much shelter there. It is all sheer cliff, like this."

Kit made no reply. To tell truth, his heart was in his boots. For the life of him he could not see the ghost of a chance of escape, and the thought of being dragged back to Karum's village made him feel sick with despair.

They had been rowing for more than an hour, and in the tremendous heat the work was killing. In spite of their best efforts the pace of the boat had slowed, and, just before the whaler reached the great cape for which her crew were making, the first of Karum's canoes shot into sight around the northern end of the island.

"That sees our finish," growled Horton.

"Don't yo' talk like dat," snapped Jupe. "We still got de old harpoon gun, and ah knows how to use her. Are yo' scared to make a fight, Horton?"

"Scared! Don't you dare talk to me like that," retorted Horton angrily.

Jupe took no offence, but merely grinned, and Kit realised that the harpooner's taunt had merely been made to rouse Horton.

It was at this moment that Kit felt a little breath of air on his heated face. "There's a puff coming," he cried.

Mr. Crale glanced at the faint ruffle alongside.

"Keep on pulling," he ordered. "We must wait for a bit more wind before we raise the sail; but cheer up, all of you, I believe a breeze is coming."

"If it doesn't come soon it will be too late," Col whispered to Kit. "If you ask me, I think it would be a jolly sight better if we stopped pulling before we are too done to fight."

"No good trying to fight out here, Col," Kit told him. "They are four to one, and would get all round us. Our one chance is to find a creek or a cove."

Just ahead the great rock point towered a couple of hundred feet against the sky, shutting off all view of what lay beyond. But by this time Karum's canoes were getting terribly close, so close that the occupants of the whale-boat could see the dip and plash of the long rows of paddles on either side of the pursuing craft.

"A last spurt, men," cried Mr. Crale, "and if we can't find any landing-place beyond the point we must turn and fight them."

The crew responded, and the whaler's pace quickened. Mr. Crale had the steering oar, and he kept the boat close under the base of the towering cliffs. The little breeze from which they had hoped so much had died away again.

Another minute, and the whaler shot around the point, and as she did so Mr. Crale gave a sudden shout and pointed forward with his right hand.

The rowers turned their heads, and there, not more than a couple of hundred yards ahead, lay a ship. She was a schooner of about a hundred tons, and, with all plain sails set, lay drifting idly on the glassy sea.


CHAPTER 53. — SYBIL TAKES A HAND

COL shouted "Hurrah!" in a very cracked voice.

"Ah wouldn't waste breath dat way, Marse Col," said Jupe heavily. "Ah'm feared dat craft ain't gwine to be much use to us."

"What do you mean?" demanded Col.

"Dere ain't no one aboard her," answered Jupe. "If I'm not mistook she is derelict."

"You are right, Jupe," said Mr. Crale; "but, derelict or not, she floats. And once aboard her we can defend ourselves very much better than in the whaler."

The sight of the schooner was like a tonic to the rowers. They spurted once more, and within a very few moments the whaler bumped against the stern of the schooner.

"She's mighty low in de water," muttered Jupe as he picked up Sybil and swung her over the bow gunwale. "Horton, give me a hand wid dat Blaskett."

Blaskett snarled at his helpers as they laid him on the deck of the schooner, which was one of the ordinary trading craft that ply in these seas, but there was no one aboard her. She was stove, and her hold was full of water, but her cargo kept her afloat. She must have been deserted in a hurry, and both her boats were gone.

Mr. Crale took command at once.

"Jupe, get the harpoon gun aboard. I'll see if there are any rifles," he said.

He dashed below, and Jupe and the boys and the two seamen whipped the gun out of the whaler and set it on its tripod on the schooner's deck.

The canoes came flashing into sight, but when the natives saw the schooner they checked, and the sound of their excited chatter came plainly across the calm sea.

"They are frightened," said Sybil quickly. "They don't know yet that this ship is a wreck."

As she spoke Mr. Crale came hurrying up through the hatch.

"Not a gun!" he said. "Nothing left, so far as I can see. And the water is over the cabin floor."

"You reckon she'll float, sah?" asked Jupe.

"For a time, anyhow," replied Mr. Crale.

"The niggers are coming, sir," exclaimed Horton.

He was right. The natives had got over their first alarm, and the four canoes were rapidly approaching the schooner.

Jupe had already loaded the harpoon gun, and now he swung the weapon round, bringing the muzzle to bear on the leading canoe.

Just then Sybil sprang forward.

"Don't fire, Jupe!" she exclaimed. "Let me talk to them."

"Yes," said Mr. Crale. "Let her try to parley with them. Once we start fighting, nobody knows what the end may be."

The steersman of the first canoe was a tall, fine-looking man. Sybil, standing fearlessly by the broken rail of the schooner, called out to him, and the man at once gave an order to his crew, and they all stopped paddling. Then he and Sybil began to talk rapidly in the native language, while the others waited anxiously, unable to understand what was being said.

Sybil turned to Mr. Crale.

"I'm afraid it is no use," she said despairingly. "He has orders from Karum to bring us back."

"And what did you say, Sybil?" asked Mr. Crale.

"I told him we were not coming," Sybil answered stoutly, "and then he said that if we did not come we should all be killed."

"Dere's two sides to dat," remarked Jupe gruffly. "Miss Sybil, yo' tell him dat his folk is jest as liable to be killed as we is!"

"I have told him," replied Sybil sadly, "but it doesn't make any difference. You see, he is more frightened of Karum than of us."

Jupe glanced at Mr. Crale.

"Reckon I'd better start shootin', sah," he said quickly.

Mr. Crale hesitated, and the others knew the reason. It was Sybil of whom he was thinking. For, though he knew that the natives would not harm her, if he and the rest were killed her chances of escape were ended, and she was doomed to spend the rest of her life oh this lonely island.

"Better make up your mind quick, sah," said Jupe in an urgent whisper. "Dey is beginning to sneak up, and once dey gets close dey'll be all ober us befoah we can stop dem."

Kit, watching Mr. Crale, saw his face harden, and knew that the order to fire was on the tip of his tongue. He and Col and the two seamen had armed themselves with belaying pins, and were grimly determined to put up the best fight they could.

Mr. Crale had opened his mouth to speak, Jupe's finger was actually tightening on the trigger of the harpoon gun, and in another moment the fight would have begun, when there came a sudden and startling yell from Col.

"Look!" he shouted breathlessly. "Look!"


CHAPTER 54. — THE MAD WHALE

COL was pointing out across the sea towards the west to a spot where the calm surface had suddenly broken into white foam.

"The whale! The bull whale!" he gasped.

The whale it was. A monstrous shape, looking as if moulded out of black india-rubber, and racing toward the scene of battle with the speed of a torpedo-boat.

The natives saw it, too, and, shrieking with terror, set to paddling frantically.

"They are dreadfully afraid of it," cried Sybil. "They call it the 'Ghost Whale.'"

"Ah reckon we'll be ghosts all right if dat ting hits de schooner," remarked Jupe.

"He is not coming for the schooner," cried Col in wild excitement. "See! It's the canoes he's after!"

"Yo're right, Marse Col," said Jupe. "Ah reckon it's anything movin' dat worries ole whale."

"You are right, Jupe," said Mr. Crale. "But after he's finished with the canoes the brute will probably turn on the schooner. The best thing we can do is to get back into the whaler as quickly as possible, and try to keep the hull of the schooner between ourselves and that mad beast."

"Oh!" shrieked Sybil. "Oh, he's got one!"

As the words left her lips the monster overtook the hindmost of the four canoes. There was a snapping sound, a chorus of terrified yells, then there leaped into the air a tangle of broken planks mixed with brown human forms. The canoe simply vanished, and the great whale ploughed onward, leaving the crew swimming like porpoises in every direction.

Jupe turned to Mr. Crale, and his dark eyes were glistening with excitement.

"Marse Crale, yo' and de oders get into de whaler and do as you said. But let me stay right here wid de gun. Mebbe I can make ole whale sorry if he comes buttin' into de schooner."

Mr. Crale's eyes were almost as bright as Jupe's.

"Do it, Jupe!" he said sharply. "But, Jupe, you'll be killed!" exclaimed Sybil.

"Don't yo' worry, missie," said Jupe. "Ah can swim mighty nigh as well as dem niggahs."

Sybil had no chance to reply, for Mr. Crale picked her up and swung her into the whaler, and the rest followed as quickly as they could. Blaskett they lifted and put back in the bottom of the boat.

The whale, meantime, had overtaken a second canoe and treated it exactly as he had the first. By this time the two remaining canoes were nearly half a mile away, and travelling back to the north end of the island at top speed.

The whale, which, like all his tribe, was very short-sighted, had evidently lost them, and suddenly he flung up his great flukes and vanished into the depths.

"He's gone!" cried Col, with a gasp of relief.

Mr. Crale shook his head.

"Don't think so, Col. That brute is a killer, and you may take it as certain that he will tackle the schooner."

Some minutes passed in breathless suspense, but of the great bull whale there was no sign. The waves caused by his furious charge died out, and the surviving natives were climbing ashore on rocks under the cliff.

"See anything of him, Jupe!" called out Mr. Crale.

"No, sah," Jupe answered; "but ah don't trust him."

Horton spoke.

"The breeze is coming at last, sir," he said to Mr. Crale, and pointed to the south, in which direction the calm water was ruffled by something that looked more than a cat's paw. Next moment the tattered sails of the schooner began to flap.

"I think we had better come aboard, Jupe," said Mr. Crale. "If the schooner will sail at all we may be able to get away."

"No, sah!" Jupe answered. "If yo'll take my advice, yo'll stay right here. Ah'll take de tiller and de whaler can tow astern."

Mr. Crale frowned.

"I suppose you think that the whale will attack as soon as the schooner begins to move. Is that it?" he asked.

"Dat's jest 'zactly what I do mean, sah," Jupe answered, and, leaving the gun, went to the tiller.

The ragged sails filled, the schooner swung sluggishly and began to draw away from the land. She had so much water in her that she did not move at more than walking pace. The whaler towed astern.

No one spoke, for all were so busily occupied in watching for sign of the whale that they had no attention for anything else.

Suddenly Jupe stiffened. Those in the boat saw him point right out towards the south.

"Ah sees him!" he roared. "He's a-coming!"


CHAPTER 55. — THE MONSTER CHARGES

COL sprang to his feet and gazed in the direction in which Jupe was pointing.

"Here he is!" he shouted. "I see him! He is coming like a train."

"Sit down," snapped Mr. Crale. "Do you want to upset the boat?"

"The brute's coming straight for the schooner," said Col, as he obeyed.

"Marse Kit!" shouted Jupe. "Yo' come aboard and take de wheel while ah handles de gun."

There was no time to ask any questions, and in a trice Kit was over the bow of the whaler, and had scrambled aboard the schooner.

"Keep her just like she is," ordered Jupe, his voice suddenly hard and stern.

Kit grasped the wheel. The schooner steered like a log, but he managed to hold her on her course. He glanced at Jupe. The big harpooner's face was set like a rock, and his great hands were busy with the mechanism of the gun.

"Port, Marse Kit!" cried Jupe. The breeze was freshening, and the schooner obeyed her helm more easily. Her bow was pointed directly toward the great black monster that was now so terribly close.

"Port!" shouted Jupe again. "Keep her head pointed straight for old whale."

Kit obeyed. He understood now just what Jupe was after, and that he wanted the whale to strike the schooner's bow rather than her side.

"Hold on!" roared Jupe.

Kit did not need the warning; but, even so, the shock of the collision was so tremendous that it jarred every muscle in his body. The schooner lifted as though she had struck solid rock, and Kit heard the crunch of shivering timbers beneath the water- line. From overhead came another crash as the fore-topmast broke like a carrot and came rattling down, bringing with it a whole raffle of gear.

In spite of his grip upon the wheel Kit was flung off his balance and nearly fell. As he recovered himself there came to his ears the heavy thudding report of the whale gun, and the sunlight flashed on the bright steel head of the harpoon as it was hurled from the muzzle. The rope followed in black, snaky coils.

"Ah've got him!" roared Jupe in a voice of thunder. "Leab de wheel, Marse Kit, an' gib me a hand wid dis heah rope."

In three jumps Kit was beside Jupe. Under the bows of the schooner the blue water boiled in a maelstrom of foam, and the line was running out of the tub like greased lightning.

"Ah got him dis time," repeated Jupe. "Ah reckon ole whale won't sink no more ships," he added vindictively.

Kit glanced at the shattered bow of the schooner.

"But he's sunk this one all right, Jupe," he replied.

Jupe scowled.

"Ah'm most afraid yo're right, Marse Kit," he answered. "She's sure stove dis time, but ef she'll float for jest half an hour, ah tink we'se got ole whale."

The line was still flashing out of the tub in which it was coiled. It seemed to be going straight down into the depths.

"Still sounding, isn't he?" asked Kit.

"Dat's so," answered Jupe; "but ah don't reckon he kin go much furder."

Almost as he spoke the line ceased to run out, and Jupe at once set to work to get the slack.

"Ah told you so," he cried. "He's a-coming up."

Kit's heart was thumping as he stood watching the sea, waiting for the reappearance of their terrible enemy. Suddenly the line began to run again, then, at a distance of about two hundred yards to seaward, the water broke, and out of the blue the great bull whale flung the whole of his gigantic frame out of the sea into the air.

Down came the whale again, down with a crash like a thunderclap, sending the parted waters leaping in two vast waves on either side of his giant mass.

The line tightened, and Jupe let it take the strain gradually. The schooner began to surge forward, but now Kit noticed that her bows were lower than before.

"She's sinking, Jupe," he said anxiously.

Jupe shook his head.

"Don't yo' worry, Marse Kit. Her cargo will keep her afloat."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before the strain on the line ceased. The whale had vanished.


CHAPTER 56. — THE SECOND ATTACK

JUPE muttered something under his breath which was not a blessing.

"What's he up to now?" asked Kit sharply.

"He's arter jest de one ting ah hoped he wouldn't tink ob. He's agwine to try to bust us again."

Kit sprang back towards the tiller so as to meet the new charge head on. It was useless, for the whale had been towing the schooner into the eye of the wind, and not only that, the fall of the fore-topmast had robbed her of most of her remaining sail. The water-logged craft had no longer any way and lay helpless before the attack of her terrible enemy.

Next instant the huge square head of the bull whale shot into sight less than a hundred yards from the port side of the schooner, and, almost before Kit had time to think, the monstrous brute had charged them a second time with the fury of a mad bull.

Under the terrific impact of more than one hundred tons of living weight, this time delivered on her unprotected side, the schooner collapsed under the feet of her crew. Kit was flung violently to the deck, and fetched up half-stunned against the starboard rail.

Grasping the rail, he dragged himself dizzily to his feet. He felt the schooner rolling over beneath him, and vaguely heard Jupe's voice shouting to him to jump. With a last effort he scrambled over the rail and sprang as far as he could into the sea.

The next thing of which he was aware was a pair of strong hands grasping him, and of being lifted out of the water into the whaler.

"Oh, Kit! Are you hurt?" he heard Sybil cry, and he had just breath enough to answer:

"Not a bit, Sybil."

Kit sat up. He became aware that both he and Jupe were aboard the whaler, and that Bliss and Horton were at the oars, pulling her away from the spot where the shattered schooner was just disappearing beneath the sea. Jupe was watching the sinking ship with a very grim expression on his face.

"De schooner's done gone and de gun am gone," he said heavily.

"And the whale, too," added Mr. Crale.

"Never mind, Jupe," said Sybil comfortingly. "It was not your fault, anyhow."

"But ah feel jest as bad as if it was," replied Jupe dolefully.

There was silence a minute. Then Horton put into words the thought that was in everybody's mind.

"Do you think the brute will come back at us, sir?" he asked.


CHAPTER 57. — BLASKETT AGAIN

SYBIL went rather white, and Mr. Crale hastened to comfort her. "I don't think it's likely," he said quickly. "You got the harpoon well home, Jupe, didn't you?"

"Yes, sah. And hitting dat dere schooner like he did wouldn't help him."

"Still, we won't take chances," said Mr. Crale. "Get the sail up."

The breeze was now blowing fresh, and under her sail the boat travelled fast. Mr. Crale took the steering oar. And then Horton gave a shout:

"There he is, sir. Just where the schooner sank."

As he spoke, the mate turned the boat in towards the land.

"Dat's right, sah," said Jupe. "Ef we's real close to de rocks he's not so likely to see us."

The great bull, seemingly as full as ever of terrible life, was circling on the surface, evidently searching for his enemies. And suddenly, whether he saw or smelt them, he came rushing across the water towards them.

Horton was terrified.

"He'll have us!" he said. "Nothing can help us."

"Rubbish!" snapped Mr. Crale. "We can reach the cliff before he does. Though we can't land, the brute may think twice of charging right up to the cliff face."

Mr. Crale headed the whaler right in under the cliff. The whale was terribly close, and Kit could hardly breathe for suspense.

Suddenly Mr. Crale pushed over the steering oar, and the boat spun like a top and shot up into the wind. The whale came thundering past so close that the wave flung up by its monstrous bulk covered them all with spray.

For a moment Kit could see nothing. Then came a dull but tremendous thud, and a fresh wave broke aboard the whaler, half filling her. A roar from Jupe: "Whoopee! Dat's done it. Ole whale busted dis time, suah!" And as the spray mist cleared they all saw their monstrous enemy flapping his life out. Missing the boat, in his blind rage he had charged straight into the cliff, and smashed his ponderous head to a jelly.

"Hurrah!" shouted Bliss and Horton, and the boy's and Sybil cheered, too.

But Mr. Crale cut them short.

"Bale!" he ordered curtly. "Bale if you don't want the boat to sink under you."

Bale they did, and as the sail filled again they began to draw away from the dangerous cliffs and out into open water. Jupe cast a last glance at the bull whale floating like a log in the surf.

"It's a suah pity dat we got to leab him," he said regretfully.

"Can't say I'm sorry to see the last of him, Jupe," replied Mr. Crale. "And, in any case, we have something else to think of. There's weather working up: we must be clear of the island before it starts."

Jupe glanced at the sky, and nodded. "You're right, boss. We better snug de boat down."

* * * * *

TWO hours later dusk began to creep over a waste of great grey waves, and the whaler lay hove to in a full gale, while her crew, baling hard, tried desperately to keep her afloat. Yet all, Kit and Col included, well knew that, barring a miracle, the end must come soon.

Any boat less strongly built than the whaler must have been swamped long ago, and as the tidal drift had carried them far beyond the island there was no shelter for many miles.

"Poor luck, Kit," whispered Col to his brother. "For Sybil, I mean. I don't care much myself now Uncle Nat is gone."

Jupe overheard.

"It was all dat Blaskett!" he growled. "But he's gwine to de bottom wid us."

As he spoke there came a scream from Blaskett, who had dragged himself up, and he was pointing up wind and shrieking:

"A sail! A sail I tell you!"

"Raving, I reckon," said Jupe scornfully, as he baled hard.

But Kit looked up.

"He's right!" he gasped. "And it's the Triton, or her double."

"Of course it's the Triton!" snapped Blaskett.

"Den yo' lied, yo' Blaskett!" roared Jupe. And just then a wave broke right over them, and nearly smothered the boat.

"Bale!" shouted Mr. Crale. "Bale for your lives. She's seen us!"

Into the next few minutes was crowded a lifetime of suspense. It seemed all odds that the boat would go under before the Triton could reach it. But under Mr. Crale's able leadership they all worked like furies, and somehow managed to keep the whaler afloat until the Triton thrust her squat bulk between them and the gale.

Even then the work of rescue was most difficult and dangerous, but Captain Nat was equal to it, and soon they were all safe aboard.

Drenched and exhausted, they were hurried below, but it was not until they were dried and fresh clothed that their uncle would allow the boys to tell their story.

"So the rogue whale is dead!" exclaimed Captain Nat, when they had finished. And his eyes flashed with triumph.

"And floating, Uncle!" cried Col. "Then if the wind goes down we will have him tomorrow," replied Captain Nat. "Also we will read that ruffian Naga a lesson."

"And pick up Chad, uncle," put in Kit.

"And get that gold," added Col. "But you won't harm Karum?" begged Sybil. "He was good to me."

"No, indeed, Sybil; and he shall have the carcass of the bull whale and his share of the gold. Now the only thing that puzzles me is what to do with that fellow Blaskett. The real truth is that he stole a boat and escaped from the ship, and indeed I was not sorry to see the last of him."

"I don't think you need trouble about him, Captain Sibley," said Mr. Crale gravely. "I have just been to see him, and though I think he will live, I believe he will be a cripple for life. At any rate, he will never be fit for more mischief."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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