Mr. Chalk’s foot had scarcely
touched the deck of the schooner when Mr. Tredgold
seized him by the arm and, whispering indistinctly
in his ear, hurried him below.
“Get your arms out of the cabin
as quick as you can,” he said, sharply.
“Then follow me up on deck.”
Mr. Chalk, trembling violently, tried
to speak, but in vain. A horrid clanking noise
sounded overhead, and with the desperation of terror
he turned into the new cabin and, collecting his weapons,
began with frantic haste to load them. Then
he dropped his rifle and sprang forward with a loud
cry as he heard the door close smartly and the key
turn in the lock.
He stood gazing stupidly at the door
and listening to the noise overhead. The clanking
ceased, and was succeeded by a rush of heavy feet,
above which he heard Captain Brisket shouting hoarsely.
He threw a despairing glance around his prison, and
then looked up at the skylight. It was not big
enough to crawl through, but he saw that by standing
on the table he could get his head out. No less
clearly he saw how easy it would be for a mutineer
to hit it.
Huddled up in a corner of the cabin
he tried to think. Tredgold and Stobell were
strangely silent, and even the voice of Brisket had
ceased. The suspense became unbearable.
Then suddenly a faint creaking and straining of timbers
apprised him of the fact that the Fair Emily was under
He sprang to his feet and beat heavily
upon the door, but it was of stout wood and opened
inwards. Then a bright idea, the result of reading
sensational fiction, occurred to him, and raising his
rifle to his shoulder he aimed at the lock and pulled
The noise of the explosion in the
small cabin was deafening, but, loud as it was, it
failed to drown a cry of alarm outside. The sound
of heavy feet and of two or three bodies struggling
for precedence up the companion-ladder followed, and
Mr. Chalk, still holding his smoking rifle and regarding
a splintered hole in the centre of the panel, wondered
whether he had hit anybody. He slipped in a fresh
cartridge and, becoming conscious of a partial darkening
of the skylight, aimed hastily at a face which appeared
there. The face, which bore a strong resemblance
to that of Mr. Stobell, disappeared with great suddenness.
“He’s gone clean off his
head,” said Captain Brisket, as Mr. Stobell
“Mad as a March hare,”
said Mr. Tredgold, shivering; “it’s a wonder
he didn’t have one of us just now. Call
down to him that it’s all right, Stobell.”
“Call yourself,” said that gentleman,
“Get a stick and raise the skylight,”
A loud report sounded from below.
Mr. Chalk had fired a second and successful shot
at the lock. “What’s he doing?”
inquired Stobell, blankly.
A sharp exclamation from Captain Brisket
was the only reply, and he turned just as Mr. Chalk,
with a rifle in one hand and a revolver in the other,
appeared on deck. The captain’s cry was
echoed forward, and three of the crew dived with marvellous
skill into the forecastle. The boy and two others
dashed into the galley so hurriedly that the cook,
who was peeping out, was borne backwards on to the
stove and kept there, the things he said in the heat
of the moment being attributed to excitement and attracting
no attention. Tredgold, Brisket, and Stobell
dodged behind the galley, and Mr. Chalk was left to
gaze in open-mouthed wonder at the shrinking figure
of Mr. Duckett at the wheel. They regarded each
other in silence, until a stealthy step behind Mr.
Chalk made him turn round smartly. Mr. Stobell,
who was stealing up to secure him, dodged hastily
behind the mainmast.
“Stobell!” cried Mr. Chalk, faintly.
“It’s all right,” said the other.
Mr. Chalk regarded his proceedings
in amazement. “What are you hiding behind
the mast for?” he inquired, stepping towards
Mr. Stobell made no reply, but with
an agility hardly to be expected of one of his bulk
dashed behind the galley again.
A sense of mystery and unreality stole
over Mr. Chalk. He began to think that he must
be dreaming. He turned and looked at Mr. Duckett,
and Mr. Duckett, trying to smile at him, contorted
his face so horribly that he shrank back appalled.
He looked about him and saw that they were now in
open water and drawing gradually away from the land.
The stillness and mystery became unbearable, and
with an air of resolution he cocked his rifle and
proceeded with infinite caution to stalk the galley.
As he weathered it, with his finger on the trigger,
Stobell and the others stole round the other side
and, making a mad break aft, stumbled down the companion-ladder
and secured themselves below.
“Has everybody gone mad?”
inquired Mr. Chalk, approaching the mate again.
“Everybody except you, sir,”
said Mr. Duckett, with great politeness.
Mr. Chalk looked forward again and
nearly dropped his rifle as he saw three or four tousled
heads protruding from the galley. Instinctively
he took a step towards Mr. Duckett, and instinctively
that much-enduring man threw up his hands and cried
to him not to shoot. Mr. Chalk, pale of face
and trembling of limb, strove to reassure him.
“But it’s pointing towards
me,” said the mate, “and you’ve got
your finger on the trigger.”
Mr. Chalk apologized.
“What did Tredgold and Stobell run away for?”
Mr. Duckett said that perhaps they
were-like himself-nervous of
firearms. He also, in reply to further questions,
assured him that the mutiny was an affair of the past,
and, gaining confidence, begged him to hold the wheel
steady for a moment. Mr. Chalk, still clinging
to his weapons, laid hold of it, and the mate, running
to the companion, called to those below. Led
by Mr. Stobell they came on deck.
“It’s all over now,” said Tredgold,
“As peaceable as lambs,”
said Captain Brisket, taking a gentle hold of the
rifle, while Stobell took the revolver.
Mr. Chalk smiled faintly, and then
looked round in trepidation as the inmates of the
galley drew near and scowled at him curiously.
“Get for’ard!” cried
Brisket, turning on them sharply. “Keep
your own end o’ the ship. D’ye hear?”
The men shuffled off slowly, keeping
a wary eye on Mr. Chalk as they went, the knowledge
of the tempting mark offered by their backs to an
eager sportsman being apparent to all.
“It’s all over,”
said Brisket, taking the wheel from the mate and motioning
to him to go away, “and after your determination,
sir, there’ll be no more of it, I’m sure.”
“But what was it?” demanded Mr. Chalk.
“Not exactly what you could
call mutiny,” replied the captain, in a low
voice. “A little mistake o’ Duckett’s.
He’s a nervous man, and perhaps he exaggerated
a little. But don’t allude to it again,
for the sake of his feelings.”
“But somebody locked me in the
cabin,” persisted Mr. Chalk, looking from one
to the other.
Captain Brisket hesitated. “Did
they?” he said, with a smile of perplexity.
“Did they? I gave orders that that door
was to be kept locked when there was nobody in there,
and I expect the cook did it by mistake as he passed.
It’s been a chapter of accidents all through,
but I must say, sir, that the determined way you came
on deck was wonderful.”
“Extraordinary!” murmured Mr. Tredgold.
“I didn’t know him,”
attested Mr. Stobell, continuing to regard Mr. Chalk
with much interest.
“I can’t make head or
tail of it,” complained Mr. Chalk. “What
about the ladies?”
Captain Brisket shook his head dismally
and pointed ashore, and Mr. Chalk, following the direction
of his finger, gazed spellbound at a figure which
was signalling wildly from the highest point.
Tredgold and Stobell, approaching the side, waved
their handkerchiefs in response.
“We must go back for them,” said Mr. Chalk,
“What! in this wind, sir?”
inquired Brisket, with an indulgent laugh. “You’re
too much of a sailor to think that’s possible,
I’m sure; and it’s going to last.”
“We must put up with the disappointment
and do without’em,” said Stobell.
Mr. Chalk gazed helplessly ashore.
“But we’ve got their luggage,” he
“Duckett sent it ashore,”
said Brisket. “Thinking that there was
men’s work ahead, and that the ladies might
be in the way, he put it over the side and sent it
back. And mind, believing what he did, I’m
not saying he wasn’t in the right.”
Mr. Chalk again professed his inability
to make head or tail of the proceedings. Ultimately-due
time having been given for Captain Brisket’s
invention to get under way-he learned that
a dyspeptic seaman, mistaking the mate’s back
for that of the cook, had first knocked his cap over
his eyes and then pushed him over. “And
that, of course,” concluded the captain, “couldn’t
be allowed anyway, but, seeing that it was a mistake,
we let the chap off.”
“There’s one thing about
it,” said Tredgold, as Chalk was about to speak;
“it’s shown us the stuff you’re made
“He frightened me,” said
Brisket, solemnly. “I own it. When
I saw him come up like that I lost my nerve.”
Mr. Chalk cast a final glance at the
dwindling figure on the cliff, and then went silently
below and stood in a pleasant reverie before the smashed
door. He came to the same conclusion regarding
the desperate nature of his character as the others;
and the nervous curiosity of the men, who took sly
peeps at him, and the fact that the cook dropped the
soup-tureen that evening when he turned and found Mr.
Chalk at his elbow, only added to his satisfaction.
He felt less heroic next morning.
The wind had freshened during the night, and the
floor of the cabin heaved in a sickening fashion beneath
his feet as he washed himself. The atmosphere
was stifling; timbers creaked and strained, and boots
and other articles rolled playfully about the floor.
The strong, sweet air above revived
him, but the deck was wet and cheerless and the air
chill. Land had disappeared, and a tumbling waste
of grey seas and a leaden sky was all that met his
gaze. Nevertheless, he spoke warmly of the view
to Captain Brisket, rather than miss which he preferred
to miss his breakfast, contenting himself with half
a biscuit and a small cup of tea on deck. The
smell of fried bacon and the clatter of cups and saucers
came up from below.
The heavy clouds disappeared and the
sun came out. The sea changed from grey to blue,
and Tredgold and Stobell, coming on deck after a good
breakfast, arranged a couple of chairs and sat down
to admire the scene. Aloft the new sails shone
white in the sun, and spars and rigging creaked musically.
A little spray came flying at intervals over the bows
as the schooner met the seas.
“Lovely morning, sir,”
said Captain Brisket, who had been for some time exchanging
glances with Stobell and Tredgold; “so calm and
“Bu’ful,” said Mr.
Chalk, shortly. He was gazing in much distaste
at a brig to starboard, which was magically drawn
up to the skies one moment and blotted from view the
“Nice fresh smell,” said
Tredgold, sniffing. “Have a cigar, Chalk?”
Mr. Chalk shook his head, and his
friend, selecting one from his case, lit it with a
fusee that poisoned the atmosphere.
“None of us seem to be sea-sick,” he remarked.
“Sea-sickness, sir,” said
Captain Brisket-“seasickness is mostly
imagination. People think they’re going
to be bad, and they are. But there’s one
certain cure for it.”
“Cure?” said Mr. Chalk, turning a glazing
eye upon him.
“Yes, sir,” said Brisket,
with a warning glance at Mr. Stobell, who was grinning
broadly. “It’s old-fashioned and
I’ve heard it laughed at, but it’s a regular
good old remedy. Mr. Stobell’s laughing
at it,” he continued, as a gasping noise from
that gentleman called for explanation, “but
it’s true all the same.”
“What is it?” inquired Mr. Chalk, with
“Pork,” replied Captain
Brisket, with impressive earnestness. “All
that anybody’s got to do is to get a bit o’
pork-fat pork, mind you-and get the cook
to stick a fork into it and frizzle it, all bubbling
and spluttering, over the galley fire. Better
still, do it yourself; the smell o’ the cooking
being part of -”
Mr. Chalk arose and, keeping his legs
with difficulty, steadied himself for a moment with
his hands on the companion, and disappeared below.
“There’s nothing like
it,” said Brisket, turning with a satisfied smile
to Mr. Stobell, who was sitting with his hands on his
knees and rumbling with suppressed mirth. “It’s
an odd thing, but, if a man’s disposed to be
queer, you’ve only got to talk about that to
finish him. Why talking about fried bacon should
be so bad for ’em I don’t know.”
“Imagination,” said Tredgold, smoking
Brisket smiled and then, nursing his
knee, scowled fiercely at the helmsman, who was also
on the broad grin.
“Of course, it wants proper
telling,” he continued, turning to Stobell.
“Did you notice his eyes when I spoke of it bubbling
and spluttering over the galley fire?”
“I did,” replied Mr. Stobell,
laying his pipe carefully on the deck.
“Some people tell you to tie
the pork to a bit o’ string after frying it,”
said Brisket, “but that’s what I call overdoing
it. I think it’s quite enough to describe
its cooking, don’t you?”
“Plenty,” said Stobell.
“Have one o’ my matches,” he said,
proffering his box to Tredgold, who was about to relight
his cigar with a fusee.
“Thanks, I prefer this,” said Tredgold.
Mr. Stobell put his box in his pocket
again and, sitting lumpily in his chair, gazed in
a brooding fashion at the side.
“Talking about pork,” began Brisket, “reminds
“What! ain’t you got over
that joke yet?” inquired Mr. Stobell, glaring
at him. “Poor Chalk can’t help his
“No, no,” said the captain, staring back.
“People can’t help being sea-sick,”
said Stobell, fiercely.
“Certainly not, sir,” agreed the captain.
“There’s no disgrace in
it,” continued Mr. Stobell, with unusual fluency,
“and nothing funny about it that I can see.”
“Certainly not, sir,”
said the perplexed captain again. “I was
just going to point out to you how, talking about
“I know you was,” stormed
Mr. Stobell, rising from his chair and lurching forward
heavily. “D’ye think I couldn’t
hear you? Prating, and prating, and pra -”
He disappeared below, and the captain,
after exchanging a significant grin with Mr. Tredgold,
put his hands behind his back and began to pace the
deck, musing solemnly on the folly of trusting to appearances.
Sea-sickness wore off after a day
or two, and was succeeded by the monotony of life
on board a small ship. Week after week they saw
nothing but sea and sky, and Mr. Chalk, thirsting
for change, thought with wistful eagerness of the
palm-girt islands of the Fijian Archipelago to which
Captain Brisket had been bidden to steer. In
the privacy of their own cabin the captain and Mr.
Duckett discussed with great earnestness the nature
of the secret which they felt certain was responsible
for the voyage.