The Missing Ship - The Log of the "Ouzel" Galley
by W. H. G. Kingston
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"He has repaid the debt, doctor, for I understand that the same young lady was in the house attacked by the rebels, and that they were on the point of entering it and murdering all the inmates, when he drove them to the right-about," said Mr Tarwig.

In another tent the master and purser, with the midshipmen, were engaged in amusing themselves in a more uproarious fashion. Many a merry stave and sentimental ditty was sung, and not a few yarns were spun, anecdotes told, and jokes cut, albeit not of the newest. The remainder of the shipwrecked men having been pretty well worked during the day, soon turned in, and in spite of the storm raging over their heads went fast asleep; the only people awake being the sentries, who, wrapped in their greatcoats, their firelocks sheltered under them, stood with their backs to the wind.

Thus the night passed away. With the morning light the rain ceased, and as Norman, who was the first among the officers on foot, looked in the direction of the spot where the ship had been, she was nowhere to be seen, but here and there amid the foam-covered reefs fragments of the wreck could be discerned, tossed about by the tumbling seas. He had reason to be thankful that such had not been her fate while the crew were still on board. He was soon joined by Mr Tarwig. He pointed in the direction of the wreck.

"Our chance of building a craft to carry us away is gone," observed the first lieutenant, with a sigh. "Well, we must bear our lot patiently, and maybe some friendly craft may heave in sight. And if a friend does not come, why, perhaps an enemy will; and if so, we must capture her, and change places with her crew."

"Little chance of that, I fear," said Norman, who, eager as he was to get off, had from the first not been very sanguine of doing so.

After the crew had been piped up, and Mr Tarwig had mustered them and gone through the usual duties performed by a first lieutenant—although, as he observed with one of his comical looks to Norman, he need not get the decks washed, the rain having done that already—they re-entered their tent, to which their servants brought fresh water for their morning ablutions. Fires were lighted, though the wood did not burn at first very briskly, and the cooks busied themselves in preparing for breakfast.

The commander on going out of his tent took one glance seaward. "I feared it would be so," he said, turning away his head. "Now, Mr Tarwig, we'll get our fort under way."

"It would be a hard matter to do that, sir," answered the first lieutenant, screwing up his mouth, with a twinkle in his eye, "seeing it is not built yet."

The commander, who knew he was fond of a joke, laughed, and desired to be shown the proposed site. On inspecting it, he highly approved of the spot selected.

Immediately breakfast was over, all hands were ordered to man the guns and commence the work of dragging them up the hill. One at a time, however, only could be moved, till it was got near enough to a stout tree to which a tackle could be fixed, and the seamen then ran it up the steepest part of the ascent with surprising rapidity.

Before the day was over half the guns were placed in position, and by means of stout shears, which were erected on the hill, were hoisted on their carriages. The rest were allowed to remain where they were till the embankments were thrown up. The smith and his mates, with such hands as he required, had put up a forge, and he and the carpenters had been busily engaged manufacturing pickaxes and spades. With such as had been finished the men were the next day set to work on the trenches, some being employed in cutting down trees to serve for the woodwork which was required. Eighty men were engaged in these operations, and it seemed extraordinary how much that number of willing hands could get through, the officers all labouring away to set them the example.

The commander was well pleased as he surveyed the work. "We shall be able to give a fair account of an enemy should one attack us before many days are over," he observed to Mr Tarwig. "I think it very probable, should the Spaniards find out we are here, that they will not let us alone, as they will fancy that for some reason or other we have taken possession of the island."

"Ay, sir; but I have a notion we should be able to beat them off without these embankments, satisfactory as it may be to have them as shelter," answered the first lieutenant.

It took, however, several days to complete the fort, and when that was done, one of the chief objects of the commander was to find occupation for the men. He knew that it would never do to let them be too long idle. Among the stores saved were several seines; one or two of these were drawn every day on the sandy portions of the beach, and never failed to catch a number of fish, which added to the store of provisions. Drawing the seine afforded not only occupation but amusement to the men, who engaged in it with the greatest avidity. The fresh fish, too, assisted to keep scurvy at a distance. The surgeon explored the island in search of any vegetable productions which might assist in that object. Happily there were a good number of cocoa-nuts, but it was necessary to husband them, or the men would have consumed them in the course of a day or two.

Though it was necessary to prepare for a long stay, the commander took the requisite measures for attracting the notice of any passing vessels. A high flagstaff was put up in the centre of the fort, from which the British ensign was kept flying from sunrise to sunset, and on the two highest points of the island piles of firewood were placed ready to light up at night, should it be considered expedient to try and attract the attention of any ships seen in the offing. There might, however, be a danger in doing this, lest a stranger, standing too close in, might run on the rocks. By firing guns, however, she might be warned off. Of course, by these means it was as likely that an enemy would be attracted to the spot as a friend, but this caused them no anxiety, as they could beat off any vessel which might come with hostile intentions.

Day after day, however, went by, and no sail appeared in sight. As soon as the weather moderated the boats were launched, and the second lieutenant and master, with Crowhurst, pulled round the island and surveyed its approaches in every direction. They found but two channels through which a vessel of any size could approach to attack them, and that could only be done with the greatest caution, by those who had a thorough knowledge of the navigation. Indeed, the island was almost completely surrounded by reefs, some rising above the surface, others sunk beneath it at different depths. These, it was found, extended to a considerable distance from the shore, so that no craft of large size was likely intentionally to approach. After the survey had been completed, Lieutenant Foley offered to try and make his way to Jamaica in the pinnace, the largest boat which now remained, the launch having been lost with the ship.

"I cannot let you go," answered Captain Olding. "Even should the weather continue favourable, the probabilities are that you would be picked up by a Spaniard or a Frenchman, and you would fail to reach your destination."

"But I might as probably be picked up by an English man-of-war or a merchant vessel, sir," answered Norman, who was eager to make the attempt.

The commander, however, was inexorable, and the lieutenant did not again for some time venture to broach the subject.

The shipwrecked crew continued in vain to look out for relief, and Commander Olding remained firm to his resolution of not allowing one of the boats to try and make her way to Jamaica.

Notwithstanding the refusal Lieutenant Foley had received, Mr Billhook, the master, offered to take charge of the pinnace with four or five volunteers. "No great harm can happen if we are taken, sir, and still less, some will say, if we go to the bottom, but the chances are we get clear and arrive all right," he urged.

"One great harm would happen. Should you be captured, the enemy would suspect where you came from, even if you refuse to tell them, and we should have them coming here to try and cut us off," answered the commander. "Wait patiently, gentlemen. Either some friendly vessel will appear, or a French or Spanish trader or guarda-costa will some day come to an anchor within the reefs; then, if we manage carefully, we shall be able to get aboard her before she has time to cut her cable and run out to sea."

This idea of the commander's soon got talked about, and all hands were constantly on the watch for any vessel which they might hope to capture. Not that the seamen were in any great hurry to leave the island; as long as they had an ample supply of food and liquor they were happy, while they had sufficient occupation to keep them out of mischief.

A look-out for any craft which might approach the shore was of course constantly kept on both sides of the island. A mist had hung over the sea during the night, which completely concealed all objects, except those close at hand, from view. The sun rising above the horizon dispersed the mist, when a small vessel was discovered under sail, threading her way among the reefs to the westward. Those on board her must have perceived the fort with the people moving about, and the British flag which had just been hoisted on the flagstaff, for she immediately kept away, and, the wind being to the eastward, ran off before it towards the open sea. If she could be captured she would afford the means of sending to Jamaica, though she could not carry all the crew. The boats were therefore launched, and chase was made; but, the breeze freshening, the stranger got clear out to sea, when all chance of overtaking her was abandoned. Much disappointment was felt— but as one vessel had come off the island so might others, and it was hoped that one of sufficient size would appear to carry the whole ship's company. The commander, being a sensible man, advised his officers to be patient, and to make the best of the circumstances under which they were placed.

After the fort was completed, and all the huts required were erected, the officers had work enough in devising employment and amusement for the men. They encouraged games of all sorts—football, cricket, rounders, and ninepins; indeed, a stranger coming among them would not have supposed that the merry fellows he saw were a shipwrecked crew, especially if they had been found playing leapfrog, or dancing to the sound of Pat Casey's fiddle. The commander and his officers were not, however, without anxiety; they knew that no British ships, either men-of-war or merchant vessels, were likely intentionally to approach the dangerous reefs which surrounded the island, and that their store of provisions must in time come to an end.

"We must not run the risk of starving," observed Commander Olding; "and in the course of a couple of months, if we do not get off, I will allow you, Foley, or Mr Billhook to try and make your way, as you propose, to Jamaica."

"I shall be ready to go at any time you give me leave," answered the second lieutenant, well pleased with the thoughts of getting away from the island and once more meeting Ellen. By that time the hurricane season would be over, and he hoped to be able to make the passage safely.

"I trust, sir, that you will let me accompany you," said Gerald, when he heard that there was at length a chance of a boat being sent off.

"That must depend on the commander," answered Lieutenant Foley. "If he will give you leave, I will gladly take you, as I can depend thoroughly on you; but I suspect that he will prefer sending Crowhurst. However, we have some weeks to wait, and many things may occur in the mean time."

"Thank you, sir, for your kindness," answered Gerald, highly pleased at the compliment paid him, and thinking nothing of the danger to be run during a voyage of some hundred miles in an open boat, with a chance of being picked up by an enemy's cruiser, or by one of the piratical craft which were known to infest those seas. Gerald was not given to boasting, but he confided to Nat Kiddle the promise Mr Foley had made him.

"I wonder whether he would take me too," said Nat. "I should not like to be left here without you. I should wonderfully enjoy the trip. What fun it would be if we were chased, and managed, notwithstanding, to get away!"

"It would be no fun if we were caught, however," answered Gerald; "but I hope that won't happen. Depend on it, Mr Foley will do his best to keep clear of an enemy."

Still some weeks had to be passed before the commander would consent to send off a boat, while not a vessel appeared in sight. The weather had remained fine for some time, but at length it gave signs of changing. One evening, as the commander, with several of the officers, were taking a quarter-deck walk on a piece of level ground near the flagstaff, occasionally sweeping the horizon with their glasses, now to the eastward, and now on the west side of the island, the commander, who had turned his in the latter direction, exclaimed, "There is a sail at last. Judging from her appearance she is a large craft; we shall soon ascertain how she is standing."

The other glasses were turned towards the stranger, and in a few minutes the general opinion was that she was approaching the island. The wind was blowing pretty fresh from the south-west. Her topgallantsails had been above the horizon when she was first seen; gradually her topsails, then the heads of her courses, rose above the water. "Is she a friend or an enemy?" was the question asked by several of those watching her. Hopes, of course, were entertained that she might be the former. Gerald and Nat Kiddle thought that she must be a British man-of-war.

"See what a wide spread of canvas she has," observed Gerald; "no merchant vessel would carry sails like that."

"If so, then our chance of a trip in the boat is over," said Nat.

The commander and his lieutenants discussed the subject earnestly.

"She is not a British ship," exclaimed Mr Tarwig, who had been watching her attentively through his glass for a minute or more; "that craft out there is a Spaniard. She is coming here to see what we are about. Depend on it, the little craft we saw the other day has carried the information that we are here, and the Spaniards have come to turn us out, if they can."

"I believe you are right," observed the commander, after again examining the stranger. "We must be prepared for whatever may happen. If, as you suspect, yonder ship is a Spaniard, she comes with the intention of taking us. What say you, Mr Billhook?"

"I agree with the first lieutenant, sir," answered the master.

"And what is your opinion, Foley?"

"I have little doubt that she is an enemy, and probably well acquainted with the reefs. If so, she will stand in near enough to attack the fort; or if its existence is not known, the Spaniards will send their boats on shore, expecting without difficulty to make us all prisoners," answered the second lieutenant.

"They will find that they are mistaken," observed the commander. "Get all the boats hauled up and placed under shelter behind the rocks, Mr Billhook. Call the men to their quarters, see that the guns are ready for action, and serve out arms and ammunition. We shall somewhat surprise the enemy if they attempt to land, for they are not likely to know of the existence of the fort, and will probably at once send their boats on shore, expecting to carry us off without difficulty."

The men, who had, like their officers, been watching the approach of the stranger, were well pleased when they heard that she was supposed to be an enemy, and were eager for a fight. It would be a pleasant variety to the monotony of their existence, and no one entertained a doubt but that they should beat her off. The rays of the setting sun, glancing on her side as it rose above the water, showed her to be a large frigate. Though her flag could not be seen, not a doubt was entertained that she was Spanish. The wind, however, had fallen, and she was still some three or four miles beyond the outer reefs; when darkness settled down on the ocean, she was seen to haul her wind, apparently to lay to till daylight. The night was unusually dark, so that nothing could be seen of her.

The men were kept under arms, and sentries were posted round the island at the different points at which boats could land, to give notice should any approach, in which case the sentries were directed to fire off their muskets and retire to the fort. The officers continually went their rounds to ascertain that the men were awake and attending to their duty. Hour after hour passed by, still no sounds were heard to indicate the approach of an enemy.

It was within an hour of dawn, when Mr Foley, who having just visited the western side of the island, had returned to the fort, heard a musket fired, and presently afterwards a sentry came running up. "I caught the sound of the splash of the oars in the water, sir," he said; "they cannot be far off. They hope to catch us asleep, for they seem to be making as little noise as possible."

As the man was speaking, another sentry's musket was heard to go off. He quickly came up and gave the same report as the first. The garrison were at once ordered to stand to their guns, and the two sentries were sent off to bring in their comrades.

"My lads, we shall probably be attacked in a few minutes by Spaniards: perhaps there may be soldiers as well as seamen among them, but I know that I can depend on you to beat them off," exclaimed the commander. "Not a gun or musket must be fired until I give the order. They may or may not know, of the existence of our fort; possibly they suppose that we are without defences, and expect easily to make us prisoners. Don't cheer now—let not a sound be heard till they get close up to us; they perhaps expect to surround our camp, but as they know we are awake, they cannot hope to capture us without a struggle, and will come on cautiously."

The guns had been loaded with grape and canister. The men not required to work them were armed with muskets, so that should even the greater part of the frigate's crew have been sent on shore, the shipwrecked party might well hope to drive them back.

The commander had taken up a position from whence he could command a view of the approaches to the fort on every side; and other sharp eyes were likewise looking out. So long a time elapsed that he began to fancy that the sentries had given a false alarm, and he was on the point of despatching a party down to the nearest landing-place, when he caught sight of a body of men emerging from the gloom. They approached cautiously, evidently doubtful of the reception they might meet with.

The seamen stood at their guns with the matches in their hands concealed from view; perfect silence reigned throughout the fort. The enemy crept steadily on, not knowing how near they were to their expected prey, the outline of the fort not being yet visible to them through the darkness. Commander Olding judged from the ground they covered that there must be between two and three hundred men—double the number of his own crew. Suddenly they halted, probably having just then discovered the fort. Two or three figures, apparently those of officers, were seen moving in front of them; then a shout was heard, and the whole line, advancing, fired their matchlocks, the bullets flying thick as hail over the fort.

The commander leaped down from his exposed position unhurt. "Now, give it to them, my lads!" he cried, and the guns sent forth an iron shower into the midst of their assailants. Shrieks and cries arose from the direction of the enemy, who had evidently not expected to find the English possessed of guns. Still the little garrison fully expected to be attacked; but when the smoke from the first discharge of the guns cleared off, the whole body of the enemy were discovered in rapid flight, making their way back to their boats.

"Let us follow them, sir," cried several voices from among the men; "not one of them shall get back to their ship."

"They have been sufficiently punished, and are not likely to renew the attack," answered the commander, who had no wish to make prisoners, and saw no necessity for the utter destruction of the enemy. "If they come on again they must take the consequences."

The seamen were somewhat disappointed at this, but they knew that it would be useless to expostulate. They remained at their guns, hoping that the enemy would again attack them; but when daylight appeared, the boats were seen making their way back to the frigate, which lay outside the reef. On the ground they had occupied when the fort opened fire on them were stretched upward of a dozen dead men. It was evident that the Spanish had carried off their wounded, who probably numbered as many more. A party was at once sent down, accompanied by the surgeon, to ascertain if any of those on the ground were still alive; but Mac, having gone round and examined each of these carefully, pronounced them all as "dead as herrings."

"There, my lads," he said to the men, who had come with pickaxes and spades. "Now you may bury them all as fast as you like; their fighting days are over."

The seamen carried the bodies off to a distance from the fort, when having dug a large grave, they tumbled them in without any ceremony. Before the sun had risen many degrees above the horizon, the dead Spaniards were for ever put out of the sight of their fellow-creatures.

Meantime, the proceedings of the frigate had been watched with no inconsiderable interest by Commander Olding and his officers. The wind was still blowing a moderate breeze from the south-west, and would enable her without difficulty to get in much nearer than she was at present to the island. She was seen to be getting up her anchor. The topsails were let fall, and, with her boats ahead, she stood in towards the fort.

"Her captain, finding that he cannot capture us as he expected, intends to attack the fort with his great guns," observed the commander. "He will find, if he attempts to do so, that he has made a still greater mistake than at first. He must be well acquainted, however, with the navigation or he would not venture to bring his frigate in among these reefs."

The men had in the mean time been piped to breakfast, the commander and his two lieutenants alone remaining on the ramparts to watch the proceedings of the frigate. The wind was light, the sea smooth, and she was enabled to thread her way amid the reefs without difficulty.

"Her captain maybe a bold fellow, but he is not a wise one," observed Mr Tarwig. "If it comes on to blow, and I think there is a great probability that it will do so, he will wish himself well out to sea again before he can get there. He seems only to be thinking how he can get near the fort, but if he had kept his eye to windward he would have observed yonder bank of clouds rising above the horizon."

The Spanish flag was now seen to fly out from the peak of the frigate, leaving no doubt as to her nationality. She stood on for a few minutes longer, when her sails were clewed up and her anchor let drop. Though she had now got near enough to reach the fort with her guns, she had to get a spring on her cable before she could bring them to bear upon it.

"Now, my lads, let us show the Spaniards what English gunnery is like," cried the commander, as the men returned to their quarters. "Fire!"

No sooner was the order given than every gun on that side of the fort was discharged at the enemy, with so good an aim that few missed, some of the shots striking her hull, others her rigging. In spite of it, however, the Spaniards managed to get a spring on their cable and to open fire with the whole of their broadside.

"They will not hurt us if they can't take better aim than that," observed Gerald to Nat Kiddle, as the greater number of the enemy's shot flew either on one side or the other of the fort, or buried themselves in the bank below it.

As twelve of the corvette's guns had been brought over to the west side of the fort, they were not much inferior in number to those the Spanish frigate could fire in return; while they were much better served, the English crew firing two guns to the Spaniard's one. Their shot soon began to tell with terrible effect on the enemy; several were seen to go through her bulwarks, while her rigging was much cut up.

The action had continued for nearly an hour, and during all that time not a single person in the fort had been hit. At length the Spaniard appeared to have had enough of it. Her boats were observed ahead, as if about to tow her off the shore. Her cable was cut, and she was seen steering for a passage which the master had lately discovered between the reefs to the north-west.

"She must put her best foot foremost, if she expects to get to sea before the wind which will come out of yonder black cloud catches her," he observed. "Should it hold as it does now she may do it, but if it shifts to the northward or westward she will go ashore as sure as my name is Billhook."

As soon as the frigate's head had come round, her topsails were let fall and sheeted home, and she quickly glided out of the range of the Champion's guns. The British crew cheered lustily as they saw the defeat of their enemy.

"We must not be too sure that she will not come back again," observed Mr Tarwig. "The Spaniards do not like the look of the weather; when the squall blows over, they will probably pay us another visit."

"It is a chance if they will be able to do so," observed the master. "See! here comes the wind sooner than I expected. If they can manage to get out between the reefs, they are better navigators than I take them for," he added, as he eagerly watched the retreating enemy.

The wind continued for some time blowing from the same direction as before, enabling the frigate to thread her way between the rocks on either hand. A blast at length reached her. Over she heeled. There was no time for shortening sail; onward she flew at a rapid rate through the water.

"She will get through, after all," observed the commander.

The various spectators almost held their breath, for, though the ship they were watching was an enemy, no one wished her to meet that fate which it seemed probable would overtake her. Now again she rose almost to an even keel, but not a brace or a sheet was slackened. Already the sea was breaking with fearful violence over a dark reef under her lee, while she was sailing as close as possible to the wind.

"She will not weather it," cried the master. "They are attempting to go about. It's too late, though. She's lost—she's lost!"

At that instant the gale with fresh force struck the devoted ship. Down she heeled, and a sea striking her before she had come round, drove her bodily on the reef. The following seas dashed wildly over her, almost concealing her dark hull from view. For a few moments her masts again came into view, but directly afterwards they fell over one after the other, and the vessel herself appeared to be melting away before the reiterated blows of the fierce waves, which seemed suddenly to rise for the purpose of effecting her destruction.

"We must be ready to offer help to any of the poor fellows who may be washed ashore," exclaimed the commander; "though I fear that few will reach it alive."

Both officers and men were eager to carry out his suggestion. A number of long spars and coils of rope were got ready, and the greater number of the Champion's officers and crew set off towards the northern end of the island, the only point where it was at all probable that any of the Spaniards would be able to land. On reaching it, however, the desperate condition of the unfortunate crew was still more clearly seen. To send them help was beyond the power of the English. No boat could possibly live in the sea already running round the reef on which the ship had struck.

Already a large portion of the hull had been knocked to pieces, while the greater number of her crew had been washed into the raging surf and drowned. A few wretches alone clung desperately to the forepart of the ship and the stump of the bowsprit. No assistance could be sent to them. Every instant the wind increased; the seas rolled up more wildly against the wreck, as if eager for their destruction. Still the commander and most of the officers and crew stood watching, on the bare possibility of the wind again shifting and driving some of the hapless Spaniards on the beach.

They waited in vain. The hurricane had only as yet been gathering strength. Suddenly it burst with terrific violence, which even the seamen on the firm ground could with difficulty face, as it drove masses of spray and sand against them, the roar of the seas almost drowning the commander's voice as he ordered them to retire to the shelter of some rocks a short distance from the shore. On getting under their lee, as they again looked towards where the wreck had been, scarcely a vestige of her remained, nor was one of her hapless crew seen alive. Still, while a hope remained that some poor fellow clinging to a piece of the wreck might be thrown on the beach, a look-out was kept to render him assistance; but some hours passed by, and not a single human being of those who had lately formed the crew of the Spanish frigate could by any possibility have remained alive. The commander ordered the men to return to the fort. The hurricane continued raging with unabated violence for the greater part of the flight.

"I say, Nat, it is as well we had not started with Mr Foley," observed Gerald to his brother midshipman. "What would have become of us, I wonder?"

"We should have been in a bad plight, I suppose," answered Nat. "I can't help thinking that the commander was right in not letting us go as soon as we wished."

The stormy weather continued for some time longer. Occasionally the wind ceased, but only again to blow with almost as much violence as before. Mr Foley and the master both acknowledged the commander's wisdom in not allowing them to do as they had desired. The hurricane season must, however, come to an end, for it had apparently already lasted longer than usual, and the young lieutenant began to indulge in the expectation of soon returning to Jamaica.



One morning Gerald and his constant companion, Nat Kiddle, had gone down just at daybreak to bathe in a pool on the beach, into which no hungry sharks were likely to enter. It was the only place where the commander would allow the men to go into the water, and they naturally preferred getting their swim before the rest of the ship's company. They were somewhat earlier than usual, and after swimming about for some time had landed and were dressing, when Gerald, looking to the north-east, caught sight of a sail just rising above the horizon.

"Hurrah! I do believe she is standing towards the island," he exclaimed, pointing her out to Nat. "She will see our signal and probably heave to, to know what we want. The chances are that she is a friend. No Spanish vessel would be coming from that direction, at all events, with the intention of attacking us. She is probably a man-of-war, or, if a merchantman, she is bound to one of the islands to the southward."

"But she is as likely to be a foreigner as an English vessel," observed Nat; "at all events, she must be greatly out of her course. If bound to Jamaica, she would have kept through the Windward Passage, or if bound to one of the Leeward Islands, she would not have come near this."

The sun, now just rising above the horizon, cast a bright light on the topsails of the stranger, which must have discovered her to the look-out at the signal station, who immediately ran up the colours.

Gerald and Nat were soon after this joined by several other officers who had come down to bathe. Mr Foley, being among the last, had brought his telescope. The north-east trade-wind, which began blowing during the night, was now carrying the stranger steadily along before it. Mr Foley had lent Gerald his glass.

"Why, sir," he exclaimed, as he was looking through it—"'It never rains but it pours'—there is another craft of the same rig as the first, under all sail. It appears to me that she is chasing the headmost one."

Crowhurst took the glass, and having glanced through it, agreed that Gerald was right. He then handed it to the master, who observed, "There is no doubt about it. The headmost vessel is a merchantman; by the cut of her canvas, I should say she was English. But the sternmost I can't quite make out; she is probably a French or Spanish privateer. However, as they are coming on at a good rate, we shall know before long. In the mean time I intend to take my dip."

Gerald and Nat continued watching the strangers as they approached. They had got considerably nearer by the time the master came out of the water.

"They must have encountered dark and heavy weather, and got out of their course, or they would not have been so close in to this dangerous coast," he observed. "Lend me the glass again, Foley," he added, turning to the second lieutenant. "Well, I can't make out what she is," he continued. "Her sails have an English cut about them, too. We shall make out her colours before long, for if she is English she is sure to hoist them when she sees ours flying from the flagstaff."

Mr Foley and the rest of the party were as much puzzled as the master. No one felt inclined to leave the spot, even though breakfast-time was approaching.

Gerald felt unusually interested; why, he could scarcely tell, except that he had been the first to discover the strangers. Now he threw himself down on the sand; then he got up and walked about, and again borrowed Mr Foley's telescope.

The course the two vessels were steering would carry them within half a mile of the outer reefs that surrounded the island. The hull of the first could already be distinctly seen. She appeared to be either an armed merchantman or a privateer; but if the latter, it was not likely that she would run from a vessel not much, if at all, superior to her in size.

Nearer and nearer drew the leading vessel. Those on board must have been aware of the dangerous character of the coast. As it was, she was standing closer than, under ordinary circumstances, prudence would have allowed.

"Yes, she is English," exclaimed Gerald, who had been taking a long look at her through the glass. "I can see the people on her deck. They are looking, it seems to me, for some opening in the reefs, but they can find none on this side, and must see the surf breaking over the outer rocks. But what can the other craft be? If the first is English, I am sure she must be so, by the look of her hull and the cut of her sails, though I can't make out her flag." His hand began to tremble as he held the glass to his eye—a very unusual thing for him. "Mr Foley, sir," he exclaimed at length, "will you take a look at yonder vessel, and say if you have ever seen her before? It seems to me that I ought to know her."

He handed the glass as he spoke to the lieutenant, who took a long look through it.

"I can scarcely believe it possible; yet, Tracy, she appears to me remarkably like the Ouzel Galley," observed Mr Foley.

"That is what I think she is, sir; but how she comes to be chasing another English vessel is mere than I can make out."

While the lieutenant was speaking a flash was seen, and a shot flew from the vessel they were looking at towards the one ahead. Another and another followed from her bow-chasers, but the range was a long one, and they fell harmlessly into the water, under the counter of the ship at which they were fired.

"They were well aimed, and had they been fired from longer guns and with better powder, they would have hit their mark," observed Lieutenant Foley.

"It won't be long before the chase has some of those round shot aboard her," observed the master. "The sternmost vessel is gaining on her fast, and unless she can manage to knock away some of the spars of the other, she must be overtaken in a few hours at most."

Gerald had again got hold of the telescope. "I cannot make it out," he exclaimed again and again. "I have just caught sight of her flag. It is black, with the death's head and cross-bones. There is no mistaking her character; she is a pirate, but still I never saw a craft so like the Ouzel Galley. She has the same new cloth in her fore-topsail which she had when she last sailed from Port Royal, and a patch in the starboard clew of her main-topgallantsail. Can anything have happened to Owen Massey? He has not turned pirate; of that I am very certain."

"I am afraid, then, Tracy, if that vessel is really the Ouzel Galley, she must have been captured by pirates," observed Lieutenant Foley.

"I am dreadfully afraid that such must have been the case, sir," answered Gerald, almost ready to burst into tears. "All I hope is that, though she is wonderfully like the Ouzel Galley, she is not her, after all. If she is, poor Owen, his officers and crew must have been murdered. Dear, dear! what will become of Norah when she hears of it?"

The two ships were now passing almost directly in front of the island; indeed, the chase had already got some way to the southward, the pirate ship—for that a pirate she was there could be no doubt—continually firing at her. Gerald walked up and down in a state of painful doubt and anxiety. Nat Kiddle remained with him, though getting very hungry and wishing to go back to the fort for breakfast. Mr Foley, who was almost as much interested as Gerald, was the only officer who remained with him.

Neither of the vessels appeared to have observed the flag flying from the fort; at all events, they took no notice of it. Both were too far off for the guns to reach them, or Commander Olding would not have allowed the pirate to pass unquestioned.

The wind, which had been blowing fresh in the morning, as the day advanced decreased, and by the time the two vessels were about three or four miles to the southward of the island it fell almost to a dead calm. They were still, however, at some distance from each other, but their guns could be heard as they exchanged shots; the headmost vessel firing her stern guns, and the other her bow-chasers, but, as far as could be seen at that distance, without inflicting much damage on the other. No sooner did the commander perceive the state of affairs than, calling his two lieutenants and the master, he proposed attacking the pirate with their three boats.

"If you will allow me, sir, I will gladly take the command," exclaimed Mr Tarwig.

"I intended to have gone myself, but I will yield to your wishes," answered the commander.

Of course, all the other officers were ready to go. The commander selected the master and boatswain to take command of the other two boats. Gerald and Nat Kiddle were eager to accompany them, and greatly to their satisfaction obtained leave, Gerald to accompany the first lieutenant, and Nat the master. By keeping among the reefs, many of which rose considerably above the water, they would be able to get near the pirate without being perceived, and it was hoped, should the calm continue until nightfall, that they might take her by surprise. This, of course, was most desirable, as she might thus be captured without much bloodshed. No time was to be lost, for the wind could not be depended on, and it might soon again breeze up, when she would quickly get beyond their reach.

The three boats carried altogether thirty hands, armed with firelocks, cutlasses, and pistols. The pirate's crew was in all probability much more numerous, but that was not likely to deter British seamen from attacking them, either by night or day.

Mr Tarwig led his little squadron, threading his way among the rocks to the southward.

Gerald naturally felt an intense interest in the expedition. He was sure that the pirate was the Ouzel Galley, and he hoped from some of the prisoners they might take to gain information about Owen Massey.

A considerable portion of the day had been spent before the boats, rounding the island, again came in sight of the two ships. They were still as before cannonading each other at a distance. The boats had met with a strong current, which had considerably impeded their progress. It wanted a little more than an hour to sunset, while they were upward of two miles from the pirate.

"If we wait till dark we shall have a better chance of taking the pirate by surprise, as she will not expect to be attacked by the boats," observed Mr Tarwig to Gerald; "but then, again, we run the risk of losing her altogether, should a breeze spring up.—What do you say, master?" he shouted to Mr Billhook, who was in the boat nearest to him. "Shall we wait till darkness comes on, or pull away at once for the pirates?"

"As you ask me, I venture to say that we had better wait till dark. If the pirates catch sight of us before we are alongside, they may knock one of our boats to pieces, or, for that matter, sink all of them," answered the master.

The boatswain, when asked, agreed with the master. Mr Tarwig therefore decided to wait, under shelter of a high reef of black rocks, which would effectually conceal the boats from the pirate.

Gerald felt greatly disappointed. He had hoped to pull on board at once, and settle the doubts which had been agitating his mind all the morning. On looking out to the northward, he observed the hitherto glass-like sea rippled over in various directions.

"Do you observe those cat's-paws, sir?" he asked, pointing them out to Mr Tarwig. "If the strangers feel the breeze before we get on board, we shall lose the pirate, and too likely the other vessel will fall into her hands."

"I believe you are right, Tracy. We must give up the idea of surprising the pirate.—We must pull for her at once, master. You board on the starboard bow, Mr Dobbs on the larboard, and I will get on board over the starboard quarter. You will clear a road for yourself along the starboard gangway, master. I will meet you there."

Scarcely had these arrangements been made, the boats still remaining concealed behind the rocks, when the pirate's canvas blew out to the increasing breeze, and she began to glide rapidly away over the smooth water.

"I was afraid so," exclaimed Mr Tarwig. "I am the most unlucky fellow in existence. We shall lose her, after all."

As he spoke the pirate was seen to be running rapidly through the water, the chase at the same time getting the breeze, and, as before, keeping ahead and doing her utmost to escape. On seeing this, Mr Tarwig gave the order to the other boats to pull back.

"I can't make it out, sir," said Gerald, as they were returning to the island; "I feel more certain than ever that the vessel with the black flag is the Ouzel Galley. I wish that we could have got on board her, to learn what has become of my friends."

"It is very disappointing, I allow, Tracy," answered the first lieutenant, "but I doubt if we should have been much the wiser. Depend on it, the pirates would not have acknowledged that their craft is the Ouzel Galley, and still less how they had disposed of the officers and crew."

"They must have murdered them all," cried Gerald, bending down his head upon the palms of his hands. "I cannot bear to think of it, for I am sure that Owen Massey would not have yielded without a desperate struggle."

"Well, Tracy, we have all our trials to bear. Cheer up, cheer up, matters may not be so bad as you suppose," said Mr Tarwig in a soothing tone. Rough as was his exterior, he was a true kind-hearted man at bottom.

The two vessels were soon lost to sight in the darkness, which rapidly came on. Still the guns could be heard, showing that the chase had not yet yielded, and was, as before, endeavouring to make her escape. First they were fired only at intervals, as either one or the other could bring her bow or stern-chasers to bear on her antagonist; just as the boats reached the shore the booming sounds came with far greater rapidity, as if both were firing their broadsides.

"The pirate has brought the chase to action," exclaimed Mr Tarwig. "May Heaven protect the right! The merchantman has done her best to escape, and small blame to her. She will now, I doubt not, fight to the last, and may, I hope, beat off the enemy."

The whole party, on landing, stood listening to the sound of the guns, trying to judge how the fight was going. Broadside after broadside was exchanged for the space of nearly half an hour; then suddenly the firing ceased.

"Can the merchantman have beaten off the pirate?" said Gerald to the first lieutenant. "Do you think she has, sir?"

"I much doubt it," was the answer. "What do you say, master?"

"I believe that the pirate has taken the merchantman," replied Mr Billhook. "Those buccaneering fellows will stick to their prey like leeches. They had made up their mind that she would prove a rich prize, and were determined to have her."

Most of the party agreed with the master, and few felt otherwise than sad at the thought of the fate which had probably overtaken the crew of the merchant vessel.

They returned to the fort.

The commander was satisfied that Mr Tarwig had done his best to capture the pirate. He had observed the breeze coming on, and fully expected that she would escape.

The fine weather having now set in, and the stock of provisions running short, the commander agreed to allow his second lieutenant, without further delay, to try and make his way to Jamaica. It had become of double importance that he should get there as soon as possible, both that a man-of-war might be sent to the relief of the Champion's crew, and another despatched to search for the pirate, which was likely to be committing serious depredations on British commerce.

Mr Foley begged that he might be allowed to start the very next morning. He had already obtained from the purser the provisions he expected to require for the voyage, and had selected eight trusty men from among those who had volunteered to accompany him.

Greatly to Gerald's delight, the commander gave him leave to go, Mr Foley having, according to his promise, applied for him.

The pinnace had been carefully overhauled, and such additions to her fittings as the second lieutenant thought would be necessary had been made. Nothing more, therefore, had now to be done than to put her stores and water on board, and that would not take long, so that she might set off at an early hour the next morning.

Nat Kiddle was greatly disappointed at finding that he was not to go. He again applied, through Mr Foley, for leave, but the commander considered that another officer was not necessary; he was unwilling to risk the safety of more people than were absolutely required. There was but little danger to be apprehended from the weather; the risk was far greater of falling into the hands of the enemy, who would, of course, if they were taken, prevent them from proceeding on their voyage. Should this happen, matters would become serious on the island, though the commander still hoped to be able to maintain the crew for many months to come, with the help of such wild-fowl and fish as could be caught.

Next morning, before daybreak, all hands were roused up, it being arranged that the pinnace was to start directly there was light enough for her to see her way between the reefs. Those who were to go were first to breakfast, while a party who had been told off for the purpose carried the stores and water down to the pinnace. She was soon loaded; and a ruddy glow had just appeared in the eastern sky as Mr Foley and his companions stepped on board.

It had again become perfectly calm. Not a breath of air ruffled the smooth surface of the ocean; scarcely a ripple broke on the beach.

"You will have a long pull of it among the reefs," observed the master; "but you will get a breeze, I hope, from the north-east when the sun rises."

The mists of night had begun to clear away, when Mr Foley, looking towards the south-west, exclaimed, "There's a vessel at anchor."

The pinnace was on the point of shoving off.

"Wait till we see what she is," said the commander, who had come down, as had all the officers and men, to bid farewell to their shipmates.

The sun now quickly rising, shed its rays on the stranger, towards which several telescopes were turned.

"She is the very merchantman we saw yesterday, or I am much mistaken," observed the commander.

"No doubt about it, sir," said Mr Tarwig.

"Foley, you will be saved a voyage in the boat. We must board her without delay, or she may be getting under way, although it seems strange that she should not have noticed our flag," said Commander Olding. "Can she have beaten off the pirate?"

"It looks like it, sir," answered the first lieutenant. "Either the pirate must have escaped or been sent to the bottom."

"We shall soon hear all about it, I hope; and we must get her to take us off," said the commander.

"As the pinnace is ready, I will pull on board at once, sir, if you will allow me," said Mr Foley.

The commander hesitated for a moment. "We will run no unnecessary risk," he observed. "She may have beaten off the pirate, or she may have become her prize, and if so, it will be safer for all the boats to proceed together well armed."

Some minutes were occupied in unloading the pinnace, that more men might go in her; and in the mean time the crews of the other boats hurried back to the fort to obtain their arms. Mr Tarwig and the master taking charge of them, as soon as all were ready they shoved off, and pulled as fast as the men could lay their backs to the oars towards the stranger. As they got from under the shelter of some of the higher reefs, which had at first concealed them, they must have been seen from her deck, as the British ensign was run up at her peak.

"Hurrah! after all, she must have beaten off the pirate!" exclaimed Gerald.

"I am not quite so sure of that," answered Mr Foley. "If she is a prize to the pirates, they would hoist the flag to deceive us, and as they see only three boats, they may hope to beat us off. Don't let us be quite sure that yonder vessel is not in the hands of the pirates," he shouted out to Mr Tarwig, whose boat was astern of the pinnace.

"I agree with you," was the answer. "We will be on our guard."

The first lieutenant, as the senior officer, now took the lead, and the other two boats followed a little more than an oar's length apart. Mr Tarwig's boat carried an ensign, and as he approached the stranger he unshipped the flagstaff and waved it so that it might clearly be seen. The boats had now got within hail of the merchant vessel. The British colours were still hoisted at her peak.

"Who are you?" shouted a man who just then appeared on the poop of the merchant vessel. "Keep off, or we shall fire at you."

"We are British—the officers and men lately belonging to his Majesty's sloop of war Champion," answered Mr Foley. "If you are English we are your friends, and we intend to come on board."

"You may be, or you may be buccaneering rascals, and we don't intend to trust you; so stand off, or we shall fire and sink all your boats," shouted the man who had before spoken.

"I repeat that we are British, and you fire at your own risk," answered Mr Tarwig.

"There is no doubt that the pirates have possession of the vessel," observed Mr Foley to Gerald.

The first lieutenant seemed to have arrived at the same conclusion. "Pull ahead, lads!" he cried out; and the men again gave way, the pinnace dashing up on the quarter, and the other two boats on either side.

As they approached the stranger opened her broadsides, and firelocks and swivels were discharged at them; but they were already so close that the shot flew over their heads, and the next instant the British seamen were scrambling up the sides of the stranger, in spite of the opposition offered them from pikes, firelocks, and pistols. As they threw themselves over the bulwarks, they encountered a savage-looking crew, of whose character there could be no doubt; but, savage as they appeared, the cutlasses of the hardy tars quickly played havoc among them. Some were cut down; others fled to the waist, and leaped below; and several, in desperation, threw themselves overboard. Within a minute the greater part of the deck was in possession of the Champion's crew, a small number of pirates alone standing at bay around the mainmast.

"We ask for quarter, and if you give it we will lay down our arms and save further bloodshed," exclaimed one of the party, who appeared to be an officer.

"We give you the quarter you ask, and your lives will be safe till you are brought to a fair trial," answered Mr Tarwig, "but I will not promise you any other terms."

The man consulted with his companions. It was evident that all further resistance would be hopeless, as already the Champion's people were in possession of the forecastle and aftermost guns, and could in an instant turn them on the pirates, whom they, besides, considerably outnumbered.

"We trust to your honour and give in, sir," said the former speaker.

"I repeat what I have before said—your lives shall be spared," answered Mr Tarwig.

On which the pirates threw their arms on the deck. They were forthwith pinioned by the victors, and those who had escaped below were brought up and treated in the same manner.

Gerald had remarked the countenance of the man who acted as spokesman for the pirates, and was much struck by it. Could he be O'Harrall? The man, though he had at first stood forward, now tried to conceal himself among his companions. Gerald, on getting closer to him, felt sure that, if not O'Harrall, he was the very man whom he had before mistaken for him, who had been pressed on board the Champion and afterwards made his escape from her. This, if he was right, would account for his wish to conceal himself as much as possible from the Champion's officers and people, who could scarcely fail, however, to recognise him.

Gerald's attention and that of most of the party was, however, taken up with other matters. The appearance of the ship showed that she had been engaged in a hard-fought action. Her masts and rigging were considerably cut about, though none of her spars appeared to be severely damaged. Her bulwarks in two or three places were knocked in, and there were several shot-holes in her sides, which had been hastily plugged. Splashes of blood here and there on the deck showed that several of the hapless crew had been killed or wounded while defending their ship. The pirates had already obliterated the name on her stern. Why they had done this it was difficult to say, except perhaps, for prudence' sake, it was their custom immediately on capturing a vessel.

While the first lieutenant and the master were superintending the operation of securing the prisoners, Gerald accompanied Mr Foley into the cabin. At the first glance they saw that it had been lately occupied by passengers. In the side berth were hanging up two or three articles of female gear. A book lay open on the table.

In another cabin were a pair of men's shoes; and in a third, evidently that of the master of the ship, were several other articles. Gerald hurried into the latter, for his eye had fallen on a chart hanging against the bulkhead, the appearance of which struck him. The outside was marked in large letters, "Caribbean Sea." He had himself written them. With trembling hand he took it down. Yes! it was a chart belonging to his father. He hurriedly glanced at other articles, several of which he recognised. On a locker was a log-book. He opened it; all doubt was at an end. It was headed "Log of the Research, Captain Gerald Tracy." He hurried over the latter pages. There he saw that the ship had met with a long course of bad weather when no observations could be taken. The last entry was—"A strange sail in sight standing towards us. Latitude 23 degrees north, longitude 73 degrees 15 minutes west." Leaving the berth with bloodless lips and pale cheek, he turned to the first page of the book on the table. On it was written—"Norah Tracy."

Mr Foley was startled by the cry of grief and alarm which escaped from Gerald. Unable to speak, Gerald could merely point at the page. Mr Foley in an instant understood it all. Several articles belonging to Norah remained in the cabin. In the other were some books, and several things marked with the name of Dennis O'Brien.

"Then Captain O'Brien must also have been on board," said Mr Foley.

"He was my father's greatest friend; but oh, Mr Foley, what can have become of them? Can they have all been killed by those villainous pirates?" cried Gerald.

"I trust not," answered Norman Foley, though his heart misgave him as he spoke. "Bad as they are, they could not have been barbarous enough to put to death a young girl and two old men like your father and Captain O'Brien; beside which, I doubt whether the pirates would have yielded so quickly if they had been guilty of such a crime. I think we shall find that they were taken on board the pirate vessel, which stood on for their stronghold, leaving the prize to follow as soon as she had repaired damages."

Norman Foley, feeling sincere sympathy for Gerald, offered him all the consolation in his power; but still, knowing the savage character of the pirates, he could not help dreading what might have been the fate of Norah and the old captains. He guessed at once that they had come out in search of the Ouzel Galley, which, if she had been captured by the pirates, could not have returned home; and now they themselves had fallen into the power of the miscreant who had taken her. Mr Foley at length persuaded Gerald to return with him on deck, where they found the man whom Gerald had at first taken for O'Harrall, standing with his arms bound behind his back, while Mr Tarwig was questioning him as to how he came to be on board the merchantman. Several of the Champion's crew had in the mean time, it appeared, recognised him as Michael Dillon, the man who had deserted from their ship in Port Royal harbour, just before she sailed from thence. Gerald had no longer any doubt about the man, and corroborated what the seamen had said.

"I will not deny that I am Michael Dillon, or that I deserted from your ship. I suppose that I must be prepared to meet the doom of a deserter," he answered boldly; "but you guaranteed my life, sir, till I have been fairly tried; and as I conclude that you intend to keep your word, I need not at present trouble myself about the matter. In the mean time, I can give you valuable information, and render essential service to that young gentleman I see there, Gerald Tracy, and to those he cares for. If you will undertake to let me go free after I have rendered the service I speak of, I will perform it faithfully. If you refuse to promise that my life shall be spared, my lips will be sealed, and you will find no one else to do what I can. You know me for a determined man, and you may tear me to pieces before you get the secret out of me."

"I do not understand you," answered Mr Tarwig. "I must know more about your offer before I make any promise."

"I believe that I can explain what the man means," said Mr Foley, drawing the first lieutenant aside, when he informed him of the discovery that he and Gerald had made in the cabin, and his belief that the pirates had either put Captain Tracy and his daughter to death, or carried them off on board their own ship.

This of course made Mr Tarwig much more ready to listen to Dillon's proposals; still, without Commander Olding's sanction, he could not promise the man his life. He determined, therefore, to send the gig under charge of the master, who would give an account to the commander of what had occurred, and receive his orders. It was necessary to keep the greater part of the Champion's people on board to repair the damages the ship had received, and to watch over the prisoners.

"I will not be long absent, depend upon that," said Mr Billhook, as he jumped into the boat and pulled away for the shore.

It was a trying time for poor Gerald. He longed to ascertain from the pirate how his sister and father had been treated; but Dillon and his companions kept their mouths closed, and would not reply to a single question put to them. The men not engaged in watching the pirates were fully employed in more effectually stopping the shot-holes than had before been done, and in knotting and splicing the rigging; thus Gerald had but little time to talk on the the subject which engrossed his thoughts. He just got a few words with Mr Foley, who somewhat relieved his mind by expressing his belief that Norah and his father had been made prisoners and carried on board the pirate. "I think there is another reason for believing that they were not put to death; I suspect that had they been, Dillon would not have offered to give us any information, as he would have known that he could expect no mercy at our hands."

"I wish that the commander would come off," said Gerald. "I have been thinking, sir, that if he would agree to man this ship and go in search of the pirates at once, before returning to Jamaica, we might capture them. They will not know that we have retaken her, and we might thus approach them without being suspected. If you will press the matter on the commander, I hope that he will agree to the plan."

"I feel nearly sure that he will do so," answered Mr Foley. "The idea is a good one; he will probably think of it himself; if not, I will lead him to it. If the plan occurs to him, so much the better, as of course he will be the more ready to carry it out."

"Thank you, sir, thank you," answered Gerald, his sanguine temperament making all difficulties vanish. He could not indeed bring himself to believe it possible that any beings in the form of men could have had the cruelty to injure his dear young sister and revered father; but then, if Owen had been killed, how sad would be Norah's lot! It would break her heart; of that he was sure.

"Gig coming off, sir," cried the look-out to Mr Tarwig.

In a short time the commander stepped on board. The first lieutenant reported all that had occurred. Commander Olding at once sent for Dillon. Gerald stood by, almost trembling with anxiety as to what course would be taken. The pirate boldly confronted his late commander, and repeated the offer he had already made.

"How can I trust you?" asked Commander Olding.

"You can put a pistol to my head and shoot me, sir, if I do not fulfil my promise," he answered, calmly.

"If you can enable us to recover the master of this ship, and his daughter, and any other of the people who were on board her, I will promise to set you at liberty; but, if you are retaken, you must stand the consequences," said Commander Olding.

"That is the very proposal I was going to make, sir," answered Dillon. "I will undertake to carry this ship alongside the Ouzel Galley, which was captured by buccaneers, and is now used by them to go pirating. Her former master and several of his people are alive, for I saw them lately, and if you manage as I will advise you, you will recover them likewise. I confess, sir, that I wish to save my life, and I desire also to make what amends I can for the harm I have done. Will you believe me?"

"I believe you to be a great villain, but I trust you to perform your promise, because it will be to your interest to do so," answered the commander. "Should you prove treacherous, you may depend upon being instantly shot."

"I have not the slightest doubt about that, sir," said Dillon, with an attempt at a laugh. "The sooner you can get this ship ready for sea the better. I was left here to do so, not supposing that you had any boats on shore to come off to us; and from the number of shot-holes in her hull, it was feared that, unless we could get them securely stopped, should a strong breeze get up she would go to the bottom."

Gerald felt greatly relieved when he heard the commander undertake to carry out Dillon's proposal.

After a short consultation with his lieutenants, Commander Olding despatched all his own boats, and two of the Research's which had escaped injury, to bring off the remainder of the officers and crew, with provisions, ammunition, and stores, and four guns to increase the armament of the Research. These would make her more than a match for the Ouzel Galley. He also directed that the guns left in the fort should be spiked, as too much time would be lost in bringing them down to the beach and throwing them into deep water.

"It will matter little, however, if the Spaniards do take possession of the island, as no one would wish to deprive them of it," he observed to Mr Tarwig.

"I should think not, sir; and, for my part, I hope never to set eyes on it again," was the answer.

The boats made several trips, the whole day being expended in bringing off the stores. The carpenters had in the mean time plugged all the shot-holes, while the boatswain and the men working under him rove fresh braces, fished the damaged spars, and repaired all the standing rigging, so that by the following morning the Research was ready to proceed on the expedition.

The commander had had another interview with Michael Dillon, who swore solemnly that neither Captain Tracy nor his daughter, nor the other old captain, had received the slightest injury. He had seen them, he declared, taken on board the Ouzel Galley. The young lady's trunks and their valises had also been removed with them.

"And what became of the rest of the officers and crew of the merchantman?" asked the commander.

"They were mostly expended before we boarded," answered Dillon, coolly. "They were knocked on the head by our shot; others who resisted were cut down, and the remainder were taken on board our vessel."

"Are they still on board her?" asked Commander Olding.

"As to that, sir, I cannot say," answered Dillon; "but our captain was in good humour, and may have spared their lives, though I will own it is not always his custom to let his prisoners live. He ordered me, with the hands you found on board, to take charge of the prize, and to follow him as soon as I could get her into seaworthy trim."

Gerald was satisfied that one part of Dillon's statement was correct, as on examining the cabin he could find none of his sister's trunks, nor any in either his father's or Captain O'Brien's cabins, although nothing else had apparently been removed from the ship. What the intention of the pirate was with regard to them, it was impossible to say. Dillon could throw no light on the subject. Mr Foley expressed his hope that the pirate intended to treat them mercifully, and perhaps, he thought, would land them at some place whence they could find their way to Jamaica, or to put them on board any vessel they might fall in with bound to that island.

This idea of Mr Foley's greatly relieved Gerald's mind, and he again began to hope that he should have the happiness of once more seeing them. The commander gave him permission to visit Dillon, so that he might try to ascertain the fate of Owen Massey.

"Though you were among those who dragged me on board the king's ship, I bear you no ill-will," answered Dillon. "I will therefore tell you that I saw Owen Massey, alive and well, not ten days ago. He was then on good terms with the pirate captain, but I cannot answer for what may happen when the young lady appears on the scene. She may perchance prove to be an 'apple of discord.' The captain has an eye for beauty, and from what I have heard, Owen Massey is engaged to marry your fair sister."

"How do you know that?" asked Gerald, surprised at the man's remark.

"We hear all sorts of things, and such an idea was current among our fellows," answered Dillon in a careless tone, which somewhat excited Gerald's anger.

"You have given your promise to try and rescue Owen Massey and any of his companions, as well as my father and sister, and their friend Captain O'Brien," he observed.

"I have promised to do my best to help them, and I intend to keep to that promise," answered Dillon.

Villain as he knew the pirate to be, Gerald was now satisfied that the lives of his father and Norah had been preserved.

Soon after dawn the next morning a light breeze sprang up, which enabled the Research to get under way. As soon as she was clear of the reefs, Dillon was brought on deck, and desired to inform the master what course to steer in order to reach the pirate's stronghold. Look-outs were stationed aloft and at each fore-yardarm, that any dangers ahead might be seen and avoided, the commander not trusting alone to Dillon's pilotage.

"With this light wind it will take us three days at least to reach 'Tiger Key;' that is the name the buccaneers have given their stronghold," said Dillon. "It is a place no one, even when looking for it, would be likely to find, unless he knew the landmarks well, or came upon it by chance, and they will not thank me for leading you to it. I must trust, sir, to your not only sparing my life, but protecting me afterwards, for if I fall into their hands they will murder me to a certainty."

These remarks were addressed to Mr Tarwig, to whom the pirate seemed more inclined to be communicative than to any one else.

"What makes you so ready to deliver your late companions into our hands?" asked the first lieutenant. "I thought that buccaneers were always faithful to each other, although at war with the rest of the world."

"In the first place, sir, I wish to save my life—that would be sufficient reason for what I have undertaken," answered the pirate; "and, then," he added, a dark scowl coming over his countenance, "I have sworn vengeance against those who have offended me. I had a quarrel with the captain, whom, though I am his equal, I was ready to serve. He treated me with contempt, and refused to trust me. However, it is a long story, and I will not trouble you with it now. What I say will convince you that I intend to be faithful, and that it will not be my fault if you fail to capture the pirate and his followers."

"And who is this buccaneering captain of whom we have heard so much of late years?" asked Mr Tarwig.

"He goes under different names, sir; and, although I may happen to know his right one, you will excuse me if I decline to tell it," answered Dillon, the dark frown still resting on his brow as he spoke.—"His present followers know him as Manuel Bermudez; but he has not a drop of Spanish blood in his veins, I can answer for that."

What Dillon said convinced Mr Tarwig that he could be trusted in carrying out their project. It was arranged that on approaching Tiger harbour he should appear to have the command of the ship, and that only as many men as had been left on board by the pirates should be seen on deck, all of them dressed as the pirate crew had been, and that the remainder should lie down concealed under the bulwarks, or remain below ready to spring up at a moment's notice. Commander Olding intended, on entering the harbour, to run up alongside the Ouzel Galley and capture her, and then to turn his guns on the people on shore should any resistance be offered. Dillon assured him that no forts existed on shore for the defence of the harbour, the pirates trusting entirely to the intricacy of its navigation.

The Research stood on for a couple of days more, close-hauled, frequently having to tack to avoid the rocks and reefs to the westward. Without the greatest possible care she might easily have shared the fate of the Champion. As she got to the northward the difficulties of the navigation increased. Dillon, however, proved himself to be an able pilot. He smiled as he saw the pistol which one of the warrant officers held constantly at his head, as if he considered the precaution a very unnecessary one.

"Nobody desires to see the Research safe inside Tiger harbour more eagerly than I do," he observed. "Should the ship strike on a reef, it will not be my fault."

"A sail on the weather-bow!" shouted the look-out from aloft.

"What is she like?" asked Mr Foley, who had charge of the watch.

"A small boat or canoe under sail, sir," was the answer.

Gerald, who was on deck, was sent by Mr Foley with a spy-glass aloft to take a look at the boat. "If she steers as she is now doing she will pass, I take it, a couple of miles from us, sir," he cried out.

The commander, who just then came on deck, upon hearing this, ordered the ship to be put about to cut off the boat. At the same time the colours were hoisted, so that should the people in the boat be English, they might know that the ship was a friend. A considerable amount of curiosity was excited as to what a small boat could be about in these little-frequented seas, and all the glasses on board were turned towards her. As she had now altered her course and was standing towards the ship, she was rapidly neared, and five people were counted on board her.



When Owen Massey sailed from Montego Bay, he had hoped to escape all enemies and make a rapid passage to Waterford; but those hopes were doomed to disappointment. Scarcely had the Ouzel Galley passed Bellevue than signs of a coming gale from the westward were perceptible. So partial, however, are the disturbances of the atmosphere in that region, that Owen kept the ship under all sail in the expectation of being able to run out of it before it reached him. Still he was too good a seaman not to take the necessary precautions. All hands remained on deck, while he continually turned his eye to windward, to be ready to shorten sail immediately it became absolutely necessary. As the day drew on, the blue mountains of Jamaica grew less and less distinct. Should the gale overtake him, it was of the greatest importance to gain a good offing, for in mid-channel he would not have much to fear. The Ouzel Galley was a stout ship, and, if well handled, might brave the fiercest hurricane. The log was hove. She was making between eight and nine knots, a speed she could not often exceed. The wind was well aft and all her sails filled. His hopes of escaping the gale continued. After some time, however, he saw that the dark bank of clouds which had long been visible above the horizon was rising more rapidly than at first. Then masses detached themselves and came rushing across the sky, breaking into numerous portions, like the riflemen of an advancing force feeling their way through an enemy's country. Still he carried on to the last moment.

"In studding-sails!" he suddenly shouted. "Let fly royal and topgallant sheets!"

The first-named sails were speedily hauled down. The crew then hurried aloft to hand the others, which were fluttering in the wind.

"Three reefs in the topsails!" was the next order given.

A strong crew alone could have performed the operation as rapidly as it was got through. The courses were next brailed up. Still the ship flew on as fast as previously before the rising gale.

"Bedad! and it's my belafe that we're going to have old Harry Cane on board," observed Dan to Pompey.

"You not far wrong dere," answered the black. "Cappen Massey know what him about. I'se sooner be 'board Ouzel Galley when a hurricane blowing dan on board many a king's ship, when de cappen tink he berry wise an' carry on till de masts go ober de side."

"Troth! an' ye're right there, Pompey, my jewel! We'll be afther running out of the harricane, and sorra the worse will we be."

The confidence felt by the young master's two faithful followers was shared by most of the crew.

The Ouzel Galley behaved admirably; she ran on before the fast-rising seas roaring up alongside. The wind whistled in her rigging, and bright flashes of lightning darted from the black clouds now gathering thickly overhead.

As the night drew on the wind increased, and it was now blowing a regular hurricane; still, as long as there was plenty of sea room, no danger was to be apprehended, unless indeed, the ship should be struck by lightning, against which no skill or seamanship could guard. No one on board could hide from himself that such might possibly occur, as the flashes succeeded each other with still greater and greater rapidity, the lightning frequently running along the yards, now playing round the mast-heads, now darting over the foaming seas in snake-like forms. In the intervals between the flashes, so dense was the darkness that the eye failed to see half across the deck, and had another vessel been overtaken, the Ouzel Galley might have run her down before she could have been perceived. The canvas had been reduced to a single close-reefed fore-topsail, which so tugged and strained at the mast that every instant it seemed as if about to be torn out of the bolt-ropes. As long as the wind blew from the westward or south-west, the ship could run on with safety till she had got to the eastward of Cuba, and before that time there was every probability of the hurricane ceasing. Her only safe course was to keep directly before it, for if she were to bring the seas abeam, they would to a certainty sweep over her and carry everything before them.

Owen remained on deck, holding on to a stanchion, while two of his stoutest hands were at the wheel. For some hours he had stood at his post, feeling no apprehension of danger, when towards the end of the middle watch the wind shifted suddenly to the southward, blowing with even greater fury than before. The helm was put a-starboard, and the Ouzel Galley was now running towards the dangerous coast of Cuba. There was no help for it; but Owen expected, as is often the case during a hurricane, that ere long the wind would again shift.

For a short time there was a comparative lull, and all on board hoped that the gale was breaking.

"We shall be able, I am thinking, sir, to make sail and haul off from the shore by morning," observed his first mate. "It is well not to get nearer the Cuba coast than we can help. There are not a few low keys and sandbanks to bring us up; or one of the enemy's cruisers may be spying us, and it would give us a job to get away from her."

"As to that, I am not much afraid," answered Owen. "I shall be thankful when the hurricane is over and we can stand on our course."

The hurricane, however, was not over. Again the wind struck the ship with tremendous force, the lightning, as before, playing round her, crackling and hissing as it touched the wildly tossing waves. Suddenly there came a frightful crash. The splinters flew on every side, and the tall mainmast, tottering for a moment, fell over the side, breaking away the bulwarks—either it or the lightning which had riven it killing three men who were standing near. In its fall it carried away the mizen-mast.

"Fire! fire! the ship is on fire!" shouted several voices. "Put it out, then, my lads, and clear away the wreck," cried Owen, seizing an axe which hung inside the companion-hatch, he himself setting the example, which was followed by his mates and several others.

While one party was engaged in cutting away the shrouds and running rigging, so as to let the blazing mass fall into the water, another was handing up buckets and throwing water over the stump of the mainmast. The wreck of the mast being got rid of, the flames on deck were soon extinguished; but a cry came from below that the heel of the mast was on fire.

"We shall soon put that out, lads," cried Owen, with all the calmness he could assume; and leading the way into the hold, bucket in hand, he forced a passage through a dense mass of smoke until he reached the seat of the fire.

There he took his post, in spite of the heat and the clouds of smoke surrounding him. As the buckets were handed to him, he hove the water over the burning wood. Bravely he fought the flames, and at length was able to shout to his crew that they were extinguished. Having assured himself of this fact, he hurried on deck. The foremast stood, carrying the closely reefed fore-topsail.

"It can't be helped," he observed to his first officer. "As soon as the weather moderates, we must set up fresh backstays to the mast and try and rig jury-masts, which will carry us back to Port Royal."

"I shall be thankful if we can keep clear of the land and escape the enemy's cruisers we were talking about, sir," answered the mate, who, though a steady man, had less spirit than the master.

When daylight broke, the outlines of the lofty mountains of Cuba were seen ahead, but still indistinct, and, to the ordinary eye, not to be distinguished from a bank of clouds. Still the ship drove before the hurricane; but, as the sun rose, the wind began greatly to decrease, although it still blew with too much force, and the sea ran too high, to allow the ship to be brought on a wind. She had, therefore, still to run before it, unwilling as those on board were to approach the dangerous coast. The sun rose as the land became more and more distinct, but still the sea was too high to allow of jury-masts being set up. In the mean time the spars were got ready to do so as soon as possible.

As the wind decreased the sea went down, but by the time the ship could be brought on a wind she was within sight of the coast, and, owing to the eccentric course she had steered, it was difficult to say exactly whereabouts she was, although Owen calculated that she was somewhat to the westward of Cumberland harbour.

"We can only hope, sir, that no Spanish man-of-war or privateersman lies anywhere inside of us, and that we shall be able to get a good offing again before we are sighted by an enemy," observed the mate.

"I hope so," answered Owen. "What we now have to do is to set up our jury-masts and make sail as soon as we can."

All hands were engaged in this important operation. While it was going on, Owen occasionally took an anxious glance through his telescope towards the land. As he did so, his eye caught sight of a sail, on which the bright rays of the sun fell, standing out from it, and he soon saw that she was a large ship. A friend was not to be expected from that quarter! He made no remark, however, as all hands were working as fast as they could.

His mate at last saw the stranger.

"What do you think of her?" asked Owen.

"No good, sir," was the answer.

"I fear not," said Owen. "All we can pray for is that a calm may come on, till we can make sail on the ship, and then we may get away from her during the night."

"She will be up to us long before that, sir," observed the mate, shaking his head.

"At all events, in the mean time we will do our best," remarked Owen; and, without taking further notice of the stranger, he continued working away with his officers and men.

At length her jury-masts were got up, with yards across, and the main-topgallantsail, and such other sails as they could carry were set on them.

By this time the stranger had approached too near to escape the notice of any one on deck. Of course her character was suspected.

"You see her," cried Owen. "Now, my lads, I hope you will stick by me; and if she proves to be an enemy, of which I have no doubt, we will try and beat her off."

Several of the crew answered with a hearty "Ay, ay, sir!" but others were silent; among them were the men who had lately come on board in Kingston harbour.

The wind was light, and the Ouzel Galley made but little way through the water. The stranger was now seen to be a ship of her own size, if not larger. Owen ordered the colours to be hoisted, but none were shown in return by the stranger. Again and again he took a glance at her through his telescope, and at last he called his first mate.

"Have you ever seen that ship before?" he asked.

"I have been thinking that I have, sir, and, if I mistake not, she is the very craft which so nearly captured us on our passage out."

"I am afraid so," said Owen. "The more reason we should try to beat her off; and, please Heaven, we will do so."

"I will stand by you, sir; and so, I hope, will most of the men," answered the mate; "but I don't like the looks of some of the new hands, and least of all of that man Routh."

As he spoke, he caught sight of Routh ascending to the mast-head, from which he was seen to wave a flag, supposing, apparently, that he was not perceived from the deck.

"We must seize that fellow," cried Owen. "He did not make that signal without a cause."

"Ay, ay, sir," answered the mate. "I will soon learn his object;" and, calling Dan Connor and Pompey, he went forward to secure Routh as he descended on deck.

Just then Owen observed a smaller flag hoisted at the mast-head of the stranger; then Routh, instead of at once coming on deck, ran out to the end of the fore-yardarm, from whence he dropped something into the water, apparently the very flag he had just waved. He then deliberately returned to the foretop, and after stopping there for some seconds, and looking at the stranger, he slowly descended the fore-rigging. As he did so, he caught sight of the mate, with Dan and Pompey, waiting for him, when, suspecting their object, he sprang up again, and shouted to several men who were standing forward. They were those of whom the mate had just before spoken as likely to become traitors. With threatening gestures, they at once advanced towards the mate.

"If you interfere with Routh it will prove the worse for you," exclaimed John Green, who acted as their spokesman.

The mate's first impulse was to seize the fellow, but his courage failed him. "You will hear what the captain has to say to this," he answered, and began to retreat, Dan and Pompey unwillingly following him.

Routh, on this, took the opportunity of slipping down on deck and joining his companions.

Owen, who had seen what had been taking place, at once went into the cabin and got his own pistols and cutlass, directing the second mate to arm the rest of the men. Still, notwithstanding the mutiny on board, he kept to his determination of fighting the ship till the last. Fortunately, the mutineers had no arms, and before they were aware of it all the true men had got their weapons.

"Now, my lads," cried Owen, "if you refuse to do your duty, you must take the consequences. Go to your guns! The first man I see flinch from them I will shoot through the head."

This threat seemed to produce its effect, and even Routh obeyed.

The stranger was now rapidly overhauling the Ouzel Galley, which, hauled on a wind, was standing to the south-east. Owen had got his guns ready for action; the crew were at quarters. Crippled as the Ouzel Galley was, he could only hope to succeed by speedily knocking away the enemy's masts, or otherwise seriously damaging her; for, unable to manoeuvre his ship except very slowly, he could not prevent his opponent from taking up any position which might be chosen, either ahead or astern, and raking him at leisure—or she might at once run him aboard and overwhelm him with superior numbers. Still he bravely determined to fight till the last.

He anxiously watched the stranger to judge what she would do. She had at first set all the canvas she could carry, but as she came towards the Ouzel Galley she shortened sail, gradually also edging away to leeward, apparently for the purpose of preventing Owen from making his escape. The enemy had as yet not fired a shot. Directly, however, that Owen could get his guns to bear he fired them at her; not without some effect, but that did not make her alter her course.

"She intends to board us, sir," cried the mate, who had been watching the stranger.

"You are right, but we will give her a broadside or two first, and maybe make her alter her purpose," answered Owen. "Fire, my lads! and run in the guns and load again as fast as you can."

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