Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The South Sea Whaler

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England



  A gripping story about two young children, a boy of about fourteen andhis sister of about twelve, who set off with their father, a south-seawhaling captain, on what is intended to be his last voyage, their motherhaving died during his previous three-year voyage. Unfortunately someof the crew, especially the bo'sun, are not very well-intentioned, andafter a chapter or two about the voyage out to the Pacific, and somewhale hunts of varying success, there is a mutiny. The ship ends up onfire and is abandoned with various rafts and ship's boats getting awayfrom her.

  There is a well-written account of the children's drift on a raft withtwo of the officers, and a wonderful and kind coloured man, though thestory is not quite as simple as that, since people lose one another, andlose their rafts, with considerable drama.

  Finally the children's father turns up, of course, and the story endswith everybody happy, except the wicked bo'sun and his confederates, whohave gone to Davy Jones' Locker on account of their devotion to theDemon Drink.





  "A prosperous voyage, and a quick return, Captain Tredeagle," said theold pilot as he bade farewell to the commander of the _Champion_, whichship he had piloted down the Mersey on her voyage to the Pacific.

  "Thank you, pilot. I suppose it will be pretty nearly three yearsbefore we are back again,--with a full cargo, I hope, and plenty ofdollars to keep the pot boiling at home. It's the last voyage I intendto make; for thirty years knocking about at sea is enough for any man."

  "Many say that, captain; but when the time comes they generally find areason for making one voyage more, to help them to start with a bettercapital. But as you have got your young ones aboard, you will havetheir company to cheer you."

  As the old pilot stepped along the deck he shook hands with two youngpeople, a boy and a girl, who were standing near the gangway.

  "Good-bye, Walter; good-bye, Miss Alice; look after father, and obeyhim, and God will bless you. If we are all spared, I hope to see you,Walter, grown into a tall young man; and you, Miss Alice, I suppose Ishan't know you again. Good-bye; Heaven protect you." Saying this, theold pilot lowered himself into his boat alongside, and pulled away forhis cutter, which lay hove-to at a little distance.

  The _Champion_ was a South Sea whaler of about four hundred tons burden;with a crew, including Mr Andrew Lawrie, the surgeon, of fifty officersand men. The chief object of the voyage was the capture of the spermwhale,--which creature is found in various parts of the Pacific Ocean;but as the war in which England had been engaged since the commencementof the century was not over, she carried eight guns, which would serveto defend her both against civilised enemies and the savage inhabitantsof the islands she was likely to visit. The usual license for carryingguns, or "Letters of Marque," had been obtained for her by the owners;she was thus able not only to defend herself, but to attack and capture,if she could, any vessels of the enemy she might meet with. CaptainTredeagle, being a peace-loving man, had no intention of exercising thisprivilege,--his only wish being to dispose of the ventures he carried,and to obtain by honest exertions a full cargo of sperm oil.

  Walter and Alice waved their hands to the old pilot, as his littlevessel, close-hauled, stood away towards the mouth of the river. Itseemed to them that in parting from him the last link which bound themto their native land was severed. They left many friends behind them;but it was their father's wish that they should accompany him, and theyeagerly looked forward to the pleasure of seeing the beautiful islandsthey were likely to visit, and witnessing the strange sights theyexpected to meet with during the voyage.

  While the pilot vessel was standing away, the head-yards of the_Champion_ were swung round, the sails sheeted home; with a brisknortherly wind, and under all the canvas she could carry, she ranquickly down the Irish Channel.

  "Here we are away at last," said Captain Tredeagle, as his childrenstood by his side; "and now, Walter, we must make a sailor of you asfast as possible. Don't be ashamed to ask questions, and getinformation from any one who is ready to give it. Our old mate, JacobShobbrok, who has sailed with me pretty nearly since I came to sea, isas anxious to teach you as you can be to get instruction; but remember,Walter, you must begin at the beginning, and learn how to knot andsplice, and reef, and steer, and box the compass, before you begin onthe higher branches of seamanship. You will learn fast enough, however,if you keep your eyes and ears open and your wits about you, and try toget at the why and wherefore of everything. Many fail to be worth muchat sea as well as on shore, because they are too proud to learn their AB C. Just think of that, my son."

  "I will do my best, father, to follow your advice," answered Walter, afine lad between fourteen and fifteen years of age. His sister Alicewas two years younger,--a fair, pretty-looking girl, with the hue ofhealth on her cheeks, which showed that she was well able to endure thevicissitudes of climate, or any hardships to which she might possibly besubjected at sea.

  When Captain Tredeagle resolved to take his children with him, he had noexpectation of exposing them to dangers or hardships. He had beenthirty years afloat, and had never been wrecked, and he did not supposethat such an occurrence was ever likely to happen to him. He forgot theold adage, that "the pitcher which goes often to the well is liable tobe broken at last." He had lost his wife during his previous voyage,and had no one on whom he could rely to take care of his motherlesschildren while he was absent from home. Walter had expressed a strongwish to go to sea, so he naturally took him; and with regard to Alice,of two evils he chose that which he considered the least. He had seenthe dangers to which girls deprived of a mother's watchful care areexposed on shore, and he knew that on board his ship, at all events,Alice would be safe from them. Having no great respect for the ordinaryfemale accomplishments of music and dancing, he felt himself fullycompetent to instruct her in most other matters, while he rightlybelieved that her mind would be expanded by visiting the strange andinteresting scenes to which during the voyage he hoped to introduce her."As for needle-work and embroidery, why, Jacob and I can teach you aswell as can most women; and our black fellow Nub will cut out yourdresses with all the skill and taste of a practised mantua-maker," hehad said when talking to Alice on the subject of her going.

  Alice was delighted to accompany her father, and hoped to be a realcomfort to him. She would take charge of his cabin and keep it inbeautiful order, and repair his clothes, and take care that a button wasnever wanting; and would pour out his coffee and tea, and write out hisjournal and keep his accounts, she hoped. And should he fall sick, howcarefully she would watch over him; indeed, she flattered herself thatshe could be of no slight use. Then, she might be a companion toWalter, who might otherwise become as rough and rude as some ship-boysshe had seen; not that it was his nature to be rough, she thought, butshe had often written in her copy-book, "Evil communications corruptgood manners," and Walter's truly good manners might deteriorate amongthe rough crew of the whaler. Alice also intended to be very diligentwith her books, and she could learn geography in a practical way fewyoung ladies are able to enjoy. And, lastly, she had a sketch-book anda colour-box, by means of which she hoped to make numberless drawings ofthe scenery and people she was to visit. Altogether, she was not likelyto find the time hang heavy on her hands.

  In many respects she was not disappointed in her expectations. As soonas the ship was clear of the Channel and fairly at sea, her father beganthe course of instruction he intended to pursue during the voyage. MrJacob Shobbrok the mate, and Nub, delighted to impart such feminineaccomplishments as they possessed; and it amused her to see how deftlytheir strong hands plied their needles.

  Nub, as the black steward was generally called, had been for the bestpart of his life at sea with her father. He had been christened Nubia,which name was abridged into Nub; and sometimes she and Walter, whenthey were little children, had been accustomed, as a term of endearment,to call him "Nubby," and even now they frequently so called him. He wastruly devoted to his captain's children, but more especially were theaffections of the big warm heart which beat in his black bosom bestowedupon Alice. It is no exaggeration to say that he would gladly have diedto save her from harm.

  Alice, indeed, was perfectly happy, not feeling the slightest regret athaving left England. The weather was fine, the sea generally smooth,and the ship glided so rapidly on her course that Alice persuadedherself she was not likely to encounter the storms and dangers she hadheard of. She carried out her intentions with exemplary perseverance.Never had the captain's cabin been in such good order. She learned allthe lessons he set her, and read whenever she had time; she plied herneedle diligently; and Mr Shobbrok took especial delight in teachingher embroidery, in which, notwithstanding the roughness of his hands, hewas an adept. Indeed, not a moment of her time was idly spent. Shetook her walks regularly on deck during the day, with her father orWalter: and when they were engaged, Nub followed her about like hershadow; not that he often spoke to her, but he seemed to think that itwas his duty ever to be on the watch to shield her from harm.

  Walter, in the meantime, was picking up a large amount of nauticalknowledge: for he, like his sister, was always diligent, and, followinghis father's advice, never hesitated to ask for information from thoseabout him; and as he was always good-natured and good-tempered, andgrateful for help received, it was willingly given. He was as activeand daring as any of the crew, and he could soon lay out on the yardsand assist in reefing topsails as well as anybody on board. He couldsoon, also, take his trick at the helm in fine weather; indeed, it wasgenerally acknowledged that he gave good promise of becoming a primeseaman. The crew were constantly exercised at their guns; and Walter,though not strong enough to work at them himself, soon thoroughlyunderstood their management, and could have commanded them as well asany of the officers. He also studied navigation under his father in thecabin, and could take an observation and work a day's work with perfectaccuracy. He advanced thus rapidly in his professional knowledge, notbecause he possessed any wonderful talent except the very important oneof being able to give his mind to the subject, and in being diligent inall he undertook. He was happy and contented, because he really feltthat he was making progress, and every day adding to his stock ofknowledge. He had also the satisfaction of being conscious that he wasdoing his duty in the sight of God as well as in that of man: he wasobedient, loving, and attentive to his father, from the highest ofmotives,--because God told him to be so, not in any way from fear, orbecause he felt that it was his interest to obey one on whom he dependedfor support. Captain Tredeagle himself was a truly religious,God-fearing man; that is to say, he feared to offend One who, he knew,loved him and had done so much for him--an all-pure and all-holy God, inwhose sight he ever lived--and therefore did his best to bring up hischildren in the fear and nurture of the Lord; and he had reason to bethankful that his efforts were not in vain.

  Had all his crew been like Captain Tredeagle, his would have been ahappy ship. His good mate, Jacob Shobbrok, was in some respects likehim; that is to say, he was a Christian man, though somewhat rough inhis outward manner and appearance, for he had been at sea all his Life.He was an old bachelor, and had never enjoyed the softening influence offemale society. Still his heart was kind and gentle. Both Alice andWalter, having discernment enough to discover that, were accordinglymuch attached to him. There were several other worthy men on board.Andrew Lawrie, the surgeon, was in most respects like Jacob, possessinga kind, honest heart, with a rough outside. Nub has been described. Hemade himself generally popular with the men by his good temper andjokes, and by bearing patiently the ill-treatment to which he was oftensubjected by the badly disposed among them. But though kicked,rope's-ended, and made to perform tasks which it was not his duty to do,he never complained or showed any vindictive feeling. His chief friendwas Dan Tidy. Dan, who had not been long at sea, and consequently wasnot much of a sailor, was quite as badly treated as Nub, but did nottake it with nearly the same equanimity. He generally retaliated, andmany a tough battle he had to fight in consequence. But though he wasoften beaten, his spirit had not given way. A common suffering unitedhim and Nub, and when they could they helped each other.

  A large portion of the crew were rough, ignorant, and disorderly. Thewar had kept all the best men employed, and even a well-known commanderlike Captain Tredeagle had a difficulty in getting good men; so that thefew only who had constantly sailed with him could be depended on. Therest would remain with him and do their duty only so long as theythought it their interest. And though he did his utmost to keep upstrict discipline, he was obliged to humour them more than he would havebeen justified in doing under other circumstances. Though he might haveused the lash,--very common in those days,--to flog men was repugnant tohis feelings, and he preferred trying to keep them in order by kindness.Unhappily, many of them were of too brutal a nature to understand hisobject, so they fancied that he treated them as he did from timidity.Old Jacob Shobbrok urged stronger measures when some of the men refusedto turn out to keep their watch, or went lazily about their work.

  "We shall have the masts whipped out of the ship, if we don't trice upsome of these fellows before long," he observed one day to the captain.

  "Wait a bit, Jacob," answered Captain Tredeagle; "I will try them alittle longer; but you can just let them know that if any of them againshow a mutinous disposition, they will be flogged as surely as they areliving men."

  "They don't understand threats, captain," answered Jacob. "There'snothing like the practical teaching the cat affords with fellows of thisdescription. I'll warn them, however, pretty clearly; and if that don'tsucceed, I must trust to you to show them that you will stand it nolonger."

  Jacob did not fail to speak to the men as he promised, and for a timethey went on better; but the spirit of insubordination still existedamong them, and gave the good captain much concern.

  The boatswain, Jonah Capstick, who ought to have been the first topreserve discipline, was among the worst. It was the first voyage hehad made with Captain Tredeagle, to whom he had been recommended as asteady man. One of his mates, Tom Hulk,--well named, for he was a bighulking ruffian,--was quite as bad, and with several others supportedthe boatswain.

  Alice knew nothing of what was going forward, though Walter suspectedthat things were not quite right.

  The great delight of Alice, as the ship entered the tropics, was towatch the strange fish which swam about the ship as she glided calmlyon; to observe the ocean bathed in the silvery light of the moon, or thesun as it sank into its ocean bed, suffusing a rich glow over the skyand waters.

  She and Walter were one day standing on deck together, when, looking up,they saw a small black dot in the blue sky.

  "What can that be?" asked Alice. "It seems as if some one had thrown aball up there. Surely it cannot be a balloon such as I have read of,though I never saw one."

  "That is not a balloon, but a living creature," observed Jacob, who hadoverheard her. "It is a frigate-bird watching for its prey; and beforelong we shall see it pounce down to the surface of the ocean if itobserves anything to pick up, though it is a good many hundred feetabove our heads just now."

  "See! see! what are those curious creatures which have just come out ofthe water? Why, they have wings! C
an they be birds?" she exclaimed.

  "No; those are flying-fish," said Walter, who knew better than hissister.

  "And the frigate-bird has espied them too," exclaimed the mate. "Herehe comes."

  As he spoke, a large bird came swooping down like a flash of lightningfrom the heavens; and before the flying-fish, with their wings dried bythe air, had again fallen into the water, it had caught one of them inits mouth. Swallowing the fish, the bird rapidly ascended, to be readyfor another pounce on its prey. The flying-fish had evidently otherenemies below the surface, for soon afterwards they were seen to rise ata short distance ahead; and once more the bird, descending with the samerapid flight as before, seized another, which it bore off.

  "Poor fish! how cruel of the bird to eat them up," cried Alice.

  "It is its way of getting its dinner," said the mate, laughing. "Youwould not object to eat the fish were they placed before you nicelyfried at breakfast. Many seamen have been thankful enough to get them,when their ship has gone down and they have been sailing in their boatsacross the ocean, hard pressed by hunger."

  "I was foolish to make the remark," said Alice; "and yet I cannot helppitying the beautiful flying-fish, snapped up so suddenly. But how canthe bird come out here, so far away from land? Where can it rest atnight?"

  "It can keep on the wing for days and days together," answered the mate."It is enabled to do this by having the muscles of its breast, whichwork the wings, of wonderful strength, while the rest of the body isexceedingly light. Its feet are so formed that it cannot rest on thesurface of the water as do most other sea-birds; which proves what I sayabout its powers of flying."

  The bird which he was describing was of a rich black plumage, the throatbeing white and the beak red. Nothing could be more graceful than theway it hovered above the ship in beautiful undulations, or the rapiditywith which it darted on its prey. Alice and Walter stood admiring it.

  "It is a determined pirate," observed the mate. "When it cannot catchfish for itself, it watches for the gannets and sea-swallows after theyhave been out fishing all day, and darting down upon them, compels themin their fright to throw some of their prey out of their crops, when itis caught by the plunderer before it reaches the water. The gannets aresuch gluttons, they generally fly home so full of fish that they areunable to close their beaks. If the gannet does not let some of thefish fall, the frigate-bird darts rapidly down and strikes it on theback of the head; on which it never fails to give up its prey to themarauder."

  "Though I cannot, I must confess, help admiring the beauty of thefrigate-bird, robber as he is, my sympathy is all with the flying-fish,"said Alice.

  "They are certainly to be pitied," said the mate; "for they have enemiesin the water and out of it. Several of those we saw just now are bythis time down the throats of the albicores or bonitoes, which arefollowing them. To try to escape from their foes, they rise out of thewater, and fly fifty yards or more, till, their wings becoming dry, theycannot longer support themselves, when they fall back again into thesea, if they are not in the meantime picked up by a frigate-bird or someother winged enemy. I have known a dozen or more fly into a boat, oreven on to the deck of a ship; and very delicate they are when cooked,though hungry people are glad enough to eat them raw."

  Sometimes at night Alice came on deck, when the stars were shiningbrightly and the ship was bounding over the waves, to watch the foam asit was dashed from off the bows to pass hissing by, covered with sparksof phosphorescent light, while the summits of the dark waves in everydirection shone with the utmost brilliancy. The strange light, herfather told her, was produced by countless millions of minute creatures,or, as some supposed, by decomposed animal matter. She delighted most,however, in going on deck on a calm night, when the moonbeams cast theirsoft light upon the ocean, and the ship seemed to be gliding across asea of burnished silver. Walter now regularly took his watch, and neverfailed to call her when he knew she would be interested in any of thevaried beauties which the changing ocean presented.

  Frequently the ship was surrounded by bonitoes, moving through thewaters much like porpoises; and the seamen got their harpoons ready, tostrike any which might come near.

  As the ship one day was gliding smoothly on, the boatswain descended tothe end of the dolphin-striker, a spar which reaches from the bowspritdown almost to the water. Here he stood, ready to dart his harpoon atany unwary fish which might approach. Walter and Alice were on theforecastle watching him. They had not long to wait before a bonito camegambolling by. Quick as lightning the harpoon flew from his hand, andwas buried deeply in the body of the fish. A noose was then dexterouslyslipped over its head and another over its tail, and it was quicklyhauled up on deck by the crew. It was a beautiful creature, rather morethan three feet long, with a sharp head, a small mouth, large gills,silvery eyes, and a crescent-shaped tail. Its back and sides weregreenish, but below it was of a silvery white. The body was destituteof scales, except on the middle of the sides, where a line of gold ranfrom the head to the tail.

  Alice was inclined to bemoan its death; but Walter assured herafterwards that she need not expend her pity on it, as three flying-fishhad been found in its inside. Several other bonitoes were caught whichhad swallowed even a greater number. Indeed, they are the chief foes ofthe flying-fish, which, had not the latter the power of rising out ofthe water to escape them, would quickly be exterminated.

  Some of the officers got out lines and hooks baited with pieces of pork;not to attract fish, however, but to catch some of the numerous birdsflying astern and round the ship. Several flights of stormy petrels hadlong been following in the wake of the ship, with other birds,--such asalbatrosses, cape-pigeons, and whale-birds. No sooner did a pigeon seethe bait than it pounced down and seized it in its mouth, when a sharptug secured the hook in its bill, and it was rapidly drawn on board.Several stormy petrels, which the sailors call "Mother Carey'schickens," were also captured. They are among the smallest of theweb-footed birds, being only about six inches in length. Most of thebody is black, glossed with bluish reflections; their tails are of asooty-brown intermingled with white. In their mode of flight, Walterremarked that they resembled swallows: rapidly as they darted here andthere, now resting on the wing, now rising again in the air; utteringtheir clamorous, piercing cries, as they flocked together in increasingnumbers.

  "We shall have rough weather before long, or those birds would notshriek so loudly," observed Jacob to Walter. "I don't mind a few ofthem; but when they come in numbers about a ship, it is a sure sign of astorm."

  "We have had so much fine weather, that I suppose it is what we mayexpect," answered Walter. "We cannot hope to make a long voyage withouta gale now and then!"

  "It is not always the case," said the mate. "I have been round theworld some voyages with scarcely a gale to speak of; and at other timeswe have not been many weeks together without hard weather."

  Though the stormy petrel shrieked, the wind still remained moderate, andthe sailors continued their bird-catching and fishing.

  Among those who most eagerly followed the cruel sport was Tom Hulk, theboatswain's mate. He had got a long line and a strong hook, which hethrew overboard from the end of the main-yard.

  "I don't care for those small birds," he cried out. "I have made up mymind to have one of the big albatrosses. I want his wings to carry homewith me, and show what sort of game we pick up at sea."

  Several of his messmates, who had a superstitious dread of catching analbatross, shouted out to him not to make the attempt, declaring that hewould bring ill-luck to himself, or perhaps to the ship. Though notfree from superstition himself, he persevered from very bravado.

  "I am not to be frightened by any such notions," he answered scornfully."If I can catch an albatross I will, and wring his neck too."

  Before long, a huge white albatross, with wide-extended wings, which hadbeen hovering about the ship, espying the bait darted down and swallowedit at a gulp, hook and all. In an in
stant it was secured, and the boldseaman came running in along the yard to descend on deck; while thebird, rising in the air, endeavoured to escape. Its efforts were invain; for several other men aiding Hulk, in spite of its struggles itwas quickly drawn on board. Even then it fought bravely, thoughhopelessly, for victory; but its captor despatched it with a blow on thehead.

  "It would have been better for you if you had let that bird enjoy itsliberty," said the boatswain with a growl. "I have never seen any goodcome from catching one of them."

  "Did you ever see any harm come?" innocently asked Walter, who had comeforward to look at the bird.

  "As to that, youngster, it's not to every question you will get ananswer," growled the boatswain, turning away. Walter, though liked bymost on board, was not a favourite of the surly boatswain, who, for hisown reasons, objected to have the keen eyes of the sharp-witted boyobserving his proceedings.

  Walter, begging Hulk to stretch out the bird's wings, went to bringAlice to look at it. He told her what the boatswain had said about theill-luck which would pursue those who killed an albatross.

  "Depend on it, God would not allow what He has ordained to be interferedwith by any such occurrence," observed the captain to his children. "Itmay be a cruel act to kill a bird without any reason; but though personswho have caught or shot albatrosses may afterwards have met withaccidents, it does not at all follow that such is the result of theirformer acts. I have seen many albatrosses killed, and the people whokilled them have returned home in safety; though possibly accidents mayhave occurred in other instances to those who have killed one of thebirds. Still seamen have got the notion into their heads, and it isvery hard to drive it out."

  "I am sure of that," said Walter, "though the boatswain was quite angrywith me for doubting what he asserted."

  While he was speaking, another large albatross came sweeping by.

  "For my part, I am not afraid of catching a second," exclaimed Hulk;"and if there is ill-luck in killing one, there may be good luck incatching two." Saying this, he prepared his hook and line, and wasascending to the yard to let it tow overboard as before.

  "It will be a good thing for you if you do catch two," exclaimed theboatswain. "We want good luck for the ship, for little enough of it wehave had as yet." But before Hulk could get out his line the albatrosswas seen to swoop downwards, and immediately afterwards it rose with ahuge fish in its talons, into which it plunged its powerful beak with aforce which must have speedily put an end to its prey. Powerful,however, as were its wings, it could not rise with so great a weight,but commenced tearing away at the flesh of its victim as it floated onthe surface. It thus offered a fair mark to any who might wish to shootit. Three of the ship's muskets were brought up by some of the youngerofficers, who were about to fire.

  "Let me have a shot," said the boatswain, taking one of them. "I seldommiss my aim."

  The captain, who had been below, just then coming on deck, observingwhat they were about, ordered them to desist, observing--

  "I don't wish to lower a boat to pick up the bird, and I consider itwanton cruelty to shoot at it."

  The boatswain pretended not to hear him, and taking aim, he fired. Thebird was seen to let go its prey, and, after rising a few feet, to fallback with wings extended into the water, where it lay flutteringhelplessly. The ship gliding on, soon left it astern.

  "I consider that a piece of wanton cruelty, Mr Capstick," exclaimed thecaptain. "I must prohibit the ship's muskets being made use of for sucha purpose; they are intended to be used against our enemies, notemployed in slaughtering harmless birds."

  The boatswain returned the musket to the rack, muttering as he did so;but what he said neither the captain nor his mates were able tounderstand.

  The ship had now nearly reached the latitude of the Falkland Islands,and in a short time she would be round Cape Horn, and traversing thebroad waters of the Pacific. Hitherto few ships had been seen, eitherfriends or foes; a lookout had been kept for the latter, as the crewhoped that, should they fall in with an enemy's merchantman of inferiorsize, the captain would capture her to give them some much covetedprize-money. Two had been seen which were supposed to be small enoughto attack, but the captain had declined going in chase of them, greatlyto the annoyance of the crew; and the boatswain and others vowed theywould not longer stand that sort of thing.

  Walter was walking the deck during his middle watch the next night, whenDan Tidy came up to him.

  "Hist, Mr Walter," he said in a low voice. "Will you plaise just stepto the weather-gangway, out of earshot of the man at the helm? I havegot something I would like to say to you."

  Walter stepped to the gangway, and, seeing no one near, asked Tidy whathe had to communicate.

  "I wouldn't wish to be an eavesdropper or a tale-bearer, Mr Walter; butwhen the lives of you and your father and most of the officers are atstake, it's time to speak out. I happened to be awake during my watchbelow when the boatswain came for'ard, and I heard him and Tom Hulk andabout a dozen others talking in whispers together. I lay still,pretending to be asleep, as, of course, they thought were the rest ofthe watch. Capstick began grumbling at the chance there was that weshould take no prizes; and declared that, for his part, he was not goingto submit to that sort of thing. The others agreed with him, and sworethat they would stand by him, and do whatever he proposed. Some saidthat the best thing would be to go to the captain, and insist that heshould attack the first enemy's merchantman they could fall in with.`And the captain will tell you to mind your own business, and that heintends to act as he considers is most for his own interest and that ofthe owners,' said Hulk, with an oath. `I tell you, the only thing wecan do is to make him and his young fry, and the old mate and some ofthe rest of them, prisoners; or, better still, knock them on the headand heave them overboard, and then we will make the boatswain captain,and live a life of independence, just taking as many prizes as we want,and never troubling ourselves to give an account of them to the owners.'Some agreed to this, and some didn't seem to like the thought of it;but they were talked over by the boatswain and Hulk, and agreed to whatthey proposed. I cannot say, however, when they intend to carry outtheir plan. They talked on for some time longer, and then they allturned into their hammocks. I lay as quiet as a mouse in a cheese, andwhen I thought they were all asleep slipped up on deck to tell you orthe mate, if I could manage to speak to either of you unobserved, thatyou might let the captain know of their intentions towards him."

  Walter, though considerably agitated at this information, acted withmuch discretion, telling Tidy to keep the matter to himself, and tobehave towards the intended mutineers as he had always done, withoutletting them have a shade of suspicion that he had discovered theirplot. Having no fear, from what Tidy said, that they intended carryingit out immediately, he waited till his watch was over to inform hisfather and the chief mate. Bidding Tidy go below and turn in again, heresumed his walk on deck.

  They would probably, he thought, wait for a change of weather and a darknight to execute their project which, it was evident, was not as yetfully matured.

  The second mate had charge of the watch, but Walter was unwilling tocommunicate the information to him; for, though an honest man, hesomewhat doubted his discretion. It was an anxious time for the youngboy, but his courage did not quail, as he felt sure that his father andMr Shobbrok, aided by the other officers and the better-disposed partof the crew, would be able to counteract the designs of the mutineers.