Chapter XIII

Mutiny

     It was in the afternoon of the day after our encounter with Bothwell—to be more accurate, just after four bells.  Miss Wallace and I were sitting under the deck awning, she working in a desultory fashion upon a piece of embroidery while I watched her lazily.
     The languorous day was of the loveliest.  It invited to idleness, made repudiation of work a virtue.  My stint was over for a few hours at lest and I enjoyed the luxury of pitying poor Mott, who was shut up in a stuffy cabin with our prisoner.
     Yeager, too, was off duty.  We could hear him pounding away at the piano in the saloon.  Ragtime floated to us, and presently a snatch from "The Sultan of Sulu."
Since I first met you,
Since I first met you,
The open sky above me seems a deeper blue,
Golden, rippling sunshine warms me through and through,
Each flower has a new perfume since I first met you.
     "T. Yeager is a born optimist," I commented idly.  "Life is one long, glorious lark to him.   I believe he would be happy if he knew raw, red mutiny were going to break out in twenty minutes."
     "He's very likable.  I never knew a man who has had so many experiences.  There's something right boyish about him."
     "Even if he could give me about a dozen years."
     "Years don't count with his kind.  He's so full of life, so fresh and yet so wise."
     "His music isn't fresh anyhow.  I move we go stop it."
     "Thank you, I'm very comfortable here.  I don't second the motion," she declined.
     "Motion withdrawn.  But I'm going to tempt him from that piano just the same.  Jimmie, come here.  Run down to the music room and tell Mr. Yeager that Miss Wallace would like to see him."
     Evelyn laughed.
    "I think you're real mean, Mr. Sedgwick."
     "For saving the life of your musical soul?"
     "He is pretty bad," she admitted.
     He was on the chorus again, he raucous exuberant voice riding it like one of his own bucking broncos.
Golden, rippling sunshine warms me through and through,
Each flower has a new perfume since I first met you.
     "Bad.  He's the worst ever.  Thank Heaven, we've got him stopped!  There he comes with Jimmie."
     He moved across the deck toward us with that little roll usually peculiar to dismounted horsemen of the plains.
     "I do like him," the young woman murmured.   "He's so strong and gentle and good natured.  I don't suppose he could get mad."
     "Oh, couldn't he?  I'll ask him about that."
     "Now I do think you're mean," she reproached with a flash of her eyes.
     "You sent for me, Miss Wallace?  Was it to throw him overboard because he's mean?"  Yeager asked genially.
     Her eye was sparkling and her lips open for an answer, but the words were never spoken.  For at that instant a man burst past us with blood streaming down his face from a ghastly cut in the forehead.  He was making for the bridge.
     "It's come," I said, rising and drawing my revolver.
     "I must go to Auntie," Evelyn said,  very white about the lips.
     "Not now.  She's perfectly safe.  They won't trouble till have have won the ship."
     "And there will be some merry times before then, I expect," said tom, his hand on the butt of a revolver and his vigilant eye sweeping the deck.
     We were hurrying forward to the wheel house.  Every moment I expected to see a rush of men tearing up the companionway, but all seemed quiet and orderly.  The hands on deck either had not noticed Dugan, or else were awaiting developments.
     "'Twas Caine did it, sir," Dugan explained to Blythe.   "I was lying in my bunk when he came down with the stowaway you were holding prisoner."
     "With Bothwell?" I cried.
     "Yes, sir. They asked me to join them in taking the ship. They put it plain they meant to get the treasure."
     "Do you know which of the men is with them?" I asked.
     "No, sir.  Soon as I got the drift of what they were at I let Caine have my fist in his dirty mouth.  He came at me with a cutlass.  I got this cut before I could break away.  Gallagher tried to head me, but I bowled him over."
     "Do you know how Bothwell escaped?"
     "Caine helped him.  I heard Tot Dennis say that Mr. Mott had got his.  that was just before they spoke to me."
     Evelyn sat down quickly.  I think she wanted to faint.   She too understood what was meant by the words that Mott had "got his."
     "What about Alderson?  Are you sure he can be trusted?" Blythe asked of the sailor.
     "Yes, sir.  I can speak for him and for Smith."
     Alderson was on deck and I called him to us.  He was a clean-cut seamanly fellow of about thirty.  His blue eyes were frank and self-reliant.
     "My man, there's mutiny aboard.  That's the short of it.  Are you for us or against us?"
     "I'm for you, sir."
     "Good.  We're going to beat the scoundrels, but there is going to be fighting."
     "Yes, sir."
     "Bully for you!"  cried Yeager, and slapped him on the back.  "Can you shoot?"
     "Not especially well, sir"
     "Listen to me," ordered Blythe.  "Our aim must be to hold the wheelhouse and the cabins.  Mr. Sedgwick, you will take Miss Wallace back to the staterooms and rally the rest of our forces.  Mr. Mott is done for, I am afraid, but the rest of our friends are probably all right.  Arm all of them.  Get the rifles out.  Better nail up the windows and lock the doors after you are in.  Alderson and Dugan will go with you.  You, too, Jimmie.   Yeager, you are the best shot.  I'll have you stay with me."
     "Hadn't you better join us and give up the wheelhouse for the present?"
     The Englishman's eyes flashed.
     "Surrender my ship to that scum!  I'm surprised at you, Jack."
     "I'm not surprised at you," I grinned.  "I meant only until we have beaten them."
     "What about the rest of the crew who are for us?"   Miss Wallace asked.
     "We'll have to give them time to declare themselves."
     We obeyed orders at once, Alderson supporting Dugan, who was growing weak from loss of blood.  As we went to the reception room I caught sight of Tot Dennis, his hatchet face peering above the companionway at the end of the bridge deck.   At sight of me his head disappeared hastily.  But he had given me an idea.   I hung back while the rest of our party passed into the saloon, then walked forward quickly and descended to the lower deck.
     A little group of men were gathered at the hatchway leading to the forecastle.  I stepped briskly toward them, though Johnson's revolver was covering me.  I'll admit I took a chance, but it was a calculated one.  If Caine or Bothwell had been with them I would not have dared so far, but I reckoned that their mental habits as seamen were still strong enough to keep them from shooting an officer.
     "You poor devils, Dennis, Johnson and Mack!  Do you know what this means?  It spells hanging for every mother's son of you.  Don't be a madman and fire that gun, Johnson. There's still a chance, even for you.  Cut loose from the pirate you're serving and join the honest party.  Mack, you're not a mutineer, are you?  You don't want to be hanged at the yardarm, do you?"
    The group at the stairway had become four instead of three.
     "Avast there, Mr. Sedgwick.  Get back or I'll fire," growled Caine.
     "I'm not speaking to you, Caine.  Your bacon is cooked.   I'm making my offer to the others.  I've got no time to wait, my men.   Are you coming?"
     A bullet from Caine's revolver whistled past my ear.  I stayed no longer, but fell back to the stairs and took to my heels.  A bullet chipped away a splinter of wood beside me as I ran.
     I found Dugan stretched on one of the long saloon seats, already being ministered to by Morgan and Evelyn.  Alderson had locked one door and was on guard at the other, cutlass and revolver in hand.
     "Well done, Alderson.  That's the way to keep a lookout," I sang out cheerfully.
     "Thank you, sir.  Were you hit?  That was risky, sir, talking to them without cover."
     "They can't hit a barn door," I answered with a laugh.
     I had moved over to the hospital corps and was looking down at the wounded man.
     "Is he badly hurt?" I asked.
     Evelyn looked at me with an expression I did not understand.
     "I don't think so.  You mustn't do that again, Mr. Sedgwick. It isn't right to take unnecessary risks."  Her voice was a little tense and strained.
     We heard the sound of a shot and presently of slapping footsteps.
     "Let me in," called a panting voice.
     Alderson turned to me.
     "It's Williams, sir. Shall I let him in?"
     "Yes."
     There came the crack of a rifle.  Simultaneously Williams burst in on us.
     "They're shooting at me, sir.  I watched my chance to follow you."
     "You're an honest man?" I asked sharply.
     "Of course I am, sir.  Couldn't say so with all of them around me."
     "Good."  I gave Jimmie the key of our armory.   "Take Williams down and let him choose a revolver and a cutlass."
     I would have gone with him myself, but at that moment a voice had hailed the captain.  Stepping from the saloon I saw Bothwell with a white handkerchief at the head of the stairway leading from the main deck.
     "Envoy to former Captain Blythe from the crew," I heard him say.
     Crisp and clear sang the answer of our captain.
     "My man, I don't know you.  If my crew have anything to say let them send one of their own number.  I don't deal with stowaways scalawags."
     "You'll deal with me if you deal with them.  I've been elected captain in place of Mr. Blythe, deposed."
     "The devil you have!  Bite on this, my man.  I own this boat, every stick and ribbon of her.  I'm going to be master here.  If the men want to talk I'll name conditions. Let them bring you and Caine up here in irons and put their arms down on the deck. That will be a preliminary to any talk between me and them"
     "You speak large, Mr. Blythe."
     "Captain Blythe, my man, and don't you forget it!   Now tramp.  Get back to your ruffians or I'll put a bullet through you."
     "Would you fire on a flag of truce?"
     "I recognize no flag of truce in your hand.  Look lively."
     "I've only got to say that I'll take pleasure in settling your hash for this, Bothwell cried angrily.
     "I'm not Mr. Mott.  You'll not find it so easy to murder me.  Move!"
     Bothwell disappeared with a curse.  I retired into the saloon.
     Evelyn was standing near the door with a face in which I could read both anxiety and anger.
     "Why do you expose yourself like that?" she cried.
     "I wanted to see what was going on."
     "You'll be shot.  Then what shall we do?"
     "There's not much danger yet, and I must keep in touch without friends forward.  Don't you think we had better get your patient to bed?"
     "I'm all right, sir," Dugan spoke up faintly.
     "He ought to be kept quiet for a day or two," his young nurse decided.
     "I'll take him down to my cabin.  Perhaps you can get him something to put him to sleep, Miss Wallace."
     Miss Berry came up the stairs just as we were starting down.   She looked like a ghost.
     "Mr. Sedgwick, I've just been wakened from a nap.  I heard some one groaning in the cabin next to mine."  She caught sight of Dugan's bandaged head and cried out:  "What's the matter?  Has something happened?"
     "Don't be frightened, Miss Berry."
     "What are these men doing with pistols?  where does that blood come from?"
     Evelyn came forward and took her aunt in her arms.
     "Dearie, we can trust Captain Blythe and Mr. Sedgwick.   We mustn't make it harder for them.  Just now they are very busy."
     I looked my thanks.
     Williams and Jimmie returned from the armory.  Morgan and Philips were at their heels.  The steward looked very yellow.
     "Let me know if there is any sign of trouble.  I'll be back presently," I told Alderson.
     Having put Dugan to bed in my room, I stepped into the one where we had been keeping or prisoner.  Mott lay on the floor, his body still warm, quite dead.  I judged that he had expired within the past few minutes.  He had been struck with some blunt instrument and then knifed.  The man had paid for his obstinate disbelief with his life.
     I lifted the body to the bed, locked the door, and returned to the promenade deck saloon.  For the throb of the propeller had ceased.  An immediate attack was probably impending.
     Miss Berry was sobbing softly in the arms of her nice.  In my absence we had gained another adherent.  Billie Blue, the cook's flunky, had come up from below.
     "Where is Higgins?" I asked.
     "Don't now, sir.  He left right after lunch."
     Alderson, who had been craning out of the door, drew back his head to speak.
     "They're coming, sir."
     "Down to your cabin, ladies.  You go with them, Jimmie.   Lock yourselves in," I ordered.
     Evelyn's white lips tried to frame some words as she passed me.   I understood what she wanted to say.
     "I'll be careful," I promised.
     "I have no weapon, sir," BillieBlue told me.
     I had brought up with me from below a repeating rifle, so I handed him one of my revolvers and an Italian dirk that had been hanging on the wall as an ornament.
     The second door I ordered locked.  Putting my head out of one of the windows I counted the enemy as they stood grouped near the stairway from the main deck.  Bothwell was in the lead, followed by Caine.  At their heels trooped both engineers, the three firemen, the cook, Johnson, Mack, Gallagher, Dennis, Smith, and Neidlinger.  It was not easy to count them, because they shifted to and fro, but I was almost sure then were fourteen.  the boatswain carried in his hand a towel, which he was waving.
     "Crew to have a conference with you, Cap'n Blythe," he called out.
     "I hold no conference with armed mutineers," Blythe called back sternly.
     He was standing in the wheelhouse, rifle in hand.  Beside him was the curly head of Tom Yeager.
     "This here ship's company offers to do the square thing, share and share alike, cap'n," boomed out the boatswain.  "We wants a bit of that there treasure, and by Moses! we're going to have it.  But we don't want no bloodshed, cap'n."
     "Then get back to duty in a hurry, my man!"
     George Fleming spoke up.
     "Give us that map and we'll put your party ashore safe, sir."
     "I'll see you hung up to dry at my yardarm first!  If you want the ship come and take it, you scurvy scoundrel!"
     It looked like long odds—fourteen to two.  I began to wonder if Bothwell had forgotten us, and I ordered Alderson to unlock the door for a sortie if one should be necessary.
     Even while I was speaking the rush came.  They divided like running water when it reaches a big rock in midstream.  Some of them poured toward us, the rest made for the bridge.  I heard the crack of Sam's rifle, the rattle of small arms, and then the battle was upon us.