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CHAPTER XXVI.


ON BOARD OF THE "VISCOUNT."


All of the men who had come into the hut had been drinking, and it was easy to note that Ramon Delverez was in a more savage mood than before. As he came up to me he shoved me with his foot.

"Wake up there!" he cried. "This is no time for sleeping."

"As if one could sleep in this position," I answered. "You are a brute to kick a fellow when he is down."

"I will waste no further words with you," cried the Spaniard. He turned to Oliver. "For the last time, will you tell me all you know about the pearl treasure?"

"I can't tell you anything, because I don't know anything," replied Oliver.

"Who is Caleb Merkin?"

"A one-armed sailor."

"What has he to do with the treasure?"

"He is an enemy of mine—as you are—and he stole the original of that map," came from my friend desperately.

"Where is he now?"

"At Hilo—or else on his way to the Cave of Pearls."

"And who is Joe Koloa?"

"A half-witted Kanaka."

"What has he to do with the treasure?"

"I can't say. I have been looking for him, but so far we have not met," returned Oliver.

For fully a minute Ramon Delverez glared at my chum, then he turned away. "Bah, Captain Marcale, how easily they can tell falsehoods. But you will tame them, eh?"

"Yes, I will tame them," came from one of the newcomers. "Are you ready?"

Ramon Delverez nodded. Immediately Captain Marcale spoke to his companions, who were, as I learned later, sailors under him. They carried bandages, and at once fell upon Oliver and me and gagged us so tightly that we could scarcely breathe.

A long, earnest talk in Spanish followed, and I saw Ramon Delverez hand Captain Marcale several bank bills. Then the captain pointed at Dan and shook his head. In the meantime Lola was consulted, and he motioned toward Dan and nodded. Evidently Captain Marcale wanted nothing to do with the suffering youth, and the Kanaka was to take charge of him.

It was now nearly midnight, and Captain Marcale motioned for his two sailors to release us from the stakes on the ground and to untie our feet that we might walk. Dan was left lying on the floor, muttering to himself, as much out of his head as ever.

I wondered where Oliver and I were to be taken, knowing full well that we would not have been gagged had not a journey of some sort been contemplated. I was not kept in doubt long. I was ordered by Captain Marcale to follow him, one of the sailors in the meantime retaining hold of my arm. Oliver and the other tar followed close after us.

The course of the whole party, including Ramon Delverez, was toward the Wailuku River. This gained, I discovered a large jolly-boat, such as are generally carried by sailing ships that cross the ocean. We were shoved aboard this craft and made to sit down facing Captain Marcale and Ramon Delverez. The two sailors then took the oars, and soon we were gliding through the darkness in the direction of Hilo Bay.

The journey was a slow and cautious one, for the river was running swiftly on account of the heavy rains, and in the darkness we were in danger of striking on the rocks. But, toward morning the bay was reached, and then the jolly-boat made straight for a big sailing ship riding in the offing. As we came close up to the ship's stern I made out her name, Viscount, and her home station, Cadiz.

The lantern was now used, being swung around in a circle half a dozen times. A return signal came from the ship, and as we moved closer a rope ladder was thrown down. Fortunately the sea was almost calm, so nobody had any difficulty in getting aboard. Oliver demurred a little at going ahead, but Ramon Delverez threatened to throw him overboard, and looked as if he meant what he said.

Once on deck, I saw that the Viscount was a "tramp" ship—that is, one going from port to port, picking up whatever cargo could be found. But I was not allowed any time in which to speculate on the matter. My gag and Oliver's were taken from us and our hands were freed. Then we were taken to an open hatch forward and dumped below as though we were two sacks of salt. Immediately afterward the hatch was closed over us, and we were left in utter darkness.

For several minutes neither of us spoke. Fortunately we had landed on some soft bagging, so no bones were broken. It was Oliver who ended the silence.

"If we weren't in a pickle before we are now," he remarked gloomily.

"That's true, Oliver. But 'while there is life there is hope,' so don't be downcast."

"What do you suppose they intend to do with us? And what are they going to do with Dan?"

"Poor Dan! I'm afraid he is worse off than we are."

"That depends. Perhaps they intend to take us off to sea and pitch us overboard."

"Let us hope not."

"That captain looks villainous enough for anything. And his men are equally bad. They must have been brigands before they turned sailors."

"I don't believe Ramon Delverez will sail with us."

"Neither do I. Well, all we can do is to await developments—and try to get some fresh air."

Down in the hold of the Viscount it was suffocating, and the smell of tar and bilge water was sickening. We climbed around to where we thought the air was purest and tried to make ourselves comfortable on some bales of goods, but our efforts were not altogether successful.

Nature can stand just so much and no more, and despite the excitement and the uncertainty of the future, I grew sleepy and so did Oliver, and as hour after hour passed we at last went sound asleep, a nap from which I did not arouse until long after sunrise the next day.

A heavy tramping on deck, accompanied by the creaking of blocks, told me that the Viscount was getting under way. The noise awoke Oliver, who roused up to clutch me by the arm.

"Mark, what does this mean——" he began, and then checked himself. "Is this ship about to sail?"

"I think so."

"Whereto?"

"That's the conundrum."

"Has anybody been down here yet?"

"I haven't seen anybody. I just woke up, too."

"We're off, that certain," went on my chum, as the ship began to roll. "We can't be bound for Spain, can we?"

"As I said before, that's a conundrum. We are bound for somewhere—and I don't believe it's any Hawaiian port, either."

I calculated that it was nearly noon when the hatch was thrown open again and, looking upward, we saw Captain Marcale peering down at us.

"American boys want to come on de deck?" he asked, in exceedingly bad English, so bad, in fact, that I could scarcely understand him.

"Do we want to come on deck?" I repeated. "Of course we do. Do you think it is nice being smothered down here."

"Will you be quiet if I let you come?"

"Yes, we'll be quiet," said Oliver. "And I'll make you quiet, too, if I get the chance to knock you on the head," he added to himself.

"Then come up," went on the Spaniard, and set one of his men to lowering a "chicken-board," a plank with strips nailed across it, and we ascended to the deck without delay.

One glance around and my heart sank within me. Hilo Bay had been left behind and the towering mountains of Hawaii were but mere specks in the distance. The Viscount was headed southeast, down the lower eastern shore.

"You see how it is," grinned Captain Marcale. "You cannot escape from me."

"Where is Ramon Delverez?" I asked.

"We left him at Hilo."

"And where are you going to take us?" questioned Oliver.

"The Viscount is bound for Australia," was the answer, which nearly dumfounded us.