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CHAPTER XXVII.


THE CAPTURE OF CAPTAIN MARCALE.


The Viscount was bound for Australia! I could scarcely credit my ears when Captain Marcale made his astonishing statement. This was certainly something which I had not in the least expected.

"To Australia!" repeated Oliver. "Do you mean to say that you expect to take us to that country?"

"To be sure," was the Spaniard's reply. "And what is more, I expect you to do your duty as sailors until Sydney is reached."

"You won't get me to do a thing!" burst out my chum.

"Nor will I work," I put in. "This is an outrage, and I demand that you put us on shore immediately."

At this the captain laughed contemptuously. "You forget that I am absolute master here," he sneered.

"I know that in shanghaiing us in this fashion you have committed a prison offense," I rejoined. "And you shall suffer dearly for it."

At this Captain Marcale's face grew as dark as a thunder cloud.

"Have a care!" he hissed. "I will not be insulted before my own men. I will give you your choice, to do your duty as sailors, or to be put back into the hold, on bread and water."

"I won't work as a sailor," came from Oliver promptly.

"Neither will I," came from myself.

"You had better consider the matter carefully. The hold is no nice place, as you know, and the stomach craves something better than ship's bread and stale water."

"You are a brute, and if I had a pistol I would shoot you down!" burst out Oliver, beside himself with anger. "But, mark me, some day we will get square with you."

A number of sailors had gathered around. Now Captain Marcale made a sign to several of them, and they rushed upon us and bore us to the deck. Our struggles were of no avail, and we were quickly bound, hands and feet. Then we were thrown into the hold again, and the hatch was once more readjusted.

If we had felt bad before, we now felt ten times worse. We saw that we could expect no mercy from Captain Marcale. Evidently he had got a fat fee from Ramon Delverez for taking us off, and now he was bound to save expenses by making us work as sailors.

"Mark, we seem to be utterly cornered," observed Oliver, after a long and painful silence.

"I must acknowledge that it looks like it," I returned. "But perhaps something will turn up."

"Do you think we made a mistake in not offering to become sailors?"

"No. If we had accepted the offer Captain Marcale couldn't very well be held for carrying us off. Many a sailor is dragged away from a boarding house, but if he submits that ends the matter. I believe in fighting to the end."

"He may starve us to death."

"I don't think he will dare to do that."

"Such men as Ramon Delverez and Captain Marcale are capable of doing anything in the criminal line." Oliver gave a long sigh. "And poor Dan, he may be worse off than either of us!"

"That is true. Move a bit closer."

"What for?"

"I want to untie your hands and feet. Then you can do the same for me."

"But what good will it do? This hold is a regular box. We can't climb up on deck."

"We can move around anyway," I said, and inside of ten minutes both of us were free, so far as our bonds were concerned.

The hold was about three-quarters filled with merchandise, boxes, barrels, and bags. Crawling over these, we made a tour of inspection lasting a couple of hours. Out of curiosity we broke open several small boxes that felt as though they might contain canned goods, and came upon a can of green corn and another of spiced meats. Without ceremony we broke open the cans and ate our fill.

"He shan't keep us on bread and water at this rate," I smiled. "Now I know why he had us bound. He was afraid we would rummage around here and do as we have done."

"If we could only find some door out of the hold, Mark. There ought to be such an opening."

"That is true, at the stern end. Let us crawl in that direction."

There were a great number of barrels in the way and the journey took us some time, for the Viscount was pitching heavily on the swells of the Pacific Ocean.

Arriving at the stern end of the hold, we found a door, but it was closed and bolted, and several heavy barrels were wedged up against it.

"No escape in that direction," said Oliver grimly.

"Hist!" I returned suddenly. "They are raising that hatch again. Come back!"

"Well, how do you like it down there?" came from Captain Marcale, as he leaned over and strained his eyes to catch sight of us in the gloom.

"We want to talk to you," answered Oliver. He leaned over to me. "I have a plan. If we can make him a prisoner down here perhaps we can yet get this game into our hands. Let us try it, anyhow."

"Want to talk, eh?" growled the captain. "Want to come on deck, I suppose."

"No, I want you to come down. I've hurt my leg," went on Oliver, and he told the truth, having scratched himself on a barrel nail while searching for the hold door.

There was a pause after this. Then Captain Marcale spoke to his mate in Spanish. A rope ladder was let into the hold and the master of the Viscount came down.

Oliver had thrown himself flat on some boxes, some distance from the hatchway, and I followed his example. As Captain Marcale came closer we saw that he was armed with a heavy marline spike.

"You are sick of it down here, not so?" he began.

"Yes, we are sick of it," I answered, and I moved back, so that in facing me Oliver would be behind him.

"Will you do your duty on deck?"

"I am always ready to do my duty, Captain Marcale."

"Bah! You Americanos know nothing. You must learn how to obey."

"Don't you think you are a little hard on us, captain?" I pleaded. "Just look at that arm. Do you think I can work with such a sore as that?"

I began to roll up my coat sleeve. Thrown off his guard by my manner, the Spaniard drew closer, at the same time lowering his weapon to his side.

The movement was fatal to his hopes, for Oliver had suddenly leaped up. Now he sprang forward, carrying over his head one of the boxes of canned goods. Down came the box with crushing force, and Captain Marcale dropped as if hit with a sand-bag.

"Good for you!" I cried. "I only hope you haven't killed him."

"If I have it is no more than such a brute deserves," returned my chum. "Here, take the marline spike and I will search him." He began to go through pocket after pocket. "Just what I thought—here is a six-shooter, and every chamber loaded."

"And what do you propose to do next?" I asked, my heart leaping wildly.

"Is he alive?"

"Yes."

"Then let us bind him first of all—and tie him fast to one of the big boxes. I don't believe anybody will come down here right away."

To tie up the unconscious man was an easy task. He was coming around gradually, and presently he opened his eyes and stared at us, jabbering away in Spanish in the meanwhile.

"You keep quiet," whispering Oliver sternly. "If you don't——" He finished by thrusting the pistol forward. At this Captain Marcale emitted a deep groan.

"Do not shoot! I will be quiet," he muttered hoarsely.

"Very well. Now answer me truthfully. How many men have you on board of this craft?"

"Nine."

"A rather short crew."

"I counted on you two boys."

"I suppose you did. Have you any Americans on board?"

"No. But there is one English sailor."

"What is his name?"

"Sam Gumbert."

"Where did he ship from?"

"Honolulu."

"Then he isn't an old hand on the Viscount?"

"No; I never saw him before."

"That suits me," concluded Oliver. "Now keep quiet—if you value your life," and then he motioned me to one side.

"What are you going to do next?" I asked.

"Hang me if I know! I was thinking that perhaps we might get that English sailor to assist us."

"I wonder if we can't force the mate of the ship to return to Hilo," I went on.

"By ginger, Mark, just the thing!" ejaculated Oliver. "We've got the captain in our power, and he commands the ship. If he says go back, there will be nothing to do but to go back."