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CHAPTER XXI.


NIGHT ON THE HASTY.


After the sail was rigged and the rudder lashed in position, we took our first meal on the raft. I was hungry, but fearful of exhausting our stock of provisions before we reached land or help of some kind, I ate no more than was absolutely necessary, and the cabin boy did the same.

"What will we name the raft?" asked Phil, as he held a cup of water aloft.

I thought an instant.

"How would the Hasty do?"

"Just the thing!" he cried. "We were mighty hasty in building her. The Hasty she is."

And by drinking the water he so named the raft upon which we passed so many anxious hours.

It must have been near eleven o'clock before the morning meal was concluded. By this time the sun was almost overhead, and poured down hotly upon us.

"This won't do," I said, feeling my face nearly burning up. "We must rig a covering of some kind."

There was a small part of the sail that was not used. This I cut off, and putting the center of it over the box of provisions as it rested above the cask, I fastened the four ends to the corners of the doors, and that gave us a miniature cabin, in which we took turns in resting.

By good fortune there was a stiff breeze blowing directly from the east, so by skillful management, we kept the head of the raft pointed in the direction we wanted to go.

As we sailed along Phil Jones told me much concerning himself.

"I've lived with Captain Hannock ever since I can remember," he began. "My father was a sailor, and he died on board the Spitfire, leaving me in charge of those on board. My father was mate, and I've heard that Captain Hannock was a better man in those days."

"Wasn't your mother living?"

"No: she died when I was a little baby. That's the reason, I suppose, the captain took me in charge."

"Then perhaps he had no legal right to do so."

"I don't know about that. But I'm sure he had no legal right to bang me around the way he did."

"Certainly not. And he shall not do so in the future."

Then Phil asked me about myself, and I told him much of my history. He was not very old, but the sharp knocks he had received had given him a wisdom beyond his years.

Talking made the time pass more swiftly, and before we knew it the sun was sinking in the west. It would not be long ere the night would be upon us.

"Let us lose no time, but sail along as far as we can," I said.

"How about sailing by the stars?"

"I don't know anything about that."

"I know a little."

"Then we won't lower the sail until it is absolutely necessary. Come, you take a nap if you can, and I will steer as long as the sun lasts, and then you can take the rudder."

To this the cabin boy readily agreed. He was soon asleep, and I was virtually left alone.

As the evening shadows deepened I realized for the first time our forlorn condition. Here we were, afloat on the bosom of the broad Atlantic, with no land or sail in sight. What would the outcome of this adventure be?

From the present my mind drifted to what had been left behind. I had no doubt but that my Uncle Felix was searching for me in every direction. Perhaps he had even made offers of reward for my discovery. Six thousand dollars was no mean sum to lose, and I knew him well enough to understand that he would well-nigh turn the metropolis upside down ere he would submit to it.

I could understand that my running away made it look bad for me. Every one would say, if I was innocent why had I not stood my ground? Even Mr. Banker and Mr. Mason might shake their heads and have their doubts.

Then I thought of the evidence I held in my pocket against Mr. Stillwell and Captain Hannock. If I reached shore in safety, what a sensation it would produce! Had my uncle treated me with more consideration I would have had some hesitation about exposing him even though he deserved it and justice demanded it. But not for an instant had he thought of how he was ruining my good name for all time. And I had been innocent while he was guilty. He must suffer the penalty of his misdeeds.

I could not help but think of Mr. Ransom and Tony Dibble. What had become of the two? Would they watch for Captain Hannock's return and expose him at once?

Slowly the evening wore on, until the last trace of sunshine had gone and only the stars shone down upon the Hasty. Phil was fast asleep, and I did not like to wake him, so much did he appear to enjoy the nap. Poor boy! for once he knew that he would not be aroused by a kick or blow!

It must have been ten o'clock when Phil did awaken. He rubbed his eyes and sat up.

"Where am I? Oh, I remember! How good of you, Luke, to let me sleep so long!"

"It's getting pretty dark now, Phil. Are you sure you can steer?"

"I think so."

I handed him the rudder and lay down under the canvas. At first I was too restless to sleep; but after awhile tired nature could stand it no longer, and I dropped into a heavy slumber.

"Wake up, Luke, wake up!"

"What's the matter?" I exclaimed.

"I can't say, but something is wrong," he returned. At once alarmed, I tried to crawl from under the bit of canvas. When I had accomplished this feat—which was not easy, considering how the Hasty rolled and pitched—I gazed at Phil and saw that he was trembling violently.

"What is it, Phil—what scared you?" I went on.

"We struck something," he cried. "I most believe it was part of a boat."

"Something from the Spitfire most likely," I returned.

"I don't know—but—but——"

"But what, Phil—what ails you?"

"I believe there was a man on it!" he said, in an awful whisper. "I couldn't see very well. It gave me a fearful scare."

"A man! Are you sure?"

"No, but it looked like a man. My, it was terrible!"

"You look it. In what direction was it?"

Phil pointed over his left shoulder. I peered through the gloom as best I could, but could see nothing.

"Well, it's gone now, whatever it was," I said. "Are you quite sure you didn't fall asleep and dream it?"

"Oh, I wasn't asleep. I'm not a bit sleepy after my long nap. I am sorry I disturbed you, but but I couldn't help it."

"That's all right," said I, with a yawn. "Well I might as well turn in again, eh?"

"Yes, turn in by all means."

Once more I crawled beneath the canvas. I had not heard a single cry, and I was inclined to think that Phil had been mistaken concerning a person on the wreckage he had seen.

My short nap had only made me more sleepy and it was not long before I dropped off into a sound slumber, which even the fitful motion of the raft did not disturb.

"Luke! Luke!"

It was Phil's voice again, louder than ever before.

"Now what's up?" I replied, not in the best of humor.

"We must be careful. We have struck——"

The cabin boy did not have time to finish the sentence for at that instant the Hasty received a terrific shock which nearly split her in two.

"Oh, Luke, what shall we do?" cried Phil, in alarm, as soon as he could catch his breath.

Before I could answer there came another shock. A moment later Phil and I were struggling in the dark waters!