The Last Cruise of the Spitfire/Chapter 9
UP LONG ISLAND SOUND.
The loss of the letter worried me even more than the loss of the money. In the exciting events that had transpired since I had received it I had forgotten the writer's name and his address. I remembered the name was something like Noddington, and that the address was a number in Old Fellows Road, but that was all.
This was deeply to be regretted, for I had expected to put myself into immediate communication with my father's friend, having any reply addressed to the post-office of the place I might be then stopping at.
But now this scheme could not be carried out. To send a letter haphazard would probably do no good.
I was so worked up over my discovery that I left the forecastle without taking the trouble to don the clothing Lowell had pointed out to me. I looked around the deck, and seeing the boatswain at the bow, hastened towards him.
His brow contracted when he saw me.
"Why didn't you put on the suit I gave you?" he demanded.
"Because I first wanted to speak to you," I returned. "What have you done with my money?"
"Your money? I haven't seen any money," he returned coolly.
By his manner I could easily tell that his statement was untrue.
"I had four dollars and a half and some letters in my pockets," I went on. "I want them back."
"Why you good-for-nothing landlubber!" he roared. Do you mean to say I'm a thief?"
"Well, where's my money?"
"How do I know? Come, do as I ordered you to."
And he shook his fist at me savagely.
"I want my stuff and I'm going to have it," I went on, as stoutly as I could.
"You're going to obey orders, that's what you're going to do," he cried. "I take no back talk from any one."
"If you don't give up that money I'll have you arrested as a thief the first time I get the chance," was my reply; and I meant just what I said.
"You will, will you?" he roared. "Just wait till I get a rope's end and we'll see who is boss here."
I was somewhat startled at his words, but I stood my ground. Lowell ran to the starboard side of the schooner, and presently returned with a stout rope some three feet long.
"Now, are you going to do as I told you?" he asked, as he advanced towards me.
"Don't you dare to touch me!" I cried. "If you do you will have to take the consequences!"
"Don't talk to me!" he cried. "Just wait till I tan your back for you!"
He swung the rope's end over his head, and brought it down with all force. I sprang aside, and received the blow squarely on my shoulder. Had I not done so the rope would have cut my neck deeply.
"You big coward!" I cried; and the next instant I gave him one strong blow from the shoulder that sent him staggering against the rail.
I do not know to this day how I came to deliver that blow as I did. Perhaps it was that my temper was at its highest, and I put all my force into it. I was surprised at my own power.
But if I was surprised Lowell was more so. The rope's end fell from his hand, and his face took on a sickly green color. A number of the sailors who had seen my action gathered around in amazement, and one of them winked his eye in a most knowing manner.
"I'll have your life for that!" yelled Lowell, as soon as he could recover.
"Don't you come near me," I replied.
"I'll flay you alive!"
"No, you won't. I'm not used to such treatment, and I won't stand it."
I stood my ground, and for a moment the boatswain did not appear to know what to do next.
"Catch him from behind, Crocker," he said finally, addressing the sailor I had seen with him in the lumber shed. "I'll give him a lesson he won't forget as long as he remains on board the Spitfire, or else my name ain't Lowell."
Crocker advanced upon me to do as he had been ordered. Evidently he did not relish the job, for he came on slowly.
Not to be caught in this manner I sprang aside, and retreated rapidly towards the stern of the schooner. I did not know anything about the vessel, and finally found myself near the cabin, and face to face with Captain Hannock.
"Here, what's the row about?" he demanded.
"I want Lowell to give up the money and letters he took from me," I replied; and a moment later the boatswain came up.
"He won't mind orders, captain," he exclaimed.
"You've got to mind orders while you're on board, Foster."
"Well, perhaps I will if I'm treated fairly," I replied.
"You'll be treated fair enough, never fear. If Lowell has anything of yours I'll get it and keep it for you until you need it. Now go forward, and do as you are told."
For a moment I hesitated. This was not a very satisfactory settlement; but evidently it was the best I could get, and so I retired.
"Bully for you," said Phil Jones, as he followed me into the forecastle. "My, how you did pitch into him!"
"And I'll do it again if he abuses me," I returned, hotly, for I was not yet calmed down over the recent encounter.
"You look able to," went on the cabin-boy. "My, don't I wish I was as strong as you!"
"You will be some day, Phil."
Phil shook his head.
"I reckon not—leastwise, not while I have to live such a dog's life as this on the Spitfire. Say, are them your clothes?" he went on, pointing to the articles of wearing apparel Lowell had given me.
"I presume they are—for this trip. But I don't fancy them much."
And the smell of grease on them was decidedly unpleasant.
"You'll get used to them after a while. Things on the Spitfire ain't as clean as they might be, although the captain keeps me hustling to keep the cabin tidy. Can I help you any?"
Before I could decline Phil's kind offer a dark form appeared at the entrance to the forecastle.
"Hi, Phil, you rat, come out of that!" roared Captain Hannock, savagely. "What business have you got in there? Git into the cabin and lively, or I'll warm you good!"
Phil made a break for the deck. As he passed the captain, that brute raised his brawny hand and boxed him on the side of the head.
"Take that to teach you a lesson!" the captain stormed; and then he and his victim moved out of sight and hearing.
This assault made me madder than ever. But I was powerless to assist Phil, much as I wished to do so. I could well understand the bully-like nature of Captain Hannock, and I resolved to be well on my guard against him.
After some consideration, I put on the suit of ship's clothing. It fitted fairly well, and after I had given the trousers several hitches I felt quite at home in them, and then I went on deck.