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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCharley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 13. In The Clutches Of The Chief
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Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 13. In The Clutches Of The Chief Post by :teachmaster Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1979

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Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 13. In The Clutches Of The Chief

Chapter Thirteen. In The Clutches Of The Chief

The crew of the _Dolphin_, though numerous and well accustomed to the use of arms, being thus taken unawares, were almost helpless. The sharp-edged war-clubs of the natives came crashing down upon their heads, as they ran here and there in search of weapons to defend themselves. Lieutenant Pyke was struck dead the instant he appeared at the companion-hatch. The second mate was treated in the same way, while the boatswain, with a few men who gathered round him, made a desperate attempt to defend himself; but he and his party were overpowered by numbers, and cut down, after they had killed several of the natives. Some of our men jumped down below, but were followed by the savages. Whether they were killed, or whether any escaped, we could not tell. A few ran up the rigging, where the natives appeared afraid to follow them.

In a few minutes, besides Dick and me, not a white man whom we could see, except those aloft, remained alive. The natives now began dancing frantically about the deck, whirling their clubs over their heads, and shouting at the top of their voices for joy of their victory. They either did not observe Dick and me, or knowing that we must at length come in, did not think us worth their notice. I felt almost overpowered with horror. In spite of that, however, I thought of dear Miss Kitty, dreading that she and Mr Falconer, with those in the boat, would, on their return, have to share the terrible fate of our other companions; while I fully expected Dick and I would soon be summoned off to be killed.

What had become of Mrs Podgers, and those who had been below at the moment of the attack, we could not tell.

"Oh, Dick, what are we to do?" I exclaimed, trembling with fear.

"We must trust to God, Charley," he answered. "He will take care of us, though how that is to be, is more than I can say. I can only hope that the savages, fierce as they are, will not have the heart to kill a little boy like you; and it can matter little what becomes of an old fellow, such as I am. Say your prayers, Charley, though you cannot kneel down. That does not matter."

The savages all this time continued dancing on the deck, as if they would beat it in, shouting at the top of their voices, and flourishing their war-clubs, looking more like a gang of demons let loose than human beings.

"It will be bad enough for us, Charley, even though the natives don't kill and eat us, but my mind is most troubled about poor Miss Kitty. What will become of her, if they get hold of the boat? and there's no chance that I can see of her escaping."

"I was thinking of her, too," I said, "and Mr Falconer. The savages will murder him and the boat's crew, as they have the rest. Oh, Dick! I cannot stand it. I wish they would kill me at once!"

I felt, as I spoke, like the hapless bird fascinated by the glance of the serpent, and could scarcely restrain myself from clambering on board and rushing among the savages.

"Hold fast, Charley," said Dick. "I wish I had not said what I did--you have got your best days before you. If the savages wanted to kill us, they would have done so before now. See, they are growing calmer, and are talking together; they, perhaps, will be satisfied with gaining possession of the ship, and all the plunder in her, and won't kill those who make no resistance."

Soon after Dick had said this, a tall chief with a high plume of feathers on his head, and his almost white skin only slightly tattooed, advanced to the heel of the bowsprit, and, looking towards Dick and me, shouted out some words, and beckoned us to come in.

"What shall we do, Dick?" I asked. "Will he kill me, do you think?"

"There's no help for it, Charley," answered Dick. "But don't be afraid; he shall kill me before he hurts you. Just get round and keep close behind me, and I will ask him to take care of you; he does not look as savage as the rest."

I followed Dick, though I confess my alarm was so great that I could scarcely hold on. As we got to the inner end of the bowsprit, I observed that the chief placed his bloodstained club against the bulwarks; he then lifted up both his hands, to show that they held no weapon. Dick, therefore, advanced more boldly, and getting on deck, still keeping me behind him, confronted the chief.

"I make bold to ask you to let this little chap go free, Mr Savage," said Dick, pointing to me. "He has never done you no harm, and never will. It cannot do you any good if you kill him, and he is so thin, he would make but a poor meal, if you want to eat him."

Although the chief could not have understood a word that Dick said, he seemed to comprehend his meaning, and, putting his hand on his head and mine, he signified that we were his property, and that he would take care of us. He even smiled when he looked at me, and seemed to inquire whether I was Dick's son, so Dick fancied; for he replied, "He is all the same as my child, and if you hurt him, it will be the worse for you." Our friend then called up two other men, who appeared to belong to him as a sort of bodyguard, and then charged them to take care of us, while he went aft and spoke to the other chiefs.

Meantime the natives had begun to hoist up the goods from the hold, and to load their canoes with them, our new friend being apparently engaged in securing his share of the booty. Dick and I were thus left on the forecastle, and could observe what was going on. We often turned our eyes towards the mouth of the harbour, dreading to see the boat return. And yet, what could become of her, with no friendly port near, should she not come back?

A considerable time having passed, the young chief's canoe came round under the bows, and he made signs to us to lower ourselves into her. Just before I did so, I cast my eyes once more seaward, and there I caught sight of a boat's sail. Mr Falconer and Kitty were returning, unsuspicious of the dreadful circumstances which had occurred. How I wished that I could go off and warn them.

We had scarcely thought about the captain and the rest of the men on shore. If they had escaped, we need not have much apprehension about ourselves; but if they had been put to death, we, I still dreaded, on reaching the shore might meet with the same fate.

"What can we do, Dick, to let Miss Kitty and the mate know their danger?" I asked. "If they come up the harbour, there will be no chance for them."

"We can do nothing, Charley," he answered. "They are in God's hands, as we are, and we must trust to Him to take care of us all."

The young chief now made another sign to Dick and me to get into the canoe, so we lowered ourselves down, and went up to where the chief was standing. His canoe, like many others around, was of considerable length, fully forty feet, though not more than a foot and a half wide, and of about the same depth. She was kept from upsetting by outriggers projecting from the bow, middle, and stern, with a long piece of light wood secured to the extremity of each. On the upper part of the stem, which projected about two feet, was a carved head of some animal; while the after part also projected six feet or more beyond the actual stern, something like the shape of a Dutch skate. The paddles were neatly made of a hard black wood, highly polished, with slender handles, and the blades of an oval form. I afterwards examined the canoe, and found that it was composed of many pieces of the bread-fruit tree, cut into planks and sewed together with the fibres of the outside shell of the cocoa-nut. The seams were covered inside and out with strips of bamboo sewed to the edge of each plank, to keep in a stuffing of cocoa-nut fibre. The keel consisted of one piece, which ran the whole length, and was hollowed out in the form of a canoe, being, indeed, the foundation of the vessel. Three pieces of thick plank, placed as partitions, divided the interior into four parts, and served for timbers to keep her from separating or closing together. She had also a mat sail, broad at the top, and narrowing to a point at the foot.

The chief told as to sit down, and directed his crew to paddle towards the shore. This they did, accompanied by several other canoes, which were apparently under his command.

We frequently turned our eyes towards the boat, but the wind was scant and light, and she made but little progress up the harbour. Probably Miss Kitty and the mate were in no hurry to return on board. The men who had escaped up the rigging were still there; but whether the captain's wife and those who had fled below had survived the massacre we could not tell. The ship was still crowded with savages, who were busily employed carrying up what they could find below and had strength to remove. The oil-casks must, however, have been beyond their power to lift, though Dick observed that they would be sure to try and get hold of the iron hoops, and be rather astonished when the oil burst out over them.

Our captor directed his course towards a small inner bay, on the shores of which were several huts, where we concluded that he lived. Though some of his men cast savage glances at us, and looked as if they would like to knock out our brains, we were not ill-treated, nor was anything taken from us.

On landing, we were allowed to remain by ourselves while the crews of the canoes were busy in unloading them as fast as they could.

There was close at hand, forming one side of the little bay, a high rock, whence Dick thought that we could get a good sight of the whole harbour. We set off, and, unnoticed by the busy natives, made our way to the top of it. We were not disappointed in our expectations, and from it could see both the ship and the boat. The latter had made but little way, and, finding the wind against her, had lowered her sail and taken to the oars. More canoes were collecting alongside, and we concluded that the chief and his followers were going to return for a further supply of booty. We were allowed to remain on the rocks, the natives probably knowing that we could not make our escape.

The wind after a time freshened a little, and the boat was drawing nearer. As we were looking towards her, a loud report reached our ears, and, turning our eyes towards the ship, we saw the masts and deck rising upwards, surrounded by a dense smoke, and a thick mass of the shattered fragments of numberless articles, mingled with the boom-boats, companion-hatch, caboose, and human beings mangled and torn. For a few seconds they seemed to hang in the air, and then were scattered far and wide around the ship. The masts falling into the water, crushed several of the canoes alongside, and the shrieks and cries of the natives, who had escaped with life, while they paddled away in dismay, came over the waters towards us.

Dick and I held our breath, and I saw horror depicted in his countenance.

"Though the savages deserve what they have got, it may be the worse for us," he muttered. "They will now knock us on the head, to a certainty."

I made no reply, but I feared that what Dick said would prove true.

Flames now burst out from the ship, and several guns which were loaded went off, sending their shot flying among the natives, and creating still further dismay.

So absorbed were we for some minutes in watching the ship, that we had almost forgotten the boat. Again looking towards her, I saw that her sail was hoisted, and that she was running before the wind towards the harbour's mouth.

"Mr Falconer guesses what has happened; I am sure of that," said Dick, "and he would rather trust to carrying Miss Kitty off into the wide ocean than to the mercy of the savages, though I am afraid they will have a hard time of it, even if they get clear."

"Oh, Dick!" I cried out, "see, there are some of the savages after them, and they may be overtaken."

Such, indeed, was the case. Several canoes which at the time of the explosion had been at a distance from the ship, watching, apparently, the approaching boat, on seeing her standing seaward, began to paddle after her. Though they had no sails, they glided rapidly over the water, and there seemed but little probability that our friends would effect their escape.

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