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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter15,part2)

2006-08-28 23:39

    PART 2

    Before the trade winds the _Nancy Hanks_ foamed along day after day, all sails set, making excellent time. But for his anxiety as to the effect his disappearance would have upon the political situation, Jeff would have enjoyed immensely the wild rough life aboard the schooner. But he could not conceal from himself the interpretation of his absence the machine agents would scatter broadcast. He foresaw a reaction against his bill and its probable defeat.

    The issue was on the knees of chance. The fact that could not be obliterated was that he had been wiped from the slate until after the legislature would adjourn. For every hour was carrying him farther from the scene of action.

    His only hope was that the _Nancy Hanks_ might put in at the Hawaiian Islands, from which place he might get a chance to write, or, better still, to cable the reason of his absence. Captain Green himself wiped out this expectation. He jocosely intimated to Farnum one afternoon that he had no intention of calling the Islands.

    "When we get through this six months' cruise you'll be a first- rate sailorman, son, and you'll get a sailorman's wages," he added genially.

    The shanghaied man met his eye squarely. "I think I could arrange to draw on Verden for a thousand dollars if you would drop me at the Islands."

    "Not for twenty thousand. You're going to stay with us till we get to the Solomon Islands, and don't you forget it."

    Bully Green had taken rather a fancy to this amiable young man who had taken so sensible a view of the little misadventure that had befallen him, but of course business was business. He had been paid to keep him out of the way and he intended to fulfil the contract.

    "Here I'm educatin' you, makin' an able-bodied seaman out of you, son. You had ought to be grateful," he grinned.

    "Oh, I am," Jeff agreed with a twinkle.

    But Captain Green had reckoned without the weather. The _Nancy Hanks_ drifted into three days of calm and sultry heat. At the end of the third day she began to rock gently beneath a murky sky.

    "Dirty weather," predicted the mate, the same who had assisted at the shanghaing. "When you see a satin sea turn indigo and that peculiar shade in the sky you want to look out for squalls," he explained to Jeff.

    It came on them in a rush. The sun went out of a black sky like a blown candle and the sea began to whip itself to a froth. The wind quickened, boomed to a roar, and sent the schooner heeling to a squall across the leaden waters. The open sea closed in on them. Before they could get in sail and make secure the sheets ripped with a scream, braces parted and the topmasts snapped off. The _Nancy_ went pitching forward into the yawning deeps with drunken plunges from which it seemed she would never emerge. Great combing seas toppled down and pounded the decks, while the sailors clung to stays or whatever would give them a hold.

    The squall lasted scarce an hour, but it left the schooner dismantled. Her sheets were in ribbons, her topmasts and bowsprit gone. There was nothing for it but a crippled beat toward the Islands.

    Four days later she made an offing in the harbor at Honolulu just as a liner was nosing her way out.

    Bully Green ranged up beside Farnum and cast a speculative eye on

    him.

    "Sport, I had ought to iron you and keep you in the fo'c'sle until we leave here. It's the only square thing to do."

    Jeff's gaze was on the advancing steamer. She was scarce two hundred yards away now and he could plainly read the name painted on her side. She was the _Bellingham_ of Verden.

    "I don't see the necessity, sir," he answered.

    "I reckon you do, son. Samuel Green stands by his word to a finish. Now I've promised to keep you safe, and you can bet your last dollar I'm a-going to do it."

    His prisoner turned from the rail against which he was leaning to the captain. Pinpoints of light were gleaming in the big eyes.

    "How much safer do you want me than this?"

    Green expectorated at a chip in the water and shifted his quid. "You've got brains, son. No telling what you might try to do. But see here. You're no drunken beachcomber. I know a gentleman when I see one. Gimme your word you'll not try to skip out or send a message back to the States and I'll go easy on you. I'm so dashed kindhearted, I am, that——"

    Jeff leaped to the rail, stood poised an instant, and dived into the blue Pacific.

    "Well, I'll be " Bully Green interrupted himself to roar an order to lower a boat.

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