And then suddenly to my horror I, watching closely, saw the captain’s eye turn blank. I am sure the men must have felt the change, though certainly they were too far away to see it, for they shifted by ever so little from their first frozen attitude. The captain’s hand sought his pocket, and they froze again, but instead of the expected revolver, he produced a half-full brandy bottle.
The change in his eyes had crept into his features. They had turned foolishly amiable, vacant, confiding.
“’llo boys,” said he appealingly, “you good fellowsh, ain’t you? Have a drink. ‘S good stuff. Good ol’ bottl’,” he lurched, caught himself, and advanced toward them, still with the empty smile.
They stared at him for ten seconds, quite at a loss. Then:
“By God, he’s drunk!” Handy Solomon breathed, scarcely louder than a whisper.
There was no other signal given. They sprang as with a single impulse. One instant I saw clear against the waning daylight the bulky, foolish-swaying form of Captain Selover: the next it had disappeared, carried down and obliterated by the rush of attacking bodies. Knives gleamed ruddy in the sunset. There was no struggle. I heard a deep groan. Then the murderers rose slowly to their feet.
I MAKE MY ESCAPE
I had plenty of time to run away. I do not know why I did not do so; but the fact stands that I remained where I was until they had finished Captain Selover. Then I took to my heels, but was soon cornered. I drew my revolver, remembered that I had emptied it in the seal cave—and had time for no more coherent mental processes. A smothering weight flung itself on me, against which I struggled as hard as I could, shrinking in anticipation from the thirsty plunge of the knives. However, though the weight increased until further struggle was impossible, I was not harmed, and in a few moments found myself, wrists and ankles tied, beside a roaring fire. While I collected myself I heard the grate of a boat being shoved off from the cove, and a few moments later made out lights aboard the Laughing Lass.
The looting party returned very shortly. Their plundering had gone only as far as liquor and arms. Thrackles let down from the cliff top a keg at the end of a line. Perdosa and the Nigger each carried an armful of the 30-40 rifles. The keg was rolled to the fire and broached.
The men got drunk, wildly drunk, but not helplessly so. A flame communicated itself to them through the liquor. The ordinary characteristics of their composition sprung into sharper relief. The Nigger became more sullen; Perdosa more snake-like; Pulz more viciously evil; Thrackles more brutal; while Handy Solomon staggering from his seat to the open keg and back again, roaring fragments of a chanty, his red headgear contrasting with his smoky black hair and his swarthy hook-nosed countenance—he needed no further touch.