The girl started again to speak. “Hush!” He drew her back yet farther. Above, some one had raised the corner of the canvas covering the skylight. It was too dark, however, for the person, whoever it might be, to discern very much below. Neither Mr. Heatherbloom nor his companion now moved. The tenseness and excitement of the moment held them. The girl breathed quickly; her hand was at his sleeve. Even in that moment of suspense and peril he was conscious of the nearness of her—the lithe young form so close!
The creaking of the chair in the recess was again heard. Had his excellency caught sight of the person above? Was he endeavoring to attract attention? And could the observer at the skylight discern the nobleman? It seemed unlikely. The glass above did not appear to extend quite over the recess. Through a slight opening of the draperies Mr. Heatherbloom, however, could see his captive and noticed he seemed to be trying to tip back farther in his chair, to reach out behind with his bound hands—toward what? The young man abruptly realized, and half started to his feet—but not in time! The chair went over backward and came down with a crash, but not before his excellency’s fingers had succeeded in touching an electric button near the desk. A flood of light filled the place.
It was answered by a shout—a signal for other voices. Fragments of glass fell around; a figure dropped into the salon; others followed. The door to the deck yielded to force from without. Mr. Heatherbloom, though surprised and outnumbered, struggled as best he might; his weapon rang out; then, as they pressed closer, he defended himself with the butt of his revolver and his fist.
There could be but one end to the unequal contest. The girl—a helpless spectator—realized that, though she could with difficulty perceive what took place, it was all so chaotic. She tried to draw nearer, but bearded faces intervened; rough hands thrust her back. She would have called out but the words would not come. It was like an evil dream. As through a mist she saw one among many who had entered from the deck—a giant in size. He carried an oaken bar in his hand and now stole sidewise with murderous intent toward the single figure striving so gallantly.
“No, no!” Betty Dalrymple’s voice came back to her suddenly; she exclaimed wildly, incoherently.
But the foreman of the stokers raised the bar, waited. He found his opportunity; his arm descended.
Mr. Heatherbloom regained consciousness, or semi-consciousness, in an ill-smelling place. His first impulse was to raise his hands to his aching head, but he could not do this on account of two iron bands that held his wrists to a stanchion. His legs, too, he next became vaguely aware, were fastened by a similar contrivance to the deck. He closed his eyes, and leaned back; the throbbings seemed to beat on his brain like the angry surf, smiting harder and harder until nature at length came to his relief and oblivion once more claimed him.