The next moment the cook had bagged him, and gripping him tightly round the middle, turned a deaf ear to the smothered cries of his victim as he strove to lift him out of the bunk. In the exciting time which followed, he had more than one reason for thinking that he had caught a centipede.
“Now, you keep still,” he cried, breathlessly. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
He got his burden out of bed at last, and staggered to the foot of the companion-ladder with it. Then there was a halt, two legs sticking obstinately across the narrow way and refusing to be moved, while a furious humming proceeded from the other end of the sack.
Four times did the exhausted cook get his shoulder under his burden and try and push it up the ladder, and four times did it wriggle and fight its way down again. Half crazy with fear and rage, he essayed it for the fifth time, and had got it half-way up when there was a sudden exclamation of surprise from above, and the voice of the mate sharply demanding an explanation.
“What the blazes are you up to?” he cried.
“It’s all right, sir,” said the panting cook; “old Jem’s had a drop too much and got down aft, and I’m getting ’im for’ard again.”
“Jem?” said the astonished mate. “Why, he’s sitting up here on the fore-hatch. He came aboard with me.”
“Sitting,” began the horrified cook; “sit—oh, lor!”
He stood with his writhing burden wedged between his body and the ladder, and looked up despairingly at the mate.
“I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake,” he said in a trembling voice.
The mate struck a match and looked down.
“Take that sack off,” he demanded, sternly.
The cook placed his burden upon its feet, and running up the ladder stood by the mate shivering. The latter struck another match, and the twain watched in breathless silence the writhings of the strange creature below as the covering worked slowly upwards. In the fourth match it got free, and revealed the empurpled visage of the master of the Susannah. For the fraction of a second the cook gazed at him in speechless horror, and then, with a hopeless cry, sprang ashore and ran for it, hotly pursued by his enraged victim. At the time of sailing he was still absent, and the skipper, loth to part two such friends, sent Mr. James Lister, at the urgent request of the anxious crew, to look for him.
[Illustration: “The White Cat.”]
The traveller stood looking from the tap-room window of the Cauliflower at the falling rain. The village street below was empty, and everything was quiet with the exception of the garrulous old man smoking with much enjoyment on the settle behind him.
“It’ll do a power o’ good,” said the ancient, craning his neck round the edge of the settle and turning a bleared eye on the window. “I ain’t like some folk; I never did mind a drop o’ rain.”