Mr. Chalk’s foot had scarcely touched the deck of the schooner when Mr. Tredgold seized him by the arm and, whispering indistinctly in his ear, hurried him below.
“Get your arms out of the cabin as quick as you can,” he said, sharply. “Then follow me up on deck.”
Mr. Chalk, trembling violently, tried to speak, but in vain. A horrid clanking noise sounded overhead, and with the desperation of terror he turned into the new cabin and, collecting his weapons, began with frantic haste to load them. Then he dropped his rifle and sprang forward with a loud cry as he heard the door close smartly and the key turn in the lock.
He stood gazing stupidly at the door and listening to the noise overhead. The clanking ceased, and was succeeded by a rush of heavy feet, above which he heard Captain Brisket shouting hoarsely. He threw a despairing glance around his prison, and then looked up at the skylight. It was not big enough to crawl through, but he saw that by standing on the table he could get his head out. No less clearly he saw how easy it would be for a mutineer to hit it.
Huddled up in a corner of the cabin he tried to think. Tredgold and Stobell were strangely silent, and even the voice of Brisket had ceased. The suspense became unbearable. Then suddenly a faint creaking and straining of timbers apprised him of the fact that the Fair Emily was under way.
He sprang to his feet and beat heavily upon the door, but it was of stout wood and opened inwards. Then a bright idea, the result of reading sensational fiction, occurred to him, and raising his rifle to his shoulder he aimed at the lock and pulled the trigger.
The noise of the explosion in the small cabin was deafening, but, loud as it was, it failed to drown a cry of alarm outside. The sound of heavy feet and of two or three bodies struggling for precedence up the companion-ladder followed, and Mr. Chalk, still holding his smoking rifle and regarding a splintered hole in the centre of the panel, wondered whether he had hit anybody. He slipped in a fresh cartridge and, becoming conscious of a partial darkening of the skylight, aimed hastily at a face which appeared there. The face, which bore a strong resemblance to that of Mr. Stobell, disappeared with great suddenness.
[Illustration: “He aimed hastily at a face which appeared there.”]
“He’s gone clean off his head,” said Captain Brisket, as Mr. Stobell staggered back.
“Mad as a March hare,” said Mr. Tredgold, shivering; “it’s a wonder he didn’t have one of us just now. Call down to him that it’s all right, Stobell.”
“Call yourself,” said that gentleman, shortly.
“Get a stick and raise the skylight,” said Tredgold.
A loud report sounded from below. Mr. Chalk had fired a second and successful shot at the lock. “What’s he doing? “inquired Stobell, blankly.