“It’s his way,” said the girl. “He believes no captain has the right to endanger his men for gain. You couldn’t take him by force, for he’d make things warm after he got ashore. If we could only get some of the water out of her and get away, he could get her in with England, Journegan, Daniels, and Dalton. Your two men added would make seven. These men could handle the canvas and steer her as well as twelve.”
I didn’t like to tell her that the devil himself would hardly be safe in the same ship with Andrews. It was quite possible that the ruffian would turn to and do good work for his share of the salvage when he got clear of the rest of us, for the amount would be large and tempting. Sackett would be of more service to him alive than dead.
“We’ll get at the leak this afternoon, if it’s possible,” I said, and the young girl went back to her stateroom.
It was with anything but rising spirits that Chips went at the leak. He had a frame slung outboard some fifteen feet from the ship’s side, supported by guys from the mainmast and jury foremast. It was after eight bells in the afternoon before this was finished, and then Sackett and he went out on it to study the ship’s bilge through the calm water. It was almost flat calm, but the Sovereign had steering way enough to turn her side to the slanting sun, letting the light shine under her copper. She was so deep, however, nothing could be made out on the smooth green surface that showed like a started plank end. Only here and there a lump or protuberance appeared, showing a bunch of marine growth, or a bent edge of a plate where it had started to rip off. The water of the Indian Ocean is always remarkably clear, and this day during the still weather it was like liquid air. Objects were as distinctly visible three or four fathoms below the surface as those at a corresponding distance on deck.
I joined Sackett and Chips on the frame, and studied the ship’s bilge the entire length of her waist. In about half an hour we shifted to starboard and, by dint of handling the canvas, got her head around so that the sun shone under this side. Nothing showed like a leak.
“If a man could dive under her a few times,” said Sackett, “he might see, with the light as good as it is now. What do you think, Mr. Rolling?”
“It would take a good swimmer to go clear under her broad beam,” I answered. “I don’t believe there’s any one aboard who could do it, even with a line around him.”
England, the stout sailor, was standing near the rail while I spoke.
“If ye don’t mind, sir, I’ll try me hand at it. Put a line about me body to haul me in if a shark takes a notion to make a run fer me. Don’t haul unless ye have to, mind, or ye’ll scrape the hide off me body.”
“Go ahead at it,” said Sackett.
The heavy man slipped off his jumper in a moment, and I noticed the huge muscles of his chest and arms. He must have made a good prize fighter in his day. Coming out on the frame, he had the line stopped around his waist and then started at the fore rigging to go under the ship to the other side.