“I guess you’ve reasoned that out mighty well,” drawled the melancholy voice of Mr. Toley, who had come up unseen and heard the last speech. “Well, I’ll give you number seven.”
“Thunder and blazes, sir, he en’t bin and gone and done it already?”
“No, he en’t. Number seven is, be kind o’ tender with young Burke. Count them words. He’s had enough kicks. That’s all.”
And the melancholy man went away as silently as he had come.
Making good sailing, the Good Intent reached Saldanhas Bay, where she put in for a few necessary repairs, then safely rounded the Cape, and after a short stay at Johanna, one of the Comoro Islands, taking in fresh provisions there, set sail for the Malabar coast. The wind blew steadily from the southwest, and she ran merrily before it.
During this part of the voyage Desmond found his position somewhat improved. His pluck had won the rough admiration of the men; Captain Barker was not so constantly chevying him; and Mr. Toley showed a more active interest in him, teaching him the use of the sextant and quadrant, how to take the altitude of the sun, and many other matters important in navigation.
It was the third week of April, and the monsoon having begun, Captain Barker expected before long to sight the Indian coast. One morning, about two bells, the lookout reported a small vessel on the larboard bow, laboring heavily. The captain took a long look at it through his perspective glass, and made out that it was a two-masted grab; the mainmast was gone.
“Odds bobs,” he said to Mr. Toley, “’tis strange to meet a grab so far out at sea. We’ll run down to it.”
“What is a grab?” asked Desmond of Bulger, when the news had circulated through the ship’s company.
“Why, that’s a grab, sure enough. I en’t a good hand at pictur’ paintin’; we’re runnin’ square for the critter, and then you’ll see for yourself. This I’ll say, that you don’t see ’em anywheres in partickler but off the Malabar coast.”
Desmond was soon able to take stock of the vessel. It was broad in proportion to its length, narrowing from the middle to the end, and having a projecting prow like the old-fashioned galleys of which he had seen pictures. The prow was covered with a deck, level with the main deck of the vessel, but with a bulkhead between this and the forecastle.
“En’t she pitchin’!” remarked Bulger, standing by Desmond’s side. “You couldn’t expect nothing else of a craft built that shape. Look at the water pourin’ off her; why, I may be wrong, but I’ll lay my best breeches she’s a-founderin’.”
As usual, Bulger was right. When the grab was overhauled, the men on board, dark-skinned Marathas with very scanty clothing, made signs that they were in distress.