When I came to I was lying in a bunk, bound hand and foot. My head was aching badly, and close above me on deck great traffic was going on between the ship and the schooner, transferring choice pickings of the cargo, I supposed, when my senses got slowly to work again.
But why was I there—and still alive? That was a puzzle beyond me entirely. By all rights, and truly according to my expectation, I should have been a dead man. Why was I here, and unharmed, save for a singing head?
Puzzle as I might, I had nothing to go upon and could make nothing of it. But since I was still alive, hope grew in me. For it would have been no more trouble to Torode to kill me—less indeed. And since he had not, it could only be because he had other views.
For a long time the shuffling tread of laden men went on close above my head—for hours, I suppose. The sun was sinking when at last the heel and swing of the schooner told me we were loosed and away.
No shot had been fired, save the first one calling the Indiaman to stop, and the second one that drove the command home. To that extent I had been of service to them, bitter as surrender without a fight had been, for an utterly impossible resistance could only have ended one way and after much loss of life.
Long after it was dark a man came in with a lantern and a big bowl of soup, good soup such as we get in the Islands, and half a loaf of bread, and a pannikin of water. He set the things beside me, and untied my hands, and placed the light so that it fell upon me, and stood patching me till I had finished.
From his size I thought it was Torode himself, but he never opened his mouth, nor I mine, except to put food into it. When I had done, he tied my hands again and went out.
I slept like a top that night, in spite of it all, and felt better in the morning and not without hope. For, as a rule, civilised men, ruffians though they may be, do not feed those they are going to kill. They kill and have done with it.
The same man brought me coffee and bread and meat, and stood watching me again with his back to the porthole while I ate.
It was, as I had thought, Torode himself, and I would have given all I possessed—which indeed was not overmuch—to know what was passing concerning me in that great black head of his. But I did not ask him, for I should not have expected him to tell me. I just ate and drank every scrap of what he brought me, with as cheerful an air as I could compass, and thanked him politely when I had done.
HOW I LAY IN THE CLEFT OF A ROCK
On the third day of my confinement, and as near as I could tell about midday, the small round porthole of my cabin was suddenly darkened by a flap of sail let down from above, purposely I judged, and shortly afterwards I found the ship was at rest.