Even as I hesitated, industriously scrubbing away at the paint, Kirby and the captain appeared suddenly, pausing a moment at the head of the ladder in friendly conversation. Parting at last, with a hearty laugh over some joke exchanged between them, the latter ascended the steps to the pilot house, while the gambler turned aft, still smiling, a cigar between his lips. I managed to observe that he paused in front of the second cabin, as though listening for some sound within, but made no attempt to enter, passing on to the door beyond, which was unlocked. He must have come to the upper deck on some special mission, for he was out of my sight scarcely a moment, returning immediately to the deck below. This occurrence merely served to make clearer in my mind the probable situation—the after-cabin was undoubtedly occupied by Kirby, perhaps in company with the deputy; while next to them, securely locked away, and helpless to escape, were confined the two slave women. In order to reach them I must operate under the cover of darkness, and my only hope of being free to work, even then, lay in the faith that the gambler might become so involved in a card game below as to forget his caution. So far as Tim was concerned I felt perfectly capable of outwitting him; but Kirby was dangerous.
THE STORY OF ELSIE CLARK
The next two hours dragged dreadfully slow, in spite of my pretense at steady work, and the fact that my thoughts were continuously occupied. The shores past which we glided were low and monotonous, while the river was but a tawny sweep of unoccupied water. We were already well above the region of white settlements, in a land beautiful, but uncultivated. The upper deck remained practically deserted, and I was encouraged to observe, by glancing through the skylight, that a stubborn game of poker was being indulged in at the cabin table below. The amount of stakes visible, as well as some of the language reaching me, accounted for the absence of passengers outside, even those not