At ten o’clock they went below, but not until I had quietly located every member of the crew. I had the watch from eight to twelve that night, and at half after ten Mrs. Johns came on deck again. She did not speak to me, but dropped into a steamer-chair and yawned, stretching out her arms. By the light of the companion lantern, I saw that she had put on one of the loose negligees she affected for undress, and her arms were bare except for a fall of lace.
At eight bells (midnight) Burns took my place. Charlie Jones was at the wheel, and McNamara in the crow’s-nest. Mrs. Johns was dozing in her chair. The yacht was making perhaps four knots, and, far behind, the small white light of the jolly-boat showed where she rode.
I slept heavily, and at eight bells I rolled off my blanket and prepared to relieve Burns. I was stiff, weary, unrefreshed. The air was very still and we were hardly moving. I took a pail of water that stood near the rail, and, leaning far out, poured it over my head and shoulders. As I turned, dripping, Jones, relieved of the wheel, touched me on the arm.
“Go back to sleep, boy,” he said kindly. “We need you, and we’re goin’ to need you more when we get ashore. You’ve been talkin’ in your sleep till you plumb scared me.”
But I was wide awake by that time, and he had had as little sleep as I had. I refused, and we went forward together, Jones to get coffee, which stood all night on the galley stove.
It was still dark. The dawn, even in the less than four weeks we had been out, came perceptibly later. At the port forward corner of the after house, Jones stumbled over something, and gave a sharp exclamation. The next moment he was on his knees, lighting a match.
Burns lay there on his face, unconscious, and bleeding profusely from a cut on the back of his head—but not dead.
THE AXE IS GONE
My first thought was of the after house. Jones, who had been fond of Burns, was working over him, muttering to himself. I felt his heart, which was beating slowly but regularly, and, convinced that he was not dying, ran down into the after house. The cabin was empty: evidently the guard around the pearl handled revolver had been given up on the false promise of peace. All the lights were going, however, and the heat was suffocating.
I ran to Miss Lee’s door, and tried it. It was locked, but almost instantly she spoke from inside:
“What is it?”
“Nothing much. Can you come out?”
She came a moment later, and I asked her to call into each cabin to see if every one was safe. The result was reassuring—no one had been disturbed; and I was put to it to account to Miss Lee for my anxiety without telling her what had happened. I made some sort of excuse, which I have forgotten, except that she evidently did not believe it.