“This is queer,” he murmured. “It is very close in this cabin. I wish the boys had opened the door. I wish— I—”
Mr. De Vere fell over backward, unconscious, while, around the silent forms in the cabin wreathed a thin bluish vapor that came from the locker where the safe had been, and where there were some small boxes— the same mysterious boxes that Blowitz had shipped from Cresville.
In the tightly-closed cabin the derelict hunters were now at the mercy of the mysterious influence— an influence they could not see or guard against, and from which they were in deadly peril.
A command to lay to
Strange things happen on the ocean. Sometimes slight occurrences lead to great results. When the sailors deserted the brig Rockhaven, provisioning their boats in a hurry, one water cask was left behind. The mate had intended stowing it away in the captain’s gig, but found there was no room for it, so he allowed it to remain on deck, where he set it.
In due time, by the motion of the abandoned brig in the storm, the water cask was overturned and rolled about at every heave of the waves, first to port, and then to starboard, Now aft, and again forward. As luck would have it, not long after those in the cabin fell under the deadly influence of some queer, stupefying fumes, the water cask was rolling about close to the trunk roof of the cabin, a roof that had side windows in it.
With one lurch of the ship the water cask nearly crashed against these windows, but, by the narrowest margin missed. Then the cask rolled toward the scuppers. Those in the cabin were more than ever under the influence of the fumes. They were breathing heavily, the veins in their necks began to swell, their hearts were laboring hard to overcome the stupefying influence of the fumes. But it was almost too late.
Suddenly a long roller lifted the brig well up into the air. Then it slid down the watery incline. The cask started to roll toward the cabin windows. Straight for them it came, turning over and over.
With a resounding blow the cask shattered the frame, and sent the glass in a shower into the cabin below. Through the opening thus Providentially made, the fresh air rushed. The deadly fumes began to escape. Once more the cask rolled against the window, breaking another glass, and more fresh air came in.
Jerry stirred uneasily. It seemed as if some one had a hammer, hitting him on the head. That was the blood beginning to circulate again. His veins throbbed with life. Slowly he opened his eyes. He became aware of a sweet, sickish smell, that mingled with the sharp tang of the salt air. By a great effort he roused himself. He could not, for a moment, think where he was, but he had a dim feeling as if some one had tried to chloroform him. Then, with a sudden shock his senses came back to him. He became aware of the need of fresh air, and, hardly knowing what he was doing, he opened the cabin door.