“THAT’LL DO, Forsythe,” said Sampson, interrupting the flow of billingsgate. “We’ll omit prayers and flowers at this funeral. Stand up.”
Forsythe arose, waving two bunches of keys and Denman’s revolver.
“Got him foul,” he yelled, excitedly. “All the keys and his gun.”
“All right. Just hand that gun to me—what! You won’t?”
Forsythe had backed away at the command; but Sampson sprang upon him and easily disarmed him.
“Now, my lad,” he said, sternly, “just find the key of these darbies and unlock us.”
Forsythe, muttering, “Got one good smash at him, anyhow,” found the key of the handcuffs, and, first unlocking his own, went the rounds. Then he found the key of the leg irons, and soon all were free, and the manacles tossed down the hatch to be gathered up later. Then big Jenkins reached his hand out to Forsythe—but not in token of amnesty.
“The keys,” he said, in his hoarse whisper.
“Aren’t they safe enough with me?” queried Forsythe, hotly.
Jenkins still maintained the outstretched hand, and Forsythe looked irresolutely around. He saw no signs of sympathy. They were all closing in on him, and he meekly handed the two bunches to Jenkins, who pocketed them.
Meanwhile, Sampson had lifted Denman to his feet; and, as the boat still rolled heavily, he assisted him to the bridge stairs, where he could get a grip on the railing with his fettered hands. Daylight had come, and Denman could see Florrie, still seated in the deck chair, looking forward with frightened eyes.
“Jenkins, step here a moment,” said Sampson; “and you other fellows—keep back.”
Jenkins drew near.
“Did you hear, in the fo’castle,” Sampson went on, “what I said about Mr. Denman saving my life, and that I promised him parole and the possession of his gun in case we got charge again?”
Jenkins nodded, but said: “He broke his parole before.”
“So would you under the same provocation. Forsythe called him a milk-fed thief. Wouldn’t you have struck out?”
Jenkins nodded again, and Sampson continued:
“All right. My proposition is to place Mr. Denman under parole once more, to give him and the lady the run of the deck abaft the galley hatch, and to leave them both the possession of their guns for self-defense, in case”—he looked humorously around at the others—“these inebriates get drunk again.”
“But the other guns. He has them somewhere. We want power of self-defense, too.”
“Mr. Denman,” said Sampson, turning to the prisoner, “you’ve heard the conditions. Will you tell us where the arms are, and will you keep aft of the galley hatch, you and the lady?”
“I will,” answered Denman, “on condition that you all, and particularly your navigator, keep forward of the galley hatch.”
“We’ll do that, sir; except, of course, in case of working or fighting ship. Now, tell us where the guns are, and we’ll release you.”
“Haven’t we something to say about this?” inquired Forsythe, while a few others grumbled their disapproval of the plan.
“No; you have not,” answered Jenkins, his hoarse whisper becoming a voice. “Not a one of you. Sampson and I will be responsible for this.”
“All right, then,” responded Forsythe. “But I’ll carry my gun all the time. I’m not going to be shot down without a white man’s chance.”
“You’ll carry a gun, my son,” said Sampson, “when we give it to you—and then it won’t be to shoot Mr. Denman. It’s on your account, remember, that we’re giving him a gun. Now, Mr. Denman, where are the pistols and toothpicks?”
“The pistols are in my room, the cutlasses in the room opposite. You have the keys.”
“Aft all hands,” ordered Jenkins, fumbling in his pockets for the keys, “and get the weapons.”
Away they trooped, and crowded down the wardroom companion, Sampson lifting his cap politely to the girl in the chair. In a short time they reappeared, each man loaded down with pistols and cutlasses. They placed them in the forecastle, and when they had come up Sampson released Denman’s bonds.
“Now, sir,” he said, “you are free. We’ll keep our promises, and we expect you to keep yours. Here is your gun, Mr. Denman.”
“Thank you, Sampson,” said Denman, pocketing the revolver and shaking his aching hands to circulate the blood. “Of course, we are to keep our promises.”
“Even though you see things done that will raise your hair, sir.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Denman, with sudden interest.
“Can’t tell you anything, sir, except what you may know, or will know. This boat is not bound for the African coast. That’s all, sir.”
“Go below the watch,” broke in Jenkins’ husky voice. “To stations, the rest.”