Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > Bill Bolton and the Flying Fish > Chapter XI DANGEROUS BUSINESS
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 The lads encountered a crowd of nervous and excited passengers on the stairs and were swept up with them and out on deck. By common instinct the flow was toward port. A few hundred yards away, the lights of a steamer, parallel with them, could be discerned. Signals were flashing, bells clanging, and the clamor of the startled passengers pressing the rail was deafening.  
Bill gripped Osceola’s arm. “Let’s get out of this bedlam,” he shouted. “The skipper is sure to be on the bridge—come along!”
Diving across the ship they ran forward on the opposite deck and up the stair to the bridge. Baron von Hiemskirk stood with a pair of night glasses trained on the stranger across the water. Near him a group of white uniformed ship’s officers conversed in whispers. He lowered the binoculars as Bill and Osceola approached and rendered them a stiff salute.
“Good evening again, gentlemen. Thank you for your promptness. Chief Osceola, I want you and Lieutenant Schneider to go aft and quiet that rabble. Explain to the passengers that there is no cause for alarm. Tell them also in my name that unless they go at once to their cabins, they will be sent there forcibly.”
Osceola and the Lieutenant saluted and departed on their errand.
“Now, gentlemen,” continued the Baron, “as several of you already know, I have been aware for some time that we were overhauling that ship we see out there. Had she obeyed our signals and those of the Flying Fish, there would have been no need to waste shell fire on her. You will be interested to learn that she is the Blake of Cardiff, loaded with twenty-five hundred tons of coal—enough to keep us going for a week at good speed, or two weeks at low speed. Tomorrow morning, we will start coaling, and for the next few days, every one of us will be especially busy. Those of you who are not on duty, will please me by turning in at once, and getting a good night’s rest. Good night, gentlemen.”
Back in his cabin, Bill undressed and got into bed. He was lying there, with the lights burning, thinking over the day’s events, when Osceola came in.
He tossed his cap on the lounge, and began to unbutton his blouse. “Well, we got the sheep herded into their respective barns. Did you find out anything about that ship?”
Bill told him what the Baron had said. “Filthy business, coaling,” he ended with a yawn.
“It will be interesting to find out how they work it at sea, especially when we’ve got at least one warship on our trail.”
“I don’t think the Baron’s worrying about the Stamford. We’ve changed our course at least twice in the last few hours. It’s a big ocean, Osceola.”
“Guess so. And some queer people on it. The noble Baron makes me laugh. He’s probably the greatest thief unhung, yet he purposely chatted with us and the other officers after dinner, on the side of the deck away from this collier, so that we would go to bed early and get a good night’s rest.”
“He’s an odd beggar, all right,” yawned Bill. “Switch off the light, and hop into that bed of yours, big boy, or I’ll be talking in my sleep.”
A steward called them at five next morning. By five-thirty they had dressed in uniform cap and dungarees, breakfasted and were out on deck. The collier was now steaming slowly alongside the big liner. The ships were kept together by a hawser across the lips of the Amtonia’s bows, supplemented by a few lines across her poop; and a speed of two miles an hour was being maintained by both vessels. This kept their noses together. It also gave them a certain steadiness in the choppy sea that ran this morning. Above all, it kept the pirate ship constantly prepared, steamed up in readiness to dash away in case an enemy cruiser appeared. The lads noted that at each of the cables which held the vessels together, a man was stationed, ax in hand, to cut the strands should the emergency arise.
Bill and Osceola soon found that preparations for coaling on the high seas had already been made. Through the decks of the Amtonia the carpenters had cut large circular holes, one directly beneath the other. In these openings, ship’s ventilator tubes were at that moment being inserted. They were then spliced together in such a manner that coal dumped on to the deck merely had to be pushed into the tubes to slide swiftly down into the bunkers.
Three temporary derricks had been erected, one fore, another amidships, and one aft, all electrically equipped. Bill was presently put in charge of the fore derrick, while Osceola crossed over to the collier, where he helped to superintend the loading of sacks and baskets with coal. These when filled were transferred from the Blake’s derricks to those of the liner, in midair. The coal was then unloaded on the Amtonia’s deck and shoveled into the tubes by the crew.
As the sun grew higher, the weather became increasingly hotter. So hot was this work of coaling that the men were soon working clad only in pantaloons, cut short like boys’ trousers, or even in tights. There were no feminine eyes about, for all passengers were being kept below, so that occasionally the scanty loincloths were cast aside and the men worked naked. Covered from head to foot with sweat and coal dust, they soon looked like gangs of negroes. The officers fared quite as badly, for, though they were spared manual labor and so did not discard their uniforms, they soon became as grimy as the men and fully as uncomfortable.
Work was carried forward night and day, in alternate watches. To Bill it became a nightmare of heat and sweat and coal dust. The ship, usually so immaculate, took on the appearance of a coalyard, and the fine black dust filtered into even the remotest nooks and crannies. When relieved of duty, the black counterpart of that smart young Lieutenant Bolton would satisfy his hunger at a buffet, get under a shower and then to bed. Here, between coal dust coated sheets, he would snatch a few hours sleep—then hurry above for his next trick at the derrick. He began to find out that the life of an officer aboard this pirate craft was not the bed of roses it had first appeared to be. As Osceola worked and ate and slept on board the Blake, the two saw nothing of each other.
Late in the afternoon of the third day, the last of the twenty-five hundred tons of coal was transferred and shovelled down the chutes. Bill saw to the taking down of his derrick and then went below to his cabin, thankful that the dirty job had come to an end. He was getting out of filthy clothes when Osceola walked in.
“Coolheavers ahoy!” he greeted. “I’m one black warrior, if you ask me.”
“And I’ve had pleasanter jobs.”
“Oh, you’ve had a nice, comfortable deck to work on,” returned the Chief, diving into the bathroom. “You’ve nothing to complain about. I haven’t had these clothes off since the day before yesterday! Been working down in the hold of that collier at a temperature that blew the top off our thermometer.” His voice was drowned by the sound of the shower.
“That is tough! I missed you, old fellow. Where did you sleep?”
“Where did I sleep!” spluttered the Chief. “Not in a downy white bed like you—you son of luxury! I slept, or rather, I tried to sleep in a ship’s hammock!”
Bill chuckled, and began to unlace his shoes. “Pretty difficult to navigate until you get on to them. Hard to get into—”
“Harder still to stay put when you’re once in the darned thing! Gosh-all-hemlock, this water is sure a sweet, cool dream, of Paradise! Let me tell you that my hammock had to be slung between-decks—iron decks, at that. Sleep! I’ve forgotten what it is. Every time I moved in that hammock, the confounded thing dumped me onto that dirty iron deck with a jar that nearly split my head! Push that bell for a steward, please. I want food and plenty of it, and I’m going to eat it in my comfortable bed. Then, I’m going to sleep and sleep until tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, no, you’re not,” said Bill.
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved