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HOME > Classical Novels > Bill Bolton and the Flying Fish > Chapter XVII CHARLIE’S NOTE
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 For the next couple of days, Bill and Osceola sweated in their hot-box of a cell. What with the heat, the lack of proper ventilation, and the uncertainty of their fate, both lads sank into a state of mind that bordered on despondency.  
The monotony of their existence was broken but three times a day, when meals were brought to the prisoners’ cells by a steward. The man was invariably accompanied by the armed sentry, who acted as turnkey.
There appeared to be no possible means of escape. Day and night the electric lights in the passage beyond the steel bars burned brightly. The sentry outside the gate was relieved by another seaman every four hours, with the change of watch. With nothing to read, nothing to do, the lads spent most of their time lying in the bunks or taking turns pacing the narrow confines of their cell.
Sunday night, shortly after ten o’clock the tremble of the ship’s engines stopped. The lads guessed that the Amtonia had reached her destination at last. Half an hour later they heard the sentry speaking to someone in the passage just beyond the gate. Although the conversation was carried on in German, Bill was able to get the gist of it.
“What’s the matter, Hans?” inquired the sentry. “Aren’t you going ashore with the rest of the boys?”
“Not me,” replied Hans. “I’ve got to start swabbing out bathrooms at four o’clock.”
“Well, I’m going,” the sentry declared, “just as soon as Otto relieves me at midnight. It isn’t often we have the chance to stretch our legs ashore and have a good time.”
“If your idea of a good time is to swill American homebrew in a speakeasy, it’s not mine,” the other retorted. “I’m from Munich, I am. Good brown Lionsbrew for me. I can’t stomach the stuff they sell you on this side. Anyway, I’ve been on my feet all day long. My legs get all the stretching they want aboard this ship. I’m tired—good night!”
The lads heard the door of the cabin next to them slam shut as Hans went to his well-earned rest.
“That,” laughed Bill, “is the first bit of comedy I’ve heard since we landed aboard this blooming pirate. That Heinie’s a sensible man. We might as well turn in, too. Tomorrow, I suppose, they’ll take us ashore and stand us up against a stone fence. I for one don’t want to think any more about it than I have to.”
“Keep on talking—don’t stop!” said Osceola in a low voice. “Either Hans or someone else next door is scraping on his side of the wall. I’ll try to find out what it’s all about.”
Bill nodded and immediately launched into a long account of the Army and Navy football game in which he had played the previous fall. Meanwhile Osceola climbed into the lower bunk, and lying flat, pressed his ear against the wooden partition which separated their cell from the bath-steward’s cabin.
The slight scraping continued and presently the sharp-eyed Seminole saw the point of a knife appear through a board. The slit slowly widened, and a folded piece of paper was pushed halfway through. Osceola grabbed it and scanned the writing that covered both sides. He passed it to Bill, who accomplished the difficult feat of reading it while continuing his story of the football game. The handwriting, though tiny, was unformed and he guessed at once that the message was from Charlie. It ran:
“Dear Bill—Hans is my bath stewward. He is O.K. Have promissed Dad will make him rich for life if he helps you and the cheif. He will cut through the boards to your cell. Hang your blankits down over the edge of your upper bearth so as to deden sound. He will push through another knife so you can do some cuting. I think the other one better talk or sing or something so the centry can’t here you cuting. If you get away take Hans to. His name will be mud after this on board the Amtonia.
“Yours truley,
“Charles Evans.”
Bill smiled broadly as he pocketed the boyish, misspelled note. Then, still keeping up his endless monologue anent football, he hung the blankets, forming a curtain which completely shut in the lower bunk. Osceola was already at work with a knife that Hans had passed through the opening.
Bill continued to talk for the next twenty minutes, but then he pulled aside one corner of the blanket. The bunk was like a bake oven. Osceola was sweating from every pore.
“My turn now. Come out, and don’t forget to talk.”
Osceola handed the knife to Bill, grabbed his clothes and slipped out of the bunk.
Immediately Bill climbed in and divested himself of the underclothes he wore. Because of the heat, neither of the lads had been clothed in more than their undershirts and shorts since their incarceration. As the blanket dropped back into place, he heard Osceola begin a recital of some hunting trip he had taken down in the Florida e............
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