The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 21

ignorance of the plotters in their path. It was nearly
half an hour after the Halfmoon had come to rest, drifting idly under
bare poles, that the lookout upon the Lotus sighted her.

"Sailin' vessel lyin' to, west half south," he shouted, "flyin' distress
signals."

In an instant guests and crew had hurried to points of vantage where
they might obtain unobstructed view of the stranger, and take advantage
of this break in the monotony of a long sea voyage.

Anthony Harding was on the bridge with the captain, and both men had
leveled their glasses upon the distant ship.

"Can you make her out?" asked the owner.

"She's a brigantine," replied the officer, "and all that I can make out
from here would indicate that everything was shipshape about her. Her
canvas is neatly furled, and she is evidently well manned, for I can see
a number of figures above deck apparently engaged in watching us. I'll
alter our course and speak to her--we'll see what's wrong, and give her
a hand if we can."

"That's right," replied Harding; "do anything you can for them."

A moment later he joined his daughter and their guests to report the
meager information he had.

"How exciting," exclaimed Barbara Harding. "Of course it's not a real
shipwreck, but maybe it's the next thing to it. The poor souls may have
been drifting about here in the center of the Pacific without food or
water for goodness knows how many weeks, and now just think how they
must be lifting their voices in thanks to God for his infinite mercy in
guiding us to them."

"If they've been drifting for any considerable number of weeks without
food or water," hazarded Billy Mallory, "about the only things they'll
need'll be what we didn't have the foresight to bring along--an
undertaker and a preacher."

"Don't be horrid, Billy," returned Miss Harding. "You know perfectly
well that I didn't mean weeks--I meant days; and anyway they'll be
grateful to us for what we can do for them. I can scarcely wait to hear
their story."

Billy Mallory was inspecting the stranger through Mr. Harding's glass.
Suddenly he gave an exclamation of dismay.

"By George!" he cried. "It is serious after all. That ship's afire.
Look, Mr. Harding," and he passed the glass over to his host.

And sure enough, as the owner of the Lotus found the brigantine again
in the center of his lens he saw a thin column of black smoke rising
amidships; but what he did not see was Mr. Ward upon the opposite side
of the Halfmoon's cabin superintending the burning by the

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