The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 22

black cook of
a bundle of oily rags in an iron boiler.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Mr. Harding. "This is terrible. The poor devils
are panic-stricken. Look at 'em making for the boats!" and with that he
dashed back to the bridge to confer with his captain.

"Yes," said that officer, "I noticed the smoke about the same time you
did--funny it wasn't apparent before. I've already signaled full speed
ahead, and I've instructed Mr. Foster to have the boats in readiness to
lower away if we find that they're short of boats on the brigantine.

"What I can't understand," he added after a moment's silence, "is why
they didn't show any signs of excitement about that fire until we came
within easy sight of them--it looks funny."

"Well, we'll know in a few minutes more," returned Mr. Harding.
"The chances are that the fire is just a recent addition to their
predicament, whatever it may be, and that they have only just discovered
it themselves."

"Then it can't have gained enough headway," insisted the captain, "to
cause them any such immediate terror as would be indicated by the haste
with which the whole ship's crew is tumbling into those boats; but as
you say, sir, we'll have their story out of them in a few minutes now,
so it's idle speculating beforehand."

The officers and men of the Halfmoon, in so far as those on board the
Lotus could guess, had all entered the boats at last, and were pulling
frantically away from their own ship toward the rapidly nearing yacht;
but what they did not guess and could not know was that Mr. Divine paced
nervously to and fro in his cabin, while Second Officer Theriere tended
the smoking rags that Ward and Blanco had resigned to him that they
might take their places in the boats.

Theriere had been greatly disgusted with the turn events had taken for
he had determined upon a line of action that he felt sure would prove
highly remunerative to himself. It had been nothing less than a bold
resolve to call Blanco, Byrne, "Bony," and "Red" to his side the moment
Simms and Ward revealed the true purpose of their ruse to those on board
the Lotus, and with his henchmen take sides with the men of the yacht
against his former companions.

As he had explained it to Billy Byrne the idea was to permit Mr. Harding
to believe that Theriere and his companions had been duped by Skipper
Simms--that they had had no idea of the work that they were to be called
upon to perform until the

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