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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt » CHAPTER XIV HISTORY REPEATS
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For a moment after Sackett made his startling statement the two boys could only stand and stare at him. At last Jim spoke up.

“You are taking us to Mexico?” he cried.

“Exactly!” mocked the outlaw. “We can’t afford to have you two boys hanging around while we are looking for that treasure. So we are going to put you in cold storage for a time!”

“Mexico isn’t exactly cold storage,” murmured Terry. “Bum joker, this Sackett man!”

“You’ll find out it ain’t a joke,” said Sackett, as the sails were run into place. “It’ll be a long time before you boys get home again.”

“You’ll run into a lot of trouble over this,” Jim warned.

“Trouble is something I’m used to,” Sackett grinned. He turned to the villainous-looking captain of the schooner. “Captain Jake Ryan, keep your eyes on these boys and put them ashore where I tell you. I’m going ashore at Peso myself, so I make you responsible for them.”

“You needn’t be afraid they’ll get away from me,” the captain growled, looking them over keenly. “They’re nothing but kids!”

“Yes, but they’re pretty slippery ones,” warned Sackett. “Come down in the cabin with me.”

The two men, followed by Abel, left the boys and walked off. Jim looked at Terry and the latter shrugged his shoulders.

“Looks like we’re in for it now,” the red-headed boy remarked.

“I’m afraid we are,” Jim replied, in a low voice. “But we must get away. If we are carried to Mexico there is no telling when we will ever get home again.”

“True enough, but I don’t recommend starting anything with this crew,” said Terry.

The crew was indeed a rough looking outfit, apparently picked up in many ports and composed of rascals of every sort. They wore no uniforms and were seemingly expert in their trade, by which sign the boys took it that they had spent most of their life on board sailing vessels. They represented different nationalities and were a hardy and bold set of men, who would not stop at any kind of trade so long as it promised them gain of some sort.

“I’ll bet the police of many a town would like to see these fellows,” was Jim’s estimate of them.

The ship was rapidly leaving that portion of the coast where Jim and Terry had come aboard and was heading south. That meant that they intended to round off the tip of Lower California and run up the shore of Mexico, probably in one of the wildest portions of the tropical country. The boys looked once or twice over the side, but they knew it would be foolish to jump over, since they would be shot or overtaken by a boat before reaching the shore. There was nothing left for them to do, therefore, but to make the best of the situation.

They wandered over the deck of the schooner, forgetting in their interest that they were captives. Jim and Terry had done enough sailing to know something about sailing ships, and this ancient schooner interested them greatly. It had evidently been in active service for years, for it was battered and beaten by many storms and its decks were worn deeply in spots. The vast expanse of sails overhead, close hauled in the wind, drew their eyes in admiration, even though the sails were dirty and patched. The crew worked busily around the rigging, coiling ropes and stowing loose equipment, paying no attention to the boys, much as though taking prisoners was an every-day affair with them. The boys noted that two of the men worked apart from the main crew and looked to be men of a better stamp than the rank and file.

After a short run down the coast a tiny village appeared on the coast and once opposite it Sackett and the mate appeared on deck. The town was that of Peso and the captain of the Galloway ordered the boat over the side. Sackett and Abel entered the boat and then looked up to where Jim and Terry leaned over the rail.

“Goodbye, boys,” mocked the bay pirate. “If we run across the other members of your party we’ll give them your regards, shall we?”

Jim only glowered, but Terry raised his slouched camping hat. “Why Mr. Sackett!” he exclaimed sweetly. “How very lovely of you! If I were only nearer to you I would kiss your sweet face for that kind thought!”

The crew of the Galloway broke into broad grins and the captain chuckled. Sackett’s face grew red and he half rose from his seat in the long boat. But Abel pulled him down again.

“Quit fooling with those kids and let’s go,” he said, and Sackett sat down, after saying something fiery through his set teeth. The sailors pulled on their oars and the long boat shot through the water to the shore. When the two men had been set on shore the boat returned, and the schooner continued on its way.

Up to that time the air had been clear and the water untroubled, but a change gradually developed.

A slight haze sprang up over the water and the air became thicker. Little choppy waves began to form, and before long the schooner was beginning to rock with increasing force.

In the bow there was a commotion. A lookout in the crow’s nest had called something down, and the captain came hurrying on deck. The boys soon discovered a large black schooner to the west of them, some four miles off, and the sight of it appeared to alarm the crew. Acting under orders from the captain they crowded on more sail and began to run before the wind. It was a move that was not particularly wise under the increasing strength of the rising wind, and the two boys were puzzled.

“Terry,” said Jim, as he stood in the stern watching the schooner in the distance. “These fellows are running away from that ship!”

Terry looked with increasing interest and found that Jim was right. The schooner behind them was also crowding on sail, heeling over in the wind but running toward them in a direct line. The crew of the Galloway was now fully on the alert and obeying the shouted orders of the skipper. The two men who had attracted the attention of the boys by their difference in looks compared to the rest of the motley crew, looked eagerly toward the oncoming schooner until they were literally driven to work by Captain Ryan.

As may be imagined the boys watched the chase with an interest that was painful. The outcome of it meant everything to them. They had no idea who could be on the pursuing schooner, but whoever it was would be sure to release them if they overhauled the Galloway. When the crew of the schooner ran out a small cannon Terry whistled in surprise.

“This is no comedy,” he remarked. “These fellows mean business.”

The sky to the south had turned an ominous black and the wind was now shrieking through the shrouds of the schooner. Cursing aloud Ryan ordered sail taken in, and the crew sprang aloft, running along the ropes in a way that took away the breath of the watching boys. The oncoming schooner was also forced to take in canvas but it did not give up the chase. The waves, an hour ago, so calm and peaceful, were now mountain high, raging and boiling along the sides of the laboring ship.

“History repeats itself!” exclaimed Jim, suddenly.

“What do you mean?” blinked Terry.

“Why, it’s just like the story of the galleon! We are being pursued by an enemy and a storm is surely going to close over us! See the point?”

“Yes, I do. Confound this storm, anyway! If it wasn’t for it I believe those fellows in back would overtake us!” cried Terry.

“I never saw a storm come up so rapidly,” said Jim.

In that part of the Pacific storms rise with incredible swiftness and it was such a storm, half cyclonic, as now burst over the pursued and the pursuer. In a twinkling of an eye the ship to the rear vanished from sight as the Galloway staggered into a yawning trough. The boys had all they could do to hang on as the deck slanted under their feet, and they were soaked to the waist by the wash that flooded the deck. A single slashing flash of lightening flared in the sky.

“Do you think we had better go below, so as not to be washed overboard?” shouted Terry above the whine of the wind.

“Nothing doing!” roared Jim, his voice sounding like a whisper above the crash of the waves. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything!”

So they hung on to the rear mast and the ropes, keenly alive to the picture of action which was going on before them. They could see the men busy at the sails, pulling ropes, furling, lashing fast and jumping as the skipper signalled his commands. They had been forgotten in the excitement of the storm, and so were free to watch what was going on. They knew that the pursuing schooner would never haul down on them now.

The captain was at the wheel helping the helmsman, and between the two of them they could scarcely control the wild plunging of the schooner. The boys watched with fascination as wave after wave reared up before the schooner, to curl and break over the bow and come thundering over the deck in a mad swirl. At such times they were wet to the waist but they did not mind that, so interested were they in the events of the moment. Their hands ached from holding onto ropes but they stuck to their perilous post.

“They are running in too close to the shore!” shouted Terry in Jim’s ear.

“They should know the coast well enough to do it,” Jim returned.

He had scarcely spoken when there was a slight scraping and grinding sound and the men at the wheel spun the helm rapidly. The Galloway swung further away from the shore, listing dangerously as it did so. One of the crew ran down the companionway and reappeared soon afterward, making his way to the captain.

“She scraped a ledge that time,” called Jim and Terry nodded.

It was now so black that the boys could scarcely see before them. The captain spoke rapidly with the man, who was the mate, and the officer quickly singled one or two men from the crew and then made his way over the bounding lurching deck to the boys. Placing his wet mouth near their ears he shouted: “Get on the pumps! We’re leaking!”

Without loss of time the boys followed him across the deck to where the pumps were located. Two men had already seized the handle of one pump and were bending their backs to the task, pumping up and down with all their strength. At a signal from the mate the two boys took hold of the handle of a second pump and fell to the urgent task.

A thick stream of water shot out of the end of the pump and they knew that the lower part of the schooner was filling rapidly with water. It seemed to them that there was no use in pumping, but they realized that it was their only chance. No life-boat could live in those seas and it was a case of keep the ship from going down under their feet under the added weight of the water that was pouring into the hold, where a seam had been opened up by the ledge over which they had scraped. So they worked with a will, moving the handle up and down, until their backs, totally unused to the work, ached with the tiring strain of it. A continual stream of water rushed from the mouth of the pump with every stroke.

They were soon gasping for breath and both of them longed for the moment when two other men would relieve them. The two on the other pump kept at it grimly, somewhat more used to the work, moving automatically, unmindful of the stinging waves that slapped them from each side. The schooner pitched and rolled and bucked, now on top of a wave and now sinking deep into a trough.

To their unspeakable relief they saw two more men approach with the mate to take over their task. The captain had realized that they would not last long at the cruel task, and had sent relief. The men were coming toward them, were almost to them.

There was a sharp grinding sound and the schooner crashed hard aground. Every man who was standing went over like a stick of wood. Down came the rigging in a tumbled, confused mass, the forward mast snapped off sharp, the bow seemed to crumple like paper. Terry and Jim were torn from the pump handle and hurled through the air, to land like playthings in a smother of foam and swirling water. All became black in an instant, there was a sucking sound and the schooner settled down in the water with a shudder.


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