said, "and is constantly asking for you; but I told him," (with the prettiest smile,) "that you require rest as well as others, and that you have plenty to occupy you."
Then looking earnestly at me for some moments, while her face grew wonderfully grave, she exclaimed—
"What is wrong, Mr. Royle? What makes you look so anxious and worried?"
"There is plenty to trouble me," I answered, not carelessly, but not putting too much significance into my tone, for at that moment I did not think I ought to tell her the truth. "You know the men have mutinied, and that my position is a difficult one. I have to be careful how I act, both for my sake and yours."
"Yes, I know that," she said, keeping her clear and thoughtful eyes on me. "But then you said you did not fear that the men would be violent again, and that they would leave us on board this ship when we were near New Orleans."
I watched her face some time without speaking, asking myself if I should take her into my confidence, if I ought to impart the diabolical scheme of Stevens, as told me by the boatswain. Certainly I should have put her off without telling her the truth had not the courageous expression in her eyes, her firm and beautiful mouth, her resolute voice and manner, told me she would know how to bear it.
"I will not conceal that I have heard something just now which has affected me very much," I said to her. "Will you step into my cabin? We can talk there without being seen," I added, having observed Stevens walk along the main-deck, and expecting that he would return in a few moments to his cabin, it being his watch below.
She followed me in silence, and I closed the door.
"I will tell you in a few words," I at once began, "what I heard just now. I told the boatswain that I questioned whether the men would let me land with them for fear of the evidence I could give. He replied that he had gathered from the carpenter, while at breakfast, that the men intended to scuttle the ship when they quitted her, and to leave us on board."
"That is their idea."
She pursed up her mouth tightly, and pressed her hand to her forehead. That was all. Whatever emotion my statement inspired was hidden. She said in a low voice—
"They are fiends! I did not think them so cruel—my poor father!"
"This is what I am told they mean to do; and I know Stevens to be a ruffian, and that he will carry out his project if he can. I have spent some time alone here, in trying to think how we can save ourselves; as yet I see no remedy. But wait," I said; "it will take us three weeks, sailing well every day, to reach the Gulf of Mexico. I have this time before me; and in that time not only something must, but something shall be done."
She did not answer.
"I will hazard nothing. I will venture no risks; what I resolve to do must be effectual," I went on, "because my life is dearer to me now than it was three days ago, for your and your father's sake. You must be saved from these ruffians, but no risk must attend your deliverance. That is why I see no escape before us as yet; but it will come—it will come! Despair is very fruitful in expedients, and I am not beaten because I find myself flung like a dog in a hole!"
She looked up at this, and said, "What is to be done?"
"I must think."
"I will think, too. We need not tell papa?" she added, toning her voice to a question, with an appealing look in her eyes.
"No, certainly not. Remember, we are not supposed to question the men's honest intentions towards us. We must appear utterly ignorant."
"Are they armed?" she inquired.
She cast her eyes round the cabin and said, "Have you no guns?"
"Nothing but a pistol. But though we had twenty guns we have no hands to use them. So far as I know as yet, there is no man who would stand with me—not even the boatswain, unless he were sure we should conquer the ruffians."
"Could I not use a pistol? Ah, I remember, you have only one."
She sank her chin on her hand and looked downwards, lost in thought.
"Why would you not steer the ship for some near port?" she asked presently.
"I could not alter the course without being challenged. Remember that my policy is not to excite suspicion of my honesty."
"If a gale would rise like that which wrecked the Cecilia, it might drive us near the land, where we could get help."
"No, we shall have to depend upon ourselves. I do not want to pin my faith on chance."
I began to pace to and fro, torn by the blind and useless labours of my mind.
Just then a step sounded along the cuddy. The cabin door was pushed open roughly, and Stevens walked in. He stared at Miss Robertson, and cried—
"Sorry to interrupt. Didn't know you was here, mam, I'm sure. I thought," addressing me, "I should find you turned in. I've come to have a look at that chart o' yours. How long d'ye make it to New Orleans?"
"About three weeks."
"Well, there's live stock enough for three weeks, any ways. I've just told the cook to stick one of them porkers. All hands has a fancy for roast pork to-day. Sarvant, miss. You was pretty nigh drownded, I think."
"My father and I owe our lives to the noble fellows in this ship. They must be brave and good men to risk their lives to save ours," she answered, with a smile of touching sweetness, looking frankly into the face of the miscreant who stood, cap on head, before her.
"Lor' bless yer!" he exclaimed; "there wasn't no risk. I'd ha' swum the distance in such a sea for five shilling."
She shook her head with another smile (I judged the effort this piece of acting cost her), as she said—
"I know that English sailors always undervalue their good deeds. But happily my father is a rich man, and when you land us he will take care that no man on board this ship shall complain of his gratitude."
"Oh, he's rich!" exclaimed the carpenter, as though struck with a new idea.
"How rich might he be, mam?"
"Well, he owned the ship that you saved us from—cargo and ship."
She could not have offered a better illustration of her father's wealth to the man, for he would appreciate the value of a vessel of that size.
"And what do you think he'll give the men—them as saved him, I suppose?"
"Oh, he won't make any difference. He is indebted to you all, for I have heard that the captain would not have stopped for us had he not been obliged to do so by the crew."
"That's true enough," rejoined the carpenter with an oath, looking at me.
"Perfectly true," I made haste to say.
"My father would not certainly offer less than one hundred pounds to each man," she said quite simply.
He pulled off his cap at this and twirled it and let it drop; picked it up so slowly that I thought he would never bend his body sufficiently to enable him to recover it; looked at her sideways as he put it on his head again, and then said to me with offensive abruptness—
"Come, master, let's have a look at that blooming chart."
I opened the door to let Miss Robertson pass out, exchanging one glance with her as she left, and addressed myself to the carpenter.
He pored over the chart with his dirty forefinger upon it.
"Whereabouts are we