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SHIRLEY SPIES A SAIL
When the Arato changed her mind about going to
Callao, and sailed southward some five days after the
Miranda had started on the same course, she had very
good weather for the greater part of a week, and sailed
finely. Cardatas, who owned a share in her, had sailed
upon her as first mate, but he had never before
commanded her. He was a good navigator, however, and
well fitted for the task he had undertaken. He was a
sharp fellow, and kept his eyes on everybody,
particularly upon Nunez, who, although a landsman, and
in no wise capable of sailing a ship, was perfectly
capable of making plans regarding any vessel in which
he was interested, especially when such a vessel
happened to be sailing in pursuit of treasure, the value
of which was merely a matter of conjecture. It was not
impossible that the horse-dealer, who had embarked
money in this venture, might think that one of the
mariners on board might be able to sail the schooner as
well as Cardatas, and would not expect so large a share
of the profits should the voyage be successful. But when
the storms came on, Nunez grew sick and unhappy, and
retired below, and he troubled the mind of Cardatas no
more for the present.
The Arato sailed well with a fair wind, but in many
respects she was not as good a sea-boat in a storm as the
Miranda had proved to be, and she had been obliged to
lie to a great deal through the days and nights of high
winds and heavy seas. Having never had, until now, the
responsibility of a vessel upon him, Cardatas was a
good deal more cautious and prudent, perhaps, than
Captain Horn would have been had he been in
command of the Arato. Among other methods of
precaution which Cardatas thought it wise to take, he
steered well out from the coast, and thus greatly
lengthened his course, and at last, when a clearing sky
enabled him to take an observation, he found himself so
far to the westward that he changed his course entirely
and steered for the southeast.
Notwithstanding all these retarding circumstances,
Cardatas did not despair of overhauling the Miranda. He
was sure she would make for the Straits, and he did not
in the least doubt that, with good winds, he could
overtake her before she reached them, and even if she
did get out of them, he could still follow her. His belief
that the Arato could sail two miles to the Miranda's one
was still unshaken. The only real fear he had was that
the Miranda might have foundered in the storm. If that
should happen to be the case, their voyage would be a
losing one, indeed, but he said nothing of his fears to
The horse-dealer was now on deck again, in pretty
fair condition, but he was beginning to be despondent.
After such an awful storm, and in all that chaos of
waves, what chance was there of finding a little brig
such as they were after?
"But vessels sail in regular courses," Cardatas said
to him. "They don't go meandering all over the ocean. If
they are bound for any particular place, they go there on
the shortest safe line they can lay down on the map. We
can go on that line, too, although we may be thrown out
of it by storms. But we can strike it again, and then all
we have to do is to keep on it as straight as we can, and
we are bound to overtake another vessel on the same
course, provided we sail faster than she does. It is all
plain enough, don't you see?"
Nunez could not help seeing, but he was a little
cross, nevertheless. The map and the ocean were
The wind had changed, and the Arato did not make
very good sailing on her southeastern course. High as
was her captain's opinion of her, she never had sailed,
nor ever could sail, two miles to the Miranda's one,
although she was a good deal faster than the brig. But
she was fairly well handled, and in due course of time
she approached so near the coast that her lookout
sighted land, which land Cardatas, consulting his chart,
concluded must be one of the Patagonian islands to the
north of the Gulf of Penas.
As night came on, Cardatas determined to change
his course somewhat to the south, as he did not care to
trust himself too near the coast, when suddenly the
lookout reported a light on the port bow. Cardatas had
sailed down this coast before, but he had never heard of
a lighthouse in the region, and with his glass he watched
the light. But he could not make it out. It was a strange
light, for sometimes it was bright and sometimes dull,
then it would increase greatly and almost fade away
"It looks like a fire on shore," said he, and some of
the other men who took the glass agreed with him.
"And what does that mean?" asked Nunez.
"I don't know," replied Cardatas, curtly. "How
should I? But one thing I do know, and that is that I
shall lie to until morning, and then we can feel our way
near to the coast and see what it does mean."
"But what do you want to know for?" asked Nunez.
"I suppose somebody on shore has built a fire. Is there
any good stopping for that? We have lost a lot of time
"I am going to lie to, anyway," said Cardatas.
"When we are on such business as ours, we should not
pass anything without understanding it."
Cardatas had always supposed that these islands
were uninhabited, and he could not see why anybody
should be on one of them making a fire, unless it were a
case of shipwreck. If a ship had been wrecked, it was
not at all impossible that the Miranda might be the
unfortunate vessel. In any case, it would be wise to lie
to, and look into the matter by daylight. If the Miranda
had gone down at sea, and her crew had reached land in
boats, the success of the Arato's voyage would be very
dubious. And should this misfortune have happened, he
must be careful about Nunez when he came to hear of it.
When he turned into his hammock that night, Cardatas
had made up his mind that, if he should discover that the
Miranda had gone to the bottom, it would be a very
good thing if arrangements could be made for Nunez to
That night the crew of the Miranda slept well and
enjoyed the first real rest they had had since the storm.
No watch was kept, for they all thought it would be an
unnecessary hardship. The captain awoke at early dawn,
and, as he stepped out of the tent, he glanced over sea
and land. There were no signs of storm, the brig had not
slipped out into deep water, their boats were still high
and dry upon the beach, and there was something
encouraging in the soft, early light and the pleasant
morning air. He was surprised, however, to find that he
was not the first man out. On a piece of higher ground, a
little back from the tents, Shirley was standing, a glass
to his eye.
"What do you see?" cried the captain.
"A sail!" returned Shirley.
At this every man in the tents came running out.
Even to the negroes the words, "A sail," had the startling
effect which they always have upon ship-wrecked men.
The effect upon Captain Horn was a strange one,
and he could scarcely understand it himself. It was
amazing that succor, if succor it should prove to be, had
arrived so quickly after their disaster. But not-
withstanding the fact that he would be overjoyed to be
taken off that desolate coast, he could not help a strong
feeling of regret that a sail had appeared so soon. If they
had had time to conceal their treasure, all might have
been well. With the bags of gold buried in a trench, or
covered with sand so as to look like a natural mound, he
and his sailors might have been taken off merely as
shipwrecked sailors, and carried to some port where he
might charter another vessel and come back after his
gold. But now he knew that whoever landed on this
beach must know everything, for it would be impossible
to conceal the contents of that long pile of bags, and
what consequences might follow upon such knowledge
it was impossible for him to imagine. Burke had very
much the same idea.
"By George, captain!" said he, "it is a great pity that
she came along so soon. What do you say? Shall we
signal her or not? We want to get away, but it would be
beastly awkward for anybody to come ashore just now. I
wish we had buried the bags as fast as we brought them
The captain did not answer. Perhaps it might be as
well not to signal her. And yet, this might be their only
chance of rescue!
"What do you say to jumping into the boats and
rowing out to meet them?" asked Burke. "We'd have to
leave the bags uncovered, but we might get to a port,
charter some sort of a craft, and get back for the bags
before any other vessel came so near the coast."
"I don't see what made this one come so near," said
Shirley, "unless it was our fire last night. She might
have thought that was a signal."
"I shouldn't wonder," said the captain, who held the
glass. "But we needn't trouble ourselves about going out
in boats, for she is making straight for land."
"That's so," said Shirley, who could now see this for
himself, for the light was rapidly growing stronger. "She
must have seen our fire last night. Shall I hoist a
"No," said the captain. "Wait!"
They waited to see what this vessel was going to
do. Perhaps she was only tacking. But what fool of a
skipper would run so close to the shore for the sake of
tacking! They watched her eagerly, but not one of the
white men would have been wholly disappointed if the
schooner, which they could now easily make out, had
changed her course and gone off on a long tack to the
But she was not tacking. She came rapidly on
before a stiff west wind. There was no need of getting
out boats to go to meet her. She was south of the
headland, but was steering directly toward it. They
could see what sort of craft she was--a long schooner,
painted green, with all sails set. Very soon they could
see the heads of the men on board. Then she came
nearer and nearer to land, until she was less than half a
mile from shore. Then she shot into the wind; her sails
fluttered; she lay almost motionless, and her head-sails
"That's just as if they were coming into port," said
"Yes," said Shirley, "I expect they intend to drop
This surmise was correct, for, as he spoke, the
anchor went down with a splash.
"They're very business-like," said Burke. "Look at
them. They are lowering a boat."
"A boat!" exclaimed Shirley, "They're lowering two
The captain knit his brows. This was extraordinary
action on the part of the vessel. Why did she steer so
straight for land? Why did she so quickly drop anchor
and put out two boats? Could it be that this vessel had
been on their track? Could it be that the Peruvian
government--But he could not waste time in surmise as
to what might be. They must act, not conjecture.
It was not a minute before the captain made up his
mind how they should act. Five men were in each boat,
and with a glass it was easy to see that some of them
"Get your rifles!" cried he to Shirley and Burke,
and he rushed for his own.
The arms and ammunition had been all laid ready in
the tent, and in a moment each one of the white men had
a rifle and a belt of cartridges. For the blacks there were
no guns, as they would not have known how to use
them, but they ran about in great excitement, each with
his knife drawn, blindly ready to do whatever should be
ordered. The poor negroes were greatly frightened. They
had but one idea about the approaching boats: they
believed that the men in them were Rackbirds coming to
wreak vengeance upon them. The same idea had come
into the mind of the captain. Some of the Rackbirds had
gone back to the cove. They had known that there had
been people there. They had made investigations, and
found the cave and the empty mound, and in some way
had discovered that the Miranda had gone off with its
contents. Perhaps the black fellow who had deserted the
vessel at Valparaiso had betrayed them. He hurriedly
mentioned his suspicions to his companions.
"I shouldn't wonder," said Burke, "if that Inkspot
had done it. Perhaps he could talk a good deal better
than we thought. But I vow I wouldn't have supposed
that he would be the man to go back on us. I thought he
was the best of the lot."
"Get behind that wall of bags," cried the captain,
"every one of you. Whoever they are, we will talk to
them over a breastwork."
"I think we shall have to do more than talk," said
Burke, "for a blind man could see that there are guns in
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