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"What do you mean? What happened?"


"I don't know," went on the Skipper. "But I can guess. He must have made too much of a nuisance of himself for those Small Knife people, and I suppose they just laid for him one night when he was going his rounds, and then slipped him the side. I should think that was about what happened. However, there he was-gone; and it seemed to me at first that it put the lid on things properly. The job was up to me then-and I couldn't see how I was going to tackle it. The worst of it was, Finch was the only man in the ship who could talk Chinese, and I couldn't find one coolie out of the lot who understood English. So there we were, you see, with the ship a regular powder magazine, a sleeping volcano and a tower of Babel all rolled into one, and me tonguetied and pretty well helpless.

"And I tell you, with Finch gone and out of the way, things didn't take long to warm up. The daytime wasn't so bad just that crowd of yellow beggars squatting all over the after-deck and chattering a language that didn't sound human. I'd go and take a look at them through the bars of that grill, and I'd say to myself, There they are, my son. Just ordinary John Chinamen, taking it easy and doing nothing. No need to be scared of them.' And then I'd catch the glint of an eye maybe,


or a sideways look from a face chock-full of evil; and I'd feel like you do when you go to the Zoo and look at the lions and tigers-specially the tigers. It was the nights, though, that got on your nerves. There was hell to pay at night down those after-holds. You could hear it. I didn't know what was going on, you understand, because we never dared go aft in the dark at all. But you could hear things happening all right. Plenty of things, and it was awful. Those Small Knife devils were doing it all, just as Finch warned me they would.

I had plain proof of it. Da Silva, our Doc., was a better man than I'd thought. He wouldn't face that hospital of his on top of the wheel-house at night; but each morning he'd go aft and attend to what would be waiting for him. And every day there'd be maybe six or a dozen poor devils, all cut about and bleeding, for him to sew up and bandage. I used to go aft too, and lend him a hand, and I noticed the wounds were all about the same-just slashes and long shallow cuts as if they'd been done with razors or small sharp knives. I don't remember that we ever had a real deep wound to deal with; but all the same we had some horrible-looking cases. And five of 'em died-from loss of blood, I guess, as there wasn't much whole skin left on any of 'em. That Small Knife lot was putting its trade-marks on the rest of the bunch all right.

"It was plain enough what they were up to just robbing the rest, as Finch said they would, and if any one kicked or tried to make a fight of it, then they sliced him up, and Da Silva and me we'd have to fix up the results in the morning. At the rate they were working I could see it wouldn't be long before they'd have every coolie in the ship cleaned out, and then, as likely as not, it would be our turn. If I could only have talked the lingo I might have done something. Roused up the rest of the Chinks, perhaps, and made 'em set about those Small Knife birds. Or at least I might have found out who they were, and then we whites could have had a go at them. As it was, I was helpless; but I did what I could, of course. I got the engineers to connect up some flexible hose to the deck steampipes. We led the hoses up on the bridge, so that if steam was turned on they'd squirt straight down both bridge ladders. We reckoned to gather on the bridge if things got desperate, and give the beasts a dose of high-pressure live steam, and boil a few of them at any rate before they scuppered us.

"With all this worry and trouble on my mind I was a fine sample of a nervous wreck by the time we'd run across the Indian Ocean and raised Achin Head. One night, when we were about half-way down the Malacca Straits, I was standing up here trying to

make up my mind whether or not to take the ship into Singapore-and chance getting fired for it,-when I caught sight of somebody leaning on the rail right up in the bows. It was dark, but I could make out the shape of the man against the sky, and I saw he was a Chinaman. It startled me, because the fore part of the ship wasn't a place where any coolie ought to have been. I could see the man wasn't one of the crew, for, even at night, it's easy to tell the difference between a Chinaman and a Lascar. It wasn't natural, anyhow, for any of the hands to be knocking about forward at that time of night; and you know our look-out man is stationed up in the crow's-nest and never on the fo'c'sle head. Well, things being in the state they were, I thought I'd better go forward and see what the fellow was up to. I had on my carpet slippers, so I sneaked quietly along the deck; and when I tell you I felt in my pocket to see if I had my gun on me, you'll understand the state of mind I'd got into during that last week or two.

'The chap was standing right up in the eyes of the ship, and I'd got about abreast of the windlass before he heard me. I startled him all right, and he jumped round and stared at me with his mouth open.

And then it was my turn to jump. I recognised him at once. He was the bird who should have been ironed to a stanchion down No. 1


hold the murderer, in fact, that Finch had made such a fuss about when he'd first come aboard. I'd clean forgotten all about him, and it gave my poor nerves an awful shock to run suddenly up against the beggar like that. I suppose I must have got rattled, because, though I don't remember pulling out my gun, I can still see myself jumping about behind the windlass like some fool in the movies and pointing my revolver in the general direction of that poor man. No wonder I scared him. He dodged about, too. Then, 'Don't shoot!' he sings out. 'It's all right. Don't shoot.' And I was so surprised at hearing English from him that I couldn't have stopped him if he'd come for me. However, he didn't show any signs of that, and when he'd got over his scare and I'd got over mine, we just stood there looking at each other and feeling sheepish -at least, I know I did. I think it struck both of us that a grown man can make a terrible ass of himself if he isn't careful.

"Well, John,' says I at last, it may be very funny and all that; but you're supposed to be a dangerous murderer, and what I want to know is how did you get on deck? And what d'you mean by talking English anyway?'


didn't speak for a bit; just hung his head and and backed away to the rail and looked sulky, and I was pulling out my whistle to call the watch

when he suddenly put out his hand to me and said, 'Don't.' Like that he said it; just 'Don't,' and there was something about the way he spoke that I-well, I didn't. I asked him again who he was and how he'd come by his English, and after a bit he went right ahead and told me his trouble. I can't remember his words, of course, but if you'll believe me, he talked better English than I do myself. It turns out he'd lived in London for seven years or so, learning to be a doctor, which accounted for things. He asked me if I was an officer, and when I told him who I was he opened out a lot. He said an Englishman would give him a square deal if any one would, and then he asked me to give him a chance. A few days after we'd started, it seems he'd discovered he could slip his wrist out of his handcuff. He was left quite alone down the hold, and the only time he saw anybody was when one of the cooks brought his chow down to him in the morning. He'd lie low all day, he said; but on some nights, when things were quiet on deck, he'd venture up for a bit and get some clean air. He said he'd made up his mind to wait and drop over the side one night and swim for it if we passed close enough to any land. It was a mighty slim chance; but the man was desperate, and I could see he meant to do what he said. I was the only soul aboard who knew he could slip his irons, and he begged


him to take his chance.
any case, he said he'd rather
drown than be tortured to
death, which was what he
seemed to think he was due
for if the Chinese officials got
hold of him again.

me to say nothing and leave he got up a gang of his own. It was pretty much the same sort of thing he'd done before in Tientsin, and there'd been scrapping, of course, and some more men killed. He told me his lot had managed more or less to clean the other gang up; and then, with his usual luck, he ran foul of the Jo'burg C.I.D. They found out he had something to do with the business, but they got hold of the wrong end of the stick, because, instead of giving him credit for stopping the trouble they reckoned he was the cause of it, and ran him in for murder.

"He didn't tell me exactly what it was he'd been up to in China to make himself so unpopular with the authorities; but as far as I could make out he'd been what we'd call an agitator or something like that, and that's a thing you know very well yourself the Chinese high muck-a-mucks won't stand for at any price. He must have had some sort of following, too, in Tientsin, which was where he'd been at work, because they started to riot one day and did in a mandarin or somebody, and then this chap had been arrested and tortured to make him give away his pals. He said he wouldn't do it, and he'd been waiting and hoping for a quick death, when they surprised him by putting him aboard ship and sending him off to South Africa.


think the man must just have been a natural born kicker. I mean, if he saw any dirty work going on he was the sort that couldn't rest unless he'd done his darndest to clean things up. He even gets into trouble again on his mine. He found a gang there who were running and robbing the rest of the coolies and doing 'em in with a steel drill or a charge of dynamite if they objected. He said he couldn't stand it, so

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That was his yarn, or as much as I can remember of it. It was a hard luck tale anyhow, and I was sorry for him, and believed him. And his talk had set me thinking. I hadn't exactly a plan in my head; but what he'd said about that gang down the mine reminded me of my own troubles. 'If he managed to fix that lot,' thinks I to myself, then he might be able to settle these Small Knife beggars too.' That was a good thought, and when I'd got it clear in my head I put it to him flat. I told him the state of things aboard us, and what I was afraid might happen before the ship got in. I told him everything, and then I said straight out that, if he thought he could settle the business, I'd see he got his chance to get away.

'If you think you can do it," I said, "then go ahead. But you must understand I can't help you-openly at any

friends aboard,' he said, it will be less difficult. But, Captain, I must have a weapon. There is only one way to stop those men now,' he says. Captain you must let me have your pistol.'

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rate. You were put aboard room casing. 'If I can find here as a murderer. You're in my charge, and my job is to hand you over to the police as soon as we arrive. But if you pull this thing off for me, then I'll give you every chance I can to get clear away from the ship before the police get hold of you. You'll have to trust me,' I said. 'Will you do it?' And 'I will,' says he, straight out like a man, and I knew from the way he spoke that I could trust him too. He held out his hand to me on the strength of our bargain, like a Christian, and we shook.

"And then, for the best part of an hour I should think, we two stood there behind the windlass and planned things out. I was hoping to goodness all the while that no one would see us, because if one single soul aboard the ship ever got to know I was hand and glove with the man like that, his escape would look too fishy and more than I'd care to risk. He saw that point, too; so we tried to settle things then and there, so as not to have to see each other again, that being too risky. We agreed he'd better stay down below in his irons during the daytime, and do what he had to do at night. He wouldn't tell me how he was going to set about the job; but he seemed fairly certain that if he could get into the afterpart of the ship he'd be able to manage. I told him how he could do that by climbing over the fiddley and engine

"Now this was something I tell you I didn't like the thought of at all. Don't misunderstand me. I trusted that man, and I wasn't scared he'd turn my own gun on me. No. But I didn't like to think what else he might have to do with it. He was as good as a self-confessed murderer, remember in a good cause, maybe; but, still-a murderer. And, believe me, it makes you think before you hand over a loaded automatic to a man like that. And I was thinking hard, and wondering what I'd better do, when he bent down and looked me close and straight between the eyes. 'It's either them or us, Captain,' he said, and you must face it.' And with that he took the thing gently out of my hand-and I let him take it. He balanced it in his hand for a little, and then he said, 'Good. When the matter is finished, you shall have proof of it. Then you must tell me how to escape.'

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