Chapter 14 | The Sequel | Blue Jackets

Chapter Fourteen.

If ever I was active it was at that moment. I struck out with my clenched fists, throwing all the power I possessed into my blows, and fortunately for me—a mere boy in the grasp of a heavily-built man—he was comparatively, powerless from loss of blood consequent upon his wounds, so that I was able to wrest myself free, and stand erect.

At that moment the corporal recovered the lantern, and held it up, showing that fully half the prisoners had left the spots where they were crouching the minute before, and were making an effort to join in the fray initiated by one of the savages of whom we had been warned.

It is all very horrible to write of, but I am telling a simple story in this log of what takes place in warfare, when men of our army and navy contend with the uncivilised enemies of other lands. In this case we were encountering a gang of bloodthirsty wretches, whose whole career had been one of rapine and destruction. The desire seemed to be innate to kill, and this man, a prisoner, who since he had been taken had received nothing but kindness and attention, had been patiently watching for the opportunity which came at last. Just as Mr Reardon was stooping to attend to his fellow-prisoner, he had made a tremendous cat-like bound, driving me sidewise as he alighted on Mr Reardon’s back, making at the same time a would-be deadly stroke with a small knife he had managed to keep hidden in the folds of his cotton jacket.

As I rose up I could see the knife sticking in the lieutenant’s shoulder, apparently driven sidewise into his neck, while he was standing with his eyes dilated, looking in horror at his assailant, who now lay back, quivering in the agonies of death, literally pinned down to the deck.

My brain swam, and for a few moments everything looked misty, but that horrid sight forced itself upon me, and I felt as if I must stare hard at the pirate, where he lay bayoneted and held down at the end of the rifle by the strong arms of the marine sentry, who was pressing with all his might upon the stock.

The struggling went on for a few moments, then grew less and less violent, while a low hissing sound came from the prisoners around. Then the quivering entirely ceased, and the marine gave his bayonet a twist, and dragged it out of the wretch’s chest, throwing himself back into position to strike again, should it be necessary. But the last breath had passed the pirate’s lips; and, while the sentry drew back to his place by one side of the door and stood ready, his comrade fell back to the other, and the corporal and the fourth man seized the pirate, and rapidly drew him forth through the doorway; we followed, the place was closed and fastened, and I stood panting, as if I had been running hard, and could not recover my breath.

The next moment I was clinging to Mr Reardon, trying to hold him up, but he misinterpreted my action, and seized and gave me a rough shake.

“Don’t, boy,” he cried in an angry, excited tone. “Stand up; be a man.”

“Yes, yes,” I gasped; “but quick, corporal! never mind—that wretch—run—the doctor—fetch Mr Price.”

“Bah!” cried Mr Reardon roughly, and trying to hide his own agitation, “the man’s dead.”

I stared at him in horror.

“He don’t know!” I gasped. “Mr Reardon—sit—lie—lay him down, my lads. Don’t you know you are badly hurt?”

“I! hurt?” he cried. “No; I felt him hit me, but it was nothing.”

I reached up my trembling hand, but he caught it as it touched his shoulder, and was in the act of snatching it away, when his own came in contact with the handle of the knife.

“Great heavens!” he ejaculated, as he drew it forth from where it was sticking through the stiff collar of his coat; “right through from side to side—what a narrow escape!”

“I—I thought he had killed you,” I cried faintly, and a deathly sensation made me feel for the moment as if I must fall.

“No, not a scratch,” he said firmly now. “A little memento,” he muttered, as he took out his handkerchief and wrapped it round the blade before thrusting the knife in his breast-pocket. “I must keep that for my private museum, Herrick. Here, my lads, throw something over that wretch. Sentry, I’ll talk to you later on. You saved my life.”

“Officer’s orders, sir,” said the man, looking uncomfortable and stiff as he drew himself up.

“What, to save my life?” said Mr Reardon, smiling, and trying to look as if everything had been part of the ordinary business of life.

“No, sir; to keep my eye on the Chinees. I had mine on that chap, for he looked ugly at you, and I see him pull himself together, shuffle in his blue jacket, and then make a jump at you, just like a cat at a rat.”


“Beg pardon, sir,” said the man awkwardly; “I don’t mean to say as you looked like a rat.”

“I hope not, my lad.”

“I meant him jumping like a cat.”

“Yes; and you saw him springing at me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, what then?”

“Only bayonet practice, sir—point from guard, and he came right on it.”


“Then I held him down, sir.”

I saw Mr Reardon shudder slightly.

“That will do, sentry,” he said shortly. “I will see you another time. Come, Mr Herrick.”

I followed him on deck, and saw him take off his cap and wipe his forehead, but he turned consciously to see if I was looking.

“Rather warm below,” he said drily. “I’d better have kept to my first answer to you, my lad. You see it’s dangerous to go into a wild-beasts’ cage.”

“Yes, sir, I’m very sorry,” I said; then, anxiously, “But you are sure you are not hurt, sir?”

“Tut, tut! I told you no, boy. There, there, I don’t mean that. Not even scratched, Mr Herrick. You can go to your messmates now with an adventure to tell them,” he added, smiling; “only don’t dress it up into a highly-coloured story, about how your superior officer relaxed the strict rules of dishipline; do you hear?”

“Yes, sir, I hear,” I said, and I left him going to join the captain, while I went down and told Barkins what had been going on, but I had not been talking to him five minutes before I heard a heavy splash as if something had been thrown over the side.

“What’s that?” said Barkins, turning pale.

I did not answer.

“Sounds like burying some one,” he whispered. “Don’t say poor old Blacksmith has gone?”

“No no,” I said. “I know what it is. Wait till I’ve told you all I have to tell, and then you’ll know too.”

He looked at me wonderingly, and I completed my account of the scene in the black-hole place.

“Oh, I see,” he cried; “it was the Chinaman?”

I nodded carelessly, but I felt more serious than ever before in my life, at this horrible sequel to a fearful scene.