Chapter 32 | Close Shaving | The Adventures of Don Lavington

Chapter Thirty Two.

“Think he’s insensible, or only shamming?” said Jem.

“Insensible—quite! I’m afraid he’s dead.”

“I arn’t,” muttered Jem. “You might cut him up like a heel; legs and arms and body, and every bit of him would try and do you a mischief.”

“I’m afraid, though, that he knew we were in here, and that as soon as he comes to, he’ll tell the others.”

“Not he. It was only his gammon to frighten us into speaking if we were there.”

“Ramsden, ahoy!” came again from below; and then from a distance came another hail, which the same voice answered—evidently from some distance below the mouth of the cave.

“Ramsden! Here, my man; come along, they’re not in there.”

“Hear that, Jem? Mr Jones.”

“Oh yes, I hear,” growled Jem. “He don’t know yet; but wait a bit till old Ram tells him.”

“We couldn’t slip out yet, Jem?”

“No; o’ course not. They’d see us now. Look!”

Jem was about to draw back, but feeling that a movement might betray them, Don held him fast, and they stood there in the shadow of the cave, looking on, for the boatswain’s head appeared as he drew himself up the precipitous place, and then stepped on the shelf.

“Here, come out, sir! Are you asleep? Hah!”

He caught sight of the prostrate sailor, and bent down over him.

“Why, Ramsden, man!” he cried, as he tore open his sailor’s shirt and placed his hand upon his throat.

Then, starting up, he sent forth a tremendous hail.


“Ahoy!” came back from several places, like the echoes of his call.

“Come on here! Quick!” he shouted, with his hands to his mouth.

“Ahoy!” came from a distance; and from nearer at hand, “Ay, ay, sir; ay, ay!”

From where Don and Jem stood they could see the boatswain’s every movement, as, after once more feeling the sailor’s throat and wrist, he bent over him and poured water from his bottle between his lips, bathed his forehead and eyes, and then fanned him with his hat, but without effect.

Then he looked out anxiously and hailed again, the replies coming from close by; and soon after first one and then another sailor, whose faces were quite familiar, climbed up to the shelf, when the boatswain explained hastily how he had left his companion.

“Some one knocked him down?” said one of his men.

“No; he’s not hurt. I should say it’s a fit. More water. Don’t be afraid!”

Each of the men who had climbed up carried a supply, and a quantity was dashed over Ramsden’s face with the effect that he began to display signs of returning consciousness, and at last sat up and stared.

“What’s matter, mate?” said one of the men, as Don prepared to hurry back into the darkness, but longed to hear what Ramsden would say.

It was a painful moment, for upon his words seemed to depend their safety.

“Matter? I don’t know—I—”

He put his hand to his head.

“Here, take a drink o’ this, mate,” said one of the men, and Ramsden swallowed some water with avidity.

“Arn’t seen a ghost, have you?”

“I recollect now, Mr Jones. You left me in that hole.”

“And called to you to come out.”

“Yes, but—”

Don’s heart beat furiously. They were discovered, and now the betrayal was to come.

“Well, what happened?” said the boatswain.

“I felt sure that those two were in this place, and I went on farther into the darkness till I kicked against something and fell down.”

“Out here and stunned yourself.”

“No, no; in there! I’d got up and picked up my cutlash, and then something seemed to choke me, and I went down again.”

Jem squeezed Don’s arm, for they both felt more hopeful.

“And then one of they chaps came and give you a crack on the head?” said a sailor.

Don’s heart sank again.

“Nonsense!” said his old friend, the boatswain. “Foul air. He must have staggered out and fallen down insensible.”

Jem gripped Don’s arm with painful force here.

“How do you feel? Can you walk?”

Ramsden rose slowly, and staggered, but one of the men caught his arm.

“I—I think I can.”

“Well, we must get you down to the boat as soon as we can walk, if you are able. If you can’t, we must carry you.”

“But them chaps,” said one of the party, just as Don and Jem were beginning to breathe freely. “Think they’re in yonder, mate?”

“I—I think so,” said Ramsden faintly. “You had better search.”

“What! A place full of foul air?” said the boatswain, greatly to Don’s relief. “Absurd! If Ramsden could not live in there, how could the escaped men? Here, let’s get him down.”

“Ay, ay, sir. But I say, mate, where’s your fighting tools? What yer done with them?”

Don made an angry gesticulation, and turned to Jem, who had the pistols and cutlass in his hand and waistbelt, and felt as if he should like to hurl them away.

“He must have dropped them inside. Here, one of you come with me and get them.”

Don shrank back into the stony passage as a man volunteered, but the boatswain hesitated.

“No,” he said, to Don’s great relief; “I can’t afford to run risks for the sake of a pair of pistols.”

“Let me go in,” said the man.

“I’m not going to send men where I’m afraid to go myself,” said the boatswain bluntly. “Come on down.”

The boatswain led the way, and Ramsden was helped down, the man who had volunteered to go in the cavern to fetch the pistols manoeuvring so as to be last, and as soon as the party had disappeared over the shelf he gave a glance after them, and turned sharply.

“Foul air won’t hurt me,” he said; and he dived right in rapidly to regain the pistols and cutlass, so as to have the laugh of his messmates when they returned on board.