Java. I cannot guess where we are now - may be off Ushant, may be not so far, for this sea is too short for the Bay; but the saints send us sea-room, for we have been wearing these three hours."

'Twas true enough that we had gone to wearing, as one might tell from the heavier roll or wallowing when we went round, instead of the plunging of a tack; but there was no chance of getting at our whereabouts. The only thing we had to reckon time withal, was the taking off of the hatch twice a day for food; and even this poor clock kept not the hour too well, for often there were such gaps arid intervals as made our bellies pine, and at this present we had waited so long that I craved even that filthy broken meat they fed us with.

So we were glad enough to hear a noise at the hatch just as Elzevir had done speaking, and the cover was flung off letting in a splash of salt water and a little dim and dusky light. But instead of the guard with their muskets and lanterns and the tubs of broken victuals, there was only one man, and that the jailer who had padlocked us into gangs at the beginning of the voyage.

He bent down for a moment over the hatch, holding on to the combing to steady himself in the sea- way, and flung a key on a chain down into the orlop, right among us. "Take it," he shouted in Dutch, "and make the most of it. God helps the brave, and the devil takes the hindmost."

That said, he stayed not one moment, but turned about quick and was gone. For an instant none knew what this play portended, and there was the key lying on the deck, and the hatch left open. Then Elzevir saw what it all meant, and seized the key. "John," cries he, speaking to me in English, "the ship is foundering, and they are giving us a chance to save our lives, and not drown like rats in a trap." With that he tried the key on the padlock which held our chain, and it fitted so well that in a trice our gang was free. Off fell the chain clanking on the floor, and nothing left of our bonds but an iron bracelet clamped round the left wrist. You may be sure the others were quick enough to make use of the key when they knew what 'twas, but we waited not to see more, but made for the ladder.

Now Elzevir and I, being used to the sea, were first through the hatchway above, and oh, the strength and sweet coolness of the sea air, instead of the warm, fetid reek of the orlop below! There was a good deal of water sousing about on the main deck, but nothing to show the ship was sinking, yet none of the crew was to be seen. We stayed there not a second, but moved to the companion as fast as we could for the heavy pitching of the ship, and so came on deck.

The dusk of a winter's evening was setting in, yet with ample light to see near at hand, and the first thing I perceived was that the deck was empty. There was not a living soul but us upon it. The brig was broached to, with her bows against the heaviest sea I ever saw, and the waves swept her fore and aft; so we made for the tail of the deck-house, and there took stock. But before we got there I knew why 'twas the crew were gone, and why they let us loose, for Elzevir pointed to something whither we were drifting, and shouted in my ear so that I heard it above all the raging of the tempest - "We are on a lee shore."

We were lying head to sea, and never a bit of canvas left except one storm-staysail. There were tattered ribands fluttering on the yards to show where the sails had been blown away, and every now and then the staysail would flap like a gun going off to show it wanted to follow them. But for all we lay head to sea, we were moving backwards, and each great wave as it passed carried us on stern first with a leap and swirling lift. 'Twas over the stern that Elzevir pointed, in the course that we were going, and there was such a mist, what with the wind and rain and spindrift, that one could see but a little way And yet I saw too far, for in the mist to which we were making a sternboard, I saw a white line like a fringe or valance to the sea; and then I looked to starboard, and there was the same white fringe, and then to larboard, and the white fringe was there too. Only those who know the sea know how terrible were Elzevir's words uttered in such a place. A moment before I was exalted with the keen salt wind, and with a hope and freedom that had been strangers for long; but now 'twas all dashed, and death, that is so far off to the young, had moved nearer by fifty years - was moving a year nearer every minute.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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