It was Raj who first noticed something peculiar about the strange ship. “There is no one on deck,” he said. “There is no one at the wheel. She is a fine ship,” he added half to himself. Then an idea popped into his head. “Let’s capture her,” he said.
“No! No!” cried Gamba. “They haven’t seen us. Sail away as fast as, you can.”
“Can you bring the Lo-har alongside her?” asked Dian.
“Yes,” said Jav. He summoned his men from below and gave them their orders.
The Lo-har came about ahead of the John Tyler which was making far better headway than the smaller vessel. As the John Tyler overhauled her, Jav drew in closer to the other ship. As their sides touched, the agile Mezops swarmed aboard the John Tyler with lines and made the Lo-har fast to her.
The impact of the two ships as they came together awoke Ah-gilak. “Dod-burn it! what now?” he cried, as he scrambled up the ladder to the main deck. “Tarnation!” he exclaimed as he saw the score of Mezops facing him. “I’ve gone plumb looney after all.” He shut his eyes and turned his head away. Then he peeked from a corner of one eye. The copper colored men were still there.
“It’s the little Ah-gilak,” said one of the Mezops. “He eats people.”
Now Ah-gilak saw more people coming over the side of his ship, and saw the sail of the little Lo-har. He saw Raj and Hodon, and a beautiful girl whom he had never seen before. With them was a yellow man. But now Ah-gilak realized what had happened and the great good luck that had overtaken him at the very moment when there seemed not a ray of hope in all the future.
“Gad and Gabriel!” he exclaimed. “It never rains but they’s a silver lining, as the feller said. Now I got a crew. Now we can get the hell out o’ this here Korsar Az an’ back to Sari.”
“Who else is aboard?” asked Hodon.
“Not a livin’ soul but me.” He thought quickly and decided that perhaps he had better not tell all the truth. “You see we had a little bad luck—run ashore in a storm. When the crew abandoned ship, I guess they plumb forgot me; and before I could get ashore, the wind changed and the tide came in an’, by all tarnation, the first thing I knew I was a-sailed off all by myself.”
“Who else was aboard?” insisted Hodon.
“Well, they was Ja, and Jav, and Ko, an’ a bunch of other Mezops. They was the ones that abandoned ship. But before that O-aa got a yen to go ashore—”
“O-aa?” cried Hodon. “She was aboard this ship? Where is she?”
“I was just a’ tellin you. She got a yen to go ashore, and jumped overboard.”
“Jumped overboard?” Hodon’s voice rang with incredulity. “I think you are lying, old man,” he said.
“Cross my heart, hope to die,” said Ah-gilak.
“How did she get aboard this ship?” continued Hodon.
“Why, we picked her up out of a canoe in the nameless strait; and she told us where David was, an’ we went back an’ rescued him.”
“David?” exclaimed Dian. “Where is he?”
“Well, before the John Tyler went ashore, David an’ Abner Perry an’ Ghak an’ all his Sarian warriors decided they could get back to Sari quicker across country than they could by sailin’ back. Course they was plumb looney, but—”
“Where did they go ashore?” asked Dian.
“Gad an’ Gabriel! How’d I know? They ain’t no charts, they ain’t no moon, they ain’t no stars, and the dang sun don’t never move; so they ain’t no time. They might o’ went ashore twenty years ago, for all a body can tell.”
“Would you recognize the coast where they landed?” persisted Dian.
“I might an’ I might not. Reckon as how I could though.”
“Could you recognize the spot where O-aa jumped overboard?” asked Hodon.
“Reckon not. Never seed it. She jumped over in a fog.”
“Haven’t you any idea?”
“Well, now maybe.” Ah-gilak being certain that O-aa had drowned or been eaten by one of the reptiles that swarm the Korsar Az, felt that it would he safe to give what information he could. “As a matter of fact,” he continued, “’t warn’t far from where the John Tyler went ashore.”
“And you would recognize that spot?”
“I might an’ I might not. If I recalls correctly they was an island ’bout a mile off shore near where the John Tyler hit.”
“Well, let’s get going,” said Hodon.
“Where?” demanded Ah-gilak.
“Back along the coast to where O-aa ‘Jumped overboard’ and to where David Innes went ashore.”
“Now wait, young feller,” remonstrated Ah-gilak. “Don’t you go forgettin’ that I’m skipper o’ this ship. It’s me as’ll give orders aboard this hooker.”
Hodon turned to Raj. “Have your men bring all the water, provisions, ammunition, and personal belongings from the Lo-har; then set her adrift.”
Ah-gilak pointed a finger at Hodon. “Hold on young feller-”
“Shut up!” snapped Hodon, and then to Raj. “You will captain the John Tyler, Raj.”
“Gad and Gabriel!” screamed Ah-gilak. “I designed her, I named her, an’ I been skipper of her ever since she was launched. You can’t do this to me.”
“I can, I have, and I’ll do more if you give me any trouble,” said Hodon. “I’ll throw you overboard, you old scoundrel.”
Ah-gilak subsided and went away and sulked. He knew that Hodon’s was no idle threat. These men of the Stone Age held life lightly. He set his mind to the task of evolving a plan by which he could be revenged without incriminating himself. Ah-gilak had a shrewd Yankee mind unfettered by any moral principles or conscience.
He leaned against the rail and glared at Hodon. Then his eyes wandered to Dian, and he glared at her. Another woman! Bad luck! And with this thought the beginnings of a plan commenced to take shape. It was not a wholly satisfactory and devastating plan, but it was better than nothing. And presently he was aided by a contingency which Hodon had not considered.
With the useful cargo of the Lo-har transferred to the John Tyler and the former set adrift, Raj came to Hodon, a worried expression on his fine face.
“This,” he said, with a wave of a hand which embraced the John Tyler, “is such a ship as I and my men have never seen before. She is a mass of sails and ropes and spars, all unfamiliar to us. We cannot sail her.”
For a moment Hodon was stunned. Being a landsman, such a possibility had never occurred to him. He looked astern at the little Lo-har, from which the larger ship was rapidly drawing away. Hodon realized that he had been a trifle precipitate. While there was yet time, perhaps it would be well to lower the boats and return to the Lo-har. The idea was mortifying.
Then Raj made a suggestion. “The old man could teach us,” he said. “If he will,” he added with a note of doubt in his voice.
“He will,” snapped Hodon, and strode over to Ah-gilak. Raj accompanied him.
“Ah-gilak,” he said to the old man, “you will sail the ship, but Raj will still be captain. You will teach him and his men all that is necessary.”
“So you are not going to throw me overboard?” said Ah-gilak with a sneer.
“Not yet,” said Hodon, “but if you do not do as I have said and do it well, I will.”
“You got your nerve, young feller, askin’ me, a Yankee skipper to serve as sailin’ master under this here gol-durned red Indian.”
Neither Hodon nor Raj had the slightest idea what a red Indian was, but from Ah-gilak’s tone of voice they were both sure that the copper colored Mezop had been insulted.
“I’ll sail her fer ye,” continued Ah-gilak, “but as skipper.”
“Come!” said Hodon to Raj. “We will throw him overboard.”
As the two men seized him, Ah-gilak commenced to scream. “Don’t do it,” he cried. “I’ll navigate her under Raj. I was only foolin’. Can’t you take a joke?”
So the work of training Raj and his Mezops commenced at once. They were quick to learn, and Ah-gilak did a good job of training them; because his vanity made it a pleasure to show off his superior knowledge. But he still nursed his plan for revenge. His idea was to cause dissension, turning the copper colored Mezops against the white Hodon and Dian. Of course Ah-gilak had never heard of Communists, but he was nonetheless familiar with one of their techniques. As he worked with the Mezops, he sought to work on what he considered their ignorance and superstition to implant the idea that a woman on shipboard would be certain to bring bad luck and that Dian was only there because of Hodon. He also suggested to them that the latter felt superior to the Mezops because of his color, that he looked down on them as inferior, and that it was not right that he should give orders to Raj. He nursed the idea that it would be well for them all should Dian and Hodon accidently fall overboard.
The Mezops were neither ignorant nor superstitious, nor had they ever heard of race consciousness or racial discrimination. They listened, but they were not impressed. They were only bored. Finally, one of them said to Ah-gilak, “Old man, you talk too much about matters which have nothing to do with sailing this ship. We will not throw Hodon the Fleet One overboard, neither will we throw Dian the Beautiful overboard. If we throw anyone overboard it will be you.”