Gloomsday shouted some orders to all his men encamped along the beach. “Be packed in 30 minutes,” he called to them. “We’re moving out.” The men instantly sprang into action, dismantling tents, putting out cooking fires, and loading their items into the boats to take them back on board their ship. The red flag with its black skull and crossbones fluttered ominously in the breeze.
During all this time, the Sea Dog stayed safely out of reach of the men, but close enough to observe what they would do with his master, who was held in one of the ship’s boats with his hands tied behind his back. When the last items were packed and ready, the men began piling into the boats. The Sea Dog ran back and forth along the beach, yelping and barking and ducking the occasional attempt to catch him. One word from his master, and he would come running. But the word never came. Bill held his head high and refused to subject his loyal friend to whatever fate he was about to experience.
The men prepared to cast off. Sparky perked up his ears for the whistle from Bill. None came.
At the very last moment, Sparky made his decision. He would not leave his master. With a flying leap, he launched himself into the boat and landed at Bill’s side. An instant later, a net was thrown over the dog and the pirate who caught him tightened the net unnecessarily and hooted with glee as if his cunning and prowess had been responsible for the capture.
Gloomsday gazed at Bill with mock pity as he tapped the ends of his long fingers together. “No, Bill, my pal,” he said, “Your mates will not be rescuing you...now—or ever.” Bill glared back and still refused to answer.
They reached the pirate ship and sailed off to the south.
Early the next morning, Bill’s shipmates rounded the bend of the island and came to the beach where the pirates had departed late the previous evening. The beach was abandoned, with clear signs of a hasty departure.
“No! They’re gone!” The cry rose as if from one voice when the sailors realized this news.
The lookout on the top of the mast peered on the horizon in all directions. Far in the distance to the south, he could just barely make out the speck of the other ship. It was only a tiny clue, but it was all they had to go on.
“Full speed ahead!” roared the second mate. “After them!”
Bill and Sparky were placed in two separate cages in the ship’s hold. There was scarcely any light, and they were only sporadically given food. When they were no longer guarded, the Sea Dog began gnawing on one of the bamboo bars of his cage and quickly chewed through it. This opened up a large enough space for him to get out of the cage, and he went over to Bill’s cage and lay down mournfully next to it.
“Sparky!” Bill whispered, tapping on one of his own cage bars. “Get me out of here.”
The dalmatian chewed through two of the bars on Bill’s cage, and Bill cautiously emerged from his prison and felt his way around the hold. The first order of business was to find a way to disguise the fact that two of his bars were loose, and he cobbled together a solution that was passable enough in the darkness.
In the process, oh joy! he found a knife. It was a small knife, foldable, and easy to hide. Best of all, it was extraordinarily sharp.
“Sparky, come here,” Bill said softly. “let me take off your peg leg.”
And with that, Bill began whittling the peg leg, carefully hollowing out a cavity in the leg. It wouldn’t be very large, but it would be enough to hold some paper money, a message, or some other small item.
To Be Continued...
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