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- The Boy Allies with Uncle Sams Cruisers - 30/34 -
Captain Glenn was the first to speak after Captain Jack had left the room.
"Don't you think this conversion is rather sudden?" he asked. "Is the estimable Captain Jack not taking this means to throw us off our guard?"
"I don't think so," replied Jack quietly. "I have studied the man carefully since I have known him and I have discovered that, try as he will, he is not pleased with the life of a pirate. I can see, too, that be craves action, and it may have been only natural, for that reason, that he turned to piracy. I am willing to take his word that he will do what he says whenever he is willing to give it."
"And so am I!" declared Frank.
"It looks pretty fishy to me," declared Captain Glenn, but Williams sided with the two lads.
Half an hour later Captain Jack returned. Walking up to the table he extended a hand each to Jack and Frank.
"You can count on me," he said simply, and added with a half smile, "if you are not afraid to trust an erstwhile pirate."
Frank and Jack grasped the extended hands and gripped them warmly.
"Not a bit of it," they said in a single voice, and Frank added: "We are glad to have a man like you with us."
And thus came about the conversion of Captain Jack, pirate.
CAPTAIN JACK'S MEN REBEL
"There are only seven of us here," said Frank, a short time later. "Strikes me we won't have a whole lot of success raiding the German submarine base."
"Don't forget my fifty pirates," said Captain Jack.
"Great Scott!" ejaculated Captain Glenn. "I hope you don't want me to think that crowd of pirates will listen to you when they hear you have reformed."
"Don't you worry about my pirates," said Captain Jack with a smile. "Just leave them to me. Most of them are either English, French, Americans or Italians. There are a couple of negroes and some Brazilians and Chileans. I'll probably have trouble with the South Americans, but I feel sure the others will join me in whatever I ask."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that," said Captain Glenn.
"I thought most of your men were South Americans," said Frank. "That's the way they impressed me."
"You must remember you haven't seen the most of them," said Captain Jack. "But come, we may as well have the job over with. Will you accompany me?"
"We will," said Captain Glenn decisively.
Captain Jack turned on him.
"You don't trust me," he said.
"You're right," said Captain Glenn briefly. "I don't."
Captain Jack's fists clenched. He was about to make an angry retort, but Frank forestalled him.
"You can't blame him, Captain Jack," the lad said. "It's only an hour ago that you were a pirate of the first water, you know."
Captain Jack's fingers straightened out again.
"That's true," he muttered.
He led the way from the fort and out of the stockade into the clearing beyond. Shouts from the distance told Frank and Jack that the pirates had seen the approach of their chief, and they hailed him with glad cries.
"They seem to think a lot of him," said Jack to Frank.
"Why shouldn't they?" was Frank's reply. "He's done a lot for them, from their viewpoint. Also, it's plain to be seen that they have a wholesome respect for him. I haven't told you how handy he is with a gun."
"That so?" said Jack. "Guess I'd bet on you in a pinch, though."
"You'd probably lose," said Frank dryly, and explained the result of his first encounter with Captain Jack.
"Whew!" said Jack. "No wonder his men respect him."
The pirates now came forth from among the trees to greet their chief. Their expressions indicated that they were clearly surprised at Captain Jack's apparent friendliness with the foe, but no man ventured a word.
Captain Jack motioned them to gather around. Frank, Jack and the others a moment later found themselves in the center of the ring of pirates. Captain Glenn's hands, in his pockets, grasped his revolvers firmly. The American sea captain was determined not to be caught off his guard. He was perfectly certain in his own mind that Captain Jack was bent on mischief.
As the pirates drew closer, Frank and Jack also dropped their hands to their automatics. In his heart each lad trusted Captain Jack, but each had decided in his own mind that it was better to be prepared.
"Men," said Captain Jack, addressing the rabble, "as I lay a prisoner in the fort during the night, it came to me that we are all wasting our lives in our present manner of living. Sooner or later we are sure to be captured and hanged. I've thought it all out and I've come to the conclusion that the life of a pirate is no life for me -- nor for any of the rest of you. Therefore, I have decided to be a pirate no longer."
Shouts of surprise -- and anger came from the assembled men. Amazement was written large upon every face. The man called Jackson, the same who had locked up the lads and their friends when they first entered the fort, stepped forward.
"You mean that you are going to desert us?" he asked.
Captain Jack shook his head.
"Not at all," he replied quietly. "I mean that I am going to call upon you to join me in a new adventure, but one that is within the law."
There were wild hurrahs from the men. Jackson's face turned dark as he turned upon them.
"Wait until you know what this new venture is, men," he cried.
Frank and Jack exchanged significant gestures. It was plain to them that this man Jackson had no love for Captain Jack and that he had only been biding his time to turn the pirates against their leader.
Captain Jack smiled.
"I'll tell them, Jackson, have no fear," he said. He turned again and addressed the men.
"What I want you to do, men," he said, "is to become true citizens of the world and join me in striking a blow at the German submarine base on the island. The Germans are the enemies of all mankind. They must be destroyed. Will you help me give the island of Kaiserland a new name?"
For several moments there was a dead silence as the men digested their leader's words. The silence was broken by Jackson. Springing quickly forward, he threw up his right hand and shouted:
"Listen to me, men. Captain Jack here, most likely, has been promised immunity for his crimes by these new friends of his. He's trying to lead you on to death or the gallows. I, for one, refuse longer to recognize his leadership. Who is with me?"
But the men, apparently, were not yet ready to take sides. Captain Jack smiled at Jackson; then his face grew stern.
"I'll attend to you directly, Jackson," he said quietly. "Now, men, you know me well enough to know I am not trying to betray you. I am asking you, for once, to do a good deed. Most of you are Americans, French, Italian or British. Your countries are at war with Germany. Will you not strike a blow when you have the chance? It is true, there will be no rich booty for us, nothing but danger and perhaps death, but there will be riches greater than booty after all; for the adventure that I propose will bring to each man the consciousness of a duty well done, and that is more than gold. Men, we have been together for many months. I have not failed you in the past. Will you fail me now?"
There were wild cries of "No! No!" and "Destruction to the Germans," but there also were voices raised in protest.
Jackson, realizing that his chances were fast slipping away, determined upon a bold stroke. With a sudden cry he sprang toward Captain Jack, a knife gleaming in his hand.
Frank uttered a cry of warning and his revolver flashed out.
Captain Jack saw the lad's movement from the comer of his eye, and before the lad could press the trigger, he cried sharply:
"Don't shoot! Leave this man to me."
He avoided Jackson's rush by a quick side step, and as lie prepared to defend himself, he explained to Frank:
"One shot might prove our undoing. It would set the men wild. I can handle this fellow. Don't interfere, or allow any of the others to do so, no matter what happens."
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