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Title: My Danish Sweetheart., Volume 1 of 3 - A Novel
Author: Russell, William Clark, 1844-1911
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                     MY DANISH SWEETHEART

                           A Novel

                     BY W. CLARK RUSSELL

    AUTHOR OF 'THE WRECK OF THE GROSVENOR,' 'THE LIFE OF ADMIRAL
    LORD COLLINGWOOD,' 'A MARRIAGE AT SEA,' ETC., ETC.


    IN THREE VOLUMES

    VOL. I.

    Methuen & Co.
    18, BURY STREET, LONDON, W.C.
    1891
    [_All rights reserved_]



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.


   CHAPTER                                         PAGE

        I. A SULLEN DAY                               1

       II. A NIGHT OF STORM                          27

      III. IN THE LIFEBOAT                           54

       IV. HELGA NIELSEN                             82

        V. DAWN                                     107

       VI. CAPTAIN NIELSEN                          136

      VII. THE RAFT                                 162

     VIII. ADRIFT                                   188

       IX. RESCUED                                  215



MY DANISH SWEETHEART.



CHAPTER I.

A SULLEN DAY.


On the morning of October 21, in a year that one need not count very far
back to arrive at, I was awakened from a light sleep into which I had
fallen after a somewhat restless night by a sound as of thunder some
little distance off, and on going to my bedroom window to take a view of
the weather I beheld so wild and forbidding a prospect of sea and sky
that the like of it is not to be imagined.

The heavens were a dark, stooping, universal mass of vapour--swollen,
moist, of a complexion rendered malignant beyond belief by a sort of
greenish colour that lay upon the face of it. It was tufted here and
there into the true aspect of the electric tempest; in other parts, it
was of a sulky, foggy thickness; and as it went down to the sea-line it
wore, in numerous places, a plentiful dark shading that caused the
clouds upon which this darkness rested to look as though their heavy
burthen of thunder was weighing their overcharged breasts down to the
very sip of the salt.

A small swell was rolling in betwixt the two horns of cliff which framed
the wide bight of bay that I was overlooking. The water was very dark
and ugly with its reflection of the greenish, sallowish atmosphere that
tinged its noiseless, sliding volumes. Yet spite of the shrouding shadow
of storm all about, the horizon lay a clear line, spanning the yawn of
ocean and heaven betwixt the foreland points.

There was nothing to be seen seaward; the bay, too, was empty. I stood
for a little while watching the cloud of foam made by the swell where it
struck upon the low, black ledge of what we call in those parts Deadlow
Rock, and upon the westernmost of the two fangs of reef, some little
distance away from the Rock, and named by the sailors hereabouts the
Twins; I say I stood watching this small play of white water and
hearkening for another rumble of thunder; but all remained hushed--not a
breath of air--no glance of dumb lightning.

On my way to the parlour I looked in upon my mother, now an old lady,
whose growing infirmities obliged her to keep her bed till the day was
advanced. I kissed and greeted her.

'It seems a very dark melancholy morning, Hugh,' says she.

'Ay, indeed,' I answered. 'I never remember the like of such a sky as is
hanging over the water. Did you hear the thunder just now, mother?'

She answered no, but then, to be sure, she was a little deaf.

'I hope, Hugh,' said she, with a shake of her head and smoothing her
snow-white hair with a hand that slightly trembled, 'that it may not end
in a lifeboat errand. I had a wretched dream last night. I saw you enter
the boat and sail into the bay. The sun was high and all was bright and
clear; but on a sudden the weather grew black--dark as it now is. The
wind swept the water, which leaped high and boiled. You and the men
strove hard to regain the land, and then gave up in despair, and you put
right before the wind, and the boat sped like an arrow into the gloom
and haze; and just before she vanished a figure rose by your side where
you sat steering, and gazed at me thus'--she placed her forefinger upon
her lip in the posture of one commanding silence. 'It was your father,
Hugh: his face was full of entreaty and despair.' She sighed deeply.
'How clearly does one sometimes see in dreams!' she added. 'Never was
your father's face in his dear life more distinct to my eyes than in
this vision.'

'A Friday night's dream told on a Saturday!' said I, laughing; 'no
chance of its coming true, though. No fear of the _Janet_'--for that was
the name of our lifeboat--'blowing out to sea. Besides, the bay is
empty. There can be no call. And supposing one should come and this
weather should burst into a hurricane, I'd rather be afloat in the
_Janet_ than in the biggest ship out of London or Liverpool docks;' and
so saying I left her, never giving her dream or her manner another
thought.

After I had breakfasted I walked down to the esplanade to view the
_Janet_ as she lay snug in her house. I was her coxswain, and how it
happened that I filled that post I will here explain.

My father, who had been a captain in the merchant service, had saved
money, and invested his little fortune in a couple of ships, in one of
which, fifteen years before the date of this story, he had embarked to
take a run in her from the river Thames to Swansea, where she was to
fill up with cargo for a South American port. She was a brand-new ship,
and he wished to judge of her sea-going qualities. When she had rounded
the North Foreland the weather thickened; it came on to blow a gale of
wind; the vessel took the ground somewhere near the North Sand Head, and
of twenty-three people aboard of her fifteen perished, my father being
among those who were drowned.

His brother--my uncle, George Tregarthen--was a well-to-do merchant in
the City of London, and in memory of my father's death, which grieved
him to the soul, and which, with the loss of the others, had come about
through delay in sending help from the land--for they fired guns and
burnt flares, and the adjacent light-ship signalled with rockets that a
vessel was ashore; but all to no purpose, for when the rescue was
attempted the ship was breaking up, and most of her people were corpses,
as I have said--my uncle, by way of memorializing his brother's death,
at his own cost presented the little town in which my father had lived
with a lifeboat, which he called the _Janet_, after my mother. I was
then too young to take a part in any services she rendered; but by the
time I had reached the age of twenty I was as expert as the smartest
boatman on our part of the coast, and as I claimed a sort of captaincy
of the lifeboat by virtue of her as a family gift, I replaced the man
who had been her coxswain, and for the last two years had taken her helm
during the six times she had been called upon; and not a little proud
was I to be able to boast that, under my charge, the _Janet_ in those
two years had rescued twenty-three men, five women, and two children
from certain death.

No man could love his dog or his horse--indeed, I may say, no man could
love his sweetheart--with more fondness than I loved my boat. She was a
living thing, to my fancy, even when she was high and dry. She seemed to
appeal to me out of a vitality that might well have passed for human, to
judge of the moods it kindled in me. I would sit and view her, and think
of her afloat, figure some dreadful scene of shipwreck, some furious
surface of seething yeast, with a ship in the heart of it, coming and
going amid storms of spray; and then I would picture the boat crushing
the savage surge with her shoulder, as she stormed through the
tremendous play of ocean on her way to the doomed craft whose shrouds
were thick with men; until such emotions were raised in me that I have
known myself almost unconsciously to make an eager step to the craft,
and pat her side, and talk to her as though she were living and could
understand my caress and whispers.

My mother was at first strongly opposed to my risking my life in the
_Janet_. She said I was not a sailor, least of all was I of the kind who
manned these boats, and for some time she would not hear of me going as
coxswain in her, except in fine weather or when there was little risk.
But when, as coxswain, I had brought home my first little load of
precious human freight--five Spaniards, with the captain's wife and a
little baby, wrapped in a shawl, against her heart--my mother's
reluctance yielded to her pride and gratitude. She found something
beautiful, noble, I had almost said divine, in this life-saving--in this
plucking of poor human souls from the horrible jaws of Death--in the
hope and joy, too, raised in the heart of the shipwrecked by the sight
of the boat, or in the supporting animation which came from knowledge
that the boat would arrive in time, and which enabled men to bear up,
when, perhaps, had there been no promise of a boat coming to them, they
must have drooped and surrendered their spirits to God.

Well, as I have said, I went down to the esplanade, where the boat-house
was, to take a look at the boat, which was, indeed, my regular daily
custom, one I could find plenty of leisure for, since I was without
occupation, owing to a serious illness that had baulked my efforts six
years before, and that had left me too old for another chance in the
same way--and without will, either, for the matter of that; for my
mother's income was abundant for us both, and, when it should please
God to take her, what was hers would be mine, and there was more than
enough for my plain wants.

Before entering the house I came to a stand to light a pipe and cast a
look around. The air was so motionless that the flame of the match I
struck burnt without a stir. I took notice of a slight increase in the
weight of the swell which came brimming into the bay out of the wide,
dark field of the Atlantic Ocean: for that was the sea our town faced,
looking due west from out of the shadow of the Cornwall heights, at the
base of which it stood--a small, solid heap of granite-coloured
buildings dominated by the tall spire of the church of St. Saviour, the
gilt cross atop of which gleamed this morning against the scowl of the
sky as though the beam of the risen sun rested upon it.

The dark line of the broad esplanade went winding round with the trend
of shore to the distance of about a mile. The dingy atmosphere gave it a
colouring of chocolate, and the space of white sand which stretched to
the wash of the water had the glance of ivory from the contrast. The
surf was small, but now that I was near I could catch a note in the
noise of it as it foamed in a cloudy line upon the sand, which made me
think of the voice of a distant tempest, as though each running fold
brought with it, from far past the sea-line, some ever-dying echo of the
hurricane's rage there. But a man had need to live long at the seaside
to catch these small accents of storm in the fall and pouring of the
unvexed breaker.

A number of white-breasted gulls, with black-edged wings, were flying
close inshore this side the Deadlow Rock and Twins: their posture was in
the main one of hovering and peering, and there was a sort of subdued
expectancy rather than restlessness in their motions; but they
frequently uttered sharp cries, and were certainly not afishing, for
they never stooped. Within a stone's-throw of the lifeboat house was a
coastguard's hut, a little place for keeping a look-out from, marked by
a flag-post; and the preventiveman, with a telescope under his arm,
stood in the doorway, talking to an aged boatman named Isaac Jordan. The
land past that flagstaff went in a rise, and soared into a very noble
height of dark cliff, the extremity of which we called Hurricane Point.
It looked a precipitous, deadly, inhospitable terrace of rocks in the
dismal light of that leaden morning. The foreland rose out of the bed of
foam which was kept boiling at the iron base by the steadfast hurl of
the Atlantic swell; yet Hurricane Point made a fine shelter of our bay
when the wind came out from the north, and I have seen the sea there
bursting and soaring into the air in volumes of steam, and the water a
mile and a half out running wide and wild and white with the whipping of
the gale, when, within, a wherry might have strained to her painter
without shipping a cupful of water.

There was an old timber pier going into the sea from off a projection of
land, upon the northernmost point of which the lifeboat house stood;
this pier had a curl like the crook of a sailor's rheumatic forefinger;
but it was not possible to find any sort of harbour in the rude, black,
gleaming embrace of its pitched and weedy piles, save in smooth and
quiet weather. It was an old pier, and had withstood the wash and shocks
of fifty years of the Atlantic billow--enough to justify a man in
staring at it, since ours was a wild and stormy seaboard, where
everything had to be as strong as though we were at sea and had the
mighty ocean itself to fight. At times a collier would come sailing
round Bishopnose Point, a tall, reddish-hued bluff past Deadlow Rock,
and slide within the curve of the pier, and discharge her freight. Here,
too, in the seasons might be seen a cluster of fishing-boats, mainly the
sharp-ended luggers of Penzance; but this morning, as I have already
said, all was vacant from the horizon to the white sweep of sand--vacant
and, in a manner, motionless too, with the quality of stagnation that
came into the picture out of the sullen, breathless, gloom-laden
atmosphere, nothing stirring, as it seemed, save the heave of the swell,
and a few active figures of 'longshoremen down by the pier hauling up
their boats high and dry upon the sand, with an eye to what was coming
in the weather.

I entered the lifeboat house and killed ten minutes or so in surveying
the fabric inside and out, and seeing that everything was in readiness
should a call come. A ship's barometer--a good instrument--hung against
the wall or bulkhead of the wooden edifice. The mercury was low, with a
depression in the surface of the metal itself that was like emphasizing
the drop.

Our manner of launching the _Janet_ was by means of a strong timber
slipway, that went in a pretty sharp declivity from the forefoot of the
boat to some fathoms past low-water mark. There could be no better way
of getting her water-borne. The sand was flat; there was little to be
done with a heavy boat on such a platform, let us have laid what greased
woods or rollers we chose under her keel. But from the elevation of her
house she fled, when liberated, like a gull into the rage of the water,
topping the tallest comber, and giving herself noble way in the teeth of
the deadest of inshore hurricanes.

As I stood at the head of this slipway, looking along it to where it
buried itself in the dark and sickly green of the flowing heave of the
sea, old Isaac Jordan came slowly away from the coastguardsman and
saluted me in a voice that trembled under the burthen of eighty-five
years. Such another quaint old figure as this might have been hunted for
in vain the whole coast round. His eyes, deep-seated in his head seemed
to have been formed of agate, so stained and clouded were they by time,
by weather, and, no doubt, by drink. His tall hat was bronzed with wear
and exposure, the skin of his face lay like a cobweb upon his
lineaments, and when he smiled, he exhibited a single tobacco-stained
tooth, which made one think of Deadlow Rock. Isaac did not belong to
these parts, yet he had lived in the place for above half a century,
having been brought ashore from a wreck in which he had been found, the
only occupant, lying senseless upon the deck. When he recovered he was
without memory, and for five years could not have told his father's name
nor the place he hailed from. When at last recollection returned to him,
he was satisfied to remain in the corner of this kingdom on which the
ocean, so to speak, had cast him, and for fifty years he had never gone
half a mile distant from the town unless seaward, and then never beyond
the bay, where he would fish for his own feeding, or ply as a carrier
between the shore and such ships as brought up.

'Good-marning, Mr. Tregarthen,' said he in the accent of Whitstable,
which was his native place; 'reckon there'll be some work afore ye if so
be as this here muckiness ain't agoing to blow away;' and he turned up
his marbled eyes to the sky in a sort of blind groping way.

'I never remember the like of such a morning as this, Isaac,' said I,
going down to him that I might not oblige him to strain his poor old
trembling voice.

'Lard love ye!' he exclaimed; 'scores and scores, Mr. Tregarthen. I
recollect of just such another marning as this in forty-four; ay, an' an
uglier marning yet in thirty-three. That were the day when the
_Kingfisher_ went down and drownded all hands saving the dawg.'

'What's going to happen, d'ye think, Isaac?'

'A gale o' wind, master, but not yet. He's a bracing of himself up, and
it'll be all day, I allow, afore he's ready;' and once again he cast up
his agate-like eyes to the sky. 'What's the day o' the month, sir?' he
added with a little briskening up.

'October the 21st, isn't it?'

'Why, Gor bless me! yes, an' so it be!' he exclaimed, with a face whose
expression was rendered spasmodic by an assumption of joyful thought.
'The hanniversary of Trafalgar, as sure as my name's Isaac! On this day
Lord Nelson was killed. Gor bless me! to think of it! I see him now,' he
continued, turning his eyes blindly upon my face. 'There's nothen I
forget about him. There's his sleeve lying beautifully pinned agin his
breast, and the fin of his decapitated harm a-working full of excitement
within; there's his cocked-hat drawed down ower the green shade as lies
like a poor man's plaister upon his forehead; there's his one eye
a-looking through and through a man as though it were a bradawl, and
t'other eye, said to be sightless, a-imitating of the seeing one till ye
couldn't ha' told which was which for health. There was spunk in the
werry wounds of that gent. He carried his losses as if they was gains.
What a man! There ain't public-houses enough in this country, to drink
to the memory of such a gentleman's health in. There ain't. That's my
complaint, master. Not public-houses enough, I says, seeing what he did
for this here Britain.'

Though nobody in Tintrenale (as I choose to call the town) in the least
degree believed that old Isaac ever saw Lord Nelson, despite his
swearing that he was five years old at the time, and that he could
recollect his mother hoisting him up in her arms above the heads of the
crowd to view the great Admiral--I say, though no man believed this old
fellow, yet we all listened to his assurances as though very willing to
credit what he said. In truth, it pleased us to believe that there was a
man in our little community who with his own eyes had beheld the famous
Sailor, and we let the thing rest upon our minds as a sort of honourable
tradition, which we would not very willingly have disturbed. However,
more went to this talk of Nelson in old Isaac than met the ear; it was
indeed, his way of asking for a drink, and, as he had little or nothing
to live upon save what he could collect out of charity, I slipped a
couple of shillings into his hand, for which he continued to God-bless
me till his voice failed him.

I held my gaze fixed upon the sky for some time, to gather, if possible,
the direction in which the great swollen canopy of cloud was moving,
that I might know from what quarter to expect the wind when it should
arise; but the sullen greenish heaps of shadow hung over the land and
sea as motionless as they were dumb. Not the least loose wing of scud
was there to be seen moving. It was a wonderfully breathless heaven of
tempestuous gloom, with the sea at its confines betwixt the two points
of land looking to lift to it in its central part as though swelled,
owing to the illusion of the line of livid shade there, and to a
depression on either side, caused by a smoky commingling of the
atmosphere with the spaces of water.

While I stood surveying the murky scene, that was gradually growing more
dim with an insensible thickening of the air, several drops of rain
fell, each as large as a half-crown.

'Stand by now for a flash o' lightning,' old Isaac cried in his
trembling voice; 'wance them clouds is ripped up, all the water they
hold 'll tumble down and make room for the wind!'

But there was no lightning. The rain ceased. The stillness seemed to
deepen to my hearing, with a fancy to my consciousness of a closer
drawing together of the shadows overhead.

''Tain't so wery warm, neither,' said old Isaac; 'and yet here be as
true a tropic show as old Jamaikey herself could prowide.'

Every sound was startlingly distinct--the calls and cries of the
fellows near the pier, as they ran their boats up; the grit of the keels
on the hard sand, like the noise of skates travelling on ice; the low
organlike hum of the larger surf beating upon the coast past
Bishopnose Point; the rattle of vehicles in the stony streets behind me;
the striking of a church bell--the hoarse bawling of a hawker crying
fish: it was like the hush one reads of as happening before an
earthquake, and I own to an emotion of awe, and even of alarm, as I
stood listening and looking.

I hung about the boat-house for hard upon two hours, expecting every
minute to see the white line of the wind sweeping across the sea into
the bay; for by this time I had persuaded myself that what motion there
was above was out of the westward; but in all that time the glass-smooth
dark-green surface of the swell was never once tarnished by the smallest
breathing of air. Only one thing that was absent before I now took
notice of: I mean a strange, faint, salt smell, as of seaweed in
corruption, a somewhat sickly odour of ooze. I had never tasted the like
of it upon the atmosphere here; what it signified I could not imagine.
One of my boat's crew, who had paused to exchange a few words with me
about the weather, called it the smell of the storm, and said that it
arose from a distant disturbance working through the sea through leagues
and leagues, as the dews of the body are discharged through the pores of
the skin.

This same man had walked up to the heights near to Hurricane Point to
take a view of the ocean, and now told me there was nothing in sight,
save just a gleam of sail away down in the north-west, almost swallowed
up in the gloom. He was without a glass, and could tell me no more than
that it was the canvas of a ship.

'Well,' said I, 'nothing, if it be not steam, is going to show itself in
this amazing calm.' And, saying this, I turned about and walked
leisurely home.

We dined at one o'clock. We were but two, mother and son; and the little
picture of that parlour arises before me as I write, bringing moisture
to my eyes as I recall the dear, good, tender heart never more to be
beheld by me in this world--as I see the white hair, the kindly aged
face, the wistful looks fastened upon me, and hear the little sighs that
would softly break from her when she turned her head to send a glance
through the window at the dark malignant junction of sea and sky ruling
the open between the points and at the frequent flashing of the foam on
those evil rocks grinning upon the heaving waters, away down to the
southward. I could perceive that the memory of her dream lay upon her in
a sort of shadow. Several times she directed her eyes from my face to
the portrait of my father upon the wall opposite her. Yet she did not
again refer to the dream. She talked of the ugly appearance of the sky,
and asked what the men down about the pier thought of it.

'They are agreed that it is going to end in a gale of wind,' I answered.

'There is no ship in the bay,' said she, raising a pair of gold-rimmed
glasses to her eyes and peering through the window.

'No,' said I; 'and the sea is bare, saving a single sail somewhere down
in the north-west.'

She smiled, as though at a piece of good news. There could be no summons
for the lifeboat, she knew, if the bay and the ocean beyond remained
empty.

After dinner, while I sat smoking my pipe close against the fire--for
the leaden colour in the air somehow made the atmosphere feel cold,
though we were too far west for any touch of autumnal rawness just
yet--and while my mother sat opposite me, poring through her glasses
upon a local sheet that told the news of the district for the week
past--the Rector of Tintrenale, the Rev. John Trembath, happening to
pass our window, which was low-seated, looked in, and, spying the
outline of my figure against the fire, tapped upon the glass, and I
called to him to enter.

'Well, Mr. Coxswain,' says he, 'how is this weather going to end, pray?
I hear there's a ship making for this bay.'

'I hope not,' says my mother quietly.

'How far distant is she?' said I.

'Why,' he answered, 'I met old Roscorla just now. He was fresh from
Bishopnose way, and told me that there was a square-rigged vessel coming
along before a light air of wind out of the west, and apparently heading
straight for this bight.'

'She may shift her helm,' said I, who, though no sailor, had yet some
acquaintance with the terms of the sea; 'there'll be no shelter for her
here if it comes on to blow from the west.'

'And that's where it is coming from,' said Mr. Trembath.

'Oh for a little break of the sky--for one brief gleam of sunshine!'
cried my mother suddenly, half starting from her chair as if to go to
the window. 'There's something in a day of this kind that depresses my
heart as though sorrow were coming. Do you believe in dreams, Mr.
Trembath?' And now I saw she was going to talk of her dream.

'No,' said he bluntly; 'it is enough to believe in what is proper for
our spiritual health. A dream never yet saved a soul.'

'Do you think so?' said I. 'Yet a man might get a hint in a vision, and
in that way be preserved from doing a wrong.'

'What was your dream?' said Mr. Trembath, rounding upon my mother; 'for
a dream you have had, and I see the recollection of it working in your
face as you look at me.'

She repeated her dream to him.

'Tut! tut!' cried he; 'a little attack of indigestion. A small glass of
your excellent cherry brandy would have corrected all these crudities of
your slumbering imagination.'

Well, after an idle chat of ten minutes, which yet gave the worthy
clergyman time enough to drink to us in a glass of that cherry brandy
which he had recommended to my mother, he went away, and shortly
afterwards I walked down to the pier to catch a sight of the ship. In
all these hours there had been no change whatever in the aspect of the
weather. The sky of dark cloud wore the same swollen, moist, and
scowling appearance it had carried since the early morn, but the tufted
thunder-coloured heaps of vapour had been smoothed out or absorbed by
the gathering thickness which made the atmosphere so dark that, though
it was scarcely three o'clock in the afternoon, you would have supposed
the sun had set. The swell had increased; it was now rolling into the
bay with weight and volume, and there was a small roaring noise in the
surf already, and a deeper note yet in the sound of it where it boiled
seawards past the points. A light air was blowing, but as yet the water
was merely brushed by it into wrinkles which put a new dye into the
colour of the ocean--a kind of inky green--I do not know how to convey
it. Every glance of foam upon the Twins or Deadlow Rock was like a flash
of white fire, so sombre was the surface upon which it played.

Hurricane Point shut out the view of the sea in the north-west, even
from the pierhead, and the ship was not to be seen. There was a group of
watermen on the look-out, one or two of them members of the lifeboat
crew; and among these fellows was old Isaac Jordan, who, as I might
easily guess, had drunk out my two shillings. He wore a yellow
sou'-wester over his long iron-gray hair, and he lurched from one man to
another, with his arm extended and his fingers clawing the air, arguing
in the shrill voice of old age, thickened by the drams he had swallowed.

'I tell 'ee there's going to be a airthquake,' he was crying as I
approached. 'I recollects the likes of this weather in eighteen hunnerd
an' eighteen, and there was a quake at midnight that caused the folks at
Faversham to git out of their beds and run into the street; 'twor felt
at Whitstable, and turned the beer o' th' place sour. Stand by for a
airthquake, I says. Here's Mr. Tregarthen, a scholard. The likes of me,
as is old enough to be granddad to the oldest of ye all, may raison with
a scholard and be satisfied to be put right if so be as he's wrong, when
such scow-bankers as you a'n't to be condescended to outside the giving
of the truth to ye. And so I says. Mr. Tregarthen----'

But I quietly put him aside.

'No more money for you, Isaac,' said I, 'so far as my purse is
concerned, until you turn teetotaler. It is enough to make one blush for
one's species to see so old a man----'

'Mr. Tregarthen,' he interrupted, 'you're a gin'man, ain't ye! What have
I 'ad? Is a drop o' milk and water going to make ye blush for a man?'

Some of the fellows laughed.

'And how often,' he continued, 'is the hanniversary of the battle o'
Trafalgar agoing to come round in a year? Twenty-voorst of October
to-day is, and I see him now, Mr. Tregarthen, as I see you--his right
fin agoing, his horders upon his breast----'

'Here, come you along with me, Isaac!' exclaimed one of the men, and,
seizing the old fellow by the arm, he bore him off.



CHAPTER II.

A NIGHT OF STORM.


I overhung the rail of the pier, looking down upon the heads of the
breakers as they dissolved in white water amid the black and slimy
supporters of the structure, and sending a glance from time to time
towards the northern headland, out of which, I gathered from the men
about me, the ship would presently draw, though no one could certainly
say as yet that she was bound for our bay, spite of her heading direct
in for the land. A half-hour passed, and then she showed: her bowsprit
and jibbooms came forking out past the chocolate-coloured height of
cliff, and the suddenness of this presentment of white wings of jibs and
staysail caused the canvas to look ghastly for the moment against the
dark and drooping smoke-coloured sky that overhung the sea where she
was--as ghastly, I say, as the gleam of froth is when seen at midnight,
or a glance of moonshine dropping spear-like through a rift and making a
little pool of light in the midst of a black ocean.

I watched her with curiosity. She was something less than three miles
distant, and she drew out very stately under a full breast of sail,
rolling her three spires--the two foremost of which were clothed to the
trucks--with the majesty of a war-ship. We might now make sure that she
was bound for the bay, and meant to bring up. The air was still a very
light wind, which made a continuous wonder of the muteness of the
storm-shadow that was overhead; and the vessel, which we might now see
was a barque of four hundred tons or thereabouts, floated into the bay
very slowly. Her canvas swung as she rolled, and made a hurry of light
of her, and one saw the glint of the sails broaden in the brows of the
swell which chased and underran her, so reflective was the water, spite
of the small wrinkling of it by the weak draught.

'A furriner,' said a man near me.

'Ay,' said I, examining her through a small but powerful
pocket-telescope; 'that green caboose doesn't belong to an Englishman.
She's hoisting her colour! Now I have it--a Dane!'

'What does she want to come here for?' exclaimed another of the little
knot of men who had gathered about me. 'Something wrong, I allow.'

'Master drunk, per'aps,' said a third.

'He'll be making a lee zhore of our ugly bit of coast if it comes on to
blow from the west'ard, and if not from there, then where else it's
coming from who's going to guess?' exclaimed a gruff old fellow, peering
at the vessel under a shaggy, contracted brow.

'Her captain may have a trick of the weather above our comprehension,'
said I. 'If the gale's to come out of the north, he'll do well where he
lets go his anchor; but if it's to be the other way about--well, I
suppose some of our chaps will advise him. Maybe he has been tempted by
the look of the bay; or he may have a sick or a dead man to land.'

'Perhaps he has a mind to vind us a job to-night zur,' said one of my
lifeboat's men.

We continued watching. Presently she began to shorten sail, and the
leisurely manner in which the canvas was first clewed up and then rolled
up was assurance enough to a nautical eye that she was not overmanned.
I could distinguish the figure of a short, squarely-framed man,
apparently giving orders from the top of a long house aft, and I could
make out the figure of another man, seemingly young, flitting to and fro
with a manner of idle restlessness, though at intervals he would pause
and sweep the town and foreshore with his telescope.

About this time five men launched a swift, powerful boat of a whaling
pattern off the sand on to which it had been dragged that morning, far
beyond high-water mark. They ran the little fabric over a line of
well-greased planks or skids, and sprang into her as her bow met the
first roll of water, and in a breath their oars were out and they were
sweeping the boat towards the barque, making the spray spit from the
stem to the herculean sweep of the blades. She was a boat that was
mainly used for these errands--for putting help aboard ships which
wanted it--for taking pilots off and bringing them ashore, and the like.
So slow was the motion of the barque that she was still floating into
the bay with her anchors at the catheads, and a few heads of men along
the yards furling the lighter canvas, when the boat dashed alongside of
her. When the stranger was about a mile and a half distant from the
point of pier which I watched her from, she let go her topsail
halliards--she carried single sails--and a few minutes later her anchor
fell, and she swung slowly, with her head to the swell and the light
wind.

Scarcely was she straining to the scope of cable that had been paid out,
when the boat which had gone to her left her side. The men rowed
leisurely; one could tell by the rise and fall of the oars that their
errand had proved a disappointment, that there was nothing to be earned,
nothing to be done, neither help nor counsel wanted. I walked down to
that part of the sands where she would come ashore, but had to wait
until her crew had walked her up out of the water before I could get any
news. Our town was so dull, our habits of thought so primitive as to be
almost childlike--the bay for long spells at a time so barren of all
interests, that the arrival of a vessel, if it were not a smack or a
collier, excited the sort of curiosity among us that a new-comer raises
in a little village. A ship bringing up in the bay was something to
look at, something to speculate upon; and then, again, there was always
the expectation among the 'longshoremen of earning a few pounds out of
her.

I called to one of the crew of the boat after she had been secured high
and dry, and asked him the name of the vessel.

'The _Anine_', says he.

'What's wrong with her?' said I.

'Nothing but fear of the weather, I allow,' said he; 'she's from
Cuxhaven, bound to Party Alleggy, or some such a hole away down in the
Brazils.'

'Porto Allegre, is it?' said I.

'Ay,' he answered, 'that zounds nearer to the name that vur given to us.
She's got a general cargo aboard. The master's laid up in the cabin; the
chief mate broke un's leg off Texel, and they zent him into Partsmouth
aboard of a zmack. The chap in charge calls himself Damm. I onderstood
he'z carpenter, acting as zecond mate. But who's to follow such a lingo
as he talks?'

'He's brought up here with the master's sanction, I suppose?'

'Can't tell you that,' he answered, 'for I don't know. 'Pears to me as
if this here traverse was Mr. Damm's own working out. He's got a
cross-eye, and I don't rightly like his looks. He pointed aloft and
zhook his head, and made us understand that he was here for zhelter.
Jimmy, meaning one of the boat's crew, pointed to the Twins, and Mr.
Damm he grins and says, "Yaw, yaw, dot's right!"'

'But if he's bound to the Brazils,' I said, 'how does it happen that he
is on this side the Land's End? Porto Allegre isn't in Wales.'

Here another of the boat's crew who had joined us said, 'I understood
from a man who spoke a bit of English that they was bound round to
Swansea, but what to take in, atop of a general cargo, I can't say.'

The sailors aboard the vessel were now slowly rolling the up canvas upon
the yards. She was a wall-sided vessel, with a white figure-head and a
square stern, and she pitched so heavily upon the swell sweeping to her
bows that one could not but wonder how it would be with her when it came
on to blow in earnest, with such a sea as the Atlantic in wrath threw
into this rock-framed bight of coast. She rolled as regularly as she
curtseyed, and gave us a view of a band of new metal sheathing that rose
with a dull rusty gleam out of the water, as though to some swift
vanishing touch of stormy sunlight. The white lines of her furled
canvas, with the delicate interlacery of shrouds and running-gear, the
fine fibres of her slender mastheads with a red spot of dog-vane at the
mizzenmast--the whole body of the vessel, in a word, stood out with an
exquisite clearness that made the heaving fabric resemble a choicely
wrought toy upon the dark, tempestuous green which went rising and
falling past her, and against the low and menacing frown of the sky
beyond her.

A deeper shadow seemed to have entered the atmosphere since she let go
her anchor. Away down upon her port-quarter the foam was leaping upon
the black Twins and the larger rock beyond, and the round of the bay was
sharply marked by the surf twisting in a wool-white curve from one point
to another, but gathering a brighter whiteness as it stretched towards
those extremities of the land which breasted the deeper waters and the
larger swell.

The clock of St. Saviour's Church chimed five--tea-time; and as I turned
to make my way home two bells were struck aboard the barque, and the
light inshore wind brought in the distant tones upon the ear with a
fairy daintiness of faint music that corresponded to perfection with the
toy-like appearance of the vessel. One of the crew of the boat
accompanied me a short distance on his way to his own humble cottage in
Swim Lane.

'If that Dutchman,' said he--and by 'Dutchman' he meant Dane, for this
word covers all the Scandinavian nations in Jack's language--'if that
Dutchman, Mr. Tregarthen, knows what's good for him, he'll up anchor and
"ratch" out afore it's too late.'

'Did you see the captain?'

'No, sir. He's in his cabin, badly laid up.'

'I thought I made out two men on top of the deck-house, who seemed in
command--one the captain, and the other the mate, as I supposed.'

'No, sir; the capt'n's below. One of them two men you saw was the
carpenter Damm; t'other was a boy--a passenger he looked like, though
dressed as a sailor man. I didn't hear him give any orders, though his
eyes seemed everywhere, and he looked to know exactly what was going
forward. A likelier-looking lad I never see. Capt'n's son, I dare say.'

'Well,' said I, sending a glance above and around, 'spite of drunken old
Isaac and his prediction of "airthquakes," as he calls them, it's as
likely as not, to my mind, that all this gloom will end as it began--in
quietude.'

The man--one of the most intelligent of our 'longshoremen--shook his
head.

'The barometer don't tell lies, sir,' said he; 'the drop's been too slow
and regular to signify nothing. I've known a gale o' wind to bust after
taking two days to look at the ocean with his breath sucked in, as he do
now. This here long quietude's the worst part, and----Smother me! Mr.
Tregarthen,' said he, halting and turning his face seawards, 'if the
draught that was just now blowing ain't gone!'

It was as he had said. The light breathing of air had died out, and the
swell was rolling in, burnished as liquid glass.

This day-long extraordinary pause in the most menacing aspect of weather
that I had ever heard of--and never in my time had I seen the like of
it--seemed to communicate its own quality of breathless suspense to
every living object my eye rested upon. The very dogs seemed to move
with a cowed manner, as though fresh from a whipping. There was no
alacrity--little movement, indeed, anywhere visible. Men hung about in
small groups and conversed quietly, as though some trouble that had
affected the whole community was upon them. The air trembled with the
noise of the breaking surf, and there was a note in that voice, sounding
as it did out of the unnatural dark hush upon sea and land, that
constrained the attention to it as to something new and even alarming. A
tradesman, with his apron on and without a hat, would come to his
shop-door and look about him uneasily, and perhaps have a word with a
customer as he entered before going round the counter and serving him.
The gulls flew close inshore and screamed harshly. Here and there,
framed in a darkling pane of window, you would see an old face peering
at the weather and pale in the shadow.

I found my mother a good deal troubled by the appearance of the ship.
She asked, with a pettishness I had seldom witnessed in her, 'What does
she want? Why does she come here? Do they court destruction?'

I told her all that I had learnt about the vessel.

'There was no occasion for them to come here,' she said. 'Your dear
father would have told you that the more distant a ship is upon the
ocean in violent weather the safer she is; and here now come the foolish
Danes to nestle among rocks, and to sneer at the advice our people give
them, with the sky looking more threatening than ever I can remember it.
Who could have patience with such folk?' she cried, pouring out the tea
with an air of distraction and an agitated hand. 'If there were no such
sailors as they at sea I am sure there would be no need for lifeboats,
and brave fellows would not have to risk their lives, and perhaps leave
their wives and little children to starve, to assist people whose
stupidity renders them almost unfit to be rescued.'

'Why, mother,' cried I, 'this is not how you are accustomed to talk
about such things.'

'I am depressed,' she answered; 'my spirits have taken their colour
from the day. A most melancholy heavy day, indeed! Hark, my dear! Is not
that the sound of wind?'

She looked eagerly, straining her hearing.

'Yes,' said I, 'it is the wind come at last, mother,' catching, at the
instant of her speaking, the hollow groaning, in the chimney, of a
sudden gust of wind flying over the housetop. 'From which quarter does
it blow? I must find out!'

I ran to the house-door, and as I opened it, the wind blew with the
sweep of a sudden squall right out of the darkness upon the ocean. It
filled the house, and such was the weight of it that I drove the door to
with difficulty. It was but a quarter before six, but the shadow of the
night had entered to deepen the shadow of the storm, and it was already
as dark as midnight. I went to the window and parted the curtains to
take a view of the bay, but the panes of glass were made a sort of
mirror of by the black atmosphere without, and when I looked they gave
me back my own countenance, darkly gleaming, and the reflection of
objects in the room--the lamp with its green shade upon the table, the
sparkle of the silver and the china of the tea-things, and my mother's
figure beyond. Yet, by peering, I managed to distinguish the speck of
yellow lustre that denoted the riding light of the Danish barque--the
lantern, I mean, that is hung upon a ship's fore-stay when she lies at
anchor; otherwise, it was like looking down into a well. Nothing, save
the flash of the near foam tumbling upon the beach right abreast of the
house, was to be seen.

'Which way does the wind come, Hugh?' called my mother.

'From the westward, with a touch of south in it, too, right dead
inshore. It is as I have been expecting all day.'

That night of tempest began in gusts and squalls, with lulls between,
which were not a little deceptive, since they made one think that the
wind was gone for good, though while the belief was growing there would
come another shrieking outrush and a low roaring in the chimney, and
such a shrill and doleful whistling in the casements, which there was no
art in carpentry to hermetically seal against the winds of that wild,
rugged western coast, as might have made one imagine the air to be
filled with the ghosts of departed boatswains plying their silver pipes
as they sped onwards in the race of black air.

Some while before seven o'clock it had settled into a gale, that was
slowly but obstinately gathering in power, as I might know by the
gradually raised notes in the humming it made, and by the ever-deepening
thunder of warring billows rushing into breakers and bursting upon sand
and crag. It came along in a furious play of wet, too, at times; the
rain lashed the windows like small shot, and twice there was a brilliant
flash of lightning that seemed spiral and crimsoned; but, if thunder
followed, it was lost in the uproar of the wind. It was a night to
'stand by,' as a sailor would say; at any moment a summons might come,
and, while that weather held, I knew there must be no sleep for me. It
would have been all the same, indeed, barque or no barque, for this was
a night to make a very hell of the waters along our line of coast; there
was not another lifeboat station within twenty-five miles, and, even had
the bay been empty, as I say, yet, as coxswain of the boat, I must have
held myself ready for a call--ready for the notes of the bell summoning
us to the rescue of a vessel that had been blown out of the sea into the
bay--ready for a breathless appeal for help from some mounted messenger
despatched by the coastguards miles distant to tell me that there was a
ship stranded and that all hands must perish if we did not hurry to her.

My mother sat silent, with her face rendered austere by anxiety. It was
about eight o'clock, when someone knocked hurriedly at the door. I ran
out, being too eager to await the attendance of the servant; but,
instead of some rough figure of a boatman which I had expected to see,
in swept Mr. Trembath, who was carried by the violence of the wind
several feet along the passage before he could bring himself up. I put
my shoulder to the door, but believed I should have had to call for help
to close it, so desperate was the resistance.

'What a night! What a night!' cried the clergyman. 'What is the news?
You will not tell me, Tregarthen, that the ship yonder is going to hold
her own against this wind and the sea that is running?'

'Pray step in,' said I. 'You are plucky to show your face to it!'

'Oh, tut!' he cried; 'it is not for a clergyman any more than for a
seaman to be afraid of weather. I fear there'll be a call for you,
Tregarthen. I thought I would look round--I have finished my sermon for
to-morrow morning.' And thus talking in a disjointed way while he pulled
off his topcoat, he entered the parlour.

After warming himself and exchanging a few sentences with my mother
about the weather, he began to talk about the barque.

'Hark to that, now!' he cried, as the wind struck the front of the house
with a crash that had something of the weight of a great sea in the
sound of it, while you heard it in a roar of thunder overhead, charged
always with an echo of pouring waters; 'what chain cables wrought by
mortal skill are going to hold a vessel in the eye of all this?'

'What business have they to come here?' cried my mother.

'I met young Beckerley just now,' continued Mr. Trembath, 'and he tells
me that there's some talk among our men of there having been a mutiny
aboard that Dane.'

'Nothing was said to me about that,' I said.

'Beckerley was in the boat's crew that boarded her,' he went on.
'Probably he imagined a mutiny--misinterpreted a gloomy look among the
Danes into an air of revolt. Anyway, nothing short of a mutiny should
justify a master in anchoring in such a roadstead as this, in the face
of the ugliest sky I ever saw in my life.'

'They told me the master was below, ill and helpless,' said I.

He went to the window and parted the curtains to peer through, but the
wet ran down the glass, and it was like straining the gaze against a
wall of ebony.

'You see,' he continued, coming back to his chair, 'the vessel has those
deadly rocks right under her stern, and even if her cables don't part,
it is impossible to suppose that she will not drag and be on to them in
the blackness, perhaps without her people guessing at their
neighbourhood until she touches--and then, God help them!'

'I suppose Pentreath,' exclaimed my mother, naming the second coxswain
of the lifeboat, 'is keeping a look-out?'

'We need not doubt it,' I answered. 'As to her dragging,' said I,
addressing Mr. Trembath, 'the Danes are as good sailors as the English,
and understand their business; and, mutiny or no mutiny, those fellows
down there are not going to take whatever may come without a shrewd
guess at it, and outcry enough when it happens. They'll know fast enough
if their vessel is dragging; then a flare will follow, and out we shall
have to go, of course.'

'We!' said he significantly, looking from me to my mother. 'You'll not
venture to-night, I hope, Tregarthen.'

'If the call comes, most certainly I shall,' said I, flushing up, but
without venturing to send a glance at my mother. 'I have appointed
myself captain of my men, and is it for _me_, of all my boat's crew, to
shirk my duty in an hour of extremity? Let such a thing happen, and I
vow to Heaven I could not show my face in Tintrenale again.'

Mr. Trembath seemed a little abashed.

'I respect and admire your theory of dutifulness,' said he; 'but you are
not an old hand--you are no seasoned boatman in the sense I have in my
mind when I think of others of your crew. Listen to this wind! It blows
a hurricane, Hugh,' he exclaimed gently; 'you may have the heart of a
lion, but have you the skill--the experience----' He halted, looking at
my mother.

'If the call comes I will go,' said I, feeling that he reasoned only for
my mother's sake, and that in secret his sympathies were with me.

'If the call comes, Hugh must go,' said my mother. 'God will shield him.
He looks down upon no nobler work done in this world, none that can
better merit His blessing and His countenance.'

Mr. Trembath bowed his head in a heartfelt gesture.

'Yet I hope no call will be made,' she went on. 'I am a mother----' her
voice faltered, but she rallied, and said with courage and strength and
dignity: 'Yes, I am Hugh's mother. I know what to expect from him, and
that whatever his duty may be, he will do it.' Yet in saying this she
pressed both her hands to her heart, as though the mere utterance of
the words came near to breaking it.

I stepped to her side and kissed her. 'But the call has not yet come,
mother,' said I. 'The vessel's anchors may hold bravely, and then,
again, the long dark warning of the day will have kept the coast clear
of ships.'

To this she made no reply, and I resumed my seat, gladdened to the very
heart by her willingness that I should go if a summons came, albeit
extorted from her love by perception of my duty; for had she been
reluctant, had she refused her consent indeed, it must have been all the
same. I should go whether or not, but in that case with a heavy heart,
with a feeling of rebellion against her wishes that would have taken a
deal of spirit out of me, and mingled a sense of disobedience with what
I knew to be my duty and good in the sight of God and man.

I saw that it comforted my mother to have Mr. Trembath with her, and
when he offered to go I begged him to stop and sup with us, and he
consented. It was not a time when conversation would flow very easily.
The noise of the gale alone was subduing enough, and to this was to be
added the restlessness of expectation, the conviction in my own heart
that sooner or later the call must come; and every moment that I
talked--putting on as cheerful a face as I could assume--I was waiting
for it. I constantly went to the window to look out, guessing that if
they burnt a flare aboard the barque the torch-like flame of it would
show through the weeping glass; and shortly before supper was
served--that is to say, within a few minutes of nine o'clock--I left the
parlour, and going to a room at the extremity of the passage, where I
kept my sea-going clothes, I pulled on a pair of stout fisherman's
stockings, and over them the sea-boots I always wore when I went in the
lifeboat. I then brought away my monkey-jacket and oilskins and
sou'-wester, and hung them in the passage ready to snatch at; for a
summons to man the boat always meant hurry--there was no time for
hunting; indeed, if the call found the men in bed, their custom was to
dress as they ran.

Thus prepared, I returned to the parlour. Mr. Trembath ran his eye over
me, but my mother apparently took no notice. A cheerful fire blazed in
the grate. The table was hospitable with damask and crystal; the play of
the flames set the shadows dancing upon the ceiling that lay in the
gloom of the shade over the lamp. There was something in the figure of
my old mother, with her white hair and black silk gown and antique gold
chain about her neck, that wonderfully fitted that homely interior, warm
with the hues of the coal-fire, and cheerful with pictures and with
several curiosities of shield and spear, of stuffed bird and Chinese
ivory ornament, gathered together by my father in the course of many
voyages.

Mr. Trembath looked a plump and rosy and comfortable man as he took his
seat at the table, yet there was an expression of sympathetic anxiety
upon his face, and frequently I would catch him quietly hearkening, and
then he would turn involuntarily to the curtained window, so that it was
easy to see in what direction his thoughts went.

'One had need to build strongly in this part of the country,' said he,
as we exchanged glances at the sound of a sudden driving roar of wind--a
squall of wet of almost hurricane power--to which the immensely strong
fabric of our house trembled as though a heavy battery of cannon were
being dragged along the open road opposite, 'for, upon my word, Hugh,'
said he--we were old friends, and he would as often as not give me my
Christian name--'if the Dane hasn't begun to drag as yet, there should
be good hope of her holding on throughout what may still be coming.
Surely, for two hours now past her ground-tackle must have been very
heavily tested.'

'My prayer is,' said I, 'that the wind may chop round and blow off
shore. They'll have the sense to slip then, I hope, and make for the
safety of wide waters, with an amidship helm.'

'He is his father's son,' said Mr. Trembath, smiling at my mother. 'An
amidship helm! It is as a sailor would put it. You should have been a
sailor, Tregarthen.'

My mother gently shook her head, and then for some while we ate in
silence, the three of us feigning to look as though we thought of
anything else rather than of the storm that was raging without, and of
the barque labouring to her cables in the black heart of it.

On a sudden Mr. Trembath let fall his knife and fork.

'Hist!' he cried, half rising from his chair.

'The lifeboat bell!' I shouted, catching a note or two of the summons
that came swinging along with the wind.

'Oh, Hugh!' shrieked my mother, clasping her hands.

'God keep your dear heart up!' I cried.

I sprang to her side and kissed her, wrung the outstretched hand of Mr.
Trembath, and in a minute was plunging into my peacoat and oilskins. The
instant I was out of the house I could hear the fast--I may say the
furious--tolling of the lifeboat bell, and sending one glance at the
bay, though I seemed almost blinded, and in a manner dazed by the sudden
rage of the gale and its burthen of spray and rain against my face, I
could distinguish the wavering, flickering yellow light of a flare-up
down away in that part of the waters where the Twins and the Deadlow
Rock would be terribly close at hand. But I allowed myself no time to
look, beyond this hasty glance. Mr. Trembath helped me, by thrusting,
to pull the house-door after me, for of my own strength I never could
have done it; and then I took to my heels and drove as best I might
headlong through the living wall of wind, scarcely able to fetch a
breath, reeling to the terrific outflies, yet staggering on.

The gas-flames in the few lamps along the seafront were wildly dancing,
their glazed frames rattled furiously, and I remember noticing, even in
that moment of excitement, that one of the lamp-posts which stood a few
yards away from our house had been arched by the wind as though it were
a curve of leaden pipe. The two or three shops which faced the sea had
their shutters up to save the windows, and the blackness of the night
seemed to be rather heightened than diminished by the dim and leaping
glares of the street lights. But as I neared the lifeboat house my
vision was somewhat assisted by the whiteness of the foam boiling in
thunder a long space out. It flung a dim, elusive, ghostly illumination
of its own up on the air. I could see the outline of the boat-house
against it, the shapes of men writhing, as it seemed, upon the slipway;
the figure of the boat herself, which had already been eased by her own
length out of the house; and I could even discern, by the aid of that
wonderful light of froth, that most of or all her crew were already in
her, and that they were stepping her mast, which the roof of the house
would not suffer her to keep aloft when she was under shelter.

'Here's the cox'n!' shouted a voice.

'All right, men!' I roared, and with that I rushed through the door of
the house, and in a bound or two gained the interior of the boat and my
station on the after-grating.



CHAPTER III.

IN THE LIFEBOAT.


Now had come the moment when I should need the utmost exertion of nerve
and coolness my nature was equal to. There was a large globular lamp
alight in the little building--its lustre vaguely touched the boat, and
helped me to see what was going on and who were present. Nevertheless I
shouted:

'Are all hands aboard?'

'All hands!' came a hurricane response.

'All got your belts on?' I next cried.

'All!' was the answer--that is to say, all excepting myself, who, having
worn a cork-jacket once, vowed never again to embark thus encumbered.

'Are your sails hooked on ready for hoisting?' I shouted.

'All ready, sir!'

'And your haul-off rope?'

'All ready, sir!'

'Now then, my lads--look out, all hands!'

There was a moment's pause:

'Let her go!' I roared.

A man stood close under the stern, ready to pass his knife through the
lashing which held the chain to the boat.

'Stand by!' he shouted. 'All gone!'

I heard the clank of the chain as it fell, an instant after the boat was
in motion--slowly at first, but in a few breaths she had gathered the
full way that her own weight and the incline gave her, and rushed down
the slipway, but almost noiselessly, so thickly greased was the timber
structure, with some hands hoisting the foresail as she sped, and others
grimly and motionless facing seawards, ready to grasp and drag upon the
haul-off rope the moment the craft should be water-borne amid the
smothering surf.

The thunderous slatting of the sail as the yard mounted, flinging a
noise of rending upon the ear as though the cloths were whipping the
hurricane in rags, the furious roaring and seething and crackling and
hissing of the mountainous breakers toward which the boat was
darting--the indescribable yelling of the gale sweeping past our ears as
the fabric fled down the ways--the instant sight of the torn and mangled
skies, which seemed dimly revealed somehow by the snowstorms of froth
coursing along the bay--all this combined into an impression which,
though it could not have taken longer than a second or two to produce
it, dwells upon my mind with so much sharpness that the whole experience
of my life might well have gone to the manufacture of it.

We touched the wash of the sea, and burst through a cloud of foam; in
the beat of a heart the boat was up to our knees in water; in another
she was freeing herself and leaping to the height of the next boiling
acclivity, with my eight men, rigid as iron statues in their manner of
hauling and in their confrontment of the sea, dragging the craft through
the surf and into deep water by the haul-off rope attached to an anchor
some considerable distance ahead of the end of the slipway.

At the moment of the boat smiting the first of the breakers I grasped
the tiller-ropes, and on the men letting go the haul-off line I headed
the craft away on the port tack, my intention being to 'reach' down in
the direction of Hurricane Point, so as to be able to fetch the barque
on a second board.

One had hardly the wits to notice the scene at the first going off, so
headlong was the tumble upon the beach, so clamorous the rush of the
tempest, and so frightfully wild the leapings and launchings of the boat
amid the heavily broken surface of froth. But now she had the weight of
the gale in the close-reefed lug that had been shown to it, and this
steadied her; and high as the sea ran, yet as the water deepened the
surge grew regular, and I was able to settle down to my job of handling
the boat, the worst being over, at least so far as our outward excursion
went.

I glanced shorewards and observed the blaze of a portfire, held out by a
man near the boat-house to serve as a signal to the barque that help was
going to her. The fire was blue, the blaze of it was brilliant, and it
lighted up a wide area of the foreshore, throwing out the figures of the
crowd who watched us, and the outline of the boat-house, and flinging a
ghastly tint upon every tall upheaval of surf. The radiance lay in a
sort of circle upon the ebony of the night, with what I have named
showing in it, as though it was a picture cast by a magic-lantern upon a
black curtain. You could see nothing of the lights of the town for it.
On either hand of this luminous frame the houses went blending into the
land, and each way all was sheer ink.

Shortly after this signal of portfire they sent up a rocket from the
barque. It was a crimson ball, and it broke like a flash of lighting
under the ragged rush of the sky, and then outleaped afresh the flames
of a flare, or, as you might call it, a bonfire, from the deck of the
vessel--a burning tar-barrel, perhaps; and the light of it disclosed the
vision of the ship plunging awfully, again and again veiled by storms of
crystal which the fathom-high flames of the flare flashed into prisms.

One of our men roared out with an oath: 'She'll have taken the Twins
afore we get to her!' and another bellowed: 'Why did they wait to drag a
mile afore they signalled?' But no more was said just then.

Indeed, a man needed to exert the whole strength of his lungs to make
himself heard. The edge of the wind seemed to clip the loudest shout as
it left the lips, as you would sever a rope with a knife.

Our boat was small for a craft of her character, but a noble, brave,
nimble fabric, as had been again and again proved; and every man of us,
allowing that good usage was given her, had such confidence in the
_Janet_, that we would not have exchanged her for the largest,
handsomest, and best-tested boat on the coast of the United Kingdom. You
would have understood her merits had you been with us on this night. I
was at the yoke-lines; Pentreath, my second in command, sat with his
foot against the side, gripping the foresheet, ready to let go in an
instant; the mizzen had been hoisted, and the rest of the men, crouching
down upon the thwarts, sat staring ahead, with iron countenances, with
never so much as a stoop among them to the hardest wash of the surge
that might sweep with a wild hissing shriek athwart their sea-helmets
and half fill the boat as it came bursting in smoke over the
weather-bow, till, for the space of a wink or two, the black gale was
as white as a snowstorm overhead.

As we 'reached' out the sea grew weightier. Never before had I known a
greater sea in that bay. The ridges seemed to stand up to twice the
height of our masts; every peak boiled, and as we rose to the summit of
it, the boat was smothered in the foam of her own churning, and in the
headlong, giddy, dazzling rush into which she soared, with the whole
weight of the gale in her fragment of lug bowing her over and sending
her, as you might have believed, gunwale under down the long, indigo
slant of the under-running billow.

We held on, all as mute as death in the boat. From time to time as we
rose to the head of a sea I would take a look in the direction of the
barque, and catch a glimpse of the windy spark of her flare, or of the
meteoric sailing of a rocket over her mastheads. There should have been
a moon, but the planet was without power to strike the faintest
illumination into the heaps and rags of vapours which were pouring up
like smoke over the edge of the raging Atlantic horizon. The picture of
the parlour I had just left would sometimes arise before me: I figured
my mother peering out at the black and throbbing scene of bay; I
imagined good Mr. Trembath at her side, uttering such words of comfort
and of hope as occurred to him; but such fancies as these seemed to be
beaten away by the breath of the hurricane, as rapidly as they were
formed. Should we be in time? If the vessel's cables parted she was
doomed. Nay; if she should continue to drag another quarter of an hour,
she would be on to the Twins, and go to pieces as a child's house of
bricks falls to the touch of a hand!

'Ready about!' I roared.

The helm was put down, the foresheet eased off, and round came the boat
nobly on the very pinnacle of a surge, pausing a moment as she was there
poised, and then plunging into the hollow to rise again with her
foresail full, and heading some points to windward of the vessel we were
now steering for.

Through it we stormed, sea after sea bursting from the lifeboat's bow in
pallid clouds which the wind sent whirling in shrieks--so articulate was
the sound of the slinging spray--into the blackness landwards. Here and
there a tiny spark of lamp flickering in the thick of the gloom told us
the situation of Tintrenale; but there was nothing more to be seen that
way; the land and the sky above it met in a deep, impenetrable dye,
towards which, to leeward of us, the tall seas went flashing in long
yearning coils, throbbing into mere pallidness when a cable's length
distant.

They had kindled another flare aboard the barque, or else had plied the
old one with fresh fuel: she was visible by the light of the flames, the
white of her furled canvas coming and going to the fluctuating fires;
and I marked, with a heart that sank in me, the dreadful manner of her
labouring. She was pitching bows under, and rolling too, and by the
shining of the signal-fire upon her deck offered a most wonderful sight,
rendered terrible also by a view that we could now get of a crowd of men
hanging in a lump in her starboard fore-rigging.

The second coxswain flashed a portfire that they might know the lifeboat
was at hand, and we went plunging and sweeping down to a point some
little distance ahead of the barque, the crowd of us irradiated by the
stream of emerald-green flame.

'All ready with the anchor, lads?' I shouted.

'All ready, sir!' was the answer.

'Down foresail!' and as I gave this order I put the helm down and
brought the boathead to wind about thirty fathoms ahead of the ship.

'Let go the anchor!'

'Unstep the foremast!' bawled the second coxswain, and, while this was
doing, he and another swiftly lifted the mizzenmast out of its bearings
and laid it along.

'Veer away cable handsomely!' I shouted; and pitching and foaming, now
dropping into a hollow that seemed fifty feet deep, now appearing to
scale a surge that lifted the boat's bow almost dead on end over her
stern--all in a fashion to make the brain of the stoutest and most
experienced among us reel again--we dropped alongside.

In what followed there was so much confusion, so much uproar, such
distraction of shouts in foreign and unintelligible accents, such a
terrible washing of seas, such bewilderment born of the darkness, of the
complicated demands upon the attention through need of keeping the boat
clear of the huge chopping bows of the barque, through bawling to the
men in the rigging and receiving answers which we could not understand,
that this passage of my singular adventure could scarcely be less vague
to me in memory if, instead of having been an actor in it, I had read it
in a book.

There were six or seven men, as well as I could make out, clustered in
the fore-rigging. I believed I could see others in the mizzen-shrouds.
This being my notion, my consuming anxiety was to drop the boat down on
the quarter as quickly as possible, for it was not only that the Twins
were within a cable's range astern, with the fury of the foam there
making a kind of shining upon the water that might have passed for
moonlight: such was the volume and height of the sea roaring betwixt the
labouring ship and our boat, that at every toss of the little fabric, at
every ponderous lean down of the great groaning black hull towering over
us, we stood to be staved.

The fellows in the fore-ringing seemed to be stupefied. We all of us
yelled, 'Jump, jump! Watch as she rises, and jump for God's sake!'
meanwhile keeping a turn of the cable so as to hold the boat abreast of
them. It seemed an eternity before they understood, and yet a minute had
not passed since we dropped down, when a cry broke from them, and first
one jumped, and then another, and then the rest of them sprang, and
there they were lying in a huddle in the bottom of the boat, one or two
of them groaning dreadfully, as though from broken limbs, or worse
injuries still, all of them motionless as they lay when they jumped,
like folk nearly dead of terror and cold and pain.

'Veer out now, my lads! veer out!' I cried; 'handsomely, that we may get
smartly under the mizzen-shrouds.'

'There's nobody there, sir,' roared one of my men.

No! I looked and found it had been an illusion of my sight, due to the
flame of the flare that was burning fiercely on the main-deck.

'Are you all here?' I cried, addressing the dusky huddle of men at the
bottom of the boat.

Something was said, but the gale deafened me, and I could catch no
meaning, no syllables indeed, in the answer.

'They'll all be here, sir,' shouted one of my crew; 'the port-davits are
empty, and some'll have left in the boat.'

A great sea swung us up at that instant flush with the level of the
bulwark-rails, with a heel of the barque that disclosed her decks bare
to the bright fires of the signal.

'They must be all here!' I cried; 'but look well. Is there one among you
who can catch any signs of a living man on board?'

They waited for the next upheaval of sea; then rose a shout: 'They're
all here, sir, you'll find.'

'Heave ahead then, my lads!' by which I meant that they should haul upon
the cable to drag the boat clear of the dreadful crushing, shearing chop
of the overhanging bows of the barque.

At that instant a head showed over the rail a little abaft the
fore-shrouds, and the clear, piercing voice of a boy cried, with as good
an English accent as I myself have, 'My father is ill and helpless in
the cabin. Do not leave us!'

'No, no, we'll not leave you,' I instantly shouted in return, sending my
voice fair to the lad from the height of a sea that pretty well brought
his and my head on a level. 'How many are there of you?'

'Two,' was the answer.

I had to wait for the boat to slide up to the summit of the next surge
ere I could call out again. The black yawns betwixt us and the barque
might have passed for valleys looked at from a hillside, so horribly
hollow and deep were they; they were pale and yet dusky too, with sheets
of foam; a soul-confounding noise of thunderous washing and seething
rose up from them. When we were in one of those hollows the great mass
of the dark fabric of the barque seemed to tower fifty feet above us,
and we lay becalmed, hanging, while you might have counted five, in
absolute stagnation, with the yell of the wind sweeping over our heads
as though we were in the heart of a pit.

'Cannot your father help himself _at all_?' I bawled to the boy.

'He cannot stir; he must be lifted!' he answered in a shriek, for his
high, clear, piercing cry thus sounded.

'By Heaven, then, lads,' I bawled to my men, 'there's no time to be
lost! We must bundle the poor fellow over somehow, and help the lad.
Nothing will have been done if we leave them behind us. Watch your
chance and follow me, three of you!'

At the instant of saying this I made a spring from off the height of the
gratings on which I stood, and got into the fore-chains, the boat then
being on the level of that platform; and as actively as a cat, for few
young fellows had nimbler limbs, I scrambled over the bulwark on to the
deck, just in time to escape a huge fold of rushing water that foamed
sheer through the chains with a spite and weight that must instantly
have settled my business for me.

I was in the act of running along the deck to where the lad stood--that
is to say, a little forward of the gangway, not doubting that the others
of my crew whom I had called upon were following with as much alertness
as I had exhibited, when I felt a shock as of a thump pass through the
barque.

'She has struck!' thought I.

But hardly was I sensible of this tremor through the vessel, when there
arose a wild and dreadful cry from alongside--heavenly God! how am I to
describe that shocking noise of human distress? I fled to the rail and
looked over; it was all boiling water under me, with just a sight of the
black line of the gunwale or of the keel of the lifeboat; but there was
such a raging of foam, such a thickness of seething yeast smoking into
the hurricane as though some volcanic eruption had happened right under
the barque, filling the air with steam, that there was nothing whatever
to be seen saving just that dark glance of keel or gunwale, as I have
said, which, however, vanished as I looked in the depth of the hissing
spumy smother. I knew by this that the lifeboat must have been staved
and filled by a sudden fling of her against the massive sides of the
barque; for she was a self-righting craft, and, though she might have
thrown every soul in her out as she rolled over, yet she would have rose
buoyant again, emptying herself as she leapt to the surge, and there she
would have been alongside, without a living creature in her if you will,
but a good boat, and riding stoutly to her cable. But she had been
stove, and now she was gone!

The blazing tar-barrel on the main-deck enabled me to see my way to rush
aft. I cried to the lad as I sped: 'The boat is staved; all hands of her
are overboard and drowning! Heave ropes' ends over the side! fling
life-buoys!' And thus shouting, scarcely knowing, indeed, what I called
out, so confounded was I, so shocked, so horrified, so heartbroken, I
may say, by the suddenness and the fearfulness of this disaster, I
reached the quarter of the barque and overhung it; but I could see
nothing. The cloudy boiling rose and fell, and with every mighty drop of
the great square counter of the barque, the sea swept in a roar from
either hand of her with a cataractal fury that would rush whatever was
afloat in it dozens of fathoms distant at every _scend_. Here and there
_now_ I believe I could distinguish some small black object, but the
nearer pallid waters dimmed into a blackness at a little distance, and,
if those dark points which I observed were the heads of swimmers, then
such was the headlong race of the surge they were swept into the
throbbing dusk ere I could make sure of them.

I stood as one paralyzed from head to foot. My inability to be of the
least service to my poor comrades and the unhappy Danes caused me to
feel as though the very heart in me had ceased to beat. The young fellow
came to my side.

'What is to be done?' he cried.

'Nothing!' I answered in a passion of grief. 'What can be done? God
grant that many of them will reach the shore! The hurl of the sea is
landwards, and their life-belts will float them. But your people are
doomed.'

'And so are we!' he exclaimed shrilly, yet without perceptible terror,
with nothing worse than wild excitement in his accents. 'There are rocks
directly under our stern. Are you a sailor?'

'No!'

'O, du gode Gud! what is to be done?' cried the lad.

I cast my eyes despairingly around. The tar-barrel was still burning
bravely upon the deck, defying the ceaseless sweeping of spray from over
the bows; the windy unearthly light tinctured the ship with its sickly
sallow hue to the height of her lower yards, and the whole ghastly body
of her was to be seen as she rolled and plunged under a sky that was the
blacker for the light of the distress-flare, and upon a sea whose vast
spreads of creaming brows would again and again come charging along to
the very height of the bulwark rail.

In the midst of this pause on my part, and while every instinct of
self-preservation in me was blindly flinging itself, so to speak,
against the black and horrible situation that imprisoned me, and while I
was hopelessly endeavouring to consider what was to be done to save the
young fellow alongside of me from destruction--for, as to his father, it
was impossible to extend my sympathies at such a moment to one whom I
had not seen, who did not appeal to me, as it were, in form and voice
for succour--I say, in the midst of this pause of hopeless deliberation,
the roar of the hurricane ceased on a sudden. Nothing more, I was sure,
was signified by this than a lull, to be followed by some fierce chop
round, or by the continuance of the westerly tempest with a bitterer
spite in the renewed rush of it. The lull may have lasted ten or fifteen
seconds. In that time I do not know that there was a breath of air to be
felt outside the violent eddyings and draughts occasioned by the
sickening motions of the barque. I looked up at the sky, and spied the
leanest phantom of a star that glimmered for the space of a single swing
of a pendulum, and then vanished behind a rushing roll of vapour of a
midnight hue, winging with incredible velocity _from_ the land.

So insupportable was the movement of the deck that I was forced to
support myself by a belaying-pin, or I must have been thrown. My
companion clung to a similar pin close beside me. The thunder of running
and colliding waters rose into that magical hush of tempest; I could
hear the booming of the surf as far as Hurricane Point and the
caldron-like noises of the waters round about the rocks astern of us.

'Has the storm ceased?' cried my companion. 'Oh, beloved father, we may
be spared yet!' he added, extending his disengaged hand towards the
deck-house, as he apostrophized the helpless man who lay there.

Amazed as I was by this instant cessation of the gale, I could yet find
mind enough to be struck by my companion's manner, by his words, and
now, I may say, by his voice also. I was about to address him; but, as
my lips parted, there was a vivid flash of lightning that threw out the
whole scene of bay, cliff, foreshore, and town, with the line of the
horizon seawards, in a dazzle of violet; a crash of thunder followed;
but, before its ear-splitting reverberation had ceased, the echoes of
it were drowned in the bellowing of the gale coming directly off the
land.

What is there in words to express the fury of this outfly? It met the
heave of the landward-running seas, and swept them into smoke, and the
air grew as white and thick with spume as though a heavy snowstorm were
blowing horizontally along. It took the barque and swung her; her
labouring was so prodigious as she was thrust by this fresh hurricane
broadside round to the surge, that I imagined every second she would
founder under my feet. I felt a shock: my companion cried, 'One of the
cables has parted!' A moment later I felt the same indescribable tremble
running through the planks on which we stood.

'Is that the other cable gone, do you think?' I shouted.

'There is a lead-line over the side,' he cried; 'it will tell us if we
are adrift.'

I followed him to near the mizzen rigging; neither of us durst let go
with one hand until we had a grip of something else with the other; it
was _now_ not only the weight of the wind that would have laid us prone
and pinned us to the deck--a pyramidal sea had sprung up as though by
enchantment, and each apex as it soared about the bows and sides was
blown inboards in very avalanches of water, which with each violent roll
of the vessel poured in a solid body to the rail, one side or the other,
again and again, to the height of our waist.

My companion extended his hand over the bulwarks, and cried out: 'Here
is the lead-line. It stretches towards the bows. Oh, sir, we are adrift!
we are blowing out to sea!'

I put my hand over and grasped the line, and instantly knew by the angle
of it that the lad was right. By no other means would he have been able
to get at the truth. The weight of lead, by resting on the bottom,
immediately told if the barque was dragging. All around was white water;
the blackness of the night drooped to the very spit of the brine; not a
light was to be perceived, not the vaguest outline of the cliff; and the
whole scene of darkness was the more bewildering for the throb of the
near yeast upon the eyesight.

'Is your binnacle-light burning?' I cried.

The lad answered, 'Yes.'

'Then,' I shouted, 'we must find out the quarter the gale has shifted
into and get her stern on to it, and clear Hurricane Point, if Almighty
God will permit. There may be safety in the open; there is none here.'

With the utmost labour and distress we made our way aft. The flare had
been extinguished by the heavy falls of water, and it was worse than
walking blindfolded. The binnacle-light was burning--this was, indeed,
to be expected. The barque was plunging directly head to wind, and a
glance at the card enabled me to know that the gale was blowing almost
due east, having shifted, as these cyclonic ragings often do, right into
the quarter opposite whence it had come.

'We must endeavour to get her before it,' I cried; 'but I am no sailor.
There may come another shift, and we ought to clear the land while the
hurricane holds as it does. What is to be done?'

'Will she pay off if the helm is put hard over?' he answered. 'Let us
try it!'

He seized the spokes on one side; I put my shoulder to the wheel on the
other, and thus we jammed and secured the helm into the posture called
by sailors 'hard a-starboard.' She fell off, indeed--into the trough,
and there she lay, amid such a diabolical play of water, such lashings
of seas on both sides, as it is not in mortal pen to portray!

Had we been in the open ocean, a better attitude than the barque herself
had taken up we could not have wished for. She was, indeed, 'hove-to,'
as the sea-expression is, giving something of her bow to the wind, and
was in that posture which the shipmaster will put his vessel into in
such a tempest as was now blowing. But, unhappily, the land was on
either hand of us, and though our drift might be straight out to sea, I
could not be sure that it was. The tide would be making to the west and
north; the coils and pyramids and leapings of surge had also a sort of
yearning and leaning towards north-west, as if in sympathy with the
tide; the deadly terrace of Hurricane Point lay that way; and so the
leaving of the barque in the trough of the sea might come, indeed, to
cost us our lives, which had only just been spared by the shift in the
storm of wind.

'She does not answer the helm,' I cried to my young companion.

'Her head will pay off,' he answered, 'if we can manage to hoist a
fragment of sail forward. It _must_ be done, sir. Will you help me?'

'God knows I will do anything!' I cried. 'Show me what is to be done. We
must save our lives if we can. There may be a chance out on the ocean
for us.'

Without another word he went forward, and I followed him. We had to
pause often to preserve ourselves from being floated off our feet. The
flood, which washed white betwixt the rails, lifted the rigging off the
pins, and sent the ropes snaking about the decks, and our movements were
as much hampered as though we fought our way through a jungle. The foam
all about us, outside and inboards, put a wild, cold glimmer into the
air, which enabled us to distinguish outlines. In fact, at moments the
whole shape of the barque, from her bulwarks to some distance up her
masts, would show like a sketch in ink upon white paper as she leaned
off the slant of the sea and painted her figure upon the hill of froth
thundering away from her on the lee-side.

My companion paused for a moment or two under the shelter of the caboose
or galley, to tell me what he meant to do. We then crawled on to the
forecastle, and he bade me hold by a rope which he put into my hand, and
await his return. I watched him creep into the 'eyes' of the vessel and
get upon the bowsprit, but after that I lost sight of him, for the seas
smoked so fiercely all about the ship's head--to every plunge of her
bows there rose so shrouding a thickness of foam--that the air was a fog
of crystals where the lad was, and had he gone overboard he could not
have vanished more utterly from my sight. Indeed, I could not tell
whether he was gone or not, and a feeling of horror possessed me when I
thought of being left alone in the vessel with a sick and useless man
lying somewhere aft, and with the rage and darkness of the dreadful
storm around me, the chance of striking upon Hurricane Point, and no
better hope at the best than what was to be got out of thinking of the
midnight breast of the storming Atlantic.

After a few minutes there was the noise of the rattling of canvas
resembling a volley of small shot fired off the bows. The figure of the
lad came from the bowsprit out of a burst of spray that soared in steam
into the wind.

'Only a fragment must be hoisted!' he exclaimed with his mouth at my
ear. 'Pull with me!'

I put my weight upon the rope, and together we rose a few feet of the
sail upon the stay--it was the foretopmast staysail, as I afterwards
discovered.

'Enough!' cried my companion in his clear, penetrating voice; 'if it
will but hold till the vessel pays off, all will be well. We dare not
ask for more.'

He secured the rope we had dragged upon to a pin, and I followed him
aft, finding leisure even in that time of distress and horror to wonder
at the coolness, the intrepidity of soul, that was expressed in his
clear unfaltering speech, in the keen judgment and instant resolution of
a lad whose age, as I might gather from his voice, could scarcely exceed
fifteen or sixteen years. Between us we seized the wheel afresh, one on
either side of it, and waited. But we were not to be kept long in
suspense. Indeed, even before we had grasped the helm, the barque was
paying off. The rag of canvas held nobly, and to the impulse of it the
big bows of the vessel rounded away from the gale, and in a few minutes
she was dead before it, pitching furiously, with the sea snapping and
foaming to her taffrail and quarters.

But the thickness of her yards, with the canvas rolled up on them, the
thickness of the masts, too, the spread of the tops, the complicated
gear of shroud, backstay, and running rigging--all offered resistance
enough to the dark and living gale that was bellowing right over the
stern to put something of the speed of an arrow into the keel of the
fabric. Through it she madly raced, with pallid clouds blowing about her
bows, and white peaks hissing along her sides, and a wake of snow under
her counter heaving to half the height of the mizzenmast with the hurl
of the seas, and a ceaseless blowing of froth over our heads as the lad
and I stood together grasping the wheel, steering the vessel into the
darkness of the great Atlantic Ocean, with our eyes upon the
compass-card, whose illuminated disc showed the course on which we were
being flashed forwards by the storm to be a trifle south of west.



CHAPTER IV.

HELGA NIELSEN.


For full twenty minutes the lad and I clung to the helm without
exchanging a word. The speed of the driven vessel rendered her motion
comparatively easy, after the intolerable lurching and rolling and
plunging of her as she lay at anchor or in the trough. She was swept
onwards with such velocity that I had little or no fear of her taking in
the seas over her stern, and she steered well, with but little wildness
in the swerving of her bows, as was to be seen by the comparative
regularity of the oscillation of the compass-card.

This running before the tempest, of course, diminished the volume and
power of it, so far, I mean, as our own sensations were concerned; but
the sight of the sea, as much of it at least as was visible, coupled
with the thunder of the wind up aloft in the sky, and the prodigious
crying and shrieking and shrilling of it in the rigging, was warrant
enough that were we to heave the barque to we should find the hurricane
harder now than it had been at any other time since it first came on to
blow. Yet our racing before it, as I have said, seemed somewhat to lull
it, and we could converse without having to cry out, though for twenty
minutes we stood mute as statues waiting and watching.

At last my companion said to me: 'Have we passed that point which you
spoke of, do you think?'

'Oh yes,' I answered. 'It would not be above two miles distant from the
point where we broke adrift. Our speed cannot have been less than eight
or nine knots. I should say Hurricane Point is a full mile away down on
the quarter there.'

'I fear that we shall find the sea,' said he, 'grow terribly heavy as we
advance.'

'Yes,' said I; 'but what is to be done? There is nothing for it but to
advance. Suppose such another shift of wind as has just happened--what
then? We should have a line of deadly shore right under our lee. No, we
must hold on as we are.'

'There are but two of us!' cried he: 'my father cannot count. What are
we to do? We cannot work this big ship!'

'The weather may break,' said I; 'it is surely too fierce to last. What
can we hope for but to be rescued or assisted by some passing vessel? Is
this ship stanch?'

'Yes; she is a strong ship,' he replied. 'She is about six years old. My
father is her owner. I wish I could go to him,' he added; 'he will be
dying to learn what has happened and what is being done, and it is past
the time for his medicine, and he will be wanting his supper!'

I tried to catch a view of him as he spoke these words, but the haze of
the binnacle-lamp did not reach to his face, and it was as black as the
face of the sky itself out of that sheen. What he had said had a girlish
note in it that I could not reconcile with his dress, with his seafaring
alertness, with his spirited behaviour, his nimble crawling out upon the
bowsprit, and his perception of what was to be done, under conditions
which might well have clouded the wits of the oldest and most audacious
sailor.

'Pray go and see your father,' said I. 'I believe I can keep this helm
amidships without help.' And, indeed, if I could not have steered the
barque alone, I do not know that such assistance as he could offer would
have suffered me to control her. He seemed but a slender lad--so far, at
least, as I had been able to judge from the view I got when the flare
was burning--very quick, but without such strength as I should have
looked for in a young seaman, as I could tell whenever the wheel had to
be put up or down.

He let go the spokes, and stood apart for a minute or two, as though to
judge whether I could manage without him; then said he, 'I will return
quickly,' and with that he took a step and vanished in the blackness
forward of the binnacle-stand.

My mind dwelt for a moment upon him, upon the clearness and purity of
his voice, upon a something in his speech which I could not define, and
which puzzled me; upon his words, which were as good English as one
could hope to hear at home, albeit there was a certain sharpness and
incisiveness--perhaps I might say a little of harshness--in his
accentuation that might suggest him a foreigner to an English ear,
though, as I then supposed, it was more likely than not this quality
arose from the excitement and dismay and distress which worked in him as
in me.

But he speedily ceased to engage my thoughts. What could I dwell upon
but the situation in which I found myself--the spectacle of the black
outline of barque painting herself upon the volumes of white water she
hove up around her as she rushed forward pitching bows under, her
rigging echoing with unearthly cries, as if the dark waving mass of spar
and gear aloft were crowded with tormented souls wailing and howling and
shrieking dismally? I recalled my mother's dream; I believed I was
acting in some dreadful nightmare of my own slumbers; all had happened
so suddenly--so much of emotion, of wild excitement, of agitation, and,
I may say, horror, had been packed into the slender space of time
between the capsizal of the lifeboat and this rushing out of the bay,
that, now I had a little leisure to bend my mind to contemplation of the
reality, I could not believe in it as an actual thing. I was dazed; my
hearing was stunned by the ceaseless roar of wind and seas. The _Janet_
stove and sunk! All my lion-hearted men drowned, perhaps! The poor
Danes, for whom they had forfeited their lives, long ago corpses! Would
not this break my mother's heart? Would there be a survivor to tell her
that when I was last seen I was aboard the barque? Once again I figured
the little parlour I had quitted but a few hours since--I pictured my
mother sitting by the fire, waiting and listening--the long night, the
bitter anguish of suspense!--it was lucky for me that the obligation of
having to watch and steer the vessel served as a constant intrusion upon
my mind at this time, for could I have been able to sit down and
surrender myself wholly to my mood, God best knows how it must have gone
with me.

The lad was about ten minutes absent. I found him alongside the wheel
without having witnessed his approach. He came out of the darkness as a
spirit might shape itself, and I did not know that he was near me until
he spoke.

'My father says that our safety lies in heading into the open sea, to
obtain what you call a wide offing,' said he.

'What does he advise?' I asked.

'"We must continue to run," he says,' answered the lad, meaning by _run_
that we should keep the barque before the wind. '"When the coast is far
astern we must endeavour to heave to." So he counsels. I told him we are
but two. He answered, "It may be done."'

'I wish he were able to leave his cabin and take charge,' said I. 'What
is his complaint?'

'He was seized, shortly after leaving Cuxhaven, with rheumatism in the
knees,' he answered; 'he cannot stand--cannot, indeed, stir either leg.'

'Why did he not get himself conveyed ashore for treatment?'

'He hoped to get better. We were to call at Swansea before proceeding to
Porto Allegre, and if he had found himself still ill when he arrived
there, it was his intention to procure another captain for the _Anine_,
and remain at Swansea with me until he was able to return home.'

'Who had charge of the barque when she brought up in the bay?' I
inquired, finding a sort of relief in asking these questions, and,
indeed, in having somebody to converse with, for even my ten minutes of
loneliness at the helm of that pitching and foaming vessel had depressed
me to the very core of my soul.

'The carpenter, who acted as second mate.'

'Yes, I recollect some of our boatmen brought the news. Your chief mate
broke his leg and was sent ashore. But did your father consent to the
_Anine_ dropping anchor in so perilous a bay as ours--perilous, I mean,
considering the weather at the time?'

'He was at the mercy of the man Damm--the carpenter, I mean,' he
answered. 'The crew had refused to keep the sea: they said a tempest was
coming, and that shelter must be sought before the wind came, and the
carpenter steered the barque for the first haven he fell in with, which
happened to be your bay. Our crew were not good men; they were grumbling
much, as your English word is, from the hour of our leaving Cuxhaven.'

'But surely,' said I, 'the poor fellows who sprang out of the
fore-rigging could not have formed the whole of the crew of a ship of
this burthen.'

'No,' he answered; 'the carpenter and five men got away in one of the
boats when they found that the barque was dragging her anchors. They
lowered one boat, which filled and was knocked to pieces, and the wreck
of it, I dare say, is still swinging at the tackles. They lowered the
other boat and went away in her.'

'Did they reach the shore?'

'I do not know,' said he.

'They must have been a bad lot,' said I--'those who escaped in the boat
and those who hung in the shrouds, to leave your helpless father to his
fate.'

'Oh! a bad lot, a wicked lot!' he cried. 'They were not Danes,' he
added. 'Danish sailors would not have acted as those men did.'

'Are you a Dane?' I asked.

'My father is,' he answered. 'I am as much English as Danish. My mother
was an Englishwoman.'

'I should have believed you wholly English,' said I. 'Are you a sailor?'

He answered, 'No.' I was about to speak, when he exclaimed: 'I am a
girl!'

Secretly for some time I had supposed this, and yet I was hardly less
astonished than had I been without previous suspicion.

'A _girl_!' I cried, sending my sight groping over her figure; but to no
purpose. She was absolutely indistinguishable saving her arms, which
were dimly touched by the haze of the binnacle-light as they lay upon
the spokes of the wheel.

'It is my whim to dress as a boy on board ship!' she exclaimed, with no
stammer of embarrassment that I could catch in her clear delivery, that
penetrated to my ear without loss of a syllable through the heavy
storming of the gale, flashing with the fury of a whirlwind off the
brows of the seas which rushed at us, as the barque's counter soared
into the whole weight and eye of the tempest.

So far had we conversed; but at this moment a great surge took the
barque and swung her up in so long, so dizzy, and sickening an upheaval,
followed by so wild a fall into the frothing hollow at its base, that
speech was silenced in me, and I could think of nothing else but the
mountainous billows now running. Indeed, as my companion had predicted,
the farther we drew out from the land the heavier we found the sea. The
play of the ocean, indeed, out here, was rendered fierce beyond words by
the dual character of the tempest; for the seas which had been set
racing out of the west had not yet been conquered by the violence of the
new gale and by the hurl of the liquid hills out of the east; and the
barque was now labouring in the same sort of pyramidal sea as had run in
the bay, saving that here the whole power of the great Atlantic was in
each billow, and the fight between the contending waters was as a combat
of mighty giants.

The decks were full of water; at frequent intervals the brow of the sea
rushing past us, swift as was our own speed upon its careering back,
would arch over the rail and tumble aboard in a heavy fall of water, and
the smoke of it would rise from the planks as though the barque were on
fire, and make the blackness forward of the mainmast hoary. I sought in
vain for the least break in the dark ceiling of the sky. Will the vessel
be able to keep afloat? I was now all the time asking myself. Is it
possible for any structure put together by human hands to outlive such
a night of fury as this? As I have said, I was no sailor, yet my
'longshore training gave me very readily to know that the best, if not
the only, chance for our lives was to get the barque hove-to, and leave
her to breast the seas and live the weather out as she could with her
helm lashed, and, perhaps some bit of tarpaulin in the weather-rigging,
to keep her head up. But this, that was to be easily wished, was
inexpressibly perilous to attempt or achieve, for, in bringing the
vessel to, it was as likely as not we should founder out of hand. A
single sea might be enough to do our business; and, failing that, there
was the almost certain prospect of the decks being swept, of every
erection from the taffrail to the bows being carried away, ourselves
included; of a score of leaks being started by a single blow, and, even
if the girl and I managed to hold on, of the barque foundering under our
feet.

Thus we rushed onward, very literally indeed scudding under bare poles,
as it is called; and for a long while we had neither of us a word to
exchange, so present was calamity, so near was death, so dreadful were
the thunderous sounds of the night, so engrossing our business of
keeping the flying fabric dead before the seas.

I pulled out my watch and held it hastily to the binnacle-lamp, and
found the hour exactly one. The girl asked me the time. This was the
first word that had passed between us for a long while. I replied, and
she said in a voice that indicated extraordinary spirit, but that
nevertheless sounded languishingly after her earlier utterance: 'Now
that it is past midnight, the gale may break; surely such fierce weather
cannot last for many hours!'

'I wish you would go,' said I, 'and get some refreshment for yourself,
and lie down for awhile. I believe I can manage single-handed to keep
the vessel before it.'

'If I lie down, it would not be to sleep,' she answered; 'but if you
think I can be spared from the wheel for a few minutes, I will obtain
some refreshment for us both, and I should also like to see how my
father does.'

I answered that if the helm was to prove too heavy for me, her help
might hardly save me from being obliged to let go.

'Do not believe this,' she exclaimed, 'because you now know that I am a
girl!'

'I have had no heart to express wonderment as yet,' said I, 'otherwise
my astonishment and admiration would reassure you, if you suppose I
doubt your strength and capacity now that I know you to be a girl. A
little refreshment will help us both,' and I was going to advise her to
seize the opportunity to attire herself in dry clothes, for I was in
oilskins, whereas, so far as I was able to gather, her dress was a
pea-jacket and a cloth cap; and I knew that again and again she had been
soaked to the skin, and that the wind pouring on her would be chilling
her to her very heart. But even amid such a time as this I was sensible
of a diffidence in naming what was in my mind, and held my peace.

She left the wheel, and I stood steering the barque single-handed, with
my eyes fixed upon the illuminated compass-card, while I noticed that
the course the vessel was taking, which always held her dead before the
gale, was now above a point, nay, perhaps two points, to the southward
of west, whence it was clear the hurricane was veering northwardly.

Whether it was because this small shift in the wind still found the
colliding seas travelling east and west, or that some heavy surge
sweeping its volume along the starboard bow caused the barque to 'yaw'
widely, as it is termed, and so brought a great weight of billow against
the rudder: be the cause what it will, while my eye was rooted upon the
card, the stern of the vessel was on a sudden run up with the velocity
of a balloon from whose car all the ballast has been thrown, the spokes
were wrenched from my hand as they revolved like the driving-wheel of a
locomotive in full career, and I was sent spinning against the bulwark,
from which I dropped upon my knees and so rolled over, stunned.

For all I could tell I might have lain five minutes or five hours
without my senses. I believe I was brought to by the washing over me of
the water that lay in that lee-part of the deck into which I had been
shot. I sat erect, but for a long while was unable to collect my mind,
so bewildered were my brains by the fall, and so confounded besides by
the uproar round about. I then made out the figure, as I took it, of the
girl standing at the wheel, and got on my legs, and after feeling over
myself, so to speak, to make sure that all my bones were sound, I
staggered, or rather clawed my way up to the wheel; for the barque
seemed now to me to be upon her beam-ends, and rolling with dreadful
wildness, and there were times when the foaming waters rushed inboards
over the rail which she submerged to leeward.

The girl cried out when she spied me. I had to draw close, indeed, to be
seen; it was as black down where I was thrown, as the inside of the
vessel's hold. She cried out, I say, uttering some Danish exclamation,
and then exclaimed:

'I feared you were lost; I feared that you had been thrown overboard; I
ought not to have left you alone at the wheel. Tell me if you are hurt?'

'No; I am uninjured,' I replied. 'But what has become of the ship? I am
only just recovered from my swoon.'

'Oh!' she cried, 'she has taken up the very situation you wished for.
She has hove herself to. She came broadside to the sea after you were
flung from the wheel. We are mercifully watched over. We dared not of
ourselves have brought her to the wind.'

All my senses were now active in me once more, and I could judge for
myself. It was as the girl had said. The barque had fallen into the
trough, and had taken up a position for herself, and was shouldering the
heavy western surge with her bow, coming to and falling off in rhythmic
sweep. Clouds of froth repeatedly broke over her forecastle; but she
seemed while I then watched her to rise buoyant to each black curl of
billow as it took her amidships.

'Will you help me to lash the helm?' cried the girl. 'It is all that the
_Anine_ will need, I am sure. She will be able to fight the storm alone
if we can secure the wheel.'

Between us, we drove the helm 'hard a-lee,' to use the sea term--for
which, indeed, it is impossible to find an equivalent, though I trust to
be as sparing in this language as the obligation of explanation will
permit--and then, by means of ropes wound round the spokes, so bound the
wheel as to cripple all play in it.

'Will she lie up to the wind, do you think,' said I, 'without some
square of canvas abaft here to keep her head to it?'

'I have been watching her. I believe she will do very well,' the girl
answered. 'I feared that that little head of sail we hoisted in the bay
would blow her bows round, and, by this not happening, I suppose that
sail is in rags. One would not have heard it split in such a thunder of
wind as this.'

'Have you seen your father?'

'Yes. I was talking to him when you were thrown from the wheel. I knew
what had happened by the behaviour of the vessel. I ran out, and feared
you were lost.'

'What does he counsel?'

'It is still his wish that we should go on putting plenty of sea betwixt
us and the land. But do you notice that the gale has gone somewhat into
the north? He will be glad to hear it, now that we are no longer
scudding. Our drift should put us well clear of the Land's End, and,
indeed, I dare say now we are being thrust away at several miles in the
hour from the coast. He is very anxious to know if the _Anine_ has taken
in water, and wishes me to sound the well. I fear I shall not be able to
do this alone.'

'Why should you?' cried I. 'You shall do nothing alone! I cannot credit
that you are a girl! Such spirit--such courage--such knowledge of a
calling the very last in the wide world that women are likely to
understand! Pray let me ask your name?'

'Helga Nielsen,' she answered. 'My father is Peter Nielsen--Captain
Peter Nielsen,' she repeated. 'And your name?'

'Hugh Tregarthen,' said I.

'It is sad that you should be here,' said she, 'brought away from your
home, suffering all this hardship and peril! You came to save our lives.
God will bless you, sir. I pray that the good God may protect and
restore you to those you love.'

Spite of the roar of the wind, and the ceaseless crashing and seething
sound of the smiting and colliding seas, I could catch the falter of
emotion in her voice as she pronounced these words; but then, as you
will suppose, we were close together, standing shoulder to shoulder
against the binnacle, while we exchanged these sentences.

'There is refreshment in the cabin,' said she, after a pause of a moment
or two. 'You need support. This has been a severe night of work for you,
sir, from the hour of your putting off to us in the lifeboat.'

I found myself smiling at the motherly tenderness conveyed in the tone
of her voice. I longed to have a clear view of her, for it was still
like talking in a pitch-dark room; the binnacle-lamp needed trimming,
its light was feeble, and the sky lay horribly black over the ocean,
that was raging, ghastly with pallid glances of sheets of foam under it.

'Let us first sound the well, if possible,' said I, 'for our lives' sake
we ought to find out what is happening below!'

By this time we had watched and waited long enough to satisfy ourselves
that the barque would do as well as we dared hope with her helm lashed;
and it also happened, very fortunately, that her yards were in the right
trim for the posture in which she lay, having been pointed to the
wind--the fore-yards on one tack, the main-yards on the other--when the
gale came on to blow in the bay, and the braces had not since been
touched. I walked with the girl to the entrance of the deck-house, the
door of which faced forwards. She entered the structure and, while I
waited outside, lighted a bull's-eye lamp, with which she rejoined me,
and together we went forward to another house built abaft of the galley.
This had been the place in which the crew slept. The carpenter's chest
was here, and also the sounding-rod. We then went to the pumps, and
while I held the lamp she dropped the rod down the sounding-pipe, drew
it up and brought it to the light and examined it, and named the depth
of water there was in the hold. I do not recollect the figure, but I
remember that, though it was significant, there was nothing greatly to
alarm us in it, seeing how heavily and how frequently the barque had
been flooded with the seas, and how much of the water might have made
its way from above.

I recount this little passage in a few lines, yet it forms one of the
most sharp-cut of the memories of my adventure. The picture is before me
as I write. I see the pair of us as we come to a dead stand, grasping
each other for support, while the vessel rolls madly over on the slope
of some huge hurtling sea. I see the bright glare from the bull's-eye
lamp in the girl's hand, dancing like a will-o'-the-wisp upon the black
flood betwixt the rails washing with the slant of the decks to our
knees; I see her dropping the rod down the tube, coolly examining it,
declaring its indication, while, to the flash of the lamplight, I catch
an instant's glimpse of her face, shining out white--large-eyed, as it
seemed to me--upon the blackness rushing in thunder athwart the deck.

She led the way into the deck-house. There was a small lantern wildly
swinging at a central beam--my companion had lighted it when she
procured the bull's-eye lamp--it diffused a good lustre, and I could see
very plainly. It was just a plain, ordinary, shipboard interior, with
three little windows of a side, a short table, lockers on either hand,
and a sleeping-berth, or cabin, designed for the captain's use, aft; the
companion-hatch, which led to the deck below, was betwixt the after-end
of the cabin and the bulkhead of the berth, but the rapid glance I threw
around speedily settled, as you may suppose, into a look--a long
look--full of curiosity, surprise, and admiration, at the girl.

She stood before me dressed as a sailor lad, in a suit of pilot cloth
and a red silk handkerchief round her throat; but her first act on
entering was to remove her cloth cap, that was streaming wet, and throw
it down upon the table; and thus she stood with her eyes fixed on me, as
mine were on her, each of us surveying the other. Her hair was cut
short, and was rough and plentiful, without remains of any sort of
fashion in the wearing of it--nay, indeed, it was unparted. It was very
fair hair, and as pale as amber in the lamplight. Her eyebrows were of a
darker colour, and very perfectly arched, as though pencilled. It was
impossible to guess the hue of her eyes by that light: they seemed of a
very dark blue, such as might prove violet in the sunshine, soft and
liquid, and of an expression, even in that hour of peril, of the horror
of tempest, of the prospect of death, indeed, that might make one
readily suppose her of a nature both sweet and merry. There was no sign
of exposure to the weather upon her face; she was white with the
paleness of fatigue and emotion. Her cheeks were plump, her mouth small,
the under-lip a little pouted, and her teeth pearl-like and very
regular. Even by the light in which I now surveyed her, I never for a
moment could have mistaken her for a lad. There was nothing in her garb
to neutralize for an instant the suggestions of her sex.

'I will take you to my father,' said she; 'but you must first eat and
drink.'

I could not have told how exhausted I was until I sank down upon a
locker and rested my arms upon the table. I was too wearied to ask the
questions that I should have put to her at another time, and could do no
more than watch her, with a sort of dull wonder at her nimbleness, and
the spirit and resolution of her movements as she lifted the lid of the
locker and produced a case-bottle of Hollands, some cold meat, and a tin
of white biscuits.

'We have no bread,' said she, smiling; 'we obtained some loaves off the
Isle of Wight, but the last was eaten yesterday.'

She took a tumbler from a rack and mixed a draught of the Hollands with
some water which she got from a filter fixed to a stanchion, and
extended the glass.

'Pray let me follow you!' said I. She shook her head. 'Yes!' I cried;
'God knows you should need some such tonic more than I!'

I induced her to drink, and then took the glass and emptied it. A second
dram warmed and heartened me. I was without appetite, but was willing to
eat for the sake of such strength as might come from a meal. The girl
made herself a sandwich of biscuit and meat, and we fell to. And so we
sat facing each other, eating, staring at each other; the pair of us all
the while hearkening with all our ears to the roaring noises outside, to
the straining sounds within the ship, and feeling--I speak of
myself--with every nerve tense as a fiddlestring, the desperate slants
and falls and uprisals of the deck or platform upon which our feet
rested.



CHAPTER V.

DAWN.


There was refreshment, however, to every sense, beyond language to
express, in the shelter which this deck-house provided after our long
term of exposure to the pouring of the raging gale, into which was put
the further weight of volumes of spray, that swept to the face like
leaden hail, and carried the shriek of the shot of musketry as it slung
past the ear. It was calm in this deck-house; the deafening sounds
without came somewhat muffled here; but the furious motion of the vessel
was startlingly illustrated by the play of the hanging lantern, and the
swing of the illuminated globe was made the wilder and more wonderful by
the calm of the atmosphere in which it oscillated.

'I do not think the sea is breaking over the ship,' said the girl,
gazing at me in a posture of listening. 'It is hard to tell. I feel no
tremble as of the falls of water on the deck.'

'She is battling bravely,' said I; 'but what now would I give for even a
couple of those men of yours who jumped into the lifeboat! It is our
being so few--two of us only, and you a woman--that makes our situation
so hard.'

'I have not the strength of a man,' said she with a smile, and fastening
her soft eyes on my face; 'but you will find I have the heart of one.
Will you come now and see my father?'

I at once rose and followed her. She knocked upon a little door where
the bulkhead partitioned off the inner cabin, and then entered, bidding
me follow her.

A cot swung from the upper deck, and in it sat a man almost upright, his
back supported by bolsters and pillows; a bracket lamp burnt steadily
over a table, upon which lay a book or two, a chart, a few nautical
instruments, and the like. There was no convenience for dressing, and I
guessed that this had been a sort of chart-room which the captain had
chosen to occupy that he might be easily and without delay within hail
or reach of the deck.

He was a striking-looking man, with coal-black hair, parted on one side,
lying very flat upon his head, and curling down upon his back. He wore a
long goat beard and moustaches, and was somewhat grim with several days'
growth of whisker upon his cheeks; his brows were thickly thatched, his
forehead low, his eyes very dark, small, and penetrating. He was of a
deathlike whiteness, and showed, to my fancy, as a man whose days were
numbered. That his disease was something more than rheumatism there was
no need to look at him twice to make sure of. His daughter addressed him
in the Danish tongue, then, recollecting herself, with a half-glance at
me of apology, she exclaimed:

'Father, this is Mr. Hugh Tregarthen, the noble gentleman who commanded
the lifeboat, who risked his life to save ours, and I pray that God of
His love for brave spirits may restore him in safety to those who are
dear to him.'

Captain Nielsen, with a face contracted into a look of pain by emotion,
extended his hand in silence over the edge of his cot. I grasped it in
silence too. It was ice cold. He gazed for awhile, without speech, into
my eyes, and I thought to see him shed tears; then, putting his hand
upon mine in a caressing gesture, and letting it go--for the swing of
the cot would not permit him to retain that posture of holding my hand
for above a moment or two, he exclaimed in a low but quite audible
voice: 'I ask the good and gracious Lord of heaven and earth to bless
you, for _her_ sake--for my Helga's sake--and in the name of those who
have perished, but whom you would have saved!'

'Captain Nielsen,' said I, greatly moved by his manner and looks, 'would
it had pleased Heaven that I should have been of solid use to you and
your men! I grieve to find you in this helpless state. I hope you do not
suffer?'

'While I rest I am without pain,' he answered, and I now observed that
though his accent had a distinctly Scandinavian harshness, such as was
softened in his daughter's speech by the clearness--I may say, by the
melody--of her tones, his English was as purely pronounced as hers. 'But
if I move,' he continued, 'I am in agony. I cannot stand; my legs are
as idle and as helpless as though paralyzed. But now tell me of the
_Anine_, Helga,' he cried, with a look of pathetic eager yearning
entering his face as he addressed her. 'Have you sounded the well?'

'Yes, father.'

'What water, my child?' She told him. 'Ha!' he exclaimed, with a sudden
fretfulness; 'the pump should be manned without delay; but who is there
to work it?'

'We two will, very shortly,' she exclaimed, turning to me: 'we require a
little breathing time. Mr. Tregarthen and I,' said she, still talking
with her soft appealing eyes upon me, 'have strength, or, at all events,
courage enough to give us strength; and he will help me in whatever we
may think needful to save the _Anine_ and our lives.'

'Indeed, yes!' said I.

'Pray sit, both of you,' cried Captain Nielsen; 'pray rest. Helga, have
you seen to the gentleman's comfort? Has he had any refreshment?'

She answered him, and seated herself upon a little locker, inviting me
with a look to sit beside her, for there was no other accommodation in
that cabin than the locker.

'I wish I could persuade your daughter to take some rest,' said I. 'Her
clothes, too, are soaked through!'

'It is salt water,' said Captain Nielsen; 'it will not harm her. She is
very used to salt water, sir;' and then he addressed his daughter in
Danish. The resemblance of some words he used to our English made me
suppose he spoke about her resting.

'The pumps must be worked,' said she, looking at me; 'we must keep the
barque afloat first of all, Mr. Tregarthen. How trifling is want of
sleep, how insignificant the discomfort of damp clothes, at such a time
as this!'

She opened her jacket and drew a silver watch from her pocket, and then
took a bottle of medicine and a wineglass from a small circular tray
swinging by thin chains near the cot, and gave her father a dose. He
began now to question us, occasionally in his hurry and eagerness
speaking in the Danish language. He asked about the masts--if they were
sound, if any sails had been split, if the _Anine_ had met with any
injury apart from the loss of her two boats, of which he had evidently
been informed by his daughter. A flush of temper came into his white
cheeks when he talked of his men. He called the carpenter Damm a
villain, said that had he had his way the barque never would have
brought up in that bay, that Damm had carried her there, as he now
believed, as much out of spite as out of recklessness, hoping no doubt
that the _Anine_ would go ashore, but of course taking it for granted
that the crew would be rescued. He shook his fist as he pronounced the
carpenter's name, and then groaned aloud with anguish to some movement
of his limbs brought about by his agitation. He lay quiet a little and
grew calm, and talked, with his thin fingers on his breast. He informed
me that the _Anine_ was his ship, that he had spent some hundreds of
pounds in equipping her for this voyage, that he had some risk in the
cargo, and that, in a word, all that he was worth in the wide world was
in this fabric, now heavily and often madly labouring, unwatched, amid
the blackness of the night of hurricane.

'Your daughter and I must endeavour to preserve her for you,' said I.

'May the blessed God grant it!' he cried. 'And how good and heroic are
you to speak thus!' said he, looking at me. 'Surely your great Nelson
was right when he called us Danes the brothers of the English. Brothers
in affection may our countries ever be! We have given you a sweet
Princess--that is a debt it will tax your people's generosity to repay.'
The smile that lighted up his face as he spoke made me see a resemblance
in him to his daughter. It was like throwing a light upon a picture. He
was now looking at her with an expression full of tenderness and
concern.

'Mr.--Mr.----' he began.

'Tregarthen,' said his daughter.

'Ay, Mr. Tregarthen,' he continued, 'will wonder that a girl should be
clad as you are, Helga. Were you ever in Denmark, sir?'

'Never,' I replied.

'You will not suppose, I hope,' said he, with another soft, engaging
smile that was pathetic also with the meaning it took from his white
face, 'that Helga's attire is the costume of Danish ladies?'

'Oh no,' said I. 'I see how it is. Indeed, Miss Nielsen explained. The
dress is a whim. And then it is a very convenient shipboard dress. But
she should not be suffered to do the rough work of a sailor. Will you
believe, Captain Nielsen, that she went out upon the bowsprit, and cut
adrift or loosed the staysail there when your barque was on her
beam-ends in the trough of the sea?'

He nodded with emphasis, and said, 'That is nothing. Helga has been to
sea with me now for six years running. It is her delight to dress
herself in boy's clothes--ay, and to go aloft and do the work of a
seaman. It has hardened and spoilt her hands, but it has left her face
fair to see. She is a good girl; she loves her poor father; she is
motherless, Mr. Tregarthen. Were my dear wife alive, Helga would not be
here. She is my only child;' and he made as if to extend his arms to
her, but immediately crossed his hands, again addressing her in Danish
as though he blessed her.

I could perceive the spirit in her struggling with the weakness that
this talk induced. She conquered her emotions with a glance at me that
was one almost of pride, as though she would bid me observe that she was
mistress of herself, and said, changing the subject, but not abruptly,
'Father, do you think the vessel can struggle on without being watched
or helped from the deck?'

'What can be done?' he cried. 'The helm is securely lashed hard a-lee?'
She nodded. 'What can be done?' he repeated. 'Your standing at the wheel
would be of no use. What is the trim of the yards?'

'They lie as they were braced up in the bay,' she responded.

'I have been in ships,' said he, 'that always managed best when left
alone in hard weather of this kind. There was the old _Dannebrog_,' he
went on, with his eyes seeming to glisten to some sudden stir of happy
memory in him. 'Twice when I was in her--once in the Baltic, once in the
South Atlantic--we met with gales: well, perhaps not such a gale as
this; but it blew very fiercely, Mr. Tregarthen. The captain, my old
friend Sorensen, knew her as he knew his wife. He pointed the yards,
lashed the helm, sent the crew below and waited, smoking his pipe in the
cabin, till the weather broke. She climbed the seas dryly, and no whale
could have made better weather of it. A ship has an intelligence of her
own. It is the spirit of the sea that comes into her, as into the birds
or fish of the ocean. Observe how long a vessel will wash about after
her crew have abandoned her. They might have sunk her had they stayed,
not understanding her. Much must be left to chance at sea, Helga. No;
there is nothing to be done. Damm reported the hatch-covers on and
everything secure while in the bay. It is so still, of course. Yet it
will ease my mind to know she is a little freed of the water in her.'

'I am ready!' cried I. 'Is the pump too heavy for my arms alone? I
cannot bear to think of your daughter toiling upon that wet and howling
deck.'

'She will not spare herself, though you should wish it,' said her
father. 'What is the hour, my dear?'

She looked at her watch. 'Twenty minutes after two.'

'A weary long time yet to wait for the dawn!' said he. 'And it is Sunday
morning--a day of rest for all the world save for the mariner. But it is
God's own day, and when next Sabbath comes round we may be worshipping
Him ashore, and thanking Him for our preservation.'

As he pronounced these words, Helga, as I will henceforth call her,
giving me a glance of invitation, quitted the berth, and I followed her
into the cabin, as I may term the interior of the deck-house. She picked
up the bull's-eye lamp and trimmed the mesh of it, and, arming herself
with the sounding-rod, stepped on to the deck. I watched her movements
with astonishment and admiration. I should have believed that I
possessed fairly good sea-legs, even for a wilder play of plank than
this which was now tossing us; nevertheless, I never dared let go with
my hands, and there were moments when the upheaval was so swift, the
fall so sickening, that my brain reeled again, and to have saved my life
I could not have stirred the distance of a pace until the sensation had
passed. But excepting an occasional pause, an infrequent grasp at what
was next to her during some unusually heavy roll, Helga moved with
almost the same sort of ease that must have been visible in her on a
level floor. Her figure, indeed, seemed to float; it swayed to the
rolling of the deck as a flame hovers upright upon the candle you
sharply sway under it.

After the comparative calm of the shelter I stepped from, the uproar of
the gale sounded as though it were blowing as hard again as at the time
of our quitting the deck. The noise of the rushing and roaring waters
was deafening; as the vessel brought her masts to windward, the
screaming and whistling aloft are not to be imagined. The wind was
clouded with spray, the decks sobbed furiously with wet, and it was
still as pitch black as ever it had been at any hour of the night. Helga
threw the light of the bull's-eye upon the pump-brake or handle, and we
then fell to work. At intervals we could contrive to hear each other
speak--that is to say, in some momentary lull, when the barque was in
the heart of a valley ere she rose to the next thunderous acclivity,
yelling in her rigging with the voice of a wounded giantess. For how
long we stuck to that dismal clanking job I cannot remember. The water
gushed copiously as we plied the handle, and the foam was all about our
feet as though we stood in a half-fathom's depth of surf. I was amazed
by the endurance and pluck of the girl, and, indeed, I found half my
strength in her courage. Had I been alone I am persuaded I should have
given up. The blow of the wheel that had dashed me into unconsciousness,
coming on top of my previous labours, not to speak of that exhaustion of
mind which follows upon such distress of heart as my situation and the
memory of my foundered boat and the possible loss of all her people had
occasioned in me, must have proved too much but for the example and
influence, the inspiriting presence of this little Danish lioness,
Helga.

In one of those intervals I have spoken of she cried out, 'We have done
enough--for the present;' and so saying she let go of the pump-handle
and asked me to hold the lamp while she dropped the rod. I had supposed
our efforts insignificant, and was surprised to learn that we had sunk
the water by some inches. We returned to the deck-house, but scarcely
had I entered it when I was seized with exhaustion so prostrating that I
fell, rather than seated myself, upon the locker and hid my face in my
arms upon the table till the sudden darkness should have passed from my
eyes. When, presently, I looked up, I found Helga at my side with a
glass of spirits in her hand. There was a wonderful anxiety and
compassion in her gaze.

'Drink this!' said she. 'The work has been too hard for you. It is my
fault--I am sorry--I am sorry.'

I swallowed the draught, and was the better for it.

'This weakness,' said I, 'must come from the blow I got on deck. I have
kept you from your father. He will want your report,' and I stood up.

She gave me her arm, and but for that support I believe I should not
have been able to make my way to the captain's berth, so weak did I feel
in the limbs, so paralyzing to my condition of prostration was the
violent motion of the deck.

Captain Nielsen looked eagerly at us over the edge of his cot. Helga
would not release me until I was seated on the locker.

'Mr. Tregarthen's strength has been overtaxed, father,' said she.

'Poor man! poor man!' he cried. 'God will bless him. He has suffered
much for us.'

'It must be a weakness, following my having been stunned,' said I,
ashamed of myself that I should be in need of a girl's pity at such a
time--the pity of a girl, too, who was sharing my labours and danger.

'What have you to tell me, Helga?' exclaimed the captain.

She answered him in Danish, and they exchanged some sentences in that
tongue.

'She is a tight ship,' cried the captain, addressing me: 'it is good
news,' he went on, his white countenance lighted up with an expression
of exultation, 'to hear that you two should be able to control the water
in the hold. Does the weather seem to moderate?'

'No,' said I; 'it blows as hard as ever it did.'

'Does the sea break aboard?'

'There is plenty of water washing about,' said I, 'but the vessel seems
to be making a brave fight.'

'When daylight comes, Helga,' said he, 'you will hoist a distress colour
at the mizzen-peak. If the peak be wrecked or the halliards gone, the
flag must be seized to the mizzen shrouds.'

'I will see to all that, father,' she answered; 'and now, Mr.
Tregarthen, you will take some rest.'

I could not bear the idea of sleeping while she remained up; yet though
neither of us could be of the least use on deck, our both resting at
once was not to be thought of, if it was only for the sake of the
comfort that was to be got out of knowing that there was somebody awake
and on watch.

'I will gladly rest,' said I, 'on condition that you now lie down and
sleep for two or three hours.'

She answered no; she was less tired than I; she had not undergone what I
had suffered in the lifeboat. She begged me to take some repose.

'It is my selfishness that entreats you,' said she: 'if you break down,
what are my father and I to do?'

'True,' I exclaimed, 'but the three of us would be worse off still if
_you_ were to break down.'

However, as I saw that she was very much in earnest, while her father
also joined her in entreating me to rest, I consented on her agreeing
first to remove her soaking clothes, for it was miserable to see her
shivering from time to time and looking as though she had just been
dragged over the side, and yet bravely disregarding the discomfort,
smiling as often as she addressed me and conversing with her father with
a face of serenity, plainly striving to soothe and reassure him by an
air of cheerful confidence.

She left the cabin, and Captain Nielsen talked of her at once: told me
that her mother was an Englishwoman; that he was married in London, in
which city he had lived from time to time; that Helga had received a
part of her education at New-castle-on-Tyne, where his wife's family
then lived, though they were now scattered, or perhaps dead, only one
member to his knowledge still residing at Newcastle. He took Helga to
sea with him, he said, after his wife died, that he might have her under
his eye, and such was her love for the sea, such her intelligent
interest in everything which concerned a ship, that she could do as much
with a vessel as he himself, and had often, at her own request, taken
charge for a watch, during which she had shortened canvas and put the
craft about as though, in short, she had been skipper. The poor man
seemed to forget his miserable situation while he spoke of Helga. His
heart was full of her; his eyes swam with tears while he cried, 'It is
not that I fear death for myself, nor for myself do I dread the loss of
my ship, which would signify beggary for me and my child. It is for
her--for my little Helga. We have friends at Kolding, where I was born,
and at Bjert, Vonsild, Skandrup, and at other places. But who will help
the orphan? My friends are not rich--they could do little, no matter how
generous their will. I pray God, for my child's sake, that we may be
preserved--ay, and for your sake--I should have said that,' he added,
feebly smiling, though his face was one of distress.

He was beginning to question me about my home, and I was telling him
that my mother was living, and that she and I were alone in the world,
and that I feared she would think me drowned, and grieve till her heart
broke, for she was an old lady, and I was her only son, as Helga was his
only daughter, when the girl entered, and I broke off. She had changed
her attire, but her clothes were still those of a lad. I had thought to
see her come in dressed as a woman, and she so interpreted the look I
fastened upon her, for she at once said, without the least air of
confusion, as though, indeed, she were sensible of nothing in her
apparel that demanded an excuse from her: 'I must preserve my sailor's
garb until the fine weather comes. How should I be able to move about
the decks in a gown?'

'Helga,' cried her father, 'Mr. Tregarthen is the only son of his
mother, and she awaits his return.'

Instantly entered an expression of beautiful compassion into her soft
eyes. Her gaze fell, and she remained for a few moments silent; the
lamplight shone upon her tumbled hair, and I am without words to make
you see the sweet sorrowful expression of her pale face as she stood
close against the door, silent, and looking down.

'I have kept my word, Mr. Tregarthen,' said she presently. 'Now you will
keep yours and rest yourself. There is my father's cabin below.'

I interrupted her: 'No; if you please, I will lie down upon one of the
lockers in the deck-house.'

'It will make a hard bed,' said she.

'Not too hard for me,' said I.

'Well, you shall lie down upon one of those lockers, and you shall be
comfortable too;' and, saying this, she went out again, and shortly
afterwards returned with some rugs and a bolster. These she placed upon
the lee locker, and a minute or two later I had shaken the poor captain
by the hand, and had stretched myself upon the rugs, where I lay
listening to the thunder of the gale and following the wild motions of
the barque, and thinking of what had happened since the lifeboat summons
had rung me into this black, and frothing, and roaring night from my
snug fireside.

It was not long, however, before I fell asleep. I had undergone some
lifeboat experiences in my time, but never before was nature so
exhausted in me. The roaring of the gale, the cannonading of the
deck-house by incessant heavy showerings of water, the extravagant
motions of the plunging and rolling vessel, might have been a mother's
lullaby sung by the side of a gently-rocked cradle, so deep was the
slumber these sounds of thunder left unvexed.

I awoke from a dreamless, deathlike sleep, and opened my eyes against
the light of the cold stone-gray dawn, and my mind instantly coming to
me, I sprang up from the locker, pausing to guess at the weather from
the movement and the sound. It was still blowing a whole gale of wind,
and I was unable to stand without grasping the table for support. The
deck-house door was shut, and the planks within were dry, though I could
hear the water gushing and pouring in the alleys betwixt the deck-house
and the bulwarks. I thought to take a view of the weather through one of
the windows, but the glass was everywhere blind with wet.

At this moment the door of the captain's berth was opened, and Helga
stepped out. She immediately approached me with both hands extended in
the most cordial manner imaginable.

'You have slept well,' she cried; 'I bent over you three or four times.
You are the better for the rest, I am sure.'

'I am, indeed!' said I. 'And you?'

'Oh, I shall sleep by-and-by. What shall we do for hot water? It is
impossible to light the galley fire; yet how grateful would be a cup of
hot tea or coffee!'

'Have you been on deck,' said I, 'while I slept?'

'Oh yes, in and out,' she answered. 'All is well so far--I mean, the
_Anine_ goes on making a brave fight. The dawn has not long broken. I
have not yet seen the ship by daylight. We must sound the well, Mr.
Tregarthen, before we break our fast--my fear is there,' she added,
pointing to the deck, by which she signified the hold.

There was but little of her face to be seen. She was wearing an
indiarubber cap shaped like a sou'-wester, the brim of which came low,
while the flannel ear-flaps almost smothered her cheeks. I could now
see, however, that her eyes were of a dark blue, with a spirit of life
and even of vivacity in them that expressed a wonderful triumph of heart
over the languor of frame indicated by the droop of the eyelids. A
little of her short hair of pale gold showed under the hinder thatch of
the sou'-wester; her face was blanched. But I could not look at the
pretty mouth, the pearl-like teeth, the soft blue eyes, the delicately
figured nostril, without guessing that in the hour of bloom this girl
would show as bonnily as the fairest lass of cream and roses that ever
hailed from Denmark.

We stepped on to the deck--into the thunder of the gale and the flying
clouds of spray. I still wore my oilskins, and was as dry in them as at
the hour of leaving home. I felt the comfort, I assure you, of my high
sea-boots as I stood upon that deck, holding on a minute to the
house-front, with the water coming in a little rage of froth to my legs
and washing to leeward with the _scend_ of the barque with the force of
a river overflowing a dam.

Our first glance was aloft. The foretopgallant-mast was broken off at
the head of the topmast and hung with its two yards supported by its
gear, but giving a strange wrecked look to the whole of the fabric up
there as it swung to the headlong movements of the hull, making the
spars, down to the solid foot of the foremast, tremble with the spearing
blows it dealt. The jibbooms were also gone, and this, no doubt, had
happened through the carrying away of the topgallant-mast; otherwise all
was right up above, assuming, to be sure, that nothing was sprung. But
the wild, soaked, desolate--the almost mutilated--look, indeed, of the
barque! How am I to communicate the impression produced by the soaked
dark lines of sailcloth rolled upon the yards, the ends of rope blowing
out like the pennant of a man-of-war, the arched and gleaming gear, the
decks dusky with incessant drenchings and emitting sullen flashes as the
dark flood upon them rolled from side to side! The running rigging lay
all about, working like serpents in the wash of the water; from time to
time a sea would strike the bow and burst on high in steam-like volumes
which glanced ghastly against the leaden sky that overhung us in strata
of scowling vapour, dark as thunder in places, yet seemingly motionless.
A furious Atlantic sea was running; it came along in hills of frothing
green which shaped themselves out of a near horizon thick with storms of
spume. But there was the regularity of the unfathomed ocean in the run
of the surge, mountainous as it was; and the barque, with her
lashed helm, not a rag showing save a tatter or two of the
fore-topmast-staysail whose head we had exposed on the previous night,
soared and sank, with her port bow to the sea, with the regularity of
the tick of a clock.

There was nothing in sight. I looked eagerly round the sea, but it was
all thickness and foam and headlong motion. We went aft to the compass
to observe if there had happened any shift in the wind, and what the
trend of the barque was, and also to note the condition of the wheel,
which could only have been told in the darkness by groping. The helm was
perfectly sound, and the lashings held bravely. I could observe now that
the wheel was a small one, formed of brass, also that it worked the
rudder by means of a screw, and it was this purchase or leverage, I
suppose, that had made me find the barque easy to steer while she was
scudding. The gale was blowing fair out of the north-east, and the
vessel's trend, therefore, was on a dead south-west course, with the
help of a mountainous sea besides, to drive her away from the land, beam
on. I cried to Helga that I thought our drift would certainly not be
less than four, and perhaps five, miles in the hour. She watched the sea
for a little, and then nodded to me; but it was scarcely likely that she
could conjecture the rate of progress amid so furious a commotion of
waters, with the great seas boiling to the bulwark rail, and rushing
away to leeward in huge round backs of freckled green.

She was evidently too weary to talk, rendered too languid by the bitter
cares and sleepless hours of the long night to exert her voice so as to
be audible in that thunder of wind which came flashing over the side in
guns and bursts of hurricane power; and to the few sentences I uttered,
or rather shouted, she responded by nods and shakes of the head as it
might be. There was a flag locker under the gratings abaft the wheel,
and she opened the box, took out a small Danish ensign, bent it on to
the peak-signal halliards, and between us we ran it half-mast high, and
there it stood, hard and firm as a painted board, a white cross on red
ground, and the red of it made it resemble a tongue of fire against the
soot of the sky. This done, we returned to the main-deck, and Helga
sounded the pump. She went to work with all the expertness of a seasoned
salt, carefully dried the rod and chalked it, and then waited until the
roll of the barque brought her to a level keel before dropping it. I
watched her with astonishment and admiration. It would until now have
seemed impossible to me that any mortal woman should have had in her the
makings of so nimble and practised a sailor as I found her to be, with
nothing, either, of the tenderness of girlhood lost in her, in speech,
in countenance, in looks, spite of her boy's clothes. She examined the
rod, and eyed me with a grave countenance.

'Does the water gain?' said I.

'There are two more inches of it,' she answered, 'than the depth I found
in the hold last night when I first sounded. We ought to free her
somewhat.'

'I am willing,' I exclaimed; 'but are you equal to such labour? A couple
of hours should not make a very grave difference.'

'No, no!' she interrupted, with a vehemence that put her air of
weariness to flight. 'A couple of hours would be too long to wait,'
saying which she grasped the brake and we went to work as before.

No one who has not had to labour in this way can conceive the fatigue of
it. There is no sort of shipboard work that more quickly exhausts. It
grieved me to the soul that my associate in this toil should be a girl,
with the natural weakness of her sex accentuated by what she had
suffered and was still suffering; but her spirited gaze forbade
remonstrance. She seemed scarcely able to stand when utter weariness
forced her at last to let go of the brake. Nevertheless, she compelled
her feeble hands again to drop the rod down the well. We had reduced the
water to the height at which we had left it before, and, with a faint
smile of congratulation, she made a movement towards the deck-house; but
her gait was so staggering, there was such a character of blindness,
too, in her posture as she started to walk, that I grasped her arm and,
indeed, half carried her into the house.

She sat and rested herself for a few minutes, but appeared unable to
speak. I watched her anxiously, with something of indignation that her
father, who professed to love her so dearly, should not come between her
and her devotion, and insist upon her resting. Presently she rose and
walked to his cabin, telling me with her looks to follow her.



CHAPTER VI.

CAPTAIN NIELSEN.


Captain Nielsen, was veritably corpse-like in aspect viewed by the cold
gray iron light sifting through the little windows out of the
spray-shrouded air. The unnatural brightness of his eyes painfully
defined the attenuation of his face, and the sickly, parchment-like
complexion of his skin. He extended his hand, but could hardly find time
to deliver a greeting, so violent was his hurry to receive his
daughter's report. He shook his head when he heard that his
topgallant-mast and jibbooms were wrecked, and passionately exclaimed in
Danish, on his daughter telling him of the increase of water in the
hold.

'She must be taking it in from below,' he then cried in English. 'She
has strained herself. Should this continue, what is to be done? She will
need to be constantly pumped--and ah, my God! you are but two.'

'Yes, Captain,' cried I, incensed that he should appear to have no
thoughts but for his ship; 'but if you do not insist upon your daughter
taking some rest there will be but one, long before this gale has blown
itself out.'

'Oh, my dear, it is so!' he exclaimed, looking at her on a sudden with
impassioned concern. 'Mr. Tregarthen is right. You will sink under your
efforts. Your dear heart will break. Rest now--rest, my beloved child! I
command you to rest! You must go below: you must lie in your own cabin.
This good gentleman is about--he will sit with me and go forth and
report. The _Anine_ tends herself, and there is nothing in human skill
to help her outside what she can herself do.'

'But we must not starve, father,' she answered: 'let us first breakfast,
as best we can, and then I will go below.'

She left the cabin and promptly returned, bringing with her the remains
of the cold meat we had supped off, some biscuit, and a bottle of red
wine. Her father drank a little of the wine and ate a morsel of
biscuit; indeed, food seemed to excite a loathing in him. I saw that
Helga eyed him piteously, but she did not press him to eat: it might be
that she had experience of his stubbornness. She said, in a soft aside,
to me: 'His appetite is leaving him, and how can I tempt him without the
means of cooking? Does not he look very ill this morning?'

'It is worry, added to rheumatic pains,' said I: 'we must get him ashore
as soon as possible, where he can be nursed in comfort.'

But though these words flowed readily, out of my sympathy with the poor,
brave, suffering girl, they were assuredly not in correspondence with my
secret feelings. It was not only I was certain that Captain Nielsen lay
in his cot a dying man; the roaring of the wind, the beating of the sea
against the barque, the wild extravagant leapings and divings, the
perception that water was draining into the hold, and that there were
but two of us--and one of those two a girl--to work the pumps, made a
mockery to my heart of my reference to the Captain getting ashore and
being nursed there.

We sat in that slanting and leaping interior with plates on our knees.
The girl feigned to eat; her head drooped with weariness, yet I noticed
that she would force a cheerful note into the replies she made to her
father's ceaseless feverish questions. When we had ended our meal, she
left us to go below to her cabin; but before leaving she asked me, with
eyes full of tender pleading, to keep her father's heart up, to make the
best of such reports as I might have to give him after going out to take
a look round; and she told me that he would need his physic at such and
such a time, and so lingered, dwelling upon him and glancing at him; and
then she went out in a hurry with one hand upon her breast, yet not so
swiftly but that I could see her eyes were swimming.

'There is a barometer in the cabin,' said Captain Nielsen; 'will you
tell me how the mercury stands?'

The glass was fixed to the bulkhead outside. I returned and gave him the
reading.

''Tis a little rise!' he cried, with his unnaturally bright eyes eagerly
fastened upon me.

I would not tell him that it was not so--that the mercury, indeed, stood
at the level I had observed on the preceding day in my glass in the
lifeboat house.

'Fierce weather of this sort,' said I, 'soon exhausts itself.'

He continued to stare at me, but now with an air of musing that somewhat
softened the painful brilliant intentness of his regard.

'I pray God,' said he, 'that this weather may speedily enable us to
obtain help, for I fear that if I am not treated I shall get very low,
perhaps die. I am ill--yet what is my malady? This rheumatism is a
sudden seizure. I could walk when at Cuxhaven.'

In as cheerful a voice as I could assume, I begged him to consider that
his mind might have much to do with those bodily sensations which made
him feel ill.

'It may be so, it may be so,' he exclaimed, with a sad smile of
faltering hope. 'I wish to live. I am not an old man. It will be hard if
my time is to come soon. It is Helga--it is Helga,' he muttered,
pressing his brow with his thin hand. I was about to speak. 'How
wearisome,' he broke out, 'is this ceaseless tossing! I ran away to sea;
it was my own doing. I had my childish dreams--strange and beautiful
fancies of foreign countries--and I ran away;' he went on in a rambling
manner like one thinking aloud. 'And yet I love the old ocean, though it
is serving me cruelly now. It has fed me--it has held me to its
breast--and my nourishment and life have come from it.' He started, and,
bringing his eyes away from the upper deck on which they had been fixed
while he spoke, he cried, 'Sir, you are a stranger to me, but you are an
Englishman of heroic heart, and you will forgive me. Should I die, and
should God be pleased to spare you and my child, will you protect her
until she has safely returned to her friends at Kolding? She will be
alone in any part of the world until she is there, and if I am assured
that she will have the generous compassion of your heart with her, a
guardian to take my place until she reaches Kolding, it will make me
easy in my ending, let the stroke come when it will.'

'I came to this ship to save your lives,' I answered. 'I hope to be an
instrument yet of helping to save them. Trust me to do your bidding, if
it were only for my admiration of your daughter's heroic qualities. But
do not speak of dying, Captain Nielsen----'

He interrupted me. 'There is my dear friend Pastor Blicker of Kolding,
and there is Pastor Jansen of Skandrup. They are good and gentle
Christian men, who will receive Helga, and stand by her and soothe her
and counsel her as to my little property--ah, my little property!' he
cried. 'If this vessel founders, what have I?'

'Pray,' said I, with the idea of quietly coaxing his mind into a more
cheerful mood, 'what is so seriously wrong with you, Captain, that you
should lie there gloomily foreboding your death? Such rheumatism as
yours is not very quick to kill.'

'I was long dangerously ill of a fever in the West Indies,' he answered,
'and it left a vital organ weak. The mischief is here, I fear,' said he,
touching his right side above his hip. 'I felt very ill at Cuxhaven; but
this voyage was to be made; I am too poor a man to suffer my health to
forfeit the money that is to be got by it. Hark! what was that?'

He leaned his head over the cot, straining his hearing with a nervous
fluttering of his emaciated fingers. It was miserable to see how white
the skin of his sunken cheeks showed against the whiteness of the
canvas of his cot.

'I heard nothing,' I answered.

'It was the noise of a blow,' he exclaimed. 'Pray go and see if anything
is wrong,' he added, speaking out of his habit of giving orders, and
with a peremptoriness that forced a smile from me as I went to the door.

I made my way through the house on to the deck, and looked about me, but
it was the same scene to stare at and hearken to that I had viewed
before: the same thunder and shriek of wind, the same clouding of the
forward part of the barque in foam, the same miserable dismal picture of
water flashing from bulwark to bulwark, of high green frothing seas
towering past the line of the rail as the vessel swung in a smother of
seething yeast into the trough.

I caught sight of a long hencoop abaft the structure in which the
sailors had lived, with the red gleam of a cockscomb betwixt a couple of
the bars, and guessing that the wretched inmates must, by this time, be
in sore need of food and water, I very cautiously made my way to the
coop, holding on by something at every step. The coop was, indeed, full
of poultry, but all lay drowned.

I returned to the deck-house and mounted on top of it, where I should be
able to obtain a good view of as much of the ocean as was exposed, and
where also I should be out of the wet which, on the main deck, rolled
with weight enough at times to sweep a man off his legs. The roof of the
house, if I may so term it, was above the rail, and the whole fury of
the gale swept across it. I never could have guessed at the
hurricane-force of the wind while standing on the deck beneath. It was
impossible to face it; if I glanced but one instant to windward my eyes
seemed to be blown into my head.

I had not gained that elevation above a minute when I heard a sharp
rattling aloft, and, looking upwards, I perceived that the main royal
had blown loose. For the space of a breath or two it made the rattling
noise that had called my attention to it, then the whole bladder-like
body of it was swept in a flash away from the yard, and nothing remained
but a whip or two streaming straight out like white hair from the spar.
A moment later the maintopgallantsail, that had been, no doubt, hastily
and badly furled, was blown out of the gaskets. I thought to see it go
as the royal had, but while I watched, waiting for the flight of the
rags of it down into the leeward gloom of the sky, the mast snapped off
at the cap at the instant of the sail bursting and disappearing like a
gush of mist, and down fell the whole mass of hamper to a little below
the stay, under which it madly swung, held by its gear.

This disaster, comparatively trifling as it was, gave the whole fabric a
most melancholy, wrecked look. It affected me in a manner I should not
have thought possible in one who knew so much about the sea and
shipwreck as I. It impressed me as an omen of approaching dissolution.
'What, in God's name, can save us?' I remember thinking, as I brought my
eyes away from the two broken masts, swinging and spearing high up under
the smoke-coloured, compacted, apparently stirless heaps of vapour
stretching from sea-line to sea-line. 'What put together by mortal hands
can go on resisting this ceaseless, tremendous beating?' and as I thus
thought the vessel, with a wild sweep of her bow, smote a giant surge
rushing laterally at her, and a whole green sea broke roaring over the
forecastle, making every timber in her tremble with a volcanic thrill,
and entirely submerging the forepart in white waters, out of which she
soared with a score of cataracts flying in smoke from her sides.

I looked for the flag that Helga and I had half-masted a little while
before; it had as utterly disappeared from betwixt its toggles as though
the bunting had been ripped up and down by a knife. As I was in the act
of dragging myself along to the ladder to go below, I spied a sort of
smudge oozing out of the iron-hued thickness past the head of a great
sea whose arching peak was like a snow-clad hill. I crouched down to
steady myself, and presently what I had at first thought to be some dark
shadow of cloud upon the near horizon grew into the proportions of a
large ship, running dead before the gale under a narrow band of
main-topsail.

She was heading to pass under our stern, and rapidly drew out, and in a
few minutes I had her clear--clean and bright as a new painting against
the background of shadow, along whose dingy, misty base the ocean line
was washing in flickering green heights. She was a large steam frigate,
clearly a foreigner, for I do not know that our country had a ship of
the kind afloat at the time. She had a white band broken by ports, and
the black and gleaming defences of her bulwarks were crowned with stowed
hammocks. Her topgallant-masts were housed, and the large cross-trees
and huge black tops and wide spread of shrouds gave her a wonderfully
heavy, massive ship-of-war look aloft. The band of close-reefed
main-topsail had the glare of foam as it swung majestically from one
sea-line to the other, slowly swaying across the dark and stooping
heaven with a noble and solemn rhythm of movement. I never could have
imagined a sight to more wholly fascinate my gaze. Always crouching low,
I watched her under the shelter of my hands locked upon my brow. I
beheld nothing living aboard of her. She came along as though informed
by some spirit and government of her own. As her great stem sank to the
figure-head, there arose a magnificent boiling, a mountainous cloud of
froth on either bow of her, and the roar of those riven seas seemed to
add a deeper tone of thunder to the gale. All was taut aboard--every
rope like a ruled line--different, indeed, from our torn and wrecked and
trailing appearance on high! She swept past within a quarter of a mile
of us, and what pen could convey the incredible power suggested by that
great fabric as her stern lifted to the curl of the enormous Atlantic
surge, and the whole ship rushed forward on the hurling froth of the sea
with an electric velocity that brought the very heart into one's throat.

She was a mere smudge again--this time to leeward--in a few minutes. I
could only stare at her. Our flag had blown away, I was without power to
signal, and, even if I had been able to communicate our condition of
distress, what help could she have offered? What could she have done for
us in such a sea as was now running? Yet the mere sight of her had
heartened me. She made me feel that help could never be wanting in an
ocean so ploughed by keels as the Atlantic.

I crawled down on to the quarter-deck, and returned to the Captain's
cabin. The poor man at once fell with feverish eagerness to questioning
me. I told him honestly that the maintopgallant-mast had carried away
while I was on deck, but that there was nothing else wrong that I could
distinguish; that the barque was still making a noble fight, though
there were times when the seas broke very fiercely and dangerously over
the forecastle.

He wagged his head with a gesture of distress, crying: 'So it is! so it
is! One spar after another, and thus may we go to pieces!'

I told him of the great steam frigate that had passed, but to this piece
of news he listened with a vacant look, and apparently could think of
nothing but his spars. He asked in a childish, fretful way how long
Helga had been below, and I answered him stoutly, 'Not nearly long
enough for sleep.'

'Ay,' cried he, 'but the barque needs to be pumped, sir.'

'Your daughter will work the better for rest,' said I; and then looking
at my watch, I found it was time to give him his physic.

He exclaimed, looking at the wineglass, 'There is no virtue in this
stuff! The sufferer can make but one use of it.' And, still preserving a
manner of curious childishness, he emptied the contents of the glass
over the edge of his cot on to the deck, and, as he swung, lay watching
the mess of it on the floor with a smile. I guessed that expostulation
would be fruitless, and, indeed, having but very little faith myself in
any sort of physic, I secretly applauded his behaviour.

I sat down upon the locker, and leaning my back against the bulkhead,
endeavoured, by conversation, to bring a cheerful look to his
countenance; but his mood of depression was not to be conquered. At
times he would ramble a little, quote passages from Danish plays in his
native tongue, then pause with his head on one side, as though waiting
for me to applaud what he forgot I did not understand.

'How fine is this from "Palnatoke"!' he would cry, or, 'Hark to this
from that noble performance "Hacon Yarl"! Ah, it is England alone can
match Oehlenschläger.'

I could only watch him mutely. Then he would break away to bewail his
spars again, and to cry out that Helga would be left penniless, would be
a poor beggar-girl, if his ship foundered.

'But is not the _Anine_ insured?' said I.

'Yes,' he answered; 'but not by me. I was obliged to borrow money upon
her, and she is insured by the man who lent me the money.'

'But you have an interest in the cargo, Captain Nielsen?'

'Ay,' cried he, 'and that I insured; but what will it be worth to my
poor little Helga?' And he hid his face in his hands and rocked himself.

However, he presently grew somewhat composed, and certainly more
rational, and after awhile I found myself talking about Tintrenale, my
home and associations, my lifeboat excursions, and the like; and then we
conversed upon the course that was to be adopted should the weather
moderate and find us still afloat. 'We should be able to do nothing,' he
said, 'without assistance from a passing ship,' in the sense of
obtaining a few sailors to work the barque; or a steamer might come
along that would be willing to give us a tow.

'The Land's End cannot be far off,' said he.

'No,' said I, 'not if this gale means to drop to-day. But it will be far
enough off if it is to go on blowing.'

He inquired what I made the drift to be, and then calculated that the
English coast would now be bearing about east-north-east, sixty miles
distant. 'Let the wind chop round,' cried he, with a gleam in his sunken
eye, 'and you and Helga would have the _Anine_ in the Channel before
midnight.'

We continued to talk in this strain, and he seemed to forget the
wretchedness of our situation; then suddenly he called out to know the
time, abruptly breaking away from what he was saying.

'Hard upon eleven o'clock,' said I.

'This will not do!' he cried. 'The barque, as we talk, is filling under
our feet. The well should be sounded. Helga must be called. I beseech
you to call Helga,' he repeated nervously, smiting the side of his cot
with his clenched hand. 'Ah, God!' he added, 'that I should be without
the power to move!'

'I will sound the well,' said I. 'Should I find an increase, I will
arouse your daughter.'

'Go, I beg of you!' he cried, in high notes. 'The barque seems sodden to
me. She does not lift and fall as she did.'

I guessed this to be imagination; but the mere fancy of such a thing
being true frightened me also, and I hastily went out. I dried the rod
and chalked it as Helga had, and, watching my chance, dropped it, and
found five inches of water above the level our last spell at the pump
had left in the hold. I was greatly startled, and to make sure that my
first cast was right, I sounded a second time, and sure enough the rod
showed five inches, as before. I hastened with the news to the Captain.

'I knew it! I feared it!' he cried, his voice shrill with a very ecstasy
of hurry, anxiety, and sense of helplessness that worked in him. 'Call
Helga!--lose not an instant--run, I beg you will run!'

'But run where?' cried I. 'Where does the girl sleep?'

'Go down the hatchway in the deck-house,' he shouted in shrill accents,
as though bent upon putting into this moment the whole of his remaining
slender stock of vitality. 'There are four cabins under this deck. Hers
is the aftermost one on the starboard side. Don't delay! If she does not
instantly answer, enter and arouse her.' And as I sped from the cabin I
heard him crying that he knew by the motions of the ship she was
filling rapidly, and that she would go down on a sudden like lead.

It was a black, square trap of hatchway into which I looked a moment
before putting my legs over. There was a short flight of almost
perpendicular steps conducting to the lower deck. On my descending I
found the place so dark that I was forced to halt till my eyes should
grow used to the obscurity. There was a disagreeable smell of cargo down
here, and such a heart-shaking uproar of straining timbers, of creaking
bulkheads, of the thumps of seas, and the muffled, yearning roar of the
giant waters sweeping under the vessel, that for a little while I stood
as one utterly bewildered.

Soon, however, I managed to distinguish outlines, and, with outstretched
hands and wary legs, made my way to the cabin Captain Nielsen had
indicated, and beat upon the door. There was no response. I beat again,
listening, scarcely thinking, perhaps, that the girl would require a
voice as keen as a boatswain's pipe to thread the soul-confounding and
brain-muddling clamour in this after-deck of the storm-beaten barque.
'He bade me enter,' thought I, 'and enter I must if the girl is to be
aroused;' and I turned the handle of the door and walked in.

Helga lay, attired as she had left the deck, in an upper bunk, through
the porthole of which the daylight, bright with the foam, came and went
upon her face as the vessel at one moment buried the thick glass of the
scuttle in the green blindness of the sea, and then lifted it weeping
and gleaming into the air. Her head was pillowed on her arm; her hair in
the weak light showed as though touched by a dull beam of the sun. Her
eyes were sealed--their long lashes put a delicate shading under them;
her white face wore a sweet expression of happy serenity, and I could
believe that some glad vision was present to her. Her lips were parted
in the expression of a smile.

There was a feeling in me as of profanity in this intrusion, and of
wrongdoing in the obligation forced upon me of waking her from a
peaceful, pleasant, all-important repose to face the bitter hardships
and necessities of that time of tempest. But for my single pair of arms
the pump was too much, and she must be aroused. I lightly put my hand
upon hers, and her smile was instantly more defined, as though my
action were coincident with some phase of her dream. I pressed her hand;
she sighed deeply, looked at me, and instantly sat up with a little
frown of confusion.

'Your father begged me to enter and arouse you,' said I. 'I was unable
to make you hear by knocking. I have sounded the well, and there is an
increase of five inches.'

'Ah!' she exclaimed, and sprang lightly out of her bunk.

In silence and with amazing despatch, seeing that a few seconds before
she was in a deep sleep, she put on her sea-helmet, whipped a
handkerchief round her neck, and was leading the way to the hatch on
buoyant feet.

On gaining the deck I discovered that the wrecked appearance of the ship
aloft had been greatly heightened during my absence below by the
foretopsail having been blown into rags. It was a single sail, and the
few long strips of it which remained blowing out horizontally from the
yards, stiff as crowbars, gave an indescribable character of forlornness
to the fabric. Helga glanced aloft, and immediately perceived that the
maintopgallant-mast had been wrecked, but said nothing, and in a minute
the pair of us were hard at work.

I let go the brake only when my companion was too exhausted to continue;
but now, on sounding the well, we found that our labours had not
decreased the water to the same extent as heretofore. It was impossible,
however, to converse out of shelter; moreover, a fresh danger attended
exposure on deck, for, in addition to the wild sweeping of green seas
forward, to the indescribably violent motions of the barque, which
threatened to break our heads or our limbs for us, to fling us bruised
and senseless against the bulwarks if we relaxed for a moment our hold
of what was next us--in addition to this, I say, there was now the
deadly menace of the topgallant-mast, with its weight of yards, fiercely
swinging and beating right over our heads, and poised there by the
slender filaments of its rigging, which might part and let the whole
mass fall at any moment.

We entered the deck-house, and paused for a little while in its
comparative silence and stagnation to exchange a few words.

'The water is gaining upon the ship, Mr. Tregarthen,' said Helga.

'I fear so,' I answered.

'If it should increase beyond the control of the pumps, what is to be
done?' she asked. 'We are without boats.'

'What _can_ be done?' cried I. 'We shall have to make some desperate
thrust for life--contrive something out of the hencoop--spare
booms--whatever is to be found.'

'What chance--what chance have we in such a sea as this?' she exclaimed,
clasping her hands and looking up at me with eyes large with emotion,
though I found nothing of fear in the shining of them or in the working
of her pale face.

I had no answer to make. Indeed, it put a sort of feeling into the blood
like madness itself even to _talk_ of a raft, with the sound in our ears
of the sea that was raging outside.

'And then there is my father,' she continued, 'helpless--unable to
move--how is he to be rescued? I would lose my life to save his. But
what is to be done if this gale continues?'

'His experience should be of use to us,' said I. 'Let us go and talk
with him.'

She opened the door of the berth, halted, stared a minute, then turned
to me with her forefinger upon her lip. I peered, and found the poor man
fast asleep. I believed at first that he was dead, so still he lay, so
easy was his countenance, so white too; but after watching a moment, I
spied his breast rising and falling. Helga drew close and stood viewing
him. A strange and moving sight was that swinging cot--the revelation of
the deathlike head within, the swaying boyish figure of the daughter
gazing with eyes of love, pity, distress at the sleeping, haggard face,
as it came and went.

She sat down beside me. 'I shall lose him soon,' said she. 'But what is
killing him? He was white and poorly yesterday; but not ill as he is
now.'

It would have been idle to attempt any sort of encouragement. The truth
was as plain to her as to me. I could find nothing better to say than
that the gale might cease suddenly, that a large steam-frigate had
passed us a little while before, that some vessel was sure to heave into
sight when the weather moderated, and that meanwhile our efforts must
be directed to keeping the vessel afloat. I could not again talk of the
raft; it was enough to feel the sickening tossing of the ship under us
to render the thought of _that_ remedy for our state horrible and
hopeless.

The time slowly passed. It was drawing on to one o'clock. I went on deck
to examine the helm and to judge of the weather; then sounded the well,
but found no material increase of water. The barque, however, was
rolling so furiously that it was almost impossible to get a correct
cast. Before re-entering the house, I sent a look round from the shelter
of the weather-bulwark, to observe what materials were to be obtained
for a raft should the weather suffer us to launch such a thing, and the
barque founder spite of our toil. There was a number of spare booms
securely lashed on top of the seamen's deck-house and galley, and these,
with the hencoop and hatch-covers, and the little casks or scuttle-butts
out of which the men drank would provide us with what we needed. But the
contemplation of death itself was not so dreadful to me as the prospect
which this fancy of a raft opened. I hung crouching under the lee of the
tall bulwark, gnawing my lip as thought after thought arose in me, and
digging my finger-nails into the palms of my hands. The suddenness of it
all! The being this time yesterday safe ashore, without the dimmest
imagination of what was to come--the anguish of my poor old mother--the
perishing, as I did not doubt, of my brave comrades of the
lifeboat--then, this vessel slowly taking in water, dying as it were by
inches, and as doomed as though Hell's curse were upon her, unless the
gale should cease and help come!

I could not bear it. I started to my feet with a sense of madness upon
me, with a wild and dreadful desire in me to show mercy to myself by
plunging and by silencing the delirious fancies of my brain in the wide
sweep of seething waters that rushed from the very line of the rail of
the barque as she leaned to her beam-ends in the thunderous trough of
that instant. It was a sort of hysteria that did not last; yet might I
have found temptation and time in the swift passage of it to have
destroyed myself, but for God's hand upon me, as I choose to believe,
and to be ever thankful for.



CHAPTER VII.

THE RAFT.


How passed the rest of this the first day of my wild and dangerous
adventure, of Helga's and my first day of suffering, peril, and romantic
experience, I cannot clearly recall. A few impressions only survive. I
remember returning to the deck-house and finding the captain still
sleeping. I remember conversing with Helga, who looked me very earnestly
in the face when I entered, and who, by some indefinable influence of
voice and eye, coaxed me into speaking of my fit of horror on deck. I
remember that she left me to obtain some food, which, it seems, was kept
in one of the cabins below, and that she returned with a tin of
preserved meat, a little glass jar of jam, a tin of biscuits, and a
bottle of red wine like to what we had before drunk--a very pleasant,
well-flavoured claret; that all the while we ate, her father slept,
which made her happy, as she said he needed rest, not having closed his
eyes for three nights and days, though it was wonderful to me that he
should have fallen asleep in such a mood of excitement and of
consternation as I had left him in; but as to his slumbering amid that
uproar of straining timbers and flying waters, it is enough to say that
he was a seaman.

I also recollect that throughout the remainder of the day we worked the
pump at every two hours or thereabouts; but the water was unmistakably
gaining upon the barque, and to keep her free would have needed the
incessant plying of the pumps--both pumps at once--by gangs of fellows
who could relieve one another and rest between. Helga told me that her
father had given orders for a windmill pump to be rigged, Scandinavian
fashion, but that there had been some delay, so the barque sailed
without it. I said that no windmill pump would have stood up half an
hour in such a gale of wind as was blowing; but all the same, I bitterly
lamented that there was nothing of the sort aboard, for these windmill
arrangements keep the pumps going by the revolution of their sails, and
such a thing must have proved inexpressibly valuable when the weather
should moderate, so as to allow us to erect it.

The Captain slept far into the afternoon, but I could not observe when
he awoke that he was the better for his long spell of rest. I entered
his cabin fresh from a look round on deck, and found him just awake,
with his eyes fixed upon his daughter, who sat slumbering upon the
locker, with her back against the cabin-wall and her pale face bowed
upon her breast. He immediately attacked me with questions, delivered in
notes so high, penetrating, and feverish with hurry and alarm that they
awoke Helga. We had to tell him the truth--I mean, that the water was
gaining, but slowly, so that it must conquer us if the gale continued,
yet we might still hope to find a chance of our lives by keeping the
pump going. He broke into many passionate exclamations of distress and
grief, and then was silent, with the air of one who abandons hope.

'There are but two, and one of them a girl,' I heard him say, lifting
his eyes to the deck above as he spoke.

The night was a dreadful time to look forward to. While there was
daylight, while one could see, one's spirits seemed to retain a little
buoyancy; but, speaking for myself, I dreaded the effect upon my mind of
a second interminable time of blackness, filled with the horrors of the
groaning and howling gale, of the dizzy motion of the tormented fabric,
of the heart-subduing noises of waters pouring in thunder and beating in
volcanic shocks against and over the struggling vessel.

Well, there came round the hour of nine o'clock by my watch. Long
before, after returning from a spirit-breaking spell of toil at the
pump, we had lighted the deck-house and binnacle lamps, had eaten our
third meal that day to answer for tea or supper, and at Helga's entreaty
I had lain down upon the deck-house locker to sleep for an hour or so if
I could, while she went to watch by her father and to keep an eye upon
the ship by an occasional visit to the deck.

We had arranged that she should awaken me at nine, that we should then
apply ourselves afresh to the pump, that she should afterwards take my
place upon the locker till eleven, I, meanwhile, seeing to her father
and to the barque, and that we should thus proceed in these alternations
throughout the night. It was now nine o'clock. I awoke, and was looking
at my watch when Helga entered from the deck. She came up to me and took
my hands, and cried:

'Mr. Tregarthen, there are some stars in the sky. I believe the gale is
breaking!'

Only those who have undergone the like of such experiences as these I am
endeavouring to relate can conceive of the rapture, the new life, her
words raised in me.

'I praise God for your good news!' I cried, and made a step to the
barometer to observe its indications.

The rise of the mercury was a quarter of an inch, and this had happened
since a little after seven. Yet, being something of a student of the
barometer in my little way, I could have heartily wished the rise much
more gradual. It might betoken nothing more than a drier quality of
gale, with nothing of the old fierceness wanting. But then, to be sure,
it might promise a shift, so that we stood a chance of being blown
homewards, which would signify an opportunity of preservation that must
needs grow greater as we approached the English Channel.

I went with Helga on deck, and instantly saw the stars shining to
windward betwixt the edges of clouds which were flying across our
mastheads with the velocity of smoke. The heaven of vapour that had hung
black and brooding over the ocean for two days was broken up; where the
sky showed it was pure, and the stars shone in it with a frosty
brilliance. The atmosphere had wonderfully cleared; the froth glanced
keenly upon the hurling shadows of the seas, and I believed I could
follow the clamorous mountainous breast of the ocean to the very throb
of the horizon, over which the clouds were pouring in loose masses,
scattering scud-like as they soared, but all so plentiful that the
heavens were thick with the flying wings.

But there was no sobering of the wind. It blew with its old dreadful
violence, and the half-smothered barque climbed and plunged and rolled
amid clouds of spray in a manner to make the eyes reel after a minute of
watching her. Yet the mere sight of the stars served as a sup of cordial
to us. We strove at the pump, and then Helga lay down; and in this
manner the hours passed till about four o'clock in the morning, when
there happened a sensible decrease in the wind. At dawn it was still
blowing hard, but long before this, had we had sailors, we should have
been able to expose canvas, and start the barque upon her course.

I stood on top of the deck-house watching the dawn break. The bleak gray
stole over the frothing sea and turned ashen the curve of every running
surge. To windward the ocean-line went twisting like a corkscrew upon
the sky and seemed to boil and wash along it as though it were the base
of some smoking wall. There was nothing in sight. I searched every
quarter with a passionate intensity, but there was nothing to be seen.
But now the sea had greatly moderated, and, though the deck still sobbed
with wet, it was only at long intervals that the foam flew forwards. The
barque looked fearfully wrecked, stranded and sodden. All her rigging
was slack, the decks were encumbered with the ends of ropes, the weather
side of the mainsail had blown loose and was fluttering in rags, though
to leeward the canvas lay furled.

I went on to the quarter deck and sounded the well. Practice had
rendered me expert, and the cast, I did not doubt, gave me the true
depth, and I felt all the blood in me rush to my heart when I beheld
such an indication of increase as was the same as hearing one's funeral
knell rung, or of a verdict of death pronounced upon one.

I entered the deck-house with my mind resolved, and seated myself at the
table over against where Helga lay sleeping upon the locker, to consider
a little before arousing her. She showed very wan, almost haggard, by
the morning light; her parted lips were pale, and she wore a restless
expression even in her sleep. It might be that my eyes being fixed upon
her face aroused her; she suddenly looked at me, and then sat up. Just
then a gleam of misty sunshine swept the little windows.

'The bad weather is gone!' she cried.

'It is still too bad for us, though,' said I.

'Does the wind blow from the land?' she asked.

'Ay! and freshly too.'

She was now able to perceive the meaning in my face, and asked me
anxiously if anything new had happened to alarm me. I answered by
giving her the depth of water I had found in the hold. She clasped her
hands and started to her feet, but sat again on my making a little
gesture.

'Miss Nielsen,' said I, 'the barque is taking in water very much faster
than we shall be able to pump it out. We may go on plying the pump, but
the labour can only end in breaking our hearts and wasting precious time
that might be employed to some purpose. We must look the truth in the
face, and make up our minds to let the vessel go, and to do our best,
with God's help, to preserve our lives.'

'What?' she asked in a low voice, that indicated awe rather than fear,
and I noticed the little twitch and spasm of her mouth swiftly vanish in
an expression of resolution.

'We must go to work,' said I, 'and construct a raft, then get everything
in readiness to sway it overboard. The weather may enable us to do this.
I pray so. It is our only hope, should nothing to help us come along.'

'But my father?'

'We shall have to get him out of his cabin on to the raft.'

'But how? But how?' she cried with an air of wildness. 'He cannot move!'

'If we are to be saved, he must be saved, at all events,' said I. 'What,
then, can be done but to lower him in his cot, as he lies, on to the
deck and so drag him to the gangway and sling him on to the raft by a
tackle?'

'Yes,' she said, 'that can be done. It will have to be done.' She
reflected, with her hands tightly locked upon her brow. 'How long do you
think,' she asked, 'will the _Anine_ remain afloat if we leave the pumps
untouched?'

'Your father will know,' said I. 'Let us go to him.'

Captain Nielsen sat erect in his cot munching a biscuit.

'Ha!' he cried as we entered. 'We are to have pleasant weather. There
was some sunshine upon that port just now. What says the barometer, Mr.
Tregarthen?' then contracting his brows while he peered at his daughter
as though he had not obtained a view of her before, he exclaimed, 'What
is the matter, Helga? What have you come to tell me?'

'Father,' she answered, sinking her head a little and so looking at him
through her eyelashes, 'Mr. Tregarthen believes, and I cannot doubt it,
for there is the sounding-rod to tell the story, that water is fast
entering the _Anine_, and that we must lose no time to prepare to leave
her.'

'What!' he almost shrieked, letting fall his biscuit and grasping the
edge of the cot with his emaciated hands, and turning his body to us
from the waist, leaving his legs in their former posture as though he
were paralyzed from the hip down. 'The _Anine_ sinking? prepare to leave
her? Why, you have neglected the pump, then!'

'No, Captain, no,' I answered. 'Our toil has been as regular as we have
had strength for. Already your daughter has done too much; look at her!'
I cried, pointing to the girl. 'Judge with your father's eye how much
longer she is capable of holding out!'

'The pump must be manned!' he exclaimed, in such another shrieking note
as he had before delivered. 'The _Anine_ must not sink; she is all I
have in the world. My child will be left to starve! Oh, she has strength
enough. Helga, the gentleman does not know your strength and courage!
And you, sir,--you, Mr. Tregarthen--Ach! God! You will not let your
courage fail you--you who came here on a holy and beautiful errand--no,
no! you will not let your courage fail you, now that the wind is ceasing
and the sun has broken forth, and the worst is past?'

Helga looked at me.

'Captain Nielsen,' said I, 'if there were a dozen of us we might hope to
keep your ship long enough afloat to give us a chance of being rescued;
but not twelve, not fifty men could save her for you. The tempest has
made a sieve of her, and what we have now to do is to construct a raft
while we have time and opportunity, and to be ceaseless in our prayer
that the weather may suffer us to launch it and to exist upon it until
we are succoured.'

He gazed at me with a burning eye, and breathed as though he must
presently suffocate.

'Oh, but for a few hours' use of my limbs!' he cried, lifting his
trembling hands. 'I would show you both how the will can be made to
master the body's weakness. Must I lie here without power?' and as he
said these words he grasped again the edge of his cot, and writhed so
that I was almost prepared to see him heave himself out; but the agony
of the wrench was too much; his face grew whiter still, he groaned low,
and lay back, with his brow glistening with sweat-drops.

'Father!' cried Helga, 'bear with us! Indeed it is as Mr. Tregarthen
says. I feared it last night, and this morning has made me sure. We must
not think of the ship, but of ourselves, and of you, father dear--of
you, my poor, dear father!' She broke off with a sob.

I waited until he had recovered a little from the torment he had caused
himself, and then gently, but with a manner that let him know I was
resolved, began to reason with him. He lay apparently listening
apathetically; but his nostrils, wide with breathing, and the hurried
motions of his breast were warrant enough of the state of his mind.
While I addressed him Helga went out, and presently returned with the
sounding-rod, dark with the wet fresh from the well. He turned his
feverish eyes upon it, but merely shook his head and lightly wrung his
hands.

'Father, you see it for yourself!' she cried.

'Miss Nielsen,' said I, 'we are wasting precious minutes. Will your
father tell you what depth of water his ship must take in to founder?'

He, poor fellow, made no response, but continued to stare at the rod in
her hand as though his intelligence on a sudden was all abroad.

'Shall we go to work?' said I. She looked at her father wistfully.
'Come,' I exclaimed, 'we _know_ we are right. We must make an effort to
save ourselves. Are not our lives our first consideration?'

'I stepped to the door; as I put my hand to it, Captain Nielsen cried:
'If you do not save the ship, how will you save yourselves?'

'We must at once put some sort of raft together,' said I, halting.

'A raft! in this sea!' he clasped his hands and uttered a low mocking
laugh that was more shocking in him than the maddest explosion of temper
could have shown.

I could no longer linger to hear his objections. Helga might be very
dear to him, but his ship stood first in his mind, and I had no idea of
breaking my heart at the pump and then of being drowned after all. My
hope was indeed a forlorn one, but it was a hope for all that; whereas I
knew that the ship would give us no chance whatever. Besides, our making
ready for the worst would not signify that we should abandon the vessel
until her settling forced us over the side. And was the gentle, heroic
Helga to perish without a struggle on my part, because her father clung
with a sick man's craziness--which in health he might be quick to
denounce--to this poor tempest-strained barque that was all he had in
the world?

I went out and on to the deck, and was standing thinking a minute of the
raft and how we should set about it, when Helga joined me.

'He is too ill to be reasonable,' she exclaimed.

'Yes,' said I, 'but we will save him and ourselves too, if we can. Let
us lose no more time. Do you observe that the wind has sensibly
decreased even while we have been talking in your father's cabin? The
sky has opened more yet to windward, and the seas are running with much
less weight.'

As I spoke the sun flashed into a rift in the vapour sweeping down the
eastern heaven, and the glance of the foam to the splendour, and the
sudden brightening of the cloud-shadowed sea into blue, animated me like
some new-born hope, and was almost as invigorating to my spirits as
though my eyes had fallen upon the gleam of a sail heading our way.

I should but weary you to relate, step by step, how we went to work to
construct a raft. The motion of the deck was still very violent, but it
found us now as seasoned as though we had kept the sea for years; and,
indeed, the movement was becoming mere child's-play after the tossing of
the night. A long hour of getting such booms as we wanted off the
sailors' house on to the deck, and of collecting other materials for our
needs, was not, by a very great deal, so exhausting as ten minutes at
the pump. We broke off a little after nine o'clock to get some food, and
to enable Helga to see to her father; and now the cast we took with the
sounding-rod advised us, with most bitter significance of indication,
that, even though my companion and I had strength to hold to the pump
for a whole watch--I mean for four hours at a spell--the water would
surely, if but a little more slowly, vanquish us in the end. Indeed,
there was no longer question that the vessel had, in some parts of her,
been seriously strained; and though I held my peace, my sincere
conviction was that, unless some miracle arrested the ingress of the
water, she would not be afloat at five o'clock that day.

By one we had completed the raft, and it lay against the main hatch,
ready to be swayed over the side and launched. I had some small
knowledge of boat-building, having acquired what I knew from a small
yard down past the lifeboat-house at Tintrenale, where boats were built,
and where I had killed many an hour, pipe in mouth, watching and asking
questions, and even lending a hand; and in constructing this raft I
found my slender boat-building experiences very useful. First we made a
frame of four stout studdingsail booms, which we securely lashed to four
empty casks, two of which lay handy to our use, while of the other two,
one we found in the galley, half full of slush, and the other in the
cabin below where the provisions were stored. We decked the frame with
booms, of which there was a number, as I have previously said, stacked
on top of the sailors' deck-house, and to this we securely lashed
planking, to which we attached some hatch-covers, binding the whole with
turn upon turn of rope. To improve our chance of being seen, I provided
for setting up a topgallant-studdingsail boom as a mast, at the head of
which we should be able to show a colour. I also took care to hedge the
sides with a little bulwark of life-lines lest the raft should be swept.
There were many interstices in this fabric fit for holding a stock of
provisions and water.

I had no fear of its not floating high, nor of its not holding together:
but it would be impossible to express the heaviness of heart with which
I laboured at this thing. The raft had always been the most dreadful
nightmare of the sea to my imagination. The stories of the sufferings it
had been the theatre of were present to my mind as I worked, and again
and again they would cause me to break off and send a despairing look
round; but never a sail showed; the blankness was that of the heavens.

We had half-masted a second Danish ensign after coming out from breaking
our fast, and one needed but to look at the breezy rippling of its large
folds to know that the wind was rapidly becoming scant. By one o'clock,
indeed, it was blowing no more than a pleasant air of wind, still out of
the north-east. The stormy, smoke-like clouds of the morning were gone,
and the sky was now mottled by little heaps of prismatic vapour that
sailed slowly under a high delicate shading of cloud, widely broken, and
showing much clear liquid blue, and suffering the sun to shine very
steadily. There was a long swell rolling out of the north-east; but the
brows were so wide apart that there was no violence whatever in the
swaying of the barque upon it. The wind crisped these swinging folds of
water, and the surface of the ocean scintillated with lines of small
seas feathering, with merry curlings, into foam. But it was fine-weather
water, and the barometer had risen greatly, and I could now believe that
there was nothing more in the rapidity of its indications than a promise
of a pleasant day and of light winds.

I could have done nothing without Helga. Her activity, her
intelligence, her spirit, were amazing, not indeed only because she was
a girl, but because she was a girl who had undergone a day and two
frightful nights of peril and distress, who had slept but little, whose
labours at the pump might have exhausted a seasoned sailor. She seemed
to know exactly what to do, was wise in every suggestion, and I could
never glance at her face without finding the sweetness of it rendered
noble by the heroism of the heart that showed in her firm mouth, her
composed countenance, and steadfast, determined gaze.

At times we would break off to sound the well, and never without finding
a fresh nimbleness coming into our hands and feet, a wilder desire of
hurry penetrating our spirits from the assurance of the rod. Steadily,
inch by inch, the water was gaining, and already at this hour of one
o'clock it was almost easy to guess the depth of it by the sluggishness
of the vessel's rolling, by the drowning character of her languid
recovery from the slant of the swell. I felt tolerably confident,
however, that she would keep afloat for some hours yet, and God knows we
could not have too much time granted to us, for there was much to be
done; the raft to be launched and provisioned; and the hardest part was
yet to come, I mean the bringing of the sick captain from his cabin and
hoisting him over the side.

At one o'clock we broke off again to refresh ourselves with food and
drink, and Helga saw to her father. For my part I would not enter his
berth. I dreaded his expostulations and reproaches, and, indeed, I may
say that I shrank from even the sight of him, so grievous were his white
face and dying manner--so depressing to me, who could not look at the
raft and then turn my eyes upon the ocean without guessing that I was as
fully a dying man as he, and that, when the sun set this night, it might
go down for ever upon us.

There was but one way of getting the raft over, and that was by the
winch and a tackle at the mainyard-arm. Helga said she would take the
tackle aloft, but I ran my eye over her boy-clad figure with a smile,
and said 'No.' She was, indeed, a better sailor than I, but it would be
strange indeed if I was unable to secure a block to a yardarm. We braced
in the mainyard until the arm of it was fair over the gangway, and I
then took the tackle aloft and attached the block by the tail of it.

I lay over the yard for a minute or two while I looked round; but the
sea brimmed unbroken towards the sky, and I descended again and again
shuddering without control over myself, as I gazed at the little fabric
of the raft and contrasted it with the size of the ship that was slowly
foundering, and then with the great sea upon whose surface it would
presently be afloat--the only object, perhaps, under the eye of heaven
for leagues and leagues!

Our business now was to get the raft over the side. I should have to
fatigue and perhaps perplex you with technicalities exactly to explain
our management of it. Enough if I say that, by hooking on the lower
block of the tackle to ropes which formed slings for the raft, and by
taking the hauling part to the winch, we very easily swayed the
structure clear of the bulwark-rail--for you must know that the winch,
with its arrangements of handles, cogs, and pawls, is a piece of
shipboard mechanism with which a couple of persons may do as much as a
dozen might be able to achieve using their arms only.

When the raft was high enough Helga stood by the winch ready to slacken
away on my giving the word of command; while I went to a line which held
the fabric over the deck. This line I eased off until the raft had swung
fairly over the water, and then called to Helga to slacken away, and the
raft sank, and in a minute or two was water-borne, riding upon the swell
alongside, and buoyed by the casks even higher above the surface than I
had dared hope.

'Now, Miss Nielsen!' cried I.

'Oh! pray call me Helga,' she broke in; 'it is my name: it is short! I
seem to answer to it more readily, and in this time, this dreadful time,
I could wish to have it, and none other!'

'Then, Helga,' said I, even in such a moment as this feeling my heart
warm to the brave, good, gentle little creature as I pronounced the
word, 'we must provision the raft without delay. Our essential needs
will be fresh water and biscuit. What more have you in your
provision-room below?'

'Come with me!' said she, and we ran into the deck-house and descended
the hatch, leaving the raft securely floating alongside, not only in the
grip of the yardarm tackle, which the swaying of the vessel had fully
overhauled, but in the hold of the line with which we had slacked the
structure over the rail.

It was still dark enough below; but when we opened the door of the berth
in which, as I have told you, the cabin provisions were stowed, we found
the sunshine upon the scuttle or porthole, and the apartment lay clear
in the light. In about twenty minutes, and after some three or four
journeys, we had conveyed on deck as much provisions as might serve to
keep three persons for about a month: cans of meat, some hams, several
tins of biscuit, cheese, and other matters, which I need not catalogue.
But we had started the fresh water in the scuttle-butts that they might
be emptied to serve as floats for the raft, and now we had to find a
cask or receptacle for drinking-water, and to fill it, too, from the
stock in the hold. Here I should have been at a loss but for Helga, who
knew where the barque's fresh water was stowed. Again we entered the
cabin or provision-room, and returned with some jars whose contents we
emptied--vinegar, I believe it was, but the hurry my mind was then in
rendered it weak in its reception of small impressions; these we filled
with fresh water from a tank conveniently stowed in the main hatchway,
and as I filled them Helga carried them on deck.

While we were below at this work I bade her listen.

'Yes, I hear it!' she cried: 'it is the water in the hold.'

With every sickly lean of the barque you could hear the water inside of
her seething among the cargo as it cascaded now to port and now to
starboard.

'Helga, she cannot live long,' said I. 'I believe, but for the hissing
of the water, we should hear it bubbling into her.'

I handed her up the last of the jars, and grasped the coaming of the
hatch to clamber on to the deck, for the cargo came high. As I did this,
something seemed to touch and claw me upon the back, and a huge black
rat of the size of a kitten leapt from my shoulder on to the deck and
vanished in a breath. Helga screamed, and indeed, for the moment, my own
nerves were not a little shaken, for I distinctly felt the wire-like
whisker of the horrible creature brush my cheek as it sprang from my
shoulder.

'If there be truth in the proverb,' said I, 'we need no surer hint of
what is coming than the behaviour of that rat.'

The girl shuddered, and gazed, with eyes bright with alarm, into the
hold, recoiling as she did so. I believe the prospect of drifting about
on a raft was less terrible to her than the idea of a second rat leaping
upon one or the other of us.



CHAPTER VIII.

ADRIFT.


It was necessary that we should have everything in readiness before we
carried poor Captain Nielsen out of his cabin. I unshipped the gangway,
and watching an opportunity as the swell lifted the raft against the
side of the barque stooping to it, I sprang; but I could not have
imagined the weight and volume of the swell until I had gained the frail
platform. Indeed, one could feel that the wrath kindled by the tempest
still lived in the deep bosom of the ocean. It was like a stern,
revengeful breathing; but the wind was light, and the water but
delicately brushed, and it was easy to foresee that if no more wind blew
the swell would have greatly flattened down by sunset. Yet the manner in
which the hull and the raft came together terrified me with a notion of
our contrivance going to pieces. I called to Helga, as she threw to me
or handed the several parcels and articles we had collected upon the
deck, that there was not a moment of time to waste--that we must get her
father on to the raft without delay; and then, when I had hastily stowed
the last of the things, I sprang aboard again, and was going straight to
the Captain's berth, when I suddenly stopped, and exclaimed: 'First, how
is he to be removed?'

She eyed me piteously. Perhaps her seamanship did not reach to _that_
height; or maybe her fear that we should cause her father pain impaired
her perception of what was to be done.

'Let me think, now,' said I. 'It is certain that he must be lowered to
the deck as he lies in his cot. Does he swing by hooks? I did not
observe.'

'Yes,' she answered, 'what you would call the clews come together to a
point as in a hammock, and spread at the foot and head.'

'Then there must be iron eyes in the upper deck,' cried I, 'to receive
the hooks. Now, see here! we shall have to get a sling at each end of
the cot, attach a line to it, the ends of which we will pass through
the eyes, and when this is done we will cut away the clews, and so lower
him. Yes, that will do,' said I. 'I have it,' and, looking about me for
such a thickness of rope as I needed, I overhauled some fathoms, passed
my knife through the length, and together we hastened to the Captain's
berth.

'What is it now?' he asked, in a feeble voice, as we entered.

'Everything is ready, Captain Nielsen,' said I, 'there is no time to
lose. The cargo is washing about in the hold, and the ship has not
another hour of life left in her.'

'What is it that you want?' said he, looking dully at the coil of rope I
held in my hand.

'Father, we are here to carry you to the raft.'

'To the raft!' he exclaimed, with an air of bewilderment, and then he
added, while I noticed a little colour of temper enter his cheeks. 'I
have nothing to do with your raft. It was in your power to save the poor
_Anine_. If she is to founder, I will go down with her.'

So saying, he folded his arms upon his bosom in a posture of resolution,
viewing me with all the severity his sickness would suffer his eyes to
express. Nevertheless, there was a sort of silliness in the whole manner
of him which might have persuaded the most heedless observer that the
poor fellow was rapidly growing less and less responsible for his
behaviour. Had he been a powerful man, or, indeed, possessed the use of
his extremities, I should have dreaded what is termed a 'scene.' As it
was, nothing remained but to treat him as a child, to tackle him with
all tenderness, but as swiftly as possible, and to get him over the
side.

There was a dreadful expression of distress in Helga's face when she
looked at him; but her glances at me were very full of assurance that
she was of my mind, and that she would approve and be with me in
sympathy in whatever I resolved to do. Whipping out my knife, I cut
lengths off the rope I held to make slings of. I carried one of these
slings to the cot and passed it over the end. The Captain extended his
hand, and attempted to thrust me aside. The childlike weakness of that
trembling push would, in a time of less wretchedness and peril than
this, have unnerved me with pity.

'Bear with me! Be yourself, Captain! Show yourself the true Danish
sailor that you are at heart--for Helga's sake!' I exclaimed.

He covered his eyes and sobbed.

I secured the slings to the cot, and, until we lowered him to the deck,
he held his face hidden in his hands. I rove two lengths of line through
the iron eyes at which the cot slung, in the manner I had described to
Helga, and when the weight of the cot was on these lines, we belayed one
end, holding by the other. I then passed my knife through the clews, as
it would be called, or thin lines which supported the cot, and, going to
the rope I had belayed, bade Helga lower her end as I lowered mine, and
the cot descended safely to the deck. The girl then came round to the
head of the cot, and together we dragged it out of the house on to the
deck.

Saving a little wrench when we hauled the cot over the coaming of the
deck-house door, the poor man was put to no pain. It was merciful indeed
that he should have lain ill in the deck-house, for had he occupied a
cabin below I cannot imagine how we should have got him out on to the
deck without killing him with the anguish which we should have been
forced by our efforts to cause him.

When we had got him to the gangway I sprang on to the raft and caught
hold of the block that dangled at the extremity of the yardarm tackle.
With this I returned to the barque, and, just as we had got the raft
over, so did we sway the poor Captain on to her. I got on to the raft to
receive him as Helga lowered the cot. He descended gently, and on my
crying, 'Let go!' she swiftly released the line, and the tackle
overhauled itself to the roll of the vessel.

I remember exclaiming 'Thank God!' when this job was ended, and I had
unhooked the block, as though the worst was over; and indeed, in the
mere business of abandoning the barque, the worst had ended with the
bestowal of the sick and helpless Captain on the raft. But what was now
to begin? My 'Thank God!' seemed to sound like a piece of irony in my
heart when I looked from the deep, wet, gleaming side of the leaning
hull, waving her wrecked spars in the reddening light of the sun--when I
looked from her, I say, to seawards, where the flowing lines of the
lifting and falling swell were running bald and foamless into the
south-west sky.

Helga came to the gangway and called to know if all were well with her
father.

'All is well,' I answered. 'Come now, Helga! There is nothing to detain
us. We shall be wise to cast adrift from the barque. She is very much
down by the head, and the next dip may be her last.'

'A few minutes cannot signify,' she cried. 'There are one or two things
I should like to bring with me. I wish to possess them, if we are
preserved.'

'Make haste, then!' I called. She disappeared, and I turned to the
Captain. He looked up at me out of his cot with eyes in which all the
feverish fire of the morning was quenched.

'Is Helga remaining in the barque?' he asked listlessly.

'God forbid!' cried I. 'She will be with us in a minute or two.'

'It is a cruel desertion,' said he. 'Poor _Anine_! You were to have been
kept afloat!'

It was idle to reason with him. He was clothed as I had found him when I
had first seen him--in a waistcoat and serge coat, and a shawl round
his neck; but he was without a hat--a thing to be overlooked at such a
time as this--and the lower part of him was protected only by the
blankets he lay under. There was still time to supply his requirements.
I had noticed his wideawake and a long cloak hanging in his berth, and I
immediately sprang on board, rushed aft, procured them and returned.
Helga was still below. I put the hat on the Captain's head and clasped
the cloak over his shoulders, fretting over the girl's absence, for
every minute was communicating a deadlier significance to the languid,
sickly, dying motions of the fast-drowning hull.

I think about ten minutes had passed since she left the barque's side to
go to her cabin, when, bringing my eyes away from the sea, into whose
eastern quarter I had been gazing with some wild hope or fancy in me of
a sail down there--though it proved no more than a feather-tip of
cloud--I saw Helga in the gangway. I say Helga, but for some moments I
did not know her. I started and stared as if she had been a ghost.
Instead of the boyish figure to which my sight was already used, there
stood in the aperture betwixt the bulwarks, which we call the gangway,
a girl who looked at least half a head taller than the Helga who had
been my associate. I might have guessed at once that this appearance of
stature in her was due to her gown, but, as I did not suspect that she
had gone to change her dress, her suggestion of increased height
completed the astonishment and perplexity with which I regarded her. She
stood on the leaning and swaying side of the barque, as perfect a figure
of a maiden as mortal eyes could wish to rest on. Her dress was of a
dark-blue serge that clung to her: she also wore a cloth jacket, thinly
edged about the neck and where it buttoned with fur, and upon her head
was a turban-shaped hat of sealskin, the dark glossy shade of which
brightened her short hair into a complexion of the palest gold. She held
a parcel in her hand, and called to me to take it from her. I did so,
and cried:

'You will not be able to jump from the gangway. Get into the
fore-chains, and I will endeavour to haul the raft up to you.'

But even as I spoke she grasped her dress, and disclosed her little
feet, and with a bound gained the raft as it rose with the swell,
yielding on her knees as she struck the platform with the grace that
nothing but the teaching of old ocean could have communicated to her
limbs.

'Thank God you are here!' I cried, catching her by the hand. 'I was
growing uneasy--in another minute I should have sought you.'

She faintly smiled, and then turned eagerly to her father.

'I have my mother's portrait,' said she, pointing to the parcel, 'and
her Bible. I would not bring away more. If we are to perish, they will
go with us.'

He looked at her with a lack-lustre eye, and in a low voice addressed a
few words to her in Danish. She answered in that tongue, glancing down
at her dress, and then at me, and added, in English, 'It was time,
father. The hard work is over. I may be a girl now;' and looking along
the sea she sighed bitterly.

Her father brought his knitted hands together to his brow, and never
could I have imagined the like of the look of mental anguish that was on
his face as he did this. But what I am here narrating did not occupy
above a minute or two. Indeed, a longer delay than this was not to have
been suffered if we desired the raft to hold together. I let go the line
that held the little structure to the barque, and getting the small
studdingsail boom over--that is, the boom we had shipped to serve as a
signal-mast--I thrust with it, and, Helga helping me, we got the raft
clear of the side of the vessel. The leewardly swell on which we rode
did the rest for us and not a little rejoiced was I to find our
miserable fabric gradually increasing its distance from the _Anine_; for
if the barque foundered with us close alongside, we stood to be swamped
in the vortex, the raft scattered, and ourselves left to drown.

It now wanted about twenty minutes to sundown. A weak air still blew,
but the few clouds that still lived in the heavens floated overhead
apparently motionless; yet the swell continued large, to our sensations
at least, upon that flat structure, and the slope of the platform
rapidly grew so distressing and fatiguing to our limbs, that we were
glad to sit and obtain what refreshment we could from a short rest.

Among the things we had brought with us was the bull's-eye lamp,
together with a can of oil, a parcel of meshes, and some
lucifer-matches. I said to Helga:

'We should step, or set up, our mast before it grows dark.'

'Why?' she inquired. 'The flag we hoist will not be seen in the
dark'--knowing that the mast was there for no other purpose than to
display a flag on.

'But we ought to light the lamp and masthead it,' said I, 'and keep it
burning all night--if God suffers us to live through the night. Who can
tell what may come along?--what vessel invisible to us may perceive the
light?'

She answered quickly: 'Yes. Your judgment is clearer than mine. I will
help you to set up the mast.'

Her father again addressed her in Danish. She answered him, and then
said to me, 'My father asks why we are without a sail.'

'I thought of a sail,' I replied, speaking as I went about to erect the
mast, 'but without wind it could not serve us, and with wind it would
blow away like a cobweb. It would have occupied too much time to rig and
securely provide for a sail. Besides, our hopes could never lie in the
direction of such a thing. We must be picked up--there is no other
chance for us.'

The Captain made no response, but sat, propped up on his pillows,
motionless, his eyes fixed upon the barque.

The sun had sunk, but a strong scarlet yet glowed in the western sky by
the time we had erected and stayed the spar. I then lighted the lamp and
ran it aloft by means of a line and a little block which I had taken
care to throw into the raft. This finished, we seated ourselves.

There was now nothing more to be done but watch and pray. This was the
most solemn and dreadful moment that had as yet entered into the passage
of our fearful and astonishing experience. In the hurry and agitation of
leaving the barque there had been scarcely room for pause. All that we
could think of was how quickly to get away, how speedily to equip and
launch the raft, how to get Captain Nielsen over, and the like; but all
this was ended: we could now think--and I felt as if my heart had been
suddenly crushed in me as I sat on the slanting, falling, and rising
platform viewing the barque, that lay painted in clear black lines
against the fast-dimming glow in the west.

Helga sat close against her father's cot. So far as I was able to
distinguish her face, there was profound grief in it, and a sort of
dismay, but no fear. Her gaze was steady, and the expression of her
mouth firm. Her father kept his eyes rooted upon his ship. I overheard
her address him once or twice in Danish, but getting no reply, she
sighed heavily and held her peace. I was too exhausted in body and
spirits to desire to speak. I remember that I sat, or rather squatted,
Lascar fashion, upon the hatch-cover, that somewhat raised the platform
of the raft, with my hands clasped upon my shins, and my chin on a level
with my knees, and in this posture I continued for some time motionless,
watching the _Anine_, and waiting for her to sink, and realizing our
shocking situation to the degree of that heart-crushing sensation in me
which I have mentioned. I was exactly clad as I had been when I boarded
the barque out of the lifeboat. Never once, indeed, from the hour of my
being in the vessel, down to the present moment, had I removed my
oilskins, saving my sou'-wester, which I would take from my head when I
entered the cabin; and I recollect thinking that it was better for me to
be heavily than thinly clad, because being a stout swimmer, a light
dress would help me to a bitter long battle for life, whereas the
clothes I had on must make the struggle brief, and speedily drag me down
into peace, which was, indeed, all that I could bring my mind to dwell
upon now, for when I sent my glance from the raft to the darkling ocean,
I felt hopeless.

The rusty hectic died out. The night came along in a clear dusk with a
faint sighing of wind over the raft every time the swell threw her up.
There was a silver curl of moon in the south-west, but she was without
power to drop so much as a flake of her light into the dark shadow of
water under her. Yet the starlight was in the gloom, and it was not so
dark but that I could see Helga's face in a sort of glimmer, and the
white outline of the cot and the configuration of the raft upon the
water in dusky strokes.

The barque floated at about a cable's length distant from us, a dark
mass, rolling in a strangling manner, as I might know by the sickly
slide of the stars in the squares of her rigging and along the pallid
lines of the canvas stowed upon her yards. There was more tenacity of
life in her than I should have believed possible, and I said to Helga:

'If this raft were a boat, I would board the barque and set her on fire.
She may float through the night, for who is to know but that one of her
worse leaks may have got choked, and the blaze she would make might
bring us help.'

The Captain uttered some exclamation in Danish, in a small but vehement
and shrill tone. He had not spoken for above an hour, and I had believed
him sleeping or dying and speechless.

'What does he say?' I called across softly to Helga.

'That the _Anine_ might have been saved had we stood by her,' she
answered, struggling, as I could hear by the tremor in her voice, to
control her accents.

'No, no!' said I, almost gruffly, I fear, with the mood that was upon me
of helplessness, despair, and the kind of rage that comes with
perception that one is doomed to die like a rat, without a chance,
without a soul of all those one loves knowing one's fate. 'No, no!' I
cried, 'the _Anine_ was not to be saved by us two, nor by twenty like
us, Helga. _You_ know that--for it is like making me responsible for our
situation here to doubt it.'

'I do not doubt it,' she answered firmly and reproachfully.

Captain Nielsen muttered in his native tongue; but I did not inquire
what he said, and the hush of the great ocean night, with its delicate
threading of complaining wind, fell upon us.

My temper of despair was not to be soothed by recollection of this time
yesterday, by perception of the visible evidence of God's mercy in this
tranquillity of sky and sea, at a time when, but for the change of
weather, we had certainly been doomed. I was young; I passionately
desired to live. Had death been the penalty of the lifeboat attempt, I
might, had time been granted me, have contemplated my end with the
fortitude that springs from the sense of having done well. But what was
heroic in this business had disappeared out of it when the lifeboat
capsized and left me safe on board. It was now no more than a vile
passage of prosaic shipwreck, with its attendant horror of lingering
death, and nothing noble in what had been done, or that might yet have
to be done, to prop up my spirits. Thus I sat, full of wretchedness, and
miserably thinking, mechanically eyeing the dusky heap of barque; then
breaking away from my afflicting reverie, I stood up, holding by the
mast, to carefully sweep the sea, with a prayer for the sight of the
coloured gleams of a steamer's lights, since there was nothing to be
expected in the way of sail in this calm that was upon the water.

I was thus occupied, when I was startled by a strange cry--I cannot
describe it. It resembled the moan of a wild creature wounded to death,
but with a human note in it that made the sound something not to be
imagined. For an instant I believed it came from the sea, till I saw by
the dim light of the starshine the figure of Captain Nielsen, in a
sitting-posture, pointing with the whole length of his arm in the
direction of his barque. I looked, and found the black mass of hull
gone, and nothing showing but the dark lines of spars and rigging that
melted out of my sight as I watched. A noise of rending, intermingled
with the shock of an explosion, came from where she had disappeared. It
signified no more than the blowing up of the decks as she sank; but the
star-studded vastness of gloom made the sound appalling beyond language
to convey.

'Help!' cried Helga. 'My father is dying.'

I gained the side of the cot in a stride, and kneeled by him, but there
was no more to be seen of his face than the mere faint whiteness of it,
and I could not tell whether his eyes were open or not. Imagining, but
scarcely hoping, that a dram might put some life into the poor fellow, I
lowered the bull's-eye lamp from the masthead to seek for one of the
jars of spirits we had stowed; but when we came to put the tin pannikin
to his lips we found his teeth set.

'He is not dead, Helga,' I cried; 'he is in a fit. If he were dead his
jaw would drop;' and this I supposed, though I knew little of death in
those days.

I flashed the bull's-eye upon his face, and observed that though his
eyes were open the pupils were upturned and hidden. This, with the
whiteness of the skin and the emaciation of the lineaments, made a
ghastly picture of his countenance, and the hysteric sob that Helga
uttered as she looked made me grieve that I should have thrown the
light upon her father.

I mastheaded the lamp again, and crouched by the side of the cot talking
to Helga across the recumbent form in it. Who could remember what was
said at such a time? I weakly essayed to cheer her, but soon gave up,
for here was the very figure of Death himself lying between us, and
there was Death awaiting us in the black invisible folds in which we
swung; and what had I to say that could help her heart at such a time?
Occasionally I would stand erect and peer around. The weak wind that
went moaning past us as the raft rose to the liquid heave, had the chill
in it of the ocean in October; and fearing that Helga's jacket did not
sufficiently protect her, I pulled off my oilskin-coat--there is no
warmer covering for ordinary apparel--and induced her to put it on. Her
father remained motionless, but by stooping my ear to his mouth I could
catch the noise of his breathing as it hissed through his clenched
teeth. Yet it was a sort of breathing that would make one expect to hear
it die out in a final sigh at any minute.

I mixed a little spirit and water, and gave it to the girl, and obliged
her to swallow the draught, and begged her to eat for the sake of the
life and heart food would give her; but she said 'No,' and her frequent
silent sobbing silenced me on that head, for how could one grieving as
she did swallow food? I filled the pannikin for myself and emptied it,
and ate a biscuit and a piece of cheese, which were near my hand in an
interstice of the raft, and then lay down near the cot, supporting my
head on my elbow. Never did the stars seem so high, so infinitely
remote, as they seemed to me that night. I felt as though I had passed
into another world that mocked the senses with a few dim semblances of
things which a little while before had been real and familiar. The very
paring of moon showed small as though looked at through an inverted
telescope, and measurelessly remote. I do not know why this should have
been, yet once afterwards, in speaking of this experience to a man who,
in a voyage to India, had fallen overboard on such another night as
this, and swam for three hours, he told me that the stars had seemed to
him as to me, and the moon, which to him was nearly full, appeared to
have shrunk to the size of the planet Venus.

After awhile the Captain's breathing grew less harsh, and Helga asked me
to bring the lamp that she might look at him. His teeth were no longer
set, and his eyes as in nature, saving that there was no recognition in
them, and I observed that he stared straight into the brilliant glass of
magnified flame without winking or averting his gaze. I propped him up,
and Helga put the pannikin to his lips, but the fluid ran from the
corners of his mouth; upon which I let him rest upon his pillows, softly
begging the girl to let God have His way with him.

'He cannot last through the night!' she exclaimed, in a low voice; and
the wonderful stillness upon the sea, unvexed by the delicate winnowing
of the draught, gathered to my mood an extraordinary emphasis from my
being able to hear her light utterances as distinctly as though she
whispered in a sickroom.

'You are prepared, Helga?' said I.

'No, no!' she cried, with a little sob. 'Who can be prepared to lose
one that is dearly loved? We believe we are prepared--we pray for
strength; but when the blow falls it finds us weak and unready. When he
is gone, I shall be alone. And, oh! to die _here_!'

We sank into silence.

Another hour went by, and I believed I had fallen into a light, troubled
doze, less sleepful than a waking daydream, when I heard my name
pronounced, and instantly started up.

'What is it?' I cried.

'My father is asking for you,' answered Helga.

I leaned over the cot and felt for his hand, which I took. It was of a
deathlike coldness, and moist.

'I am here, Captain Nielsen,' said I.

'If God preserves you,' he exclaimed, very faintly, 'you will keep your
word?'

'Be sure of it--be sure of it,' I said, knowing that he referred to what
had passed between us about Helga.

'I thank you,' he whispered. 'My sight seems dark; yet is not that the
moon down there?'

'Yes, father,' answered the girl.

'Helga,' he said, 'did you not tell me you had brought your mother's
likeness with you?'

'It is with us, and her Bible, father.'

'Would to God I could look upon it,' said he, 'for the last time,
Helga--for the last time!'

'Where is the parcel?' I asked.

'I have it close beside me,' she answered.

'Open it, Helga!' said I. 'The lamp will reveal the picture.'

Again I lowered the bull's-eye from the masthead, and, while Helga held
the picture before her father's face, I threw the light upon it. It was
a little oil-painting in an oval gilt frame. I could distinguish no more
than the face of a woman--a young face--with a crown of yellow hair upon
her head. The sheen of the lamp lay faintly upon the profile of Helga.
All else, saving the picture, was in darkness, and the girl looked like
a vision upon the blackness behind her, as she knelt with the portrait
extended before her father's face.

He addressed her in weak and broken tones in Danish, then turned his
head and slightly raised his arm, as though he wished to point to
something up in the sky, but was without power of limb to do so. On
this Helga withdrew the portrait, and I put down the lamp, first
searching the dark line of ocean, now scintillant with stars, before
sitting again.

As the moon sank, spite of her diffusing little or no light, a deeper
dye seemed to come into the night. The shooting-stars were plentiful,
and betokened, as I might hope, continuance of fair weather. Here and
there hovered a steam-coloured fragment of cloud. An aspect of almost
summer serenity was upon the countenance of the sky, and though there
was the weight of the ocean in the swing of the swell, there was peace
too in the regularity of its run and in the soundless motion of it as it
took us, sloping the raft after the manner of a see-saw.

In a boat, aboard any other contrivance than this raft put together by
inexpert hands, I must have felt grateful--deeply thankful to God
indeed, for this sweet quietude of air and sea that had followed the
roaring conflict of the long hours now passed. But I was without hope,
and there can be no thankfulness without that emotion. These were the
closing days of October; November was at hand; within an hour this
sluggish breathing of air might be storming up into such another
hurricane as we were fresh from. And what then? Why, it was impossible
to fancy such a thing even, without one's spirits growing heavy as lead,
without feeling the presence of death in the chill of the night air.

No! for this passage of calm, God forgive me! I could not feel grateful.
The coward in me rose strong. I could not bless Heaven for what affected
me as a brief pause before a dreadful end, that this very quiet of the
night was only to render more lingering, and fuller, therefore, of
suffering.

Captain Nielsen began to mutter. I did not need to listen to him for
above a minute to gather that he was delirious. I could see the outline
of Helga against the stars, bending over the cot. The thought of this
heroic girl's distress, of her complicated anguish, rallied me, and I
broke in a very passion of self-reproach from the degradation of my
dejection. I drew to the cot, and Helga said:

'He is wandering in his mind.' She added, with a note of wailing in her
voice, 'Jeg er nu alene! Jeg er nu alene!' by which she signified that
she was now alone. I caught the meaning of the sentence from her
pronunciation of it, and cried:

'Do not say you are alone, Helga! Besides, your father still lives.
Hark! what does he say?'

So far he had been babbling in Danish; now he spoke in English, in a
strange voice that sounded as though proceeding from someone at a
distance.

'It is so, you see. The storks did not return last spring. There was to
be trouble!--there was to be trouble! Ha! here is Pastor Madsen. Else,
my beloved Else! here is the good Pastor Madsen. And there, too, is
Rector Grönlund. Will he observe us? Else, he is deep in his book.
Look!' he cried a little shrilly, pointing with a vehemence that
startled me into following the indication of his shadowy glimmering hand
directed into the darkness over the sea. 'It is Kolding Latin
School--nay, it is Rector Grönlund's parsonage garden. Ah, Rector, you
remember me? This is the little Else that your good wife thought the
prettiest child in Denmark. And this is Pastor Madsen.'

He paused, then muttered in Danish, and fell silent.



CHAPTER IX.

RESCUED.


This is a thing easy to recall, but how am I to convey the reality of
it? What is there in ink to put before you that wide scene of
starlighted gloom, the dusky shapes of swell for ever running
noiselessly at us--no sounds save the occasional creaking of the raft as
she was swayed--the motionless, black outlines of Helga and myself
overhanging the pallid streak of cot--at intervals a low sob breaking
from the girl's heart, and the overwhelming sense of present danger, of
hopelessness, made blacker yet by the night? And amid all this the crazy
babbling of the dying Dane, now in English and now in his native tongue!

It was just upon the stroke of one o'clock in the morning when he died.
I had brought my watch to the lamp, when he fetched a sort of groaning
breath, of a character that caused me to bend my ear to his lips: and I
found that he had ceased to breathe. I continued to listen, and then, to
make sure, cast the light of the lamp upon him.

'He has gone!' cried Helga.

'God has taken him,' said I. 'Come to this side, and sit by me!'

She did as I asked, and I took her hand. I knew by her respiration that
she was weeping, and I held my peace till her grief should have had some
vent. I then spoke of her father, represented that his ailments must in
all probability have carried him off almost as swiftly ashore; that he
had died a peaceful death, with his daughter beside him, and his wife
and home present in a vision to his gaze; and said that, so far from
grieving, we should count it a mercy that he had been called away thus
easily, for who was to imagine what lay before us--what sufferings,
which must have killed him certainly later on?

'His heart broke when his barque sank,' said she. 'I heard it in his
cry.'

This might very well have been too.

Never was there so long a night. The moon was behind the sea, and after
she was gone the very march of the stars seemed arrested, as though
nature had cried 'Halt!' to the universe. Having run the lamp aloft, I
resolved to leave it there, possessed now with such a superstitious
notion as might well influence a shipwrecked man, that if I lowered it
again no vessel would appear. Therefore, to tell the time, I was obliged
to strike a match, and whenever I did this I would stare at my watch and
put it to my ear and doubt the evidence of my sight, so inexpressibly
slow was the passage of those hours.

Helga's sobs ceased. She sat by my side, speaking seldom after we had
exhausted our first talk on her coming round to where I was. I wished
her to sleep, and told her that I could easily make a couch for her, and
that my oilskin would protect her from the dew. I still held her hand as
I said this, and I felt the shudder that ran through her when she
replied that she could not lie down, that she could not sleep. Perhaps
she feared I would disturb her father's body to make a bed for her; and,
indeed, there was nothing on the raft, but the poor fellow's cloak and
his pillows and blankets, out of which I could have manufactured a bed.

Had I been sure that he was dead, I should have slipped the body
overboard while it remained dark, so that Helga should not have been
able to see what I did; but I had not the courage to bury him merely
because I believed he was dead, because he lay there motionless; and I
was constantly thinking how I should manage when the dawn came--how I
was so to deal with the body as to shock and pain poor Helga as little
as possible.

As we sat side by side, I felt a small pressure of her shoulder against
my arm, and supposed that she had fallen asleep, but, on my whispering,
she immediately answered. Dead tired I knew the brave girl must be, but
sleep could not visit eyes whose gaze I might readily guess was again
and again directed at the faint pale figure of the cot.

The light air shifted into the north-west at about three o'clock in the
morning, and blew a small breeze which extinguished the star-flakes that
here and there rode upon the swell, and raised a noise of tinkling,
rippling waters along the sides of the raft. I guessed this new
direction of the wind by my observation of a bright greenish star which
had hung in the wake of the moon, and was now low in the west. This
light breeze kindled a little hope in me, and I would rise again and
again to peer into the quarter whence it blew, in the expectation of
spying some pale shadow of ship. Once Helga, giving a start, exclaimed:

'Hush! I seem to hear the throb of a steamer's engines!'

We both stood up hand in hand, for the sway of the raft made a danger of
it as a platform, and I listened with strained hearing. It might have
been a steamer, but there was no blotch of darkness upon the obscurity
the sea-line round to denote her, nor any gleam of lantern. Yet for
nearly a quarter of an hour did we listen, in a torment of attention,
and then resumed our seats side by side.

The dawn broke at last, dispelling, as it seemed to my weary despairing
imagination, a long month of perpetual night. The cold gray was slow and
stealthy, and was a tedious time in brightening into the silver and rose
of sunrise. My first act was to sweep the sea for a ship, and I then
went to the cot and looked at the face upon the pillows in it. If I had
never seen death before, I might have known it now. I turned to the
girl.

'Helga,' said I gently, 'you can guess what my duty is--for your sake,
and for mine, and for his too.'

I looked earnestly at her as I spoke: she was deadly pale, haggard, her
eyes red and inflamed with weeping, and her expression one of exquisite
touching sorrow and mourning. But the sweetness of her young countenance
was dominant even in that supreme time, and, blending with the visible
signs of misery in her looks, raised the mere prettiness of her features
into a sad beauty that impressed me as a spiritual rather than as a
physical revelation.

'Yes, I know what must be done,' she answered. 'Let me kiss him first.'

She approached the cot, knelt by it, and put her lips to her father's:
then raising her clasped hands above her head, and looking upwards, she
cried out: '_Jeg er faderlös! Gud hjelpe mig!_'

I stood apart waiting, scarcely able to draw my breath for the pity and
sorrow that tightened my throat. It is impossible to imagine the
plaintive wailing note her voice had as she uttered those Danish words:
'_I am fatherless! God help me!_' She then hid her face in her hands,
and remained kneeling and praying.

After a few minutes she arose, kissed again the white face, and seated
herself with her back upon the cot.

No one could have named to me a more painful, a more distasteful piece
of work than the having to handle the body of this poor Danish captain,
and launch him into that fathomless grave upon whose surface we lay.
First I had to remove the ropes which formed our little bulwark, that I
might slide the cot overboard; then with some ends of line I laced the
figure in the cot, that it should not float away out of it when
launched. The work kept me close to the body, and, thin and white as he
was, yet he looked so lifelike, wore an expression so remonstrant, that
my horror was sensibly tinctured with a feeling of guilt, as though
instead of burying him I was about to drown him.

I made all despatch possible for Helga's sake, but came to a pause, when
the cot was ready, to look about me for a sinker. There was nothing
that I could see but the jars, and, as they contained our little stock
of spirits and fresh water, they were altogether too precious to send to
the bottom. I could do no more than hope that the canvas would speedily
grow saturated, then fill and sink; and, putting my hands to the cot, I
dragged it to the edge of the raft, and went round to the head and
pushed.

It was midway over the side, when a huge black rat sprang from among the
blankets out through the lacing, and disappeared under the hatch-cover.
I had no doubt it was the same rat that had leapt from my shoulder
aboard the barque. If it had terrified me there, you will guess the
shock it caused me now! I uttered some cry in the momentary
consternation raised in me by this beastly apparition of life flashing,
so to speak, out of the very figure and stirlessness of death, and Helga
looked and called to know what was the matter.

'Nothing, nothing,' I replied. 'Turn your eyes from me, Helga!'

She immediately resumed her former posture, covering her face with her
hands. The next moment I had thrust the cot fair into the sea, and it
slid off to a distance of twice or thrice its own length, and lay rising
and falling, to all appearances buoyant as the raft itself. I knew it
would sink so soon as the canvas and blankets were soaked, yet that
might take a little while in doing, and dreading lest Helga should
look--for you will readily conceive how dreadful would be to the girl
that sight of her father afloat in the square of canvas, his face
showing clearly through the lacing of rope--I went to her, and put my
arm round her, and so, but without speaking, obliged her to keep her
face away. I gathered from her passiveness that she understood me. When
I glanced again, the cot was in the act of sinking; in a few beats of
the heart it vanished, and all was blank ocean to the heavens--a
prospect of little flashful and feathering ripples, but glorious as
molten and sparkling silver in the east under the soaring sun.

I withdrew my hand from Helga's shoulder. She then looked, and sighed
heavily, but no more tears flowed. I believe she had wept her heart dry!

'In what words am I to thank you for your kindness and sympathy?' said
she. 'My father and my mother are looking down upon us, and they will
bless you.'

'We must count on being saved, Helga,' said I, forcing a cheerful note
into my voice. 'You will see Kolding again, and I shall hope to see it
too, by your side.' And, with the idea of diverting her mind from her
grief, I told her of my promise to her father, and how happy it would
make me to accompany her to Denmark.

'I have been too much of a home bird,' said I. 'You will provide me with
a good excuse for a ramble, Helga; but first you shall meet my dear old
mother, and spend some time with us. I am to save your life, you know. I
am here for that purpose;' and so I continued to talk to her, now and
again coaxing a light sorrowful smile to her lips; but it was easy to
know where her heart was; all the while she was sending glances at the
sea close to the raft, where she might guess the cot had sunk, and twice
I overheard her whisper to herself that same passionate, grieving
sentence she had uttered when she kissed her father's dead face: '_Jeg
er faderlös! Gud hjelpe mig!_'

The morning stole away. Very soon after I had buried the Captain I
lowered the lamp, and sent the Danish flag we had brought with us to the
head of the little mast, where it blew out bravely, and promised to
boldly court any passing eye that might be too distant to catch a sight
of our flat platform of raft. I then got breakfast, and induced Helga to
eat and drink. Somehow, whether it was because of the sick complaining
Captain, with his depressing menace of death, being gone, or because of
the glad sunshine, the high marbling of the heavens, full of fine
weather, and the quiet of the sea, with its placid heave of swell and
its twinkling of prismatic ripples, my heart felt somewhat light, my
burden of despondency was easier to carry, was less crushing to my
spirits. What to hope for I did not know. I needed no special wisdom to
guess that if we were not speedily delivered from this raft we were as
certainly doomed as though we had clung to the barque and gone down in
her. Yet spite of this there was a stirring of hope in me. It seemed
impossible but that some ship must pass us before the day was gone. How
far we had blown to the southward and westward during the gale I could
not have told, but I might be sure we were not very distant from the
mouth of the English Channel, and therefore in the fair way of vessels
inward and outward bound, more particularly of steamers heading for
Portuguese and Mediterranean ports.

But hour after hour passed, and nothing hove into view. The sun went
floating from his meridian into the west, and still the horizon remained
a blank, near, heaving line, with the sky whitening to the ocean rim.
Again and again Helga sought the boundary, as I did. Side by side we
would stand, she holding by my arm, and together we gazed, slowly
sweeping the deep.

'It is strange!' she once said, after a long and thirsty look. 'We are
not in the middle of the ocean. Not even the smoke of a steamer!'

'Our horizon is narrow,' answered I. 'Does it exceed three miles? I
should say not, save when the swell lifts us, and then, perhaps, we may
see four. Four miles of sea!' I cried. 'There may be a dozen ships
within three leagues of us, all of them easily within sight from the
maintop of the _Anine_, were she afloat. But what, short of a straight
course for the raft, could bring this speck of timber on which we stand
into view? This is the sort of situation to make one understand what is
signified by the immensity of the ocean.'

She shivered and clasped her hands.

'That I--that we,' she exclaimed, speaking slowly and almost under her
breath, 'should have brought you to this pass, Mr. Tregarthen! It was
our fate by rights--but it ought not to be yours!'

'You asked me to call you Helga,' said I; 'and you must give me my
Christian name.'

'What is it?' she asked.

'Hugh.'

'It is a pretty name. If we are spared, it will be sweet to my memory
while I have life!'

She said this with an exquisite artlessness, with an expression of
wonderful sweetness and gentleness in her eyes, which were bravely
fastened upon me, and then, suddenly catching up my hand, put her lips
to it and pressed it to her heart, letting it fall as she turned her
face upon the water on that side of the raft where her father's body had
sunk.

My spirits, which remained tolerably buoyant while the sun stood high,
sank as he declined. The prospect of another long night upon the raft,
and of all that might happen in a night, was insupportable. I had
securely bound the planks together, as I believed, but the constant play
of the swell was sure to tell after a time. One of the ligatures might
chafe through, and in a minute the whole fabric scatter under our feet
like the staves of a stove boat, and leave us no more than a plank to
hold on by in the midst of this great sea which all day long had been
without ships. I often bitterly deplored I had not brought a sail from
the barque, for the air that hung steady all day blew landwards, and
there was no weight in it to have carried away the flimsiest fabric we
could have erected. A sail would have given us a drift--perhaps have put
us in the way of sighting a vessel, and in any case it would have
mitigated the intolerable sense of helpless imprisonment which came to
one with thoughts of the raft floating without an inch of way upon her,
overhanging all day long, as it might have seemed, that very spot of
waters in which Helga's father had found his grave.

Shortly before sundown Helga sighted a sail in the south-west. It was
the merest shaft of pearl gleaming above the ocean rim, and visible to
us only when the quiet heave of the sea threw us up. It was no more than
a vessel's topmost canvas, and before the sun was gone the dim starlike
sheen of those cloths had faded out into the atmosphere.

'You must get some rest to-night, Helga,' said I. 'Your keeping awake
will not save us if we are to be drowned, and if we are to be saved then
sleep will keep you in strength. It is the after-consequences of this
sort of exposure and mental distress which are to be dreaded.'

'Shall I be able to sleep on this little rickety platform?' she
exclaimed, running her eyes, glowing dark against the faint scarlet in
the west, over the raft. 'It brings one so dreadfully near to the
surface of the sea. The coldness of the very grave itself seems to come
out of it.'

'You talk like a girl now that you are dressed as one, Helga. The hearty
young sailor-lad that I met aboard the _Anine_ would have found nothing
more than a raft and salt water in this business, and would have
"planked" it here as comfortably as in his cabin bunk.'

'It did not please you to see me in boy's clothes,' said she.

'You made a very charming boy, Helga; but I like you best as you are.'

'No stranger should have seen me dressed so,' she exclaimed in a tone of
voice that made me figure a little flush in her cheeks, though there was
nothing to be seen in that way by the twilight which had drawn around
us. 'I did not care what the mates and the crew thought, but I could not
have guessed----' she stammered and went on: 'when I saw in the bay what
the weather was likely to prove, I determined to keep my boy's dress on,
more particularly after that wretched man, Damm, went away with the
others, for then the _Anine_ would be very short-handed for what might
happen; and how could I have been of use in this attire?' and she took
hold of her dress and looked down it.

'I have heard before,' said I, 'of girls doing sailors' work, but not
for love of it. In the old songs and stories they are represented as
going to sea chiefly in pursuit of absconding sweethearts.'

'You think me unwomanly for acting the part of a sailor?' said she.

'I think of you, Helga,' said I, taking her by the hand, 'as a girl with
the heart of a lioness. But if I once contrive to land you safely at
Kolding, you will not go to sea again, I hope?'

She sighed, without replying.

There was nothing but her father's cloak and my oilskins to make a couch
for her with. When I pressed her to take some rest, she entreated softly
that I would allow her to go on talking and sitting--that she was
sleepless--that it lightened her heart to talk with me--that there were
many hours of darkness yet before us--and that before she consented to
lie down we must arrange to keep watch, since I needed rest too.

I was willing, indeed, to keep her at my side talking. The dread of the
loneliness which I knew would come off the wide, dark sea into my brain
when she was silent and asleep, and when there would be nothing but the
stars and the cold and ghastly gleam of the ebony breast on which we
lay, to look at, was strong upon me. I mastheaded the bull's-eye lamp,
and spread the poor Danish Captain's cloak, and we seated ourselves upon
it, and for a long two hours we talked together, in which time she gave
me her life's history, and I chatted to her about myself. I listened to
her with interest and admiration. Her voice was pure, with a quality of
plaintive sweetness in it, and now and again she would utter a sentence
in Danish, then translate it. It might be that the girlish nature I now
found in her was accentuated to my appreciation by the memory of her
boyish attire, by her appearance when on board the barque, the work she
did there and the sort of roughness one associates with the trade of the
sea, whether true of the individual or not; but, as I thought, never had
I been in the company of any woman whose conversation and behaviour were
so engaging, with their qualities of delicacy, purity, simplicity, and
candour, as Helga's.

It was such another night as had passed, saving that the ocean swell had
the softness of the long hours of fine weather in its volume, whereas on
the previous night it still breathed as in memory of the fierce
conflict that was over.

A little after midnight there was a red scar of moon in the west, and
the hour was a very dark one, spite of the silver showering of the
plentiful stars. I had made for Helga the best sort of couch it was in
my power to manufacture, and at this time she lay upon it sleeping
deeply, as I knew by the regularity of her respiration. The sense of
loneliness I dreaded had been upon me since she lay down and left me to
the solitary contemplation of our situation. A small wind blew out of
the north-west, and there was much slopping noise of waters under my
feet amid the crevices of the clumsily framed raft. I had promised Helga
to call her at three, but without intending to keep my word if she
slept, and I sat near her head, her pale face glimmering out of the
darkness as though spectrally self-luminous, and for ever I was turning
my eyes about the sea and directing my gaze at the little masthead
lantern to know that it was burning.

Happening to bend my gaze down upon the raft, into some interstice close
against where the hatch-cover was secured, I spied what, for the
moment, I might have supposed a pair of glow-worms, minute, but defined
enough. Then I believed there was a little pool of water there, and that
it reflected a couple of stars. A moment after I guessed what it was,
and in a very frenzy of the superstition that had been stirring in me,
and in many directions of thought influencing me from the moment of my
leaving the barque, I had my hand upon the great rat--for that was what
it was--and sent it flying overboard. I remember the wild squeak of the
thing as I hurled it--you would have supposed it the cry of a distant
gull. There was a little fire in the water, and I could see where it
swam, and all very quietly I seized hold of a loose plank and, waiting
till it had come near, I hit it, and kept on hitting it, till I might be
sure it was drowned.

Some little noise I may have made: Helga spoke in her sleep, but did not
wake. You will smile at my mentioning this trifling passage; you would
laugh could I make you understand the emotion of relief, the sense of
exultant happiness, that possessed me when I had drowned this rat. When
I look back and recall this little detail of my experiences, I never
doubt that the overwhelming spirit of the loneliness of that ocean night
lay upon me in a sort of craziness. I thought of the rat as an evil
spirit, a something horribly ominous to us, a menace of suffering and of
dreadful death while it stayed with us. God knows why I should have thus
thought; but the imagination of the shipwrecked is quickly diseased, and
the moods which a man will afterwards look back upon with shame and
grief and astonishment are, while they are present, to him as fruitful
of terrible imaginings as ever made the walls of a madhouse ring with
maniac laughter.

It might have been some half-hour after this--the silly excitement of
the incident having passed out of my mind--that I fell into a doze.
Nature was well-nigh exhausted in me, yet I did not wish to sleep. In
proportion, however, as the workings of my brain were stealthily quieted
by the slumberous feelings stealing over me, so the soothing influences
without operated: the cradling of the raft, the hushing and subduing
gaze of the stars, the soft whispering of the wind.

I was awakened by a rude shock, followed by a hoarse bawling cry. There
was a second shock of a sort to smartly bring my wits together, attended
with several shouts, such as--'What is it? What have ye run us into?
Why, stroike me silly, if it ain't a raft!'

I sprang to my feet, and found the bows of a little vessel overhanging
us. Small as I might know her to be, she yet loomed tall and black, and
even seemed to tower over us, so low-seated were we. She lined her
proportions against the starry sky, and I made out that she had hooked
herself to us by running her bowsprit through the stays which supported
our mast.

My first thought was for Helga, but she was rising even as I looked, and
the next moment was at my side.

'For God's sake!' I cried, 'lower away your sail, or your stem will
grind this raft to pieces! We are two--a girl and a man--shipwrecked
people. I implore you to help us to get on board you!'

A lantern was held over the side, and the face of the man who held it
showed out to the touch of the lustre like a picture in a _camera
obscura_. The rays of the lantern streamed fairly upon us, and the man
roared out:

'Ay! it's a raft, Jacob, and there are two of 'em, and one a gal. Chuck
the man a rope's-end and he'll haul the raft alongside.'

'Look out!' shouted another voice from the after-part of the little
vessel, and some coils of rope fell at my feet.

I instantly seized the line, and, Helga catching hold too, we strained
our united weight at it, and the raft swung alongside the craft at the
moment that she lowered her sail.

'Catch hold of the lady's hands!' I shouted.

In a moment she was dragged over the side. I handed up the little
parcel, containing her mother's picture and Bible, and followed easily,
scrambling over the low rail.

The man who grasped the lantern held it aloft to survey us, and I saw
the dusky glimmer of two other faces past him.

'This is a queer start!' said he. 'How long have you been knocking about
here?'

'You shall have the yarn presently,' said I; 'but before the raft goes
adrift, it's well you should know that she is pretty handsomely stocked
with provisions--all worth bringing aboard.'

'Right!' he cried. 'Jacob, take this here lantern and jump over the
side, and hand up what ye find.'

All this had happened too suddenly to suffer me as yet to be sensible of
what came little short of a miraculous deliverance; for had the craft
been a vessel of burthen, or had there been any weight in the soft night
air still blowing, she would have sheared through us as we lay asleep,
and scattered the raft and drowned us out of hand--nay, before we could
have cried 'O God!' we should have been suffocating in the water.

I believed her at first a fishing-boat. She was lugger-rigged and open,
with a little forecastle in her bows, as I had noticed while the lantern
dangled in the hand of the man who surveyed us. Yet, had she been a
line-of-battle ship, she could not, as a refuge and a means of
deliverance after the horror and peril of that flat platform of raft,
have filled me with more joy and thanksgiving.

'The worst is over, Helga!' I cried, as I seized the girl's cold and
trembling hand. 'Here is a brave little vessel to carry us home, and you
will see Kolding again, after all!'

She made some answer, which her emotion rendered scarcely intelligible.
Her being suddenly awakened by the shock of the collision, her alarm on
seeing what might have passed in the gloom as a tall, black mass of bow
crushing into the raft; then the swiftness of our entry into the lugger,
and the sensations which would follow on her perception of our escape
from a terrible death--all this, combined with what she had gone
through, was too much for the brave little creature; she could scarcely
whisper; and, as I have said, her hand was cold as frost, and trembled
like an aged person's, as I gently brought her to one of the thwarts.

By this time I had made out that the boat carried only three of a crew.
One of them, holding the lantern, had sprung on to the raft, and was
busy in handing up to the others whatever he could lay his hands upon.
They did not spend many minutes over this business. Indeed, I was
astonished by their despatch. The fellow on the raft worked like one who
was very used to rummaging, and, as I knew afterwards by observing what
he had taken, it was certain not a single crevice escaped him.

'That's all,' I heard him shout. 'There's naught left that I can find,
unless so be as the parties have snugged any valuables away.'

'No!' I cried, 'there are no valuables, no money--nothing but food and
drink.'

'Come aboard, Jacob, arter ye've chucked up what's loose for firewood.'

Presently the lantern flashed as it was passed across the rail, and the
figure of the man followed.

'Shove her clear!' was bawled, and shortly afterwards, 'Up foresail!'

The dark square of sail mounted, and one of the men came aft to the
helm. Nothing was said until the sheet had been hauled aft, and the
little craft was softly rippling along over the smooth folds of the
swell, communicating a sensation so buoyant, so vital after the flat
mechanical swaying and slanting of the inert raft, that the mere feeling
of it to me was as potent in virtue as some life-giving dram.

The other two men came out of the bows and seated themselves, placing
the lighted lantern in the midst of us, and so we sat staring at one
another.

'Men,' said I, 'you have rescued us from a horrible situation. I thank
you for my life, and I thank you for this lady's life.'

'How long have ye been washing about, sir?' said the man at the helm.

'Since Monday night,' said I.

'A bad job!' said he; 'but you'll have had it foine since Monday night.
Anyone perish aboard your raft?'

'One,' I answered quickly. 'And now I'll tell you my story. But first I
must ask for a drop of spirits out of one of those jars you have
transhipped. A sudden change of this sort tries a man to the soul.'

'Ay, you're right,' growled one of the others. 'I know what it is to be
plucked by the hair o' the head out of the hopen jaws of Death, and the
sort of feelings what comes arter the plucking job's o'er. Which'll be
the particler jar, sir?'

'Any one of them,' said I.

He explored with the lantern, found a little jar of brandy, and the
glass, or rather I should say the pannikin, went round. I coaxed Helga
into taking a sup; yet she continued silent at my side, as one still
dazed and incapable of mastering what had happened. Indeed, with her
woman's apparel, you might have believed that she had re-equipped
herself with her woman's nature.


END OF VOL. I.





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