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Title: Rounding Cape Horn and Other Sea Stories
Author: McRoberts, Walter
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rounding Cape Horn and Other Sea Stories" ***

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                            ROUNDING CAPE HORN
                             . . . AND . . .
                            OTHER SEA STORIES

                                * * * * *

                           BY WALTER MCROBERTS.

                                * * * * *

                       Illustrated by Grant Wright.

                                * * * * *

    “_Roll on_, _thou deep and dark blue ocean_—_roll!_
       _Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;_
    _Man marks the earth with ruin_—_his control_
       _Stops with the shore_.”

                                * * * * *

                               PEORIA, ILL.
                       H. S. HILL PRINTING COMPANY.

                                * * * * *

                  Entered according to Act of Congress,
                            in the year 1894,
                           BY WALTER MCROBERTS,
              In the office of the Librarian, at Washington.

                         [Picture: The Sagamore]

                            . . . To . . .
                            J. MURPHY, M.D.
              These Stories are Affectionately Dedicated
                            By his friend,

                                                            THE AUTHOR.


The Life-Savers                            7
Thanksgiving on the Dicky Bird            27
My Brazilian Adventure                    57
Bringing in a Derelict                    85
The Monomaniac                           113
Crossing the Line                        161
Missing                                  193
A Dangerous Cargo                        211
The Parson’s Text                        233
Rounding Cape Horn                       241


[Picture: The Life-savers] The hands of the clock in the life-saving
station pointed to a quarter of nine, on a wild March night along the New
England coast.  A bitter north-easter raged outside, driving the rising
tide higher and higher upon the beach.  It was almost at the flood, and
only a narrow ridge of stones lay between the sea and the station.  The
surf thundered in like a solid wall—great combers that nothing could
resist, flung themselves upon the beach with a sullen roar, and broke
into a seething flood of foam.  This foam was not the sparkling white
substance into which the waves resolve themselves in time of peace, but a
turbid yellowish froth, which, by the time it reached the shore, was
nearly of the consistency of white of egg, beaten stiff.  Great patches
of it were caught up by the fierce wind and blown far inland, while
others lodged against the walls of the life-saving station, where they
mingled with the pelting snow that thickly covered the weather-side of
the building.  The water’s edge was piled with a tangled mass of
sea-weed, drift-wood, bottles, dead crabs, and a hundred different
objects which the ocean had cast up.  The undertow dragged out myriads of
pebbles, which gave forth a peculiar musical roar as they were swept from
the beach where they had lain through weeks of pleasant weather, now to
be again swallowed up in the deep.  The blackness out to sea was almost
tangible—the force of the wind and the driving snow nearly blinded the
patrolmen, struggling along their beats with every sense on the alert,
and with only their beach lanterns for company.  In a word, it was one of
those awful nights when the government life-savers are often called upon
to work like Spartan heroes, and suffer incredible hardships and dangers
that imperilled lives may be saved.  One such night far out-balances the
long term of inactivity (broken only by daily drill) that may have
preceded it.

Captain Litchfield, the keeper of the station, was in the observatory,
whose windows commanded a view of the ocean and beach for a long distance
in either direction.  Occasionally he caught a glimpse of the lighthouse
two miles to the north, but the cheerful beacon was rendered dim by the
snow which filled the air, and was invisible much of the time.  As a
violent gust beat against the frosty panes and shook the stout building,
the keeper thought of the _Peruvian_, and other good ships that had met
their fate on the Massachusetts coast during just such nights as this.
He had doubled the beach patrol and now strained his eyes in momentary
expectation of seeing the signal to all that coast that a disaster had
occurred.  It is a thrilling time—waiting and watching to hear the news
of a wreck that is certain to take place; striving to locate the doomed
craft in the profound darkness out at sea; hoping against hope that some
miracle may avert the impending catastrophe!

Just at dusk that evening, the men at Fourth Cliff Station (a few miles
to the south) had sighted a large brig close-hauled and struggling
northward under storm sails.  The blinding storm had apparently prevented
those on board from seeing how perilously near they were to land, but
they soon after discovered their danger, for more sail was clapped on the
vessel—much more than she could safely carry—and she tore through the
water at a great rate, in a desperate endeavor to drive past the outlying
rocks and shoals off Scituate and Cohasset.  The attempt might have
succeeded had it not been for the fearful leeway the craft was making,
but it seemed as though every cable’s length she advanced brought her
perceptibly nearer to the beach.

Night soon hid the brig from view, but the keeper’s experience told him
that her fate was sealed, and he burned red rockets to warn the adjacent
station to be on the lookout for the wreck which must soon take place.
Thus it was that Captain Litchfield and his crew had been for several
hours in momentary expectation of a summons to save human life.  Half way
between the two stations a rocky point jutted out into the water, and
here it was that both keepers expected the brig to strike; but by an
extraordinary exhibition of pluck and good seamanship, she cleared this

As the minutes passed, the crowd of half-frozen villagers on the beach
concluded that the vessel had managed to escape to the open sea, and
began to realize that their limbs were cold and numb.  The greater part
betook themselves to their cottages; mayhap to listen to some harrowing
tale of shipwreck and death from the lips of an octogenarian smoking his
pipe in the chimney corner, while drift-wood snapped and blazed upon the
fire, and the housewife heated over the remnants of a chowder with which
to cheer the stomachs of the returned watchers, ere they sought the
doubtful warmth of their bed rooms.

But the station crew redoubled their vigilance.  They well knew the brig
could not tack in that furious gale, and there was not room to wear,
without taking ground;—

The signal!

A patrolman on the northern beat had suddenly ignited his Coston
light—the red emblem which both tells the watchful keeper that a wreck
has been sighted, and assures the crew of the unfortunate vessel that
succor is at hand.

The surfmen and patrolmen passed the signal along the beats and hurried
to the station, each to perform his allotted part in the work of rescue.
The keeper burned a rocket to inform the Fourth Cliff crew.  It was
answered almost simultaneously by a distant patrolman with his handlight,
and by a white rocket sent up from Fourth Cliff; the crew and apparatus
from that point would soon be hurrying to the scene of the wreck.

The patrolman who gave the alarm had sighted the brig just before she
went aground.  She was then headed directly for the beach, bows on, her
captain evidently realizing that escape was impossible, and that his only
chance lay in getting the craft near the shore.  The tide was high, and
she had taken ground scarcely a quarter of a mile from the beach, and
almost directly in front of the station.  Immediately after striking, she
had swung around broadside on, and now the dim outline of her canvas and
rigging could be faintly distinguished through the storm.

In the station all was excitement and action, but there was no confusion.
Within a few moments of the time the wreck had been sighted, the keeper
issued the first order: “Open boat-room doors—man the beach-cart!”

Laden with the life-saving apparatus, and drawn by six surfmen, the cart
was hauled out of the station and over the loose, yielding stones that
lay between it and the ocean.  The wide tires prevented the vehicle from
sinking among the stones and rendered the task not difficult.  The
tremendous surf booming in made it impossible to launch the life-boat,
and it was through the medium of the breeches buoy that the brig’s crew
were to be rescued.

Bad news travels swiftly, and a rapidly increasing knot of men, boys, and
even a few women was already assembled, many of whom offered assistance,
while one or two did not hesitate to give advice.  The keeper directed
them to procure dry wood from the station and start a bonfire, which they
did with alacrity, the flames soon crackling merrily.

The cart having been halted, the crew proceeded to unload it, and while
Captain Litchfield placed the gun in position, the others buried the
sand-anchor, prepared the shot-line box, set the crotch in the proper
place, and performed other duties of importance.  Everything about the
stranded vessel was dark and silent.  She displayed no mast-head lantern
or any light whatever, her crew having probably taken to the rigging as
soon as she struck to avoid being washed overboard.  The fierce gale cut
the faces and blinded the eyes of the life-savers when they attempted to
look towards the wreck, but the keeper contrived to train the gun and
raise it to the proper elevation for firing.  All things being ready, he
gave the lanyard a sharp pull.  There was a report, a puff of smoke, and
away sped the metal cylinder into the blackness, with the shot-line

A few minutes passed, during which some of the crew had a chance to warm
their numb fingers at the fire.  The direction of the wind was favorable,
and the keeper had strong hopes of getting that first line over the
vessel.  But there was no pull upon it—nothing to show that those on the
wreck had seen it.  And yet it had certainly fallen on the brig, for all
attempts by those on shore to withdraw it were futile.  Perhaps the
unfortunate crew knew the line was on deck, but were unable to reach it
without being washed away; perhaps they were too thoroughly chilled to
make any exertion in their own behalf, although this seemed scarcely
possible in view of the short time the vessel had been aground.  But at
any rate they failed to secure the line, and in trying to haul it back on
shore it parted somewhere off in the darkness.

The operation had to be repeated, and a second shot was fired as quickly
as the apparatus could be made ready.  This was a complete failure, for
it did not go over the brig at all.  The third attempt promised to be
crowned with success, for the line not only fell upon the vessel, but
came within reach of the beleagured crew—a fact that was soon made
apparent by a decided pull upon it.  It was the first evidence of life
upon the wreck, and sent a thrill through the breasts of the rescuers.

Number One had just bent the shot-line around the whip, and the keeper
was about to signal the wreck to haul off, when the line again parted.
This was a keen disappointment, for precious moments must be consumed in
preparing the apparatus for another shot; and evidence was not lacking to
show that the seas were making a clean breach over the wreck, sweeping
her decks of everything movable.  A small boat, one end in splinters, was
flung upon the beach almost at the foot of the rescuers; in the edge of
the surf was something that resembled a hen-coop; one of the villagers
discovered a flight of steps and several planks a little to the right of
the station; and other familiar objects were rapidly coming ashore.

                    [Picture: The Life-Savers at Work]

The fourth shot proved successful, and after the brig’s crew secured the
line, the whip was attached to it and those on the wreck hauled off until
the whip was within their reach.  The two surfmen tending the shore ends
soon felt several pulls, which they interpreted as a signal that the
tail-block had been made fast on the brig.  Now the lee part of the whip
was bent on to the hawser close to the tally-board, {17a} and while one
man saw that it did not foul the hawser, others manned the weather whip
and thus hauled the hawser off to the wreck.  The breeches buoy block
{17b} was next attached, after which operations were suspended until a
signal should be received from the stranded vessel that the hawser had
been made fast to one of the masts.  The length of time that the brig’s
crew required to perform this ordinarily simple act told the life-savers,
as plainly as words could have done, how greatly they were exhausted by
their two hours’ exposure to the bitter wind and icy spray.  Their
stiffened fingers at length gave the signal, and the station crew quickly
hauled in the slack of the hawser.  The crotch was now raised, which had
the effect of elevating the hawser above the surface of the ocean
sufficiently for the breeches buoy to travel upon it without touching the
water.  All was ready, and the keeper ordered: “Man lee whip—haul off!”

As the buoy slid easily along the hawser and vanished in the darkness
towards the wreck, the pent-up feelings of the villagers burst forth.
The boys yelled, shouted hurrahs, and danced like sprites about the fire,
upon which they flung more drift-wood.  Men and women pressed closer
about the keeper and his assistants, shading their eyes with their hands,
as they strove to follow the course of the buoy.  Lips moved and limbs
trembled, but as much from excitement as from cold.

At this juncture the Fourth Cliff crew arrived, having toiled for two
hours through snow-drifts, and over loose stones, with their heavy
apparatus.  It had been found impossible to obtain horses in the
neighborhood without great delay, and the men were thus compelled to set
out without them.  The major part of the work of rescue was already done,
allowing the half-frozen crew time to warm themselves at the fire, where
they held themselves in readiness to render instant service.

The signal from the brig having been given, Captain Litchfield commanded:
“Man weather whip—haul ashore!”  The men hauled in the whip with a will,
while the villagers, eager to get a glimpse of the approaching buoy and
its human freight, crowded about until the keeper was compelled to order
them back.

Now the poor fellow was visible!  Just as he neared the edge of the surf,
a huge comber about to break reared its foaming crest and buried hawser,
buoy and man in a cloud of spray, as though making a last attempt to
seize its intended victim.  When the buoy emerged and was drawn up to the
crotch, the keeper and Number Seven stepped forward and helped the
rescued seaman out.  The buoy was then hurried back to the wreck, while
its drenched occupant was turned over to the Fourth Cliff crew, who took
him to the station.

He was a large man, and evidently a Scandinavian, but seemed exhausted or
stunned to such an extent that little information could be obtained from
him, except that there were seven men still on the wreck.  His wet
clothes were removed, and after a good rubbing, he was placed in one of
the snowy beds in the upper story of the station.  Here in a large,
pleasant room, stood a number of single iron bedsteads with heads to the
wall—one for each of the crew, besides a few extra in case of emergency.
In this haven of rest the sailor fell into a deep sleep, heedless of the
storm and cold without.

The next man landed proved to be the mate—a small, wiry fellow, who bore
his sufferings well.  He thanked the keeper and surfman who helped him
out of the buoy and stamped upon the wet sand as though enjoying the
sensation of having something firm beneath his feet.  His hands were
stiff from clinging to the rigging, and were almost useless from the
action of the bitter wind and freezing water.  But he picked up fast, and
after borrowing a dry suit of clothes and an overcoat, insisted on
returning to the beach.

He reported the vessel to be the _Huron_, a 400-ton brig, bound from
Porto Rico to Boston, with molasses.  The weather had been thick, and
though for two days they had had no observation, the captain believed
himself a good distance from the coast.  When land was sighted on the
port bow, they shook out more sail and tried to drive past; but all
efforts to keep the brig off shore were futile, and seeing that she must
soon strike, the captain headed her for the beach at full speed.  The
mate reported the wreck to be breaking up rapidly, but thought she might
hold together until all had been saved.

The cook and three more seamen had been landed meanwhile, leaving only
the captain and a Spanish sailor on the stranded vessel.  The buoy had
just started on its seventh trip to the brig, when those tending the whip
noticed something wrong.  The hawser suddenly slackened to such an extent
as to allow the buoy to touch the water.  A second more, and the great
rope which had bridged the chasm between the brig and the shore became
perfectly limp, and fell into the ocean!  A groan broke from the throng
upon the beach as they realized the extent of this misfortune.  The mast
which upheld the two remaining castaways—the mast to which the hawser was
secured, had fallen!  All communication between the wreck and the shore
was effectually cut off.  Even at that moment the two unfortunates were
being buffeted about in the freezing water, unless they had been killed
or rendered unconscious by the falling spars.

Both men had on life-preservers, which gave them a slight chance for
their lives.  The chance was indeed a frail one, but it was all there was
left—the poor fellows might possibly be thrown upon the beach before life
was extinct.

Both station crews and dozens of volunteers were marshalled into line and
stationed along the edge of the surf, ready to grasp the bodies should
they come within reach.  Wreckage was coming ashore rapidly; and alive or
dead, the keeper felt certain that the brig’s captain and his companion
would soon appear in the breakers.

Scarce fifteen minutes passed before two surfmen in close proximity
flashed their lanterns, and all those near by hurried to the spot.  One
of the bodies was in sight close to the shore.  As the rescuers prepared
to wade in, a breaking wave took up the limp form and hurled it down with
terrific force, at the same time carrying it towards shore.  The receding
water drew the body back a short distance, and then left it upon the
sand.  Willing hands took up the burden and hurried it to the station.  A
glance showed it to be the captain.

The other body was discovered by the Fourth Cliff keeper, a considerable
distance down the beach to the right of the station.  It, too, was
floating near shore.  Six men ranged themselves along a rope, the keeper
being at the outer end with a grappling hook, Thus they waded into the
surf and endeavored to catch the body.  Four successive times were those
furthest out carried off their feet and thrown down in the water before
their object was accomplished, and the body drawn out of the breakers.
Like that of the captain, it was seemingly lifeless.

The men’s clothing was ripped off, and for several hours the crews worked
over them, skilfully practicing the most approved methods for restoring
the apparently drowned,—methods by which scores of people seemingly dead
have been resuscitated, and in which all persons connected with the
United States Life-Saving Service are required to be proficient.  Every
means approved by science and the wide experience of the operators was
tried, but all to no purpose.  The vital spark was extinguished; the
captain of the brig and the Spanish sailor had drawn their last breath.

Next morning the sky was clear, the snow had ceased, the wind shifted
into the north-west, and it was stinging cold.  The sea had been busy
with its work of destruction during the hours of darkness, and the
staunch brig of yesterday was strewn piece-meal along the beach.  Stout
oak beams and iron girders were splintered, twisted, or rent asunder,
while the thick coat of ice with which they were covered, caused them to
assume strangely fantastic shapes.  The two masts had come ashore;
mattresses, provisions of all sorts, boxes, rigging, the cabin floor, and
countless casks of molasses, lay scattered upon the beach for leagues in
both directions.

Many vessels ended their careers on that terrible night, and many lives
were lost, from the Delaware Capes to the shores of Nova Scotia.  But
scores were saved and alive next morning, who, but for the heroic
exertions of the government life-savers, would have perished miserably.
These men did only their duty, but in many cases that duty compelled them
to take their lives in their hands, and they did it without shrinking.

People all over the country read in the papers that morning of wrecks by
the dozen; of deaths innumerable from freezing, drowning, and exposure;
of terrible hardships endured for many hours by unfortunates whom human
aid was powerless to save; and they said, “What an awful night it was!”
Then they turned to their usual occupations, and the subject was
forgotten.  How should those who spent the night in a warm bed, far from
the sound of the waves, have any real conception of the fearful struggles
with death represented by those inanimate lines?


[Picture: Thanksgiving on the Dicky Bird] Many years ago I was mate of
the little schooner _Dicky Bird_. She traded mostly between the West
Indies and Gulf ports, once in a while getting a charter for some point
in Central America.  On this particular voyage, she was bound across the
Gulf from Pensacola to Vera Cruz.

We were a queer company; three whites and eight blacks.  Cap’n Thomas
Pratt was a first rate seaman when he wasn’t in liquor, although too
easy-going to suit some people.  He didn’t believe in knocking the hands
about, and always said that swearing at ’em did just as much good.  I
have met some people who didn’t think even that was right, but they were
mostly preachers or lubbers who knew mighty little of merchant sailors.
Let them try moral suasion on a mule for a while if they want to see how
it works with a sailor.  If you never swear at ’em, they get lazy and
despise you, besides thinking you a milk-sop.

But as I said, Cap’n Pratt took a drop too much now and then; mostly
after dinner, for he kept pretty straight until the sun was taken.  I’m
no teetotlar myself, though I was green enough to sign the pledge before
I’d got to what they call “the age of reason.”  Still, it goes against my
idees for a skipper to drink much when on duty, and if Pratt hadn’t owned
his schooner, I reckon he’d lost his berth long before I knew him.  After
working out his sights he used to take a drink by way of celebration in
case the day’s run had been good, and if we’d made a poor record he just
took something to drown his sorrows—and sometimes it needed a deal of
liquor to drown ’em.

There was no second mate, so the Cap’n and me stood watch and watch.  We
had a negro bo’s’un called Prince Saunders—a strapping big fellow as
black as the ace of spades—who was on duty all day from seven in the
morning till six at night. Then he turned in till next day, unless all
hands were called.  Prince acted as general overseer, and the way he made
those darkeys come to time wasn’t slow.  In fact, I wouldn’t ask for a
better bo’s’un or a better crew.  All the Cap’n and me had to do was to
lay out the day’s work and Prince saw that it was done.

The three fellows in my watch looked exactly alike—I never could tell one
negro from another—so I called ’em Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  I forgot
what Pratt named his.

Steamers were scarce in the Gulf those days, and people wanting to go any
distance had to take passage on whatever craft they could find, which was
how we came to have the Honorable Mr. Warriner for a passenger.  I
couldn’t see as he had any more honor than lots of other people, but all
of his mail was addressed that way, and Pratt said it was a kind of title
they have on shore.  He was a red faced, pompous old duck, with too much
corporation, and looked as much out of place on the deck of that little
schooner as I would scraping before Queen Victoria.  Every time we had a
squall he got almighty sick, and when a good hot day came how he did
sweat and mop his face!  I really pitied him.

Once he said to me: “Mr. Hunt, I would give any reasonable amount to be
as slender as you are.”

“We thin chaps certainly have the advantage in the tropics, Mr. Warriner;
and ever since I was seventeen, and had the yellow fever at Rio, there
ain’t been any more meat on me than there is on a starved horse,” I

I had no call to feel flattered, but I was, just the same, for Pratt
sometimes poked fun at me for being so d—d lean; and didn’t I find a
picture drawn on the bulwarks forward of an oar with clothes on that
looked kind of like me?  If I could have found out which of those black
sons of Belial did it, he would have caught a whaling, you bet!

We had a cook who also waited off at table,—a steward was too much luxury
for the _Dicky Bird_, and of all the infernal liars that ever lived, I
believe that Cornwallis Tecumseh Jones was the worst.  He knew his
business pretty well, and could turn a flap-jack by throwing it up in the
air from one window of the galley, and catching it as it came down by the
window on the opposite side. {31}

The passenger, Pratt and me were talking of various things one afternoon
when Warriner said: “Captain, to-morrow will be Thanksgiving, and I
propose that we observe the day by having some appropriate dish for
dinner.  Turkey and pumpkin pie are out of the question, so what do you
say to an English plum-pudding?”

“Anything, sir; anything to keep the peace.  Plum-pudding or
pear-pudding, Thanksgiving or lobscouse.”

(Pratt was about half heeled over, as usual with him that time of day.)

“Lobscouse!  Captain Pratt, I will thank you not to mention that
abominable mixture in my presence.  It passes my comprehension how you
can eat such stuff.  Neither do I like this flippant reference to so
august a day as Thanksgiving.

“But a plum-pudding will be excellent—that is, if you think that darkey
won’t ruin it in the making.  I have a splendid recipe in my trunk, and
although some of the necessary ingredients are probably lacking, it will
be possible to produce a very fair pudding.”

“Let’s have it,” said I.  “Anything for a change is my sentiments.”

“Darkeys usually have quite a knack for cooking, and I suppose if the
recipe is placed before Cornwallis he will do the subject justice.  I
will get it at once.”

“The Lord only knows, Mr. Warriner.  Did you ever hear a certain proverb
that is common at sea: ‘God sends meat and the devil sends cooks?’  It’s
astonishing how good provisions can be changed into all sorts of queer
shapes.  But get your directions and take them to the galley.  The black
imp may surprise us.”

Pratt went below, and soon after, Warriner and me went forward with the
directions for the pudding.  He told the cook what was wanted and then
read off the recipe, so as to be sure and have no mistake.  Never did I
hear of such a lot of truck being put together, and I don’t believe the
cook did either, for his eyes got bigger and bigger as Warriner read the
list of what he called “ingredients.”  My! that pudding took some of
everything.  There was raisins, currants, brown sugar, beef-suet, flour,
bread-crumbs, citron, candied lemon-peel, eggs, nutmeg and salt!  “Boil
seven hours in a buttered mould.  A sprig of holly should be stuck in the
center.  Pour brandy around the pudding when ready to serve, and set it
on fire.”  Holy Moses!  Then there was a sauce with brandy and other
things in it.

The cook sat down on a bench and looked at Warriner.

“Golly! you done took my bref away, boss.  Bile seben hour!  Whar we
gwine to git dese yere tings?  I ’low dere ain’t no brandy on dis craf’,
an’ as fur ten eggs—waal, de hens is completely gi’n out, eben ef I does
feed ’em on de Champyun Egg Food.”

“How should the poor things lay, shut up in a small coop?  But as for the
brandy, I will furnish that, and also some nice layer raisins.  Currants,
lemon-peel and citron we must do without, but ten eggs are a necessity,
and the other things you have.”

“We has jes’ got ’leben eggs, an’ ef yo’ takes ten from ’leben, dar ain’t
but bery few lef’.  Where we gwine to get moah?”

“I neither know nor care,—we shall reach Vera Cruz sometime I devoutly
hope,—but ten eggs go into this pudding.  The question is, can you make

“_Can I make it_?” repeated the cook, as if someone had asked him whether
he could breathe.  “Waal, sah, dere ain’t no dish knowed to man or debil
dat dis chile can’t make, Mistah Warmer.  Must I bile de sass seben hour

“Certainly not.  The sauce must not be made until to-morrow morning just
before dinner, and is only to be boiled a few minutes.  Can’t you read?”

“Me read?  Well, I hope not, boss.  I’s got all my receipts in my head.
None o’ yo’ new-fangled notions fur dis niggah.”

I had to laugh, poor Warriner looked so disgusted.  He just all gave up
for a minute and thought the pudding was done for.  Then he stamped his
foot and said:

“I am not to be thwarted by trifles, and will weigh out everything
myself.  Then you can mix the articles together.”

Warriner fetched the raisins and brandy—if he’d been smart he wouldn’t
have brought the brandy till the last minute—and between ’em they managed
to mix up all the truck and get it in the mould.  It was about the middle
of the afternoon when they got it on to boil.

Next day was fine, and Warriner was up before we finished washing down
the decks.  Pratt and me were curious about the plum-pudding, for we’d
never seen one, and wanted to know what sort of idees the passenger had
about cookery.  He kept telling all the morning what fine ones his wife
used to make, and said he’d show us a thing or two.  We sat down to
dinner—our Thanksgiving dinner.  The Honorable looked more self-satisfied
and important than usual, I thought; Cap’n Pratt was real good-natured
and told a lot of lies that Warriner swallowed like an albacore does a
flying-fish; I had scraped my face with an old hoe of a razor and put on
a necktie; and Cornwallis stood in the pantry door behind Pratt with a
white cap over his wool, and looking as solemn as a judge. He did well
that day, and we had a first rate dinner.  There was vegetable soup;
chicken, rice and curry with Ceylon chutney; potatoes; boiled onions;
lime-juice; and each a cold whiskey punch.  At last it was time for the
dessert.  Cornwallis took away the things, while Warriner told us how
much we had to be thankful for, and how he and the cook had worked to
make the pudding a success.

             [Picture: “It was stuck full of long feathers!”]

Well, the minute that pudding hove in sight Pratt and me laughed.  The
middle of it was stuck full of long feathers!

“Heavens and earth!  What are those things for?” cried Warriner.

“Dem is fedders, sah.  You tole me dat holly was to be stuck up in de
middle, but dat bush ain’t to be foun’ in dese pahts.  I done de best I
could, Mass’.”

“Was ever such a thing heard of!  And are those feathers from the chicken
we have just eaten?”

“Laws, no.  I done kotched de rooster—Golly! how dat ole bird did
squawk—and I yanked de fedders out ob his tail.  Dere dey is, a wavin’
like a flag.”

Warriner was about to pull the feathers out and throw them away, but the
Cap’n and me rather liked the looks of ’em, so he stopped.  Then the
sauce appeared.  White of egg beaten stiff was on top of it.  Next
Cornwallis brought a dish and turned the brandy around the pudding.  How
awful it smelled!  Not a bit like any brandy that I ever saw.  Warriner
looked a bit puzzled, but before he had time to say a word the cook
struck a match and touched it to the liquor.

The whole thing blazed right up to the skylight, and scared all hands
nearly to death!  You could have knocked me over with a fish-hook, and
that darky rolled up the whites of his eyes and acted as if he was
praying.  Warriner’s face turned all colors, and Pratt was scared and mad
both.  He jerked the cloth and everything off the table, took off his
coat and threw it on the blaze.  Then he stamped on it.

None of us spoke a word for a minute; we were clean on our beam ends.
Then Pratt looked at the passenger and roared out: “Well, sir, you’ve
raised h— with your pudding, I must say!  Like to have burned us all up
into the bargain.  That’s what comes of setting brandy on fire.  I
thought when you spoke of it, it was the d—dest nonsense to burn up a lot
of good liquor that might better be drunk.”

Warriner had found his voice by this time.

“Captain Thomas Pratt, you forget yourself.  I am not accustomed to being
addressed in that fashion, and you will please remember that I am a
passenger on this craft—this miserable apology for a schooner—and did not
come here to be sworn at!”

The old boy was on his mettle, and Pratt saw it.

“No offense meant, Mr. Warriner, but I insist that your having that
brandy set on fire was a rash proceeding.”

“Brandy!  That was not brandy.  Do you suppose I never saw a plum-pudding
before?  If that had been the brandy I gave that imp of Satan” (pointing
to the cook) “it would never have blazed up like that.  And what foul
odor did we smell when he poured the stuff around the pudding?  What odor
do we smell now?  Kerosene, or I’m no judge.”

“Kerosene!” echoed the Cap’n.

I began to think the passenger knew what he was talking about.  All of us
smelled oil, and we cast our eyes on Cornwallis.  He looked as innocent
as a lamb.

“Gents, dat ain’t possible,” said he, his black face shining like
polished ebony.

“We will see about that,” answered Warriner.  “Let’s taste the sauce—I’ll
warrant it’s full of kerosene too.” He took some in a spoon and smelled
of it before putting his tongue to it.

“Curious,” he muttered, “there is no odor of oil or brandy either.”

Then the old chap tasted it.

“This is extraordinary!  There’s nothing to this sauce—it has no body.
There is positively not a drop of brandy in it; nor of kerosene, for that

“Dat am bery strange, Mass’ Warmer.  De brandy must ’a’ done ’vaporated.”

“Evaporated down your throat, you black villain!  Captain Pratt, I
consider this a flagrant outrage.  I furnished a quantity of good brandy
for this pudding, not a drop of which has been used.  What has become of

“Dat Monday or some ob de han’s might ’a’ stole it when I wahn’t
lookin’,” suggested the cook.

Prince, the bo’s’un, was standing outside near the door, and had
evidently heard part of the confab.  He now called out:

“Ef you ’lows me, Cap’n, I reckons I kin find out de truf in dis

“Come in, Prince,” answered Pratt.  “If you can get any truth out of
Cornwallis you’re smarter than I think you are.”

The cook looked indignant—not so much at being called a liar as having
the bo’s’un admitted,—for he and Prince were not on good terms, and he
considered the bo’s’un’s interference a piece of pure impudence.

Prince entered, cap in hand.  I’m tolerable tall myself, but he was a
good four inches above me, and a right good looking darkey into the
bargain.  He walked right up to the cook.

“Walrus Jones, you stole dat gemmen’s brandy.  You lies ef you says you

Cornwallis looked at his accuser defiantly.

“What yo’ want wid me, niggah?  Is yo’ lookin’ fur trouble?  Go ’long
’bout yo’ bizness now, an’ doan’ be comin’ in de cabin whar yo’ betters
is.  I’s willin’ to obey de Cap’n ob dis craf’, but I tells yo’ now dat I
won’t take no sass from lowdown bo’s’uns.  Go an’ scar’ de life out ob
dose pore debils in de crew, fur all I keer, but doan’ git gay wid me.
Huh!  Yo’ mus’ tink I’s jes’ turned out!”

“You awoids de subjek’.  Dat am a shuah sign ob guilt.”

“Lemme tell yo’ somfin’, yo’ onery niggah!  I doan’ sociate wid sech
trash as yo’ be, what can’t tell who his own fadder and mudder was.  I
come from a hono’ble fam’ly what was tole ob in hist’ry.  Ef yo’ keeps on
probokin’ me to wraf I’ll put pizen in yo’ wittals, dat’s what I’ll do,
an yo’ now has fair wahnin’!”

Prince showed signs of wrath himself at this speech, but Pratt interfered
before he could answer.

“No more talk about poisoning people, Cornwallis.  Answer me this: Where
did that brandy go to?”

“Ef it didn’t go in dat sass an’ aroun’ dat puddin’, Cap’n, den I ’lows
some ob de crew done stole it.  Dem critters ain’t to be trusted, no how.
Cockroaches is bery bad in dat galley, too, an’ dey likes sech drinks, I
hearn tell.  Whose to know if dey wahn’t at de bottle?”

“Why, you black rascal, you said not ten minutes ago that the brandy was
put in the sauce and around the pudding!”

“So I did, Cap’n.  Ef dat ain’t de truf an’ nothin’ but de truf, I hopes
de good Lawd will hab me pah’lized, an’ make me fall dead heah in my

“Impious creature!  Unworthy descendant of Ham!” cried Warriner.

“Me a ham?  Me, a linear decen’ant ob de great Lawd Cornwahlis, what
lan’ed at Yohktown an’ chased de Yanks all ober de plains ob Ole
Virgintay?  Dat’s de stock I come from, Mistah Warmer, an’ so I want yo’
to understan’.”

The cook’s reference to his ancestors astounded Warriner, though none of
the rest of us saw anything queer about it.

“Good heavens!  What curse is there like ignorance?” said he, looking up
at the ceiling.

It was lucky for me that Warriner spoke up, for I was just going to show
off about Lord Cornwallis, and would likely have made a fool of myself.
My history is a bit uncertain; so I stood by and kept mum.

Prince had been considering while the rest of us talked, and now said:
“Cap’n Pratt, I would ax you, sah, for de Bible, an’ I promises to bring
dis sinful critter to time, eben of he does b’long to de quality ob
Virginny, which he don’t, unless de debil hab turned saint.”

All of us were surprised at this, but Pratt went to fetch the book.
Prince could read large print tolerably well, and write a little, which
facts he was very proud of.  His confident air, and the new tack he had
taken, made the cook a bit uneasy for the first time.  He had no idee
what was coming next.

Pratt beckoned to me from the door of his room, and whispered in my ear:
“The Bible’s mislaid.  Hasn’t been used for so long it can’t be found.
Here’s a book the same size, though.”

“Maybe that’ll do,” said I.  “We’ll try, anyway.”

Prince took the volume of Lieut. Maury’s sailing directions and said
impressively: “Now, Mistah Jones, appearances is agin you, but dey is
bery deceptible, an’ not alwuz to be trusted.  You may be innocenter den
a kitten, which fur y’ur own sake, I hopes you is.  I has here, gemmen,
de Good Book, out ob which I will read what happens to cooks which

Cornwallis looked uneasily from one to the other, and at the sacred
volume.  He was ignorant and superstitious, and Prince as reader and
oracle was much more to be feared than Prince the bo’s’un, with all his
threats and accusations.

“Dis chile better be gittin’ back to de galley an’ washin’ dem dishes.
Neber will git nothin’ done at dis rate, stan’in’ aroun’ an’ talkin’ like
a lot o’ wenches at a pic-nic.”

“Hold on, Cornwallis,” said Pratt, taking hold of him as he neared the
door. “You don’t need to be afraid as long as you didn’t get away with
the liquor.  Stay right here and let’s hear how well Prince can read.”

The bo’s’un had been turning over the leaves as if searching for
something, and finally stopped at a page which told the route vessels
should take when bound from New York to Hong Kong and the Far East.
Clearing his throat and putting on a long face, he read: “Cooks an’
stoords what steals ’taters and won’t confess, is boun’ to be set on de
capstan all night long till dey owns up. Nex’ day, dey is to be
whitewashed, but ef it’s a white pusson, he mus’ be painted black.

“Dem dat takes sugah is to be made to drink bilge-water an’ nothin’ else,
an’ is to larn to take de sun ebery mawnin’ an’ ebenin’.

“Ef you kotch one stealin’ gin, make a rope fas’ to him an’ t’ow him
oberboard all day long.  Ef he don’t die de fust day, try him ag’in de

“Gittin’ away wid w’isky is bery bad. Ef a cook or stoord is foun’ out,
he mus’ be drove full o’ marling-spikes till he stops yellin’, eben ef it
done kills him.

“But ef one steals brandy,—wahl, der ain’t nothin’ bad ’nough fur him.
Brandy is awful hard to make, an’ costs a hun’red dollahs a poun’; so
’tain’t no sort o’ use foolin’ with one dat steals it.  De craf’ will
sink ef he ain’t took in hand.

“Gib de wicked sinnah time to say his prayers, an’ den h’ist him up an’
down de main stay fou’ times, so his blood circ’lates good.  Tie a
grin’stone roun’ his neck an’ heave him oberboard, while all han’s prays
an’ sings like de bery debil.  Ef he sinks he’s guilty shuah, an’ ef he
floats, haul ’im aboard an’ tie more weights on top of ’im. Ef he keeps
on a floatin’, he’s a innocent man, an’ his wages is to be made biggah.
Heah de chaptah ends.”

Prince made this up as he went along, pronouncing his words with much
gravity, and it had such an effect on Cornwallis that we had all we could
do to keep from roaring right out.  We had to look solemn, though, or he
would have smelt a rat.  He stood with his back against the wall, rolling
up the whites of his eyes and looking around in a scared way as if he
didn’t know whether the whole thing was a joke or not.  Finally he said:
“Cap’n Pratt, I axes you, sah, ef what dat niggah done read is wrote down
in dat book, or is I bein’ made a wictim ob what dey calls de

“It’s all down in cold type, Cornwallis, and now we must put you to the
test, so as to know if you’re guilty.”

“What test am dat, sah?”

“Why, we must hang a grindstone round your neck and heave you overboard.
If you didn’t steal the brandy, you’ll float. That’s what the book says.”

The cook’s jaw dropped, and he fell down in a heap.  Throwing his arms
around Pratt’s knees, he gasped: “Does yo’ mean dat, Cap’n?”

Pratt nodded.

“Oh, fur de good Lawd’s sake, what hab dis pore chile done dat he mus’ be
kilt in cole blood!  Ain’t I sarved you, sah, fur one, two, six,—wahl,
seberal yeahs?  An’ now is yo’ gwine to let dat blood-thu’sty niggah
what’s been hankerin’ arter my life—is yo’ gwine to let him murdah me?”

“I feel sorry for you, Cornwallis,—d—n me if I don’t,—but there’s no help
for it.  The book says the craft will never reach port if the guilty
person escapes, so it’s a case of your going overboard or all of us
giving up the ghost.”

“Gents, is der no marcy in yo’ buzums?”

This piteous appeal was addressed to Warriner and me, and the cook looked
so miserable that I could hardly play my part.

“No, you must prepare for the ordeal,” said Warriner, “and if you have
told the truth you will surely float.”

“What, an’ a grin’stone made fas’ to me?”


“Oh, Mass’ Warmer, I’s not ready to die; ’deed I’s not.  I’s been
powe’ful wicked in my time, an’ dem kin’ o’ people has to jine de chu’ch
an’ hab r’ligion ’fore deh heahs de trumpet blow.”

“No more fooling.  Prince, you bring aft the grindstone that the crew
sharpen their knives on.  Hunt, you get the fog-horn and blow like h—
when we heave him overboard.  The d—d thing makes more noise than any
trumpet I ever heard.”

“Yes,” added Warriner, “It may comfort the condemned.”

When we got back with the horn and grindstone, Cornwallis was jumping up
and down and yelling like a maniac.

“I’s de culprit!  I’s de culprit!  I’s de culprit!  An’ ef yo’ drap me
overboard dat’s why I’s boun’ to sink!  Only lemme lib till we reaches
dry lan’ an’ I’ll go into one ob dem conbents whar dey is said to be dead
to de worl’, an’ I won’t nebber see none ob yo’ no moah.”

“The sinner owns up,” cried Pratt, and Prince grinned till every one of
his ivories showed. “Now, Cornwallis, your life will be spared on
condition that you make a clean breast of this matter.  No more lies; and
you must pay for the brandy you drank at the rate of one hundred dollars
a gallon—wasn’t that it, Prince?”

“A hun’red dollahs a poun’, sah,” corrected Prince.

“I doan know how many poun’ I drank,” sniffed the cook, “an’ ef I has to
pay dat much fur each one ob ’em, I’s got to wo’k more’n a year fur

“That’s better than being drowned to-day,” said I, “and you’d better be
thankful.  Now tell us how you took the brandy.”

“I’s been close to de dahk riber, gents, an’ will perceed to tell de
truf,” said Cornwallis, now much relieved after his narrow escape.  He
looked down at the floor and began in a low tone: “Yo’ see, it was jes’
dis way.  Mass’ Warmer, he done brung de brandy an’ say, ‘Put some ob dat
in de sass an’ some roun’ de puddin’.’  De las’ was to be sot on fire
soon as ’twas on de table.

“Wahl, I was stan’in’ lookin’ at de bottle when I heerd a noise.  I turn
roun’, an’ as shuah as I lib, ef de debil wahn’t right ’side ob me!  Oh,
he looked orful, an’ I like to died from de shock ob seein’ him.  Ef yo’
wants to know what he looks like, jes’ take a good look at dat Prince
Sahnders, fur ef him an’ de debil ain’t brudders I’m a cod-fish!

“I says, ‘Debil, go ’way.  I doan want no trouble wid you.’  But he gib
me.a push towa’ds de bottle, and says, reel soft-like, ‘Yo’ pore,
mis’able, skinny, oberwo’ked critter, you’s all fadin’ away.’
(Cornwallis weighed at least two hundred.)  ’Dere ain’t nothin’ lef’ ob
yo’ but skin an’ bone.  Jes’ take a drap ob dat liquor, an’ it mought do
lots ob good. You’s gittin’ ole, and needs some stimilant.’

“I knowed it was de gospel truf, yo’ understan’, but at de same time it
wahn’t right, an’ I tried to put ole Nick out ob de galley.  He wahr
bigger den me, an’ jes’ made me drink dat brandy till de bottle looked
a’most empty.  ’Deed I tried to git him out, but ’twan’t no use, an’
ebery drap ob dat liquor done wanished ’fore he quit pesterin’ me.  I’d
had a misery in my head de hull mawnin’, but I felt right pert arter de
brandy was gone.  I sot down to reflec’ a spell.

“‘Now,’ I says, ‘ef de brandy was to be sot fire to an’ burned up, it am
plain dat it can’t be drank.’  I ’lowed dat keerosene ansahs de pu’pose
jes’ as well, so I puts it roun’ de puddin’.  Golly! how dat ile did
burn!  I was real dis’pinted ’bout de sass, fur I reckoned dat ile mought
pizen yo’. So I lef’ it out, an’ hoped dat fak’ would ’scape de company’s

“I’s spoke de truf, yo’ understan’, an’ is resolbed to die ’fore I eber
agin disto’ts de fak’s.”

We all laughed till we nearly parted our braces, especially Warriner.  I
wouldn’t have believed he had so much humor. The passenger pulled away
the tablecloth and the smashed crockery till he sighted the pudding.
What with the smell of oil and burned feathers, and being all scorched up
and stepped on, it wasn’t a very fine sight by this time.

“Did any of you ever read ‘Great Expectations?’” he asked.

None of us had.

“It tells of a certain lady called Miss Havisham, who expected to be
married one evening.  The wedding supper was spread and everything ready,
but the bridegroom never came.  For years and years after did Miss
Havisham keep that feast untouched in the deserted room—kept it until
spiders spun webs over it, and mice and damp played havoc with the faded
yellow cloth and the viands.  Sometimes a boy named Pip would pay her a
visit, and then the wax tapers would be lighted, while the strange pair
walked round and round the decaying feast.

“Even so, my friends, should I preserve this pudding and enthrone it in
my Brooklyn home to remind me of my lost brandy and of this most
extraordinary Thanksgiving.  But that is impossible, so follow me.”

He picked the pudding up from the floor and held it out at arm’s length,
at the same time leading the way out on deck.  Sunday and Tuesday, Flip
and Jackson and all the crew forgot what they were about at sight of the
queer procession, and Warriner holding out the pudding.  He marched over
to the lee bulwarks, got on top of an empty box, and began to look at the
pudding with a very sorrowful expression, his eyes blinking and his head
on one side.

“What the devil is he about?” thinks I.

He looked around at us and wiped his eyes with a silk handkerchief; then
held out the blasted pudding in both hands so all of us could see it.

“Gentlemen, behold!  This was a plum-pudding.  Yea, thou dark and sodden
mass, pierced with feathers and baptized in kerosene; thou culinary
triumph, concocted by Samuel Warriner and the descendant of Lord
Cornwallis;—thou fond inspiration of our brain, which, owing to the
combined assaults of Satan and yon sable African, hast so abominably
miscarried; we bid thee an eternal farewell!”

“Good G—, if he ain’t blubbering!” whispered Pratt, while Warriner looked
so affected that Prince, Cornwallis and me nearly cried.

“Good-by, pudding.  Go-od-b-bye,” (heaving it overboard) “and be thou
food for worms—I should say, fishes!”

Away it went, and struck the water with a splash.  All hands stared until
it sunk, and then we looked at Warriner. He had taken up the fog-horn,
and just as the pudding went under, he blew a mournful blast.

“May the dear departed rest in peace,” he said, feelingly.

Then we all pulled ourselves together and went back to work.


[Picture: My Brazilian Adventure] Alice and I were seated at the
breakfast-table in our rambling old house on the outskirts of the French
quarter in New Orleans.  She was glancing over the _Picayune_, while I
was wrapped in deep thought concerning the most vivid and remarkable
dream I had ever had,—the strangest part being that it was about a place
I had never seen or even heard of.  My sister, who had never married, was
ten years my junior, and after my wife’s death, Alice had accepted my
invitation to take charge of my household.  We lived a retired life, with
no one else in the big house but a maid-servant and old black Bilbo, a
trusted domestic, who had been a slave in our family during the halcyon
days before the war.  “Alice,” said I, suddenly, “I have concluded to
take Dr. Antoine’s advice, and go off on a sea voyage.  You remember the
last time he prescribed for me, he said my poor health was simply the
result of overwork and too close attention to business, and that a long
voyage would benefit me more than anything else.”

My sister laid aside her paper, both surprised and pleased.

“How glad I am, George, that you at last see the necessity of it.  Where
shall you go?”

“Well, according to my dream of the last two nights, my destination will
be latitude 3° 50′ 30″ South, longitude 32° 24′ 30″ West.”

Alice stared at me as though she doubted my sanity, while I folded my
arms, nodded my head, and tried not to look foolish.

I waited a moment, thinking she would speak, and then continued: “Yes, I
know you will say that a man forty-three years old ought to know better,
especially so prosaic a one as you often say I am.  But let me tell you
my vision, and then ridicule it if you can.

“Night before last I slept unusually well, and was conscious of nothing
until I heard a clock somewhere strike four.  I dozed off soon after, and
had this dream:

“I was seated alone in the stern of a little boat, that floated on a calm
and gently-heaving moonlit sea; while close on my right hand was a small,
densely wooded island, with phosphorescent waves breaking upon its sandy
beach.  Behind it, and belonging seemingly to another body of land, a
lofty peak towered into the air.

“The silvery white light fell upon a stately palm that grew near a large
rock on the islet, and upon two figures, one of whom, in military
uniform, leaned against the trunk, while the other carefully smoothed
over the ground at the base of the tree.  Then the former glided to the
rock and wrote or scratched something upon it, but though I looked and
looked, I saw no words, nor could I get even the smallest view of the
faces of the two men, although their figures were perfectly plain.

“While striving to see their features, I became sensible of a veil of
mist enveloping both land and sea, and when it passed, island and peak
were gone.  In their stead was a gigantic blackboard rising out of the
ocean, with these characters upon it, in figures and letters so large
that they terrified me:

         3°  50′ 30″ S.

         32°  24′ 30″ W.

“As I looked, the great object seemed to advance upon me—I should be
annihilated!  I tried to grasp an oar in the bottom of the boat, but
could not move a muscle.  On it came, rapidly, noiselessly.  At the
instant it was upon me, I made a frantic lunge and found myself sitting
up in bed, drenched in perspiration, and my heart beating so I could
hardly breathe.

“On realizing where I was, I got up, struck a match, and looked at my
watch.  A quarter past four!  All that had happened since I heard the
clock strike fifteen minutes before.

“I said nothing to you yesterday, Alice, but now you know why I have been
so preoccupied.  Again last night I had the same dream.”

My sister said little, except to advise me to dismiss the whole subject
from my mind, but I could see that it had made more of an impression on
her than she chose to admit.

I had already consulted the atlas in regard to the spot of which I had
dreamed, and found it to be an island with an unpronouncable name, lying
near the coast of Brazil.

That night I wrote to my nephew Ralph at New York, telling him that I had
decided to take a sea voyage, and asking him what was the best way of
getting to Fernando de Noronha, for that was the name of the island.  He
was master, and one-third owner of the brig _Sea Witch_, and I knew his
advice was to be depended on.

I was very busy for several days following, arranging my business affairs
and giving certain necessary directions to my partner, Simon LaForte.
Each night I retired fully expecting a repetition of the dream, but my
expectations were not realized.

Ralph’s answer came Saturday.  Here it is:


    “Yours of the 9th received.  I am glad you’ve concluded to go to sea,
    but what possesses you to steer for Fernando de Noronha?  It’s a
    Brazilian convict island one hundred miles from the coast, where all
    the life prisoners are confined, and except the government
    transports, not a vessel stops at the place for months together.
    There is absolutely nothing there but a fertile island of about
    twenty square miles, inhabited only by convicts, soldiers, and a

    “The _Sea Witch_ has been chartered to load for Pernambuco, and from
    there will come back to New York.  Now uncle, take my advice and go
    along.  The only way to see the ocean as it really is, is on a
    sailing vessel, and we shall probably sight this island of yours
    either going or returning, which ought to satisfy you.  You would
    have a good time as a passenger, but as you’ve always been such a
    worker, it might not suit you to loaf, and in that case you could
    ship before the mast.  We’ll show you how to make sennit, mouse
    blocks, overhaul buntlines, tie a reef-point, and do other things you
    never heard of.

    “The brig is repairing at Poillon’s yard.  We had a rough passage
    from Tampico, and the little hooker had a couple of sticks jerked out
    in a blow off Hatteras.

    “If you’re in New York in three weeks it will be time enough.  I must
    run over to South Street now, so good-bye.  Love to yourself and Aunt


This epistle I read aloud, and we both laughed over Ralph’s joke about my
shipping before the mast, but that part of the letter referring to the
sticks being jerked out of the brig made me feel rather dubious.  I
consoled myself, however, by reflecting that such things probably did not
occur often, and after long deliberation decided to go, and wrote Ralph
to that effect.

It was the afternoon of July 2 that the tug _Charm_ pulled the brig out
from Pier 1, East River, and took her in tow for Sandy Hook.  It is a
long tow, and the stars were shining when the pilot went over the side,
the tug’s hawser was cast off, and we were left to shift for ourselves.

Everyone aboard was so busy that I did not get a chance to say half a
dozen words to Ralph that night.  He and the mate were roaring out
orders; the yards were being hoisted to the accompaniment of the wild
sailors’ chant, which begins “From South Street slip to ’Frisco Bay,” and
I finally turned in and slept sounder than I had for months, in spite of
the racket on deck. Next morning was beautiful, and we were spinning
along at a great rate when I came on deck.  I felt fine, but somehow
couldn’t walk very well.  Ralph told me the names of the sails and some
of the ropes, and was surprised that I hadn’t been sick.

Before we sailed, I had told him my dream, which he ridiculed until I
spoke of the lofty peak, when he became serious.

“There is just such a peak at one end of the island,” he had said.  “It
is eight hundred feet high, and the observatory at its summit overlooks
the island, and the ocean for sixty miles in every direction.”

This was enough for me to know; I was now determined at any cost to get
ashore on that island and try and find the scene pictured in my vision,
for that such a scene existed I no longer doubted.

Three weeks passed, and we had made good progress since leaving port.  I
soon found my sea legs, as Ralph expressed it, and often climbed the
rigging as far as the tops.  I went out on the jibboom and caught
bonitas—a deep-sea fish of a steely blue color which preys remorselessly
upon the flying-fish; I read; I learned to make nautical knots of various
kinds, and actually felt ten years younger than I had in New Orleans.
There was nothing to bother or irritate me; no telephones, no whistles
blowing, no mail to open, no newspapers to read; in a word, I was in a
new world altogether, and began to get so fat that Seth Hawkins, the
mate, one day told me that I should have to shake a reef or two out of my
clothes by the time I got back to New York.

After a particularly fine day’s run, I said to Ralph, who had just marked
it on the chart, “I had no idea that sailing vessels could go fast.  As
this rate we shall soon be across the Equator.  You say we are only 8°
North this noon.”

“Don’t crow, uncle, till we’re through the Doldrums,” he replied. I had
heard a little about this bugbear, but had a rather vague idea as to what
sort of a place it was. I was soon to know, for upon going on deck next
morning, I found a dead calm. There was not even enough wind to steer by.
The atmosphere was hot and muggy, while great masses of wet-looking
clouds were piled up all along the horizon.  The sails flapped against
the masts and rigging with loud reports each time the brig rolled, and
when I saluted Seth Hawkins, he said: “Well, Mr. Spencer, how do you like
the Doldrums?”

During the forenoon a violent rain squall struck us from due South, and
we tore along at a nine-knot rate, while such torrents of rain I never
saw before.  Barrels were put in position to catch the water, but before
noon the rain ceased suddenly and the wind with it.  Thus it was all that
day, all the next day, and for a whole week,—nothing but calms,
rain-squalls, and variable winds (usually from the wrong direction),
until I was nearly beside myself.  Some days we made less than thirty
miles in the twenty-four hours, and it was no unusual occurrence to tack
ship three, and even four times a day, which put Ralph and the mate in a
horrible humor.

But there is an end to all things, and on the twenty-ninth day out we
crossed the line with a fair wind, and when Ralph figured out our
position the next noon, he announced that we should probably be in
Pernambuco inside of three days.

After much persuasion, I induced him to promise to stop at Fernando de
Noronha on the way back long enough for me to go ashore, for the wind we
now had would carry us a long way inside the island, and we should not
even sight it. Three days later the first half of our journey was
completed, and we were safely in port after a good passage of thirty-four

I found much to interest me in Pernambuco.  The harbor was crowded with
shipping, amongst which the British and Norwegian flags predominated; but
my eyes were gladdened quite frequently by the sight of the stars and
stripes. The head stevedore, who had charge of loading the brig, was a
half-breed named Pedro.  He spoke very fair English, and during one of
our frequent talks, I casually mentioned Fernando de Noronha.

“Ah, Diabalo!” he exclaimed, his black eyes glittering, “My brother—poor
Manuel—he is there!”

“Why, is he a prisoner?” I asked in surprise.

“What for else should he be there?” he replied, shrugging his shoulders.
“Santa Maria! he will never come back.”

Then he related the story of Manuel, after which, by a little
questioning, I found that Pedro knew several things about the island of
interest to me.  He said that occasionally, when vessels were becalmed
there, a boat was sent ashore for melons, which grew in great abundance
on a very small island near the larger one.  A suit of clothes or a sack
of flour would buy more melons than would go in the boat.

We were thirty-one days in Pernambuco discharging and reloading, but at
last the stores were on board and everything ready, and the day before
sailing, I accompanied Ralph to the Custom House to “clear the brig.”

We put to sea on Monday afternoon, and at daybreak next morning the
convict island should be in sight, if the wind held at northwest.  I was
much excited, now that my hopes were so near fruition, for that something
of value was concealed at the foot of the palm tree I did not doubt; else
why had I dreamed of this out-of-the-way spot, of which I had never even

That night we consulted together, and carefully matured our plans, for
Ralph had come to take nearly as much interest in the outcome of the
affair as I.  He refused to go ashore himself, saying that it was against
all custom for a captain ever to leave his vessel while she was on a
voyage, but that Seth Hawkins and two of the crew should go in the boat
with us.

“And now, Uncle,” said Ralph, “please realize one thing.  In putting off
a boat, I shall be doing something I’d do for no one but you, as it is
the duty of a captain to take his vessel from one port to another without
any unnecessary delay.  So don’t lose any time on the island, for I shall
feel guilty as it is.”

I grasped his hand warmly, and whispered: “Ralph, if I am any richer
to-morrow night than I am now, you shall profit by it.”

He smiled, and said: “By the way, I shall have to let Hawkins into the
affair to a limited extent, for he knows very well I’d not send ashore
simply to get melons.  He’s been with me two years, and can be trusted.”

Eight bells struck; the second dog-watch was over, and Ralph went below
to turn in, while Seth Hawkins and I paced the deck together,—he telling
me some interesting reminiscences of his life in Hong Kong, where he had
once kept a sailors’ boarding house.

I rose very early next morning; in fact, it was but little past sunrise,
and the crew had not finished “washing down.”

The mate was standing by the starboard taffrail, and after the usual
“Good morning,” he was about to speak, when I exclaimed, pointing to the
east, “Look! what great lighthouse is that?”

I had just seen it,—a distant outline clearly defined against the rosy
eastern sky.

“That’s no lighthouse, though it does look like one.  That’s the peak on
your island.”

The last words were spoken with so peculiar an emphasis that I knew Ralph
had told him our plans.  He went forward, and I continued to devour that
majestic peak, that gradually lost its shadowy appearance and assumed
definite form.

The wind was light, and we raised it slowly.  As I looked, a feeling of
bewilderment stole over me.  There was the peak of my dream to a
certainty, and yet something was lacking.  There should have been an
island in front of it.

At two bells in the forenoon watch we could distinguish objects on shore.
For some time past I had noticed a small islet near the main one, and as
we continued to sail on, we gradually brought it between us and the peak
on Fernando de Noronha. Then I recognized it all.

Ralph spoke to me, but I was speechless with emotion.

“Rouse yourself,” I at last heard him say; “In half an hour it will be
time to launch the boat.”

Those words restored me, and I went below to make my preparations.

                      [Picture: The Convict Island]

The boat was hoisted into the air by means of a bowline rigged over the
fore yard-arm, and was then lowered over the side.  Hawkins, a couple of
hands, and myself entered it.

I noticed that instead of heading for Wood Island, as Ralph called it, we
were making for Fernando de Noronha itself.  “Where are we going, Mr.
Hawkins?” I asked.

“We’ve got to get permission of the Governor, Mr. Spencer, before we can
carry off any melons, or even land on that island,” he replied.

A number of soldiers were gathered about the rude quay, evidently much
surprised to see a vessel stop at the island.  When the mate and I
stepped ashore, a distinguished looking man whom we had not seen before
came forward and said something in Spanish, which I did not understand.
Hawkins did, and bowed with a grace which I had never suspected him of
possessing; and I knew that this was the Governor.

The mate possessed some knowledge of Spanish, and finally managed to make
himself understood.  The Governor evidently took him for the master of
the brig, as the two addressed each other respectively as “Senor El
Capitan” and “Excellenza,” which was all I could understand.

At a signal from the mate, one of our men brought a sack of flour from
the boat, and we prepared to embark.  Two of the soldiers advanced to the
boat with us, and I saw them exchange glances of surprise. “They’ve seen
that spade and pick-axe, the rascals!” said Seth, aside to me.  “I’ve got
leave to get all the melons we want,” he continued, as the men pulled
away for the landing, “but that smirking Governor was a sight too polite
and inquisitive to suit me.”

Wood Island is separated from Fernando de Noronha by a narrow channel,
but Hawkins ordered his men to row around a point of land, to be out of
sight from the quay, which was then something over a mile distant.

After grounding on the beach, a little wave carried us further up, and we
all leaped out.  Seth dispatched the two men towards the north end of the
islet after melons, and as soon as they were out of the way, we grasped
our tools and commenced the search for the rock, which ought to be near
the shore.

We followed the beach all along that side of the islet, Seth eying me
curiously, and occasionally admonishing me to “Look out for centipedes.”

Near the southern extremity, I came to a palm that seemed to me identical
with the one of my dream, but not a solitary rock was there near it.
After considerably more than an hour had elapsed, the mate ventured the
remark that our prolonged stay on the island might arouse suspicion in
the Governor’s mind, especially if the soldiers told him of the spade and
pick-axe in the boat.

I had seated myself on the decaying trunk of a fallen tree to rest a
moment, and wonder if my expedition was to result in failure, but at
Hawkins’ words I started up.

I advanced towards a mango tree to refresh myself with some of the ripe
fruit, when, through an opening in the underbrush, _I saw it_—the rock of
my dream at last!

There could be no doubt of it.  I breathlessly approached, and touched it
with the spade.

This is what was scratched on the broad surface, in characters quite
fresh and distinct: “Mas distante occidente.”

“Further west,” said Hawkins, behind me.

“Is that what it means in English?”

He nodded, and I turned to find the palm, which should be only a short
way to the left.

Could this be it—this blasted trunk, looking as though lightning had
struck it?  Judging from its position it must be, and making a sign to
Seth, we fell to with pick and spade.

We worked until I thought my back would break, and must have dug down
more than three feet in the rich soil, when the spade struck an
obstruction, and we heard the muffled grating of metal.  Then the top of
what seemed a small zinc box was uncovered.

Silently we toiled away, and within ten minutes more were able to drag
forth the box from its resting place.

It was perhaps a foot square, and weighed so much that Seth and I took
turns in lugging it along the beach towards the boat.  Upon arriving
there, I wrapped the box in a piece of tarpaulin, that the men might not
see what it was, and placed it in the boat.

We saw nothing of our crew, but the sight of nearly a dozen immense
water-melons laid on the beach proved that they had not been idle.

“Great Scott!  I s’pose they’d bring melons for a week if I didn’t yell
‘Belay!’” ejaculated Seth; “how many do they think the boat can hold?
I’ve got to hunt them up, for Captain Spencer wants no time wasted.”

He disappeared, and I occupied myself in devouring the box with my eyes,
and speculating as to its contents.  What fabulous wealth in gold and
jewels was hidden away in that dull casket?  Millions, possibly.  In what
century had it been buried? Through what scores and scores of years had
this little islet been the hiding-place of the ancient box I now looked
on?  All other eyes that had beheld it must have long since mouldered
into dust.

While absorbed in these reflections relating to the past, I was rudely
recalled to the present by a crashing in the underbrush, and Seth
Hawkins, with our men, appeared, running towards the boat.

“Lay aboard lively there, Mr. Spencer!” cried the mate.

Much alarmed, I tumbled in, and he followed a moment later.  The men, a
Scandinavian and a negro, were about to put some of the melons into the
boat, when Seth cried, “Drop ’em, and pile in here, you sons of

They obeyed, and shoved off the boat, though greatly bewildered at
leaving the island without the very fruit we had ostensibly come after.
The oars were plied vigorously, and when about a ship’s length from the
beach, I espied a catamaran {79} coming around the north end of the

The truth burst upon us.  “We are followed!” I exclaimed.  Seth nodded.

“Why?  Did the Governor not give us permission to land?”

“That’s true; but those dark-skinned devils that saw the spade and
pick-axe like enough told him, and he’s bound to see what we’re up to.
If they overhaul this boat, and see that box of yours, and find we’ve got
no melons, there’ll be trouble.  I’d have brought off a few, but they’d
weigh the boat down too much. These Brazilians have no use for Americans,

Our situation was certainly unpleasant. We were nearly a mile from the
brig, and the catamaran was not over half that distance astern of us, and
running dead before the wind, which was freshening.  I was beginning to
wonder what Ralph could be doing, for he actually seemed to be going away
from us, when the mate cried out: “Look! the brig’s in stays! the
Captain’s putting her about, so as to fetch us on the starboard tack.

Five minutes later, the _Sea Witch_, with the wind abeam, was running
down to us at nearly right angles, evidently aiming to go between us and
our pursuers, who were now hardly a quarter of a mile astern.  We easily
made out five people on the catamaran, two of whom Seth thought were
convicts, while one of the others he took for the Governor himself.  The
latter was waving something in a hostile manner, but as the brig was
going six feet to the catamaran’s one, we no longer felt alarm unless our
pursuers should use fire-arms.

The brig’s helm was now put down, and she shot up into the wind, thus
checking her progress; when halyards were let go, and the light sails
came fluttering in.  We were only a couple of cable lengths away, and
soon had the boat alongside, and my newly acquired property aboard.

The catamaran had given up the pursuit, and was on her way back to the
island, those on board indulging in violent gesticulations as long as we
could distinguish them.

Some time later, we were closeted in Ralph’s room (which was much larger
than mine) with the box between us.  It was necessary to bring tools from
the carpenter shop to open it, and the first discovery we made was that
the zinc was simply the covering for a wooden box, which my nephew said
was made of teak, one of the rarest and most durable of woods.  It was
lined with sailcloth, and upon drawing this aside we saw a small
crucifix.  Beneath this was a folded paper, and then—a golden vision!

For one moment we stared at it in silence, when I stretched out my hand
and took up a coin, half expecting to see it melt away.  It bore the
embossed head of Dom Pedro, and the date 1885, besides an inscription.

“Ha, this is modern!” I exclaimed, much surprised at the recent date.

“Wait,” said Ralph, as I prepared to turn out the contents of the box,
“let me read this paper; it is in Spanish.

“This 34,000 M. is the property of Leon da Costa, Commander of His
Imperial Majesty’s troops at Pernambuco, by whom it was here concealed
September 16, 1889, pending the settlement of the dissentions which are
now rending our unhappy country, and which make it unsafe for one
enjoying the favor of the noble Dom Pedro to own property in Brazil.

“Invoking the blessing of the church, and the protection of Holy Mary, I
here commit my all to Mother Earth.”

Neither of us spoke for a minute.  I felt awed, as though a voice from
another world had spoken.

“Ralph,” I said, slowly, “if I had known this treasure had been here but
two years, and belonged to a man who is probably still living, I should
never have taken it. As it is, I shall keep it until inquiries are made,
but it shall not be used except in the event of this man’s death.”

Ralph bowed his head in acquiescence.

The milreis is the standard coin of Brazil, as I learned at Pernambuco,
and is worth about fifty-five cents in our money, so that the box
contained nearly $18,700, some of which was in currency.

“This Da Costa,” said Ralph, “evidently had the duty of conducting the
convicts from Pernambuco to the island; and it was doubtless on one of
these trips that he buried his money, though why he has let it remain so
long puzzles me.  And as for ‘Mas distante occidente,’ which you say was
traced on the rock, the words were probably written as a guide to the
location of the tree.”

The convict island faded away in the distance, the great peak being
visible for several hours after all other parts had vanished; and that
evening, long after the damp night-wind had stiffened the sails, and a
drenching dew lay heavy on the bulwarks, I stood watching the glorious
phosphorescent display in the brig’s wake, and marvelling over the
strange fulfillment of my dream.

The inquiries which we instituted upon my return home resulted in the
discovery that Leon Da Costa had died of yellow fever in 1890 at Santos,
one of the chief ports of Brazil, and at the same time about the most
pestilential and unsanitary place on the face of the earth.  I had no
further scruples about using the money, $5,000 of which I sent to Ralph,
without whose assistance I should have accomplished nothing.  He now owns
two-thirds of the brig _Sea Witch_, of which vessel Seth Hawkins is still

Occupying a prominent place in our parlor is a peculiar motto—the work of
Alice. The figures are white, on a background of black, like this:

         3° 50′ 30″ S.

        32° 24′ 30″ W.

It never fails to attract the attention of visitors, many of whom inquire
what it signifies.  We tell them it is a marine puzzle.


[Picture: Bringing in a Derelict] The West India hurricane of August,
1893, was one of unusual severity, and caused great havoc among shipping
on the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to Maine.  Besides the large number
of vessels lost by going ashore, many were abandoned by their crews at
sea after having sprung a leak or become water-logged.  A large part of
these craft subsequently foundered, but a number of them were vessels
bound from Georgia ports to Boston and New York with cargoes of hard pine
lumber, and in these cases the vessels, after becoming full of water,
“floated on their cargoes;” that is to say, the buoyancy imparted to the
wrecks by the lumber in their holds kept them from sinking as they
ordinarily would have done.  Some of these derelicts have been known to
float for a year or two, round and round in a beaten track, forming a
source of great peril to navigation; until, the lumber becoming
thoroughly saturated with water, the wreck finally sinks.  In some
instances the abandoned vessel is torn to pieces by the violence of
successive storms before this stage has been reached.

The most remarkable case of this character is that of the American
schooner _Fannie E. Wolston_, which was abandoned at sea in October,
1891, and was still afloat three years afterward.  She was sighted scores
of times during this long interval, and was more than once set on fire by
passing vessels.  Her travels brought her from Cape Hatteras to
mid-ocean; from the tropical Bahamas nearly to the shores of Europe; and
in almost every part of the North Atlantic she was frequently seen.
Covered with barnacles and sea-weed, reduced to a mere skeleton, and with
one rusty anchor still hanging from her bow, this celebrated derelict
continued for thirty-six months her long pilgrimage without captain or
crew.  The bitter gales of three Atlantic winters, that disposed of the
ill-fated Naronic and a hundred other staunch vessels were unable to sink
the Fannie E. Wolston.  When last seen in September, 1894, she had nearly
completed the third year of her phenomenal career as an abandoned wreck,
during which long period it is computed that her drift was more than
eight thousand miles.  She was the record-breaker of derelicts.

A sailing ship arrived at Philadelphia early in September, having on
board the captain and crew of the brig Neptune, which had been abandoned
four days previously, two hundred miles east of Cape Hatteras, while on a
voyage from Savannah to Boston with a cargo of Georgia pine.  Within a
month the brig was sighted no less than five times by steamers arriving
at New York—the last time being in Lat. 42° N., Long. 65° W., a point
several hundred miles directly east from Boston.  Thus in four weeks this
derelict had drifted nearly six hundred miles to the northeast of the
spot where she was abandoned.

Nothing having been done towards recovering her, at the expiration of a
month the owners of the powerful ocean tug _Atlas_, of Philadelphia,
determined to despatch that vessel in search of the _Neptune_; for, could
the latter be brought into port, the owners of the tug would reap a
profitable harvest in the way of salvage.

Accordingly, one fine autumn morning, the _Atlas_ steamed out from the
Point Breeze Oil Wharves on the Schuylkill River, with a three weeks’
supply of coal and all the most efficient apparatus for wrecking and
sea-towing.  She was a staunch tug of 800 horse power, and was equipped
with a powerful electric search light.  There were on board Captain James
and ten men, besides Albert Shaw, the captain’s cousin, who had no
connection with the tug, but had obtained permission to make one of the
party more through a love of adventure than anything else.

After rounding the Delaware Capes and entering the open ocean, the course
was laid N.E. by N., and Captain James remarked to his cousin as he
finished examining the chart, “Yes, Al, if all goes well we ought to
overhaul that brig within five days, somewhere about 44 and 62.”

“You appear to regard falling in with her as a foregone conclusion,”
replied Mr. Shaw, somewhat surprised.  He was a pale, slender young
fellow of twenty-two, and was much more expert at entering up cash and
taking off trial balances than at figuring latitude and longitude.

“Why,” answered the captain, “I’ve marked on this chart the date and the
place where she was abandoned; then I’ve put down a cross and the date at
the exact spot she’s been sighted five different times since, and by
connecting all my crosses with a pencil mark and figuring the distance
between each one, I can tell about how much and in what direction that
wreck is drifting each day.  She’s in the Gulf Stream, which she won’t
get out of till I tow her out.  There’s the dinner bell.”

The captain’s explanation had enlightened Albert as to the method to be
pursued in locating the wreck; though, to tell the truth, he was a little
skeptical in regard to the final outcome of the matter. There was a brisk
sea running, and in spite of the table-rack, it required no little
dexterity to prevent beef, vegetables and condensed milk from mingling in
one confused jumble; but every one was in good humor, and the fresh, salt
air had sharpened the appetites of those who gathered about the little
table, and especially that of the captain’s cousin, who averred that he
had not been so hungry in six months. Dinner over, Albert busied himself
in exploring every part of the tug and investigating the night signals,
when suddenly Captain James called to him from the upper deck.  Upon
ascending thither, he was informed that the _Atlas_ was bearing down on a
floating lumber yard.  Looking ahead he saw, still some distance away,
great quantities of planks floating about; in fact the ocean seemed
literally covered with them, forming a curious sight.

The tug soon reached the outer edge of the moving mass, and Jim Speers,
the mate, remarked as he surveyed the white clean planks with a critic’s
eye, “Fine lumber, that.  Some good-sized vessel’s lost her deck-load, I

The planks rose and fell on the long regular swell, and as some of them
were occasionally lifted partly out of water by a sea, their shining wet
surfaces reflected the sun’s rays with dazzling brilliancy.  In some
places they were massed together so closely that it was difficult to find
a passage through them, and though the greater portion of this valuable
lot of timber was soon left behind, masses of planks were met continually
for a distance of nearly twenty miles.  Captain James took the bearings
of the main body so as to report the matter upon reaching port.

A six-knot breeze was blowing next morning but the sun did not show
himself, and noon having come with the sky still cloudy, the Captain was
compelled to figure out his position by dead reckoning, which is not so
accurate as a solar observation.  He calculated that if everything went
well, the tug should not be far from the _Neptune_ at the end of
twenty-four hours, providing his estimates of the brig’s drift were

The afternoon wore on, and the skipper and his cousin had paced the
narrow deck for some moments in silence, when the former remarked
meditatively, “I had a queer experience with a derelict once,—just after
I took this tug.”

“How was that?” asked Albert.

The captain finished filling his pipe with fragments of tobacco which he
cut from a plug, and continued:

“It was about two years ago that I received orders to go after the
derelict bark _Pegasus_.  She had sailed from a Nova Scotia port for the
West coast of Ireland with one million feet of deals aboard, and after
being abandoned in a big blow was sighted several times.  I’m a sinner if
we didn’t cruise twenty-five hundred miles and use up half our coal when,
on the twelfth day out as I came on deck, my mate said to me, “Captain,
there’s a lame duck two points on the port bow.”  (We seamen often speak
of a crippled vessel as a lame duck.)  Well, we’d run that bark down at
last, and we lost no time in getting her in tow.  After towing her two
days, what do you think happened?”

“The hawser parted?”

“She sank—went right down—and I went back to port the most disgusted man
in Philadelphia.  We found, after we got in, that a steamer passing the
wreck and considering her dangerous to navigation had set fire to her;
but after burning the main deck nearly through, and a hole in the stern,
the fire had been put out, probably by the seas which the bark shipped.
This was only a couple of days before we sighted her.  While we had her
in tow I noticed that a good deal of lumber washed out every time a big
sea struck her, and I didn’t like it much either, though I made no doubt
she’d float till we reached port.  But, as I said, she played me a mean
trick and foundered about four hundred miles off the Delaware Capes.”

“That was tough luck,” commented Albert, as he glanced at the dial of the
taffrail log which trailed astern—its brass rotator revolving rapidly
just beneath the surface of the dark blue water.

Next day was bright and sunny, and an extra sharp lookout was kept, for
it was hoped to sight the derelict within the next twelve hours.  After
ascertaining the tug’s position at noon, the course was changed to
N.N.E., and things went on as before.  Mr. Shaw pored over the chart of
the North Atlantic, and was in a state of impatient expectancy all day,
although the mate kindly informed him that they might not sight the brig
for a week yet, if indeed they ever did.

It lacked but a few minutes of sunset, when the captain, who for some
time had been standing near the pilot-house sweeping the horizon with his
glass, cried sharply, “Starboard your helm, there!”

“What’s up now?” asked Albert, ascending the ladder to the upper deck.

“A wreck of some kind, dead ahead.”

Taking the glass, he saw nothing at first, but finally made out an object
that looked like a pole sticking out of the water.

“That stick is the mast of a vessel,” replied the captain, in answer to
Shaw’s inquiry, “and at least half of it is carried away.  The hull must
be awash too, or we could see it plainly now, for she can’t be over six
miles off.  If the craft was in her natural condition, I’d have sighted
her long ago—at twelve miles certainly.  A little more and we’d have run
right away from her.”

“Does she look like a brig, sir?” asked Speers.

“Can’t make out her rig yet.  The chap we’re after is hereabouts
somewhere if I’ve calculated right,” said the captain, taking another
survey of the object ahead.

The tug was rapidly closing up the gap between herself and the wreck, and
the faces of those on board presented an interesting study.  Captain
James was anxious to know whether the wreck they were approaching was the
brig he was in search of.  The usual excitement caused by the sight of an
abandoned vessel did not affect him; it was simply a matter of business.
So also with Speers, though perhaps to a less extent.  The majority of
the crew contemplated the stranger with feelings akin to indifference.
Many of them did not know the name of the vessel they were in search
of,—neither did they care.  But Albert was looking at a genuine wreck for
the first time, and his heart beat faster as the ocean waif grew more and
more distinct, with her shattered masts, disordered rigging and general
appearance of desolation.

“_Neptune_!” cried Captain James, as he made out the gilded letters on
the port bow.  He had already formed the opinion that she was the craft
of which he was in search, as enough of her spars were left to show that
she had been square-rigged on her foremast, and brigs are now
comparatively scarce.

When the tug was within a few rods of the _Neptune_, her boat was
launched, and the mate, Albert, and two of the crew entered, when it was
rowed around to the brig’s bows in search of a favorable place for
boarding.  A large rope, probably the starboard fore-brace, was entangled
in the standing rigging in such a manner that fifteen or twenty feet of
it trailed in the water alongside the wreck.  The mate picked up the
rope’s end, and drew the boat so close to the brig that, taking advantage
of the next roll she gave towards him, he seized a lanyard and was soon
on board.  Albert and Joe Miller followed.  The other man, known as
“Sharkey,” remained in the boat to see that she did not get stove against
the side of the wreck.

Speers took a cursory glance around, and then hailed the tug.  “All
ready, sir,” he cried.  A rope had been fastened to one end of the tug’s
big hawser, and the other end of this rope Captain James now hove, so
that it landed on the brig’s forecastle deck.  The mate and Joe Miller
hauled it in, and secured the hawser to the brig’s bows.  This important
task having been accomplished, the boarding party proceeded to take a
thorough survey of the wreck.

The foremast was gone at the lower mast-head, leaving the fore yard still
in its place, upon which the tattered remnants of the foresail were still
visible.  It had apparently been clewed up without having been furled,
and the winds of five weeks had whipped it into ribbons.  The entire
mainmast was gone about ten feet above the deck, and in falling had
smashed the bulwarks on the port beam and quarter so that the water
flowed all over the deck, where it was several inches deep.  She was so
low that her main deck was level with the ocean, and small seas were
constantly toppling over her bows and low bulwarks, where they broke in
showers of spray.  The main boom was hanging over the side, while the
bowsprit and all the jibs were entirely gone.  The main hatch was
battened down, but the fore was off, and upon looking below the cargo of
lumber was seen pressed up close under the hatch, where it occasionally
surged slowly from side to side in obedience to the sluggish motions of
the brig.  On top of the after house a small boat painted white was
lashed, having in some way escaped the general destruction.  The wheel
and rudder appeared uninjured.  There was a perfect litter of ropes,
blocks, standing rigging, etc., floating about the deck, all tangled in a
confused mass.

The party now entered the cabin.  Everything here was drenched; the
skylights were gone; fragments of glass encumbered all that portion of
the floor not under water; and there was a damp, musty smell such as one
encounters on entering a cellar not often opened.  The captain’s compass
was still in its place under the centre skylight, but its brass work was
badly stained with salt water.  The state rooms were in much the same
condition as the cabin, and the whole port side of the after house seemed
to be slightly stove.  The companion-way door was ripped off, and nowhere
to be seen.

On emerging from this dismal place the mate took a peep into the crew’s
quarters.  The rows of bunks in which the men had slept still contained a
mouldy mattress or two, while a large cask that had doubtless been used
as a table was rolling about the floor.  A couple of rusty pannikins
floated about in the shallow water.  It was of course impossible to enter
the lazarette or the fore peak, for they were submerged.  All the
provisions were ruined, but the scuttle butts contained plenty of fresh

Having finished his examination, Speers sent the boat back to the tug for
a supply of provisions for Miller and Sharkey, who were to remain on the
wreck to steer her.  As soon as the stores were placed aboard, and a few
directions given, Albert and the mate pulled away from the derelict, for
a squall was making up in the north-west and it was high time to get
under way.  Mast-head lanterns were run up, and the two vessels started
for Boston.

                       [Picture: Towing the Wreck]

There was plenty to talk about that night, and Albert staid up long past
the usual time conversing with the master of the tug, who was in a
jubilant mood, and who more than once invited his cousin to “splice the
main brace.” {101}

“The owners will have to give me credit for quick work this time,” the
captain said.  “Monday we left Philadelphia; Wednesday we picked up the
derelict; and on Friday—or Saturday at furthest—we ought to steam up
Boston Harbor.  Speers says the brig’s cargo seems in good shape, and if
so it should easily bring $7,000 at auction.  The hull may fetch a
thousand more.  Not a bad haul, Mr. Shaw for five days’ work.”

“This derelict business seems profitable.”

“It is—if you can find the derelict. For instance, the schooner _Sargent_
has been floating about the North Atlantic ever since last spring, with
twenty thousand dollars’ worth of mahogany in her hold.  There is a prize
worth trying for, but although a score of vessels have sighted her,
several of which attempted to tow her in, she is still drifting about
with a small fortune on board.  Last month some Baltimore parties
organized an expedition and chartered a steamer to find the _Sargent_ and
bring her in.  They searched for several weeks, and then returned to port
considerably out of pocket, to find that a Cunarder had just seen the
schooner not forty miles off the course they had taken.

“But I must go on deck; the night looks squally.”

Albert turned in, and dreamed of drifting about the ocean for many weeks
on a water-logged wreck, which foundered the instant assistance was at
hand and he escaped only by leaping out of his berth against the wall.

The heavily laden brig, submerged to her decks, offered a great
resistence to the water, and when a brisk head wind sprang up, the
powerful tug was scarcely able to make headway.  Several rain-squalls
were encountered during the night, and by sunrise there was every
indication of a gale.

A heavy swell was running, the wind increased, and Captain James felt
some concern for the safety of his tow.  By noon a hard northwester had
set in, accompanied by an ugly head sea.  Both vessels were under water
most of the time, nothing of the derelict being visible but her masts and
deck-houses, while the tug struggled through the heavy rollers and
blinding spray with only her smoke-stack and pilot house above water.

It was a day of anxiety.  The wreck was simply a sodden mass of timber,
without buoyancy, and dragged and pulled on the huge hawser in a manner
that caused continual apprehension.  Instead of rising to meet the big
rollers, she went lurching and floundering through them; burying herself
in the brine, and then coming up with a backward jerk that made the
captain catch his breath.  Even a steel hawser has its limits of

Night closed in chill and comfortless, with no sign of immediate
improvement.  Albert put on a life-preserver, braced himself in his bunk
without undressing, and wondered if he should ever see terra firma again,
while the cook shook his head and confided to a deck-hand that “this was
what come of having landsmen aboard.”

The wind blew harder, and even a full steam pressure hardly sufficed to
drive the _Atlas_ along.  The middle watch was half over when the
straining tug plunged suddenly forward, rolling and pitching violently,
as though freed from a cumbersome weight.  At the same instant a muffled
cry was heard by those on the upper deck.  All knew its meaning—the
derelict was adrift!

The night was black as pitch; mist and spray obscured everything; and
almost before the order to reverse the engines could be given, the wreck
was vanishing in the gloom.  The tug’s head swung round and she started
in pursuit.

Fifteen minutes sufficed to show Captain James the utter futility and
peril of attempting to recover the brig until the gale moderated.  The
_Atlas_ was being literally overwhelmed and forced under water by the
furious seas which overtook her.  She could not steam fast enough to
escape them.  One great comber bent the smoke-stack, smashed the
pilot-house windows, tore away the life-boat, and bore the tug down until
it seemed as though she would never come to the surface.  It was madness
to continue, and the _Atlas_ was put about and hove to.

Never in his life had her captain suffered such keen exasperation as now.
With water streaming from his oilers, he stood grasping the pilot-house
rail, and watched the derelict’s mast head light glimmering astern like a
will-o’-the-wisp; now hidden by a great wave,—now reappearing
fitfully,—now swallowed up in the black night.  He strained his eyes
through the salt mist till they ached, but the dismantled wreck and her
imperilled crew were seen no more.

The captain went below, and calculated as accurately as possible the
tug’s position when the derelict broke adrift, the direction and velocity
of the wind, and force of the current.  Nothing could be done until the
gale moderated.  There was ample time for everyone to discuss the
misfortune, and speculation was rife as to the fate of Joe Miller and
Sharkey, who had last been seen at dusk, lashing themselves to the
shrouds.  This would save them from going overboard while the rigging
held, but their slender stock of provisions must have been swept away or
ruined by water, which would render their position desperate unless
quickly rescued.

The gray dawn came, by which time the worst was over, and eager eyes
scanned the sea for some trace of the brig.  But the wreck, sitting very
low in the water and with only a few feet of her masts left, had drifted
out of the line of vision, though she was probably not fifteen miles
away.  Wind and sea were still boisterous, but the search began

The conditions in general seemed to favor a speedy recovery of the
_Neptune_, for the wind was still in the same quarter, the day was
clearing rapidly, and the wreck having no sails and being practically
under water, could drift but slowly.  But the brig’s condition, coupled
with the fact that the tug herself sat very low, formed no slight
obstacle to early success.  Had the _Atlas_ possessed a tall mast, the
derelict might have been visible from it, but nothing could be seen from
the roof of the pilot-house save the smoke of a steamer on the northern
horizon.  As time passed, bringing no tidings of the missing vessel, the
excitement increased, and a handsome reward was promised any man who
should first sight the wreck.  Twice a false alarm was given, but the day
waned until the shadows stole over the deep. Still there were no tidings.

Through the starlit night Captain James thought of his absent men and of
the sufferings they must be enduring.  He sent up rockets at intervals,
though with little hope of an answer; for the _Neptune’s_ signalling
apparatus was doubtless ruined by water, and his men would be powerless
to make their presence known.

The sea was calm at daybreak, the sun shone brightly as the hours flew
by, and the tug covered many leagues, while the promised reward kept all
hands on the alert.  The _Atlas_ overhauled a large bark, and spoke her,
but she had seen nothing of the _Neptune_; and another day drew to a

One of three things had happened: the derelict had foundered, had been
taken in tow by a passing steamer, or was still drifting helplessly
about.  The first supposition was improbable, if not impossible.
Experience has shown that a vessel in the _Neptune’s_ condition can
survive tempests that send stout ships to the bottom.  As to the second,
the number of steamers having facilities for towing wrecks is small, and
the castaway’s value must be great to induce one to attempt salving her.
The last supposition was probably the true one.  A vessel may float about
the steam-traversed North Atlantic for weeks without being seen, and not
five derelicts in a hundred are ever brought into port.  After weighing
the chances carefully, the captain came to the conclusion that the brig
was still an aimless wanderer, though it was incomprehensible how she
could have eluded so thorough a search.

The next day was but a repetition of the one preceding, and this
continued until the days became a week.  Hope was almost gone, the coal
was two-thirds consumed, and still Captain James would not give up.

Finally, ten days after the loss of the _Neptune_, the _Atlas_ abandoned
the search and returned to Philadelphia.

As soon as she was sighted by the operator in the marine signal station,
the fact was telephoned to the city; and when she reached the dock, one
of the owners was on hand to meet her.  Joe Miller and Sharkey were there
also, sitting on a box of merchandise, and exhibiting no traces of
suffering or emaciation.

The surprise of the tug’s people was great, but the captain was soon
enlightened as to the derelict’s fate.  That troublesome craft had been
picked up the morning after she broke adrift, by a West India fruit
steamer bound to Boston.  Three-fourths of the steel hawser was still
attached to the _Neptune_, so the steamer had only to fish up the broken
end, secure it to her stern bits, and continue on her way.  The weather
remained fine and she reached her destination the second day afterward.

The division of the salvage money was a delicate matter.  An abandoned
vessel becomes the property of whoever brings her into port, but in the
present instance the derelict was held to be the tug’s property even
after she broke adrift, because she continued in possession of two of the
tug’s crew, who remained on her from the time the hawser parted until she
was safely beached on the mud-flats in Boston harbor.  Consequently, she
was not legally “an abandoned vessel” when the fruiter picked her up; nor
could the latter have handled her at all except for the tug’s hawser.
But the steamer had rendered an unquestioned service by towing the wreck
into port, and was therefore entitled to a portion of the money.  She was
finally awarded 25%, while the remainder went to the _Atlas_.

The lumber cargo realized a trifle over $6,000 at auction, but the brig’s
hull had been badly strained and battered in the last gale, and brought
only $500.  Her age, combined with her severe injuries, made it
unprofitable to put her in sea-going condition, and she was converted
into a lighter for transferring merchandise about Boston harbor, in which
humble capacity she will probably end her days.



[Picture: The Monomaniac] The homeward passage from New Zealand is made
via Cape Horn, and as westerly winds prevail all over the South Pacific,
the craft bound back to the States has everything in her favor.  Five
weeks had elapsed since the thousand-ton bark _Western Belle_ sailed from
Auckland and Wellington for Boston, and on this June morning she was in
the South Atlantic, steering a north-easterly course.

It was evidently mid-day, for the captain and mate were squinting at the
sun through their sextants; while a young lady stood near, wondering, as
she had often done before, how it was possible for such queer-looking
instruments to aid in determining their exact position upon so vast an
expanse of water.

She was slightly above the medium height, and decidedly pretty, with a
fine color in her cheeks.  The sun’s rays and ocean’s breezes had tanned
her fair skin until, as she expressed it, “her dearest friends couldn’t
have told her from a South Sea Islander.”  A heavy blue flannel dress,
sailor blouse, jaunty cap kept in place by a long pin, and rubber-soled
tennis shoes—the finest things in the world to keep one’s footing in a
heavy, sea—completed the picture; and there you have Miss Laura Blake.

“What would become of us, Captain, if you and Mr. Bohlman were to fall
overboard, or otherwise disappear from the scene?  It never occurred to
me before, but there would be no one left to bring us into port.  Mr.
Freeman knows nothing about taking sights.”

Miss Blake said this half in jest, half in earnest.  The captain regarded
it as a good joke.

“No, the second mate has never used a sextant, I believe, though he could
doubtless navigate the bark for some time by dead reckoning.  Meanwhile,
my dear young lady, you and Mrs. Evans could study my Epitome, and learn
to take the sun yourselves.”

The idea of her aunt “taking the sun” caused a quick smile to overspread
Miss Laura’s features.

“I’m afraid the _Western Belle_ would soon run ashore, or go to the
bottom, if we women undertook to sail her,” she replied.  “As the widow
of a sea-captain, Aunt Sarah believes she knows all about ships, but I
fear it would require even more than her nautical knowledge to bring us
into port.”

Captain Maxwell shared this opinion, but he was far too gallant a man to
say so.

“Mrs. Evans certainly learned a great deal during the few voyages she
made with her husband, and with your assistance, Miss Blake, there is no
telling what you might not be able to accomplish. However, both Mr.
Bohlman and I are not liable to fall overboard, so you will probably have
no chance to distinguish yourselves as navigators.”

Though considerably past sixty, and with a head of snowy white hair, no
one ever thought of Captain Maxwell as elderly.  His dark eyes still
shown with the fire of thirty, and every motion of the erect, military
figure was surprisingly quick and agile.  In ordinary conversation, his
words were spoken with an effective deliberation that is none too common
now-a-days, while a fine courtly air—“old fashioned” some people called
it—lent additional dignity to his presence.

Mrs. Evans appeared at this moment emerging from the companionway, and
Captain Maxwell hastened to place a chair for the widow of his old

“Isn’t it a beautiful day, Captain?” the lady exclaimed.  “I cannot
recall a more delightful morning.”

“I agree with you, madam; it certainly is a fine day, although, as your
niece says, a trifle cool perhaps.”

“Possibly.  But we are approaching the Line, Laura, and it will become
warmer as the bark sails north.  For my part, I think this bracing air
delightful, and have not regretted returning to Boston in this manner
rather than by steamer to San Francisco.  It reminds me of the two
voyages I made with the late Captain Evans.”

The widow’s good-natured face beamed with amiability and placid content.
She was a comely matron, and though not endowed with a great amount of
intellect, its absence was in a measure supplied by the charms of a
thoroughly feminine and womanly nature.

The ladies had been visiting relatives in Sydney, and had expected to
return to America by the Oceanic Liner _Monowai_.  Happening to meet
Captain Maxwell on the street one day, he had jokingly proposed that they
take passage with him to Boston.  Mrs. Evans had known him well in past
years, and she instantly regarded the plan with favor.  Her niece,
however, knew no more of sailing vessels than does the average landsman,
who judges all craft of this description by the coasting schooners which
he has casually noticed, and had a vague idea that it was flying in the
face of Providence to go anywhere in one.  Yielding to the joint
entreaties of her aunt and Captain Maxwell, and considerably reassured by
a view of the _Western Belle_, she at length consented, and had so far
enjoyed the novelty of the trip exceedingly.

“Neither do I regret it, Aunt,” she said, “although it would be agreeable
to know about what time we may expect to reach Boston.  That is the one
drawback to going anywhere on a sailing vessel—you can’t tell how long
the voyage may last.”

“The time required to go from New Zealand back to the States does not
vary much,” the captain answered, “and I think I can promise you, Miss
Blake, that the trip will not greatly exceed ninety days.  We have made a
good run nearly every day so far, and ought to pick up the southeast
trades next week.”

“Even if the voyage should require four months, it would be nothing
dreadful, Laura.  We seamen do not mind a few days more or less, do we,
Captain?” said the widow.

Carl Bohlman, the portly mate, seemed a little surprised at this reckless
disregard of time, while Captain Maxwell stroked his beard and looked
rather doubtful.

“Perhaps not, madam.  Your wide experience enables you to judge of such
matters.  I remember one time, though, when your late husband had the
_Davy Crockett_, and I commanded the _Sunrise_, we were racing from Hong
Kong to New York; and I can assure you that every minute and every hour
were of the utmost importance.  We both passed St. Helena on the
fifty-eighth day out, but the _Sunrise_ was beaten on the home stretch by
twenty-four hours.”

“How exciting!” exclaimed Mrs. Evans.  “Think of it—racing clear around
the world!  That was before I met my husband, but I have often heard him
mention the affair.”

“It must be dangerous, Aunt.  We have the pretty Cape pigeons to race
with, which satisfies me perfectly.  How sorry I shall be when we see the
last of them.”

“You are timid, Laura, which is excusable in one of your limited
experience.  You have crossed the Atlantic twice, but running over from
New York to Liverpool is a mere bagatelle.  Crossing the Pacific is
something, to be sure; but when you have doubled both Capes, and crossed
the Line six times—well, then you can lay claim to being a sailor, and
will not be easily alarmed.”

The widow glanced from one to the other and settled back in her chair
with pardonable pride, after giving this account of her achievements.
She was rewarded with a bow from Captain Maxwell, who then said:

“To change the subject, Mrs. Evans, you must have been very busy this
morning.  Unless I am mistaken, we have been deprived of your society
since breakfast.”

“That is true, Captain.  I have been putting the finishing touches on
that rug, which I consider quite an addition to the cabin furniture.
After that, I wrote for some time—and ah! that reminds me.  I feel
certain that the fresh-water tank in the bathroom has again been filled
with salt water.  While endeavoring to remove an ink-stain from my
fingers, I found that the soap made no impression.  That careless boy
seems unable to remember which tank is for fresh water, and which for

The captain frowned.

“This is the second time since leaving port that Dick has made the same
mistake. When I have worked out my sights, the matter shall be attended

“That Dick Lewis needs a rope’s end,” observed the mate, as soon as
Captain Maxwell had gone below, “and if the captain would let me, I’d
give it to him.”

“There is something peculiar about that boy,” said Miss Blake.
“Sometimes I think his mind is not quite right.  You know what a mania he
seems to have for fire-works, Aunt.  We were not a week out before he was
found to have matches and fire-crackers concealed in the forecastle.
Then one afternoon not long ago he was discovered in the lazarette,
although no one had sent him there.”

“That’s so, miss; and the captain thought Dick might have been fooling
with the signal-lights and rockets.  I hardly think that, though.  Most
likely he was after the eatables.”

“You can see, Laura, what sort of sailors the future generation of
captains will have to contend with.  Do you suppose such things ever
happened on my husband’s ship?  Fresh and salt water mixed together,
matches and fire-works in the fo’k’sl, rockets and signals in the
lazarette?  Why, it is awful to think of!”  And the widow shook her head,
as she reflected on this extraordinary state of affairs.

“That boy in the second mate’s watch is worth a dozen of this one of
mine,” Bohlman observed.  “Freeman predicted he would be the day we
divided up the watches, and he was about right.  Don’t tell him I think
so, though.”

The second mate had just come on deck, and Miss Blake said mischievously:
“I shall tell Mr. Freeman what you said unless you promise to rig up a
bo’s’un’s chair this afternoon, and hoist me up one of the masts.”

“I’ll do it, miss, if you say so,” replied Bohlman, “though you got
scared the other time before you were a quarter of the way up.”

“Laura, I will not allow such a thing again.  What would you think if I
were to go aloft and haul over a buntline?”

“I should laugh, Aunt; I know I should,” and Miss Laura did laugh aloud,
while the mate turned away to avoid showing his merriment at the comical
idea of the widow overhauling buntlines.

“But really, Aunt, there is no danger in it, and Mrs. Brassey, in ‘Around
the World in the Yacht _Sunbeam_,’ speaks of being drawn clear up to the
mast-head in a bo’s’un’s chair.  It is said, also, that Bernhardt climbed
the rigging of a steamer one day when on her way to Australia.”

“Genius is always eccentric, my dear, and may do anything with impunity.
But there—dinner is served.  Let us go.”

One could not pass through the bark’s comfortable cabin without knowing
that women were on board.  The very arrangement of the chairs showed it.
No matter how neat and tasteful a man may be—and Captain Maxwell was
both—he can seldom give to a room or dwelling that indescribable air of
home-like comfort and domesticity that a clever woman finds it so easy to
impart.  There was something cheerful in the appearance of the widow’s
open work-box, with its pretty blue lining, and an anchor worked on the
inside cover,—for Mrs. Evans affected everything nautical,—while a large
rug or mat made of spun-yarn and sennit bore witness to her skill.  The
vessel’s name was neatly worked in the center.  Several water-color
paintings by Miss Laura ornamented the walls, and a globe of goldfish
swung from the ceiling.  An upright piano occupied the space between two
doors.  There was nothing especially elegant or luxurious, as the bark
had never been intended for a passenger vessel, but everything was very
pleasant and comfortable.  The ladies had separate state-rooms, each of
which contained but one berth, and was considerably larger than the
average state-room on a passenger steamer.

After dinner, Captain Maxwell sent for Dick Lewis to come to the
quarter-deck.  This boy belonged to the mate’s watch, which was now off
duty.  He had not turned in, however, but could be seen with two others
of the crew, washing his clothes in the lee scuppers.

It had rained hard the night before, and many of the hands availed
themselves of the chance to catch the water for laundry purposes.  Two
lines were stretched from a starboard backstay to one on the port side,
on which were hung shirts of various colors and patterns, patched
overalls, towels, socks that had never been mates, and various other
articles of apparel.

Dick came aft presently, and stood before the captain; a lanky,
unprepossessing youth of sixteen or seventeen.  A carroty head of hair,
low forehead, white eyebrows and lashes, very pale complexion, and keen
blue eyes which constantly shifted about—these were the most noticeable
points of his appearance.

“Dick,” said Captain Maxwell, “for the second time within two weeks, you
have put salt water in the fresh water tank. This must not happen again.”

“I must have put the funnel in the wrong hole, sir,” said Dick, not
appearing much abashed.

“That is evident.  Get a marline-spike from the second mate and then go
out on the end of the jib-boom.  Stay there and pound the rust off the
chains until three bells strike.  That may help you to remember.  Go

The captain told Mr. Freeman what Dick was to do, and then went below for
his nap. Out on the jib-boom, Dick performed his allotted task.  What was
passing in the boy’s mind, it would be hard to tell from the expression
of his face.  Resentment against Captain Maxwell?  Scarcely. He seemed
rather to be studying over some project.  Now his lips moved, as though
talking to himself.  Then would follow a low chuckle, as of satisfaction
at solving some intricate problem.  At such moments, his knitted brows
became smooth, and the chains were pounded with a vigor that seemed to
give a kind of pleasure to the worker.  Once or twice his revery was
disturbed by a fancied footstep, and he furtively glanced around to see
if anyone was watching.

Three bells had struck some little time before a hail from the deck
attracted Dick’s attention.

“Jib-boom, there!”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Time’s up, Dick.  You must like to pound chains.” It was the second mate
who spoke.

Dick felt for the foot-ropes, and remembering Mr. Freeman’s injunction
not to let the marline-spike go overboard, he slung it round his neck,
and made his way to the deck.

“Where are your ears, Dick?”

“On my head, sir.”

“No impudence, you lubber!  Next time I’ll let you work till we make
port. Hand over that marline-spike.”

“Yes, sir.  Will you please tell me something, Mr. Freeman?”

“Maybe so, if I can.  The mate says I don’t know anything.”

“I want to know, sir, how you send off those signal-lights, what I was
forbid to touch.  Are they like Roman candles?”

Freeman took hold of the youth’s arm, and said sternly, “Dick Lewis,
don’t you ever think of those things.  Why, d— it, you’re as crazy as a
loon about fire-works! If you’ve got any more stowed away in the fo’k’sl,
it’ll go hard with you.  I’ve got nothing against you, Dick, but if I
hear any more talk like this, it’s my duty to report to the captain.
You’ll soon be in irons, at this rate.”

“I was only fooling, sir.  Please don’t give me away.”

“’Vast talking, and go below.  The watch is half over now.”

Dick disappeared into the forecastle, and Freeman meditated for some time
over the possible meaning of the boy’s peculiar talk.

“He’ll bear watching,” he mused.  “I’d better tell Bohlman not to send
him into the lazarette, on any account.  No, I won’t, either; the
Dutchman’s too d—d arrogant, and thinks he knows it all.  I’d only be
told to mind my own business.”

Freeman had just reached this decision in regard to Dick, when a Greek
sailor called Asso approached, and asked for more bath-brick.

The officer went to see how his watch were getting on with their job of
cleaning the paint-work on the deck-houses, and found that buckets of
water, swabs, and bath-bricks, were being used to such purpose that the
white paint was rapidly assuming the appearance of new-fallen snow.  Then
there was a section of wire cable to be spliced, and other work to be
seen to.  Thus the afternoon passed, and Dick’s talk about the signals
was banished from the second mate’s mind by the various duties of the


It was a fine evening.  The full moon had risen out of the ocean in
matchless splendor, and was rapidly changing its blood-red hues for more
silvery tints, as it soared into the cloudless sky.

The captain and passengers were on the quarter-deck, while Mr. Freeman
hung over the rail with the comfortable assurance that the bark was
making a better run in the second dog-watch than she had in the first,
when the mate had been in charge.

“I told you, Miss Blake, I should get a good breeze in my watch, and you
see I’m as good as my word.”

“So I perceive; and now that you have it, see that it doesn’t fail us
before morning.  Otherwise I shall think your fine breeze all the result
of luck.  How pleasant it is to hear the water gurgling around the ship.”

        [Picture: “The full moon had risen in matchless splendor”]

Eight bells struck, and the dog-watch was over.  The wheel and lookout
were relieved, and Freeman went below, while Carl Bohlman came on duty to
stand the first watch, which lasted until midnight.

“What are you thinking of, Aunt?  For ten minutes you have not spoken a

“The beauty of the night has cast a spell over me, Laura, and I was
thinking of a favorite poem of mine.  I never realized the significance
of the first stanza more than on this evening, when we are out on the
great ocean with every object bathed in white light.

    “‘The dews of summer night did fall,
       The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
    Silvered the walls of Cumnor Hall,
       And many an oak that grew thereby.’”

“Excellent, my dear madam,” said Captain Maxwell.  “You have a fine
poetic instinct.”

“The oaks that grew around Amy Robsart’s luxurious prison are replaced
here by the bark’s masts and sails, captain, but the effect is not less

“A fine conception, Mrs. Evans, but we must remember that it is not
summer in these latitudes, even though the dew is gathering, and you may
take cold sitting there.  Will you take my arm?”

“With pleasure, captain.”

They had paced the deck for some minutes, and the widow was relating some
story that seemed greatly to amuse the captain, when the latter stopped
suddenly, dropped on one knee, and stared at one of the deadlights’ near
his feet.

“Good heavens!  How you startled me, captain.  Robinson Crusoe couldn’t
have been more astonished when he saw the footprint in the sand, than you
seem to be. What is it?”

“Worse than a footprint, Mrs. Evans. The moonlight prevented our noticing
it sooner.  Stand here—where your shadow falls on this deadlight. {132}
Now what do you see?”

“A light reflected from below.  Oh, Laura, the lazarette is on fire!”

Captain Maxwell was already disappearing through the hatchway, while the
mate and Miss Blake ran up at the widow’s exclamation.  Even the silent
figure at the wheel started at the mention of the word fire.

It was but a moment before the master of the bark reappeared, bearing a
lighted lantern in one hand.

“The cause for alarm is removed, ladies,” he said quietly.  “There is no
fire in the lazarette, though nothing short of a miracle prevented it.
This lantern was standing on the floor beneath the deadlight and caused
the reflection to appear.  Mr. Bohlman, have you any idea how it came

He spoke with apparent calmness, which Miss Blake readily saw was more
feigned than real.

The mate hesitated a moment before answering: “Dick must have left it
there, sir.”

“_Dick must have left it there_!  So that bright boy of yours has been in
the lazarette again without permission?  If I don’t have him triced up to
the spanker-boom in irons early to-morrow morning, my name’s not John

“He was in the lazarette, sir, but not without permission.  I sent him
there just before supper to bring up a coil of old rope that was to be
ravelled out.  He wasn’t there ten minutes.”

Both ladies glanced at the mate in surprise at these words, and Captain
Maxwell looked at his chief officer in a way that was anything but
complimentary to the latter.  The captain had a temper of his own, which
was under excellent control, but he found it necessary to cross the
quarter-deck twice before trusting himself to speak.

“After that occasion a week ago, when this boy was discovered in the
lazarette doing God knows what, I should have thought your own judgment
would have prevented your sending him there again.  There are plenty of
men in your watch, and if none of them knew where this old rope was, you
should have gone yourself, rather than let that fool of a boy take a
light into such a place.”

Bohlman smarted under this speech, though he maintained a discreet
silence, knowing it would be useless to attempt to justify himself in the
captain’s present humor.  Inwardly, however, he cursed Dick Lewis for
having forgotten the lantern, and thus bringing his superior’s censure
upon himself.

Orders were given for Dick to come aft, and the youth shortly appeared on
the quarter-deck for the second time that day in the role of culprit.  He
quailed before the captain’s glance, and nervously shifted his old felt
hat from one hand to the other.

“Do you know why you have been sent for?”

Dick pointed to the accusing lantern, and said in a frightened tone:
“Yes, sir.  I—I remember now I forgot to bring up the lantern when—when I
fetched the rope.”

This was a lie.  He had turned the wick low and then left it in the
lazarette purposely, knowing well that no one would enter the place after
the day’s work was done.  But for the accidental circumstance of its
having been placed too near one of the deadlights, the presence of the
lantern would never have been suspected.

“Do you know what I ought to do with you?”

The captain’s tones were so stern that Dick was hardly able to articulate
“No, sir.”

“I ought to take a rope’s end and beat you within an inch of your life.
That’s what any captain would have done twenty years ago, and what some
would do now.  You left this light down there among bales of oakum,
sennit, old sails, rockets, signal-lights, and other inflammable stuff,
and if there had been enough sea running to heel the bark over a trifle
more, the lantern would have upset, setting the whole place on fire—and
we out in the South Atlantic, a good week’s sail from the nearest port!”

The captain’s passion mastered him, and he shook Dick until the boy’s
teeth chattered.  Suddenly releasing him, he turned to Mrs. Evans and her

“I ought to apologize, ladies, for this outburst; but I lost one ship by
fire years ago, and this boy has tried me beyond endurance.”

“I do not blame you in the least, captain,” said the alarmed widow; “I
feel sure my husband would have inflicted a severe punishment for such an
offense.  It is as bad as Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot.”

“You see, madam, we officers have to put up with a good deal from sailors
now-a-days,” said Captain Maxwell, sarcastically.  “If I punished that
boy as he deserved, he would have me arrested the moment we reached port.
Then, aided by some unscrupulous lawyer and the testimony of various
members of the crew, I should be convicted of ‘cruel and unusual
punishment,’ and fined heavily, or imprisoned.  The evidence of yourself
and niece might clear me in this case, but all the papers would print
articles about the barbarity of captains and mates in general, and the
lot of the poor, abused merchant-sailor,—forgetting to mention the fact
that a vessel, her cargo, and all hands, had narrowly escaped a terrible
disaster at the hands of one of these persecuted saints!

“Dick, you were warned a week ago that if you entered the lazarette again
without permission you would be put in irons.  But it seems you had
permission,” with a glance at the mate,—“and so we shall have to let you
off easier.  Go up on the fore royal yard and sit there until the watch
ends at midnight.”

Dick was unable to repress a sigh of relief as he turned away, but his
sharp ears heard Captain Maxwell say to the mate: “As soon as it is light
enough to-morrow morning to see objects in the lazarette without a
lantern, bring up that canister of powder and those four boxes of rockets
and signal-lights.  They shall be kept in a locker in the cabin during
the rest of the voyage.  Another thing—never again let that boy go
anywhere with a light.”

“Yes, sir.”

The cause of this trouble went forward, muttering to himself: “Powder!
the captain said powder!  I might have found it to-night if they hadn’t
caught onto the lantern.  How did they know it was there, I wonder?”

He climbed the fore rigging, unmindful of the taunts of the crew at his
second punishment that day, and the captain’s words kept ringing in his

“To-morrow morning they’ll all be put where I can’t get at ’em,” he
muttered, “and if only they hadn’t found the lantern, I could have got
away with some of them rockets to-night.  And the powder!  I can’t do
nothing without a lantern, though, and I ain’t even got a match.”

He perched himself upon the royal yard, with a lunatic’s cunning,
inventing various schemes for getting at those fire-works.  That was his
mania.  Although as sane as anyone on other subjects, he was an absolute
monomaniac in everything relating to such matters; and since the day when
he had overheard a remark relating to the signal-lights and rockets, his
fingers had itched to investigate them and see what they were like.  Not
even the certainty of punishment could stand in his way.

Some people, when they ascend to the roof of a high building, have an
almost irresistable desire to leap from it.  It is not that they wish to
do so, but some strange power seems urging them to it in spite of
themselves.  Others have a similar feeling when in close proximity to a
swiftly-moving railroad train, and require all their will power to keep
from casting themselves before the locomotive.  So it was with Dick
Lewis.  He could no more keep his mind off the lazarette and its
contents, than steel can resist the influence of a magnet.  He sat there
as the hours passed, looking ahead into vacancy; thinking and thinking;
and imagining just how the rockets must look, as they lay side by side in
their boxes down in the midnight darkness of the lazarette.  How quiet
and silent they were!  And yet the touch of a match—

He put up a hand before his eyes and turned his head to one side, as
though to ward off a blow.

                                * * * * *

“Aunt, we really must go below.  It cannot be far from twelve o’clock,
and we have staid on deck nearly two hours past the usual time.”

“That is true, Laura; and yet I feel strangely wakeful.  But, as you say,
it is very late, and high time that we turned in.  So good night,
captain, and pleasant dreams.  Good night, Mr. Bohlman.”

Mrs. Evans paused as she reached the companion-way.

“How beautiful the moonlight is,” she said, so low that no one heard;
“and from what an awful peril have we this night been delivered.”

She slowly followed her niece to the cabin.

Captain Maxwell did not linger long on deck after his passengers had
turned in. He, too, usually retired early, and arose at daylight.  But
the incident of the lighted lantern disturbed him.  To the master who has
once experienced fire at sea, the mere possibility of another visitation
conveys a dread that the worst hurricane cannot inspire.  He paced the
deck for some time, and then, after a glance aloft, went below.

Midnight came; and the mate was relieved by Frank Freeman, who found his
superior in no very pleasant frame of mind.

“You’ve still got a fair wind,” Freeman observed; “she’s slipping through
it in good shape.”

“I suppose you expected to come on deck and find a dead calm, with me and
my watch ahead in the long-boat, towing the bark.”

Bohlman left the quarter-deck with this good-natured rejoinder, while the
second mate smothered a laugh as he lit his pipe.

Dick climbed down the fore rigging with alacrity, and entered the
forecastle with the rest of the port watch.  His plans were matured.
There was a triumphant light in the boy’s eyes, and a furtive smile on
his ill-favored features as he crept into his bunk and feigned sleep.

                                * * * * *

A lantern swung from the dingy ceiling, casting a flickering light upon
the tiers of bunks, and upon various other objects in the forecastle.
There were oilers and rubber boots thrown about here and there, old books
without covers, and sea-chests of various patterns.  The numerous
initials, names, and dates, cut into the walls indicated that the
_Western Belle_ had sailed the seas for many years.  On one side some one
with a talent for drawing had recently executed a chalk picture of the
whale swallowing Jonah, which was a marvel of realism.  Near this
artistic production was tacked a printed card setting forth what rules
the crew were expected to obey, what compensation they were to receive,
and other matters of like import.

Sea air and insomnia are deadly enemies, and before one bell struck, a
chorus of snores assured Dick that his companions were asleep.  He
suffered a few minutes over the half hour to elapse, and then slipped
noiselessly from his bunk.  Gliding to the open door, he looked
stealthily out.  That side of the deck was thrown into shadow by the
forecastle, and no one was to be seen but two of the watch on duty slowly
walking up and down the main deck, as they conversed in low tones.  The
others were doubtless on the opposite side of the forward-house.

Dick turned from the door, waited a moment to be sure that all were
asleep in the bunks around him, and then produced a towel.  Next he took
down the lantern from its hook overhead, and wrapped the towel about it
so that the light was invisible.  That done, he made for the
door,—stepped out on deck,—and crept forward in the shadow of the

Upon reaching the corner, he stopped and listened The distant murmur of
voices was heard on the opposite side of the house, but the moonlit
stretch of deck ahead was untenanted.  Apparently no one was about the
extreme forward part of the vessel except the lookout.  The boy’s unshod
feet made no sound as he darted across the strip of moonlight that fell
between the forward-house and the forecastle deck.  Now he was standing
by the open fore hatch.

In large sailing vessels that stand well out of water, it is customary to
leave the fore hatch off at all times unless some very severe gale is
threatened.  The forecastle deck overhead prevents rain or salt water
from entering, and as it is often necessary to go down to the fore peak
half a dozen times a day, it would be a useless trouble to move the
hatch-cover each time.  This was the case with the _Western Belle_.

Dick well knew he could not enter the lazarette at the customary place
without being seen by the man at the wheel and the officer on duty, and
had conceived the laborious, but perfectly feasible plan, of descending
through the fore hatch to the ’tween-decks, and then crawling aft over
the cargo the whole length of the vessel to accomplish his purpose.

Without losing time, he placed his foot upon the first step of the flight
of stairs that led down to the fore peak, and then rapidly descended.  It
was black as Erebus when he reached the bottom, and before taking another
step he uncovered the lantern and stuffed the towel in his pocket.
Cautiously walking over old sails, ropes, barrels, casks, etc., the boy
was soon out of the fore peak proper, and at that part of the
’tween-decks where the cargo began to be stowed.

The foremast looming up ahead gave him quite a start, and a sort of dread
possessed him at thought of the long distance to be traversed in that
profound darkness.  Dick had not realized until now the magnitude of the
task before him, but he only wavered a second, and pushed on.

It soon became impossible to walk, and he dropped on his hands and knees,
creeping along on all fours; at the same time holding the handle of the
lantern between his teeth.  Its rays illumined but a short space in
front, though they served to make the gaunt deck-beams assume all sorts
of strange and fantastic shapes that he could not help noticing.  Thus he
crawled along over bales of flax and tow, boxes of Kauri gum and sacks of
horns; picking his way carefully, and impatiently wondering how far he
had progressed.  This was at length made plain, though in an unexpected

In attempting to accelerate his speed, the boy had grown a little
careless, when he suddenly felt his left hand go off into space, and
barely saved himself from plunging headlong downward.  The shock was a
severe one, and he drew a deep breath of relief when he had backed away
from the yawning aperture.

“Fool!” he muttered; “I clean forgot the main hatch.  I like to have fell
all the way down to the lower hold and broke my neck.  Well, Dick, you’re
half way, anyhow.”

He crawled around the square opening and proceeded.  In a few minutes the
way was blocked by a great object that the youth could not account for,
but which was really the iron tank containing drinking water.  He avoided
it and continued to advance, having stopped a moment to stretch his
cramped limbs.  Next he came to the after hatch, but was on the lookout
for it and pushed on steadily, though he began to ache all over from
crawling so long.  Once a startled rat scurried across his stockinged
foot in its haste to escape, causing another momentary scare.  Had it not
been for the increasing excitement under which he labored, the boy must
have been chilled, for a draft of cold air like that in a cellar swept
through the ’tween-decks from one end of the bark to the other.

The mizzen mast told Dick his journey was nearing its end, and he stopped
a few seconds to take breath.  His heart beat so quick and fast that he
felt stifled, and his limbs trembled in a way that he could not account
for.  But the thought of the fire-works nerved him, and cans of powder
danced before his disordered imagination.

There was not much further to go, so after shoving back the hair from his
damp forehead, he crept on until the peculiar formation of the vessel’s
timbers proved that he was in the stern.

He looked up.  Directly overhead was a small opening.

“That must be _it_!” he whispered.

There were no stairs nor any ladder, but standing erect, his head was
just on a level with the aperture.  First arranging the towel about the
top of the lantern so that the light should not be cast upward, he
reached up and set it down on the floor above.  Then, panting with
excitement and bathed in cold perspiration, Dick placed both hands on the
edge of the hatch.

One agile spring, and he was in the lazarette.


So quiet was the night, that Freeman’s measured footsteps, as he trod the
quarter-deck, sounded with strange distinctness to the guilty occupant of
the space beneath.  No other sound disturbed the silence but the gentle
swish and gurgle of the water alongside, and an occasional creak from
some block or pulley.

The piles of swelling canvas; the mast-heads nodding against the stars;
the white paint-work of the poop; the delicate shadows cast upon the deck
by the ropes and shrouds; the motionless figure of the man at the
wheel;—all were beautified and softened by the white flood of moonlight.
Drops of dew glittered everywhere, and when Freeman laid his hand upon
the main brace, it was wet as though from rain.

He had been reading odd items in an old copy of the Sydney _Herald_, and
put it down just as two great rats that had come up from the hold
scampered across the deck.  This was nothing unusual, and after stamping
with his foot to scare the bold creatures, he glanced at the binnacle.

“Keep her at N. N. E., Matt; you’ve let her go off a point.  Watch the
card, man.”

“Keep her at N. N. E., sir,” the fellow repeated, shifting his quid to
starboard as Freeman walked away.

“I’ll see how the lookout does,” the officer thought, “though if every
night was like this, there’d be little need of any.”

He went forward along the port side.  Happening to cast a glance through
the open forecastle door, he noticed that the light was out.

“That’s queer,” he soliloquized; “it burned brightly enough when I passed
by a couple of hours ago.”

He entered the door to see if the wick was out of order, or whether all
the oil had been consumed.  Neither—the lantern was gone!

He had just made this discovery, and was leaving the building to ask his
men whether any of them had removed the light, when a curious jarring
sensation rooted him to the deck.  The idea of a submarine earthquake
flashed through his brain, but within a second’s time there was a
deafening report,—a blinding flash,—a staggering of the bark,—and then
flying timbers and bales of merchandise were hurled skyward with awful
power.  The whole after part of the vessel seemed going up in the air

“Great God!” breathed Freeman, grasping the ladder on the forward house.

His self-possession soon returned.  Already some of the crew had begun to
act like lunatics.

“Call all hands, and behave like men.  The bark’s still afloat, and now
three of you come aft with me.”

His cool decision inspired confidence, and half a dozen of the crew

The canvas began to flap—the bark was badly off her course.  Freeman
bounded on as he noticed this fact.

“That cowardly Matt’s deserted the wheel,” he thought—“or else the poor
devil’s been killed.”

But the officer stood motionless when he reached the place where the
quarter-deck had been—the spot where he had been standing not five
minutes since.  The whole deck was gone, and in its place was a great
cavity that reached from one side of the vessel to the other, and seemed
to go down to the very keelson.

It was a time for action, and he crept along on the starboard side,
walking on a few jagged splinters, and holding to the main brace with his
hands.  The wheel had been shattered and was useless, while Matt lay
against the rail where the force of the explosion had hurled him.

“Men, sheet everything home, and move d—d quick!  The wheel’s smashed and
we can’t steer the bark.  Let go all the halyards and sheets, and get her
stripped.  Work for your lives!”

Had the wind been stronger, a serious accident would probably have
resulted before the unmanageable vessel could have been relieved of her
canvas, but although she careened badly, it was but a few minutes before
enough sails had been taken in to avert the threatened danger.

The unaccountable disaster that had befallen was sufficiently appalling
to those who were on deck at the time it occurred; but imagine the
feelings of the others—roused from a sound sleep at three in the morning
by a shock as of an earthquake.  The mate’s watch were asleep in the
forecastle, a considerable distance from the lazarette, but to the
captain, passengers, mate and steward, who occupied the after house, the
sensation was indeed awful.  What wonder that the screams of Mrs. Evans
and Miss Blake rent the air?  Or that Captain Maxwell, experienced seaman
that he was, found himself utterly stunned and bewildered?  But he was on
deck in no time, issuing orders with the confidence of one who has long
been accustomed to command.

Nothing so quickly restores our presence of mind in great crises as the
knowledge that others look to us for advice and help.  When the terrified
Miss Blake rushed into her aunt’s cabin, it must be said to the widow’s
credit that she left off screaming, and endeavored to pacify her niece.
She tried to think what Captain Evans would have done in such an
emergency, although having no clear idea as to what manner of evil had
befallen the vessel; and after hastily assuming her dressing gown and
slippers she issued forth with a boldness that surprised even herself.

The sight that presented itself utterly confounded the good woman, and it
was only after passing her hand across her eyes several times, that she
could believe the evidence of her senses.  The cabin partition towards
the stern was blown entirely out, together with the companion-way, and
skylight above.  The roof of the cabin had been splintered in places and
lifted up, until Mrs. Evans could see a patch of sky here and there,
while the floor under her feet was so uneven she could hardly walk upon
it.  She stood holding to the center table, blankly wondering what could
have happened, when the steward came from Captain Maxwell’s room.

“Oh, steward, in the name of heaven, what has happened?  Are we sinking?
Have we been pooped?  Is the bark stove to pieces on a rock?”

“It’s not that bad, Madam Evans. There’s no rock in this part of the
ocean, and if we’re sinking it’s very slowly.  Are you hurt?”

“No; only badly frightened.  I cannot realize yet what is the matter.  Is
anyone killed?”

“We can’t tell yet, ma’am.  But I must not stop here talking.  The after
wall of the captain’s room is blown out and the head of his bed torn off.
The room was set afire, too, and in putting it out he burned his hands
badly.  Will you hold this lamp while I get some linseed oil and

Captain Maxwell’s injuries were more painful than dangerous, and
considerable relief was afforded as soon as Mrs. Evans’ deft fingers had
applied the dressing.  He then returned to the deck.  It still lacked
over two hours of dawn, and the moon was low in the west.  Total darkness
would soon descend, and there was much to be done.  Already the carpenter
was at work on a new wheel, and the moment it was in position the captain
resolved to steer for Rio de Janeiro, where repairs could be made.

The strong smell of powder, and the shattered timbers, left no doubt in
the captain’s mind that an explosion of some sort had caused the
catastrophe.  Fortunately, its greatest force had been upward; otherwise
the vessel’s bottom might have been blown out, thus ending her career and
those of all on board in short order.  The signals in the lazarette were
the only explosives on board the bark, but how they could have become
ignited was not easily seen, unless a fire had started.  Everyone was on
deck but the ladies; there was no more sleep that night.

“Mr. Bohlman, you will muster all hands amidships, and you and Mr.
Freeman will then call the names of those in your respective watches.
Some one may have been killed.  Whose wheel was it at the time of the

“Matt’s, sir,” answered Freeman.  “He was badly hurt by being blown
against the bulwarks.  We’ve put him in his bunk, and two hands are
rubbing him.”

While the crew were assembling, the captain questioned his second mate
closely as to whether he had noticed any signs of fire about the after
part of the vessel, or seen any person enter the lazarette.  Freeman was
certain, however, that he should have smelled smoke had there been any
fire, while as for anyone entering the place without being seen by
himself or the man at the wheel,—it was impossible.  It will be
remembered that he had gone below just before Captain Maxwell discovered
the lighted lantern, and therefore knew nothing of that circumstance.

“About how long was it after you left the quarter-deck until the
explosion took place?”

“It wasn’t five minutes, sir.  I was going forward to the fo’k’sl deck to
see that everything was all right, when, happening to look in the port
door of the fo’k’sl, I noticed the light was out.  I stepped in to see
whether the lantern was empty or not, but found it gone.  Then—”

“You found the lantern gone!” exclaimed the captain, an idea striking
him.  “Did you notice whether Dick Lewis was gone, too?”

“Dick Lewis?  No, sir; why should I?  It was his watch below, and he was
probably in his bunk.”

“We shall see.  Come with me to the main deck.”

All hands were assembled around the capstan in various degrees of
astonishment.  Several of that motley crew had probably been shipwrecked
during various stages of their careers, but it may be doubted whether any
had ever witnessed an accident similar to that which had just taken

“Dick Lewis, step forward!”

The captain’s stern command produced a sensation, and all hands wondered
what was coming next.

“Dick Lewis, step forward!”

The words were repeated, but no response came from among the crowd of men
standing about in the raw morning air.

“That settles it,” said the captain, decisively.  “Let the fo’k’sl be
searched, and every other part of the bark.  If that boy is not to be
found, he has paid the penalty of his rashness.  He may be dead in the
hold, or he may have been blown through the quarter-deck and into the

Freeman remembered the conversation of the previous afternoon, when Dick
had betrayed his curiosity regarding the signals.  Yes, the captain’s
theory must be correct, and he shuddered to think how long the boy might
have been at work in the lazarette while he walked the deck above.  But
how had he entered the place?  Matt was not so badly hurt but that he was
able to swear no one had passed through the hatch, and he, Freeman, had
left the quarter-deck but twice during the watch, and then only for a few
minutes.  The true solution of the problem passed through the minds of
Captain Maxwell, his mate and second mate, at almost the same moment, but
the two former at first dismissed it as too improbable.  Freeman,
however, insisted that Dick must have gotten into the lazarette, if at
all, by crawling all the way aft through the hold; and as Matt insisted
that no one had gone below by the usual way, this view of the matter was
the only possible one left.

“God only knows what ailed that boy,” Captain Maxwell said, as Dick’s
devilish ingenuity became apparent, “but he’s found out by this time how
those signals work, and what twenty-five pounds of powder can do.”


[Picture: Crossing the Line] After two weeks of tribulation, the
barkentine _Mohawk_ was through the Atlantic Doldrums.  The hot, murky
atmosphere, and the low-hanging rain-clouds that seem always ready to
open and let fall a deluge, were left behind, and the fact that a breeze
had blown from the same point of the compass for three successive hours
was another certain indication that this tormenting region of calms,
rain-squalls and variable winds was a thing of the past.

When one bell struck, and the steward brought Captain Charles Pitkin his
morning cup of coffee, the skipper felt as light-hearted as a boy, and
knew, without looking at the compass, that the craft was speeding along
towards Buenos Ayres, instead of drifting aimlessly about in the calm
belt or beating to the southeast against a head wind.

“We ought to cross the Line to-day, at this rate,” he said to himself.

The steward heard the words, and made bold to say: “Will we, sir?  I only
wish Father Neptune would come aboard and make subjects of those three
lubbers in the fo’k’sl.  They are the worst greenhorns I ever did see.”

“You mean the two Swedes and the Austrian?”

“Yes, sir; especially that Christian Anderson, in the mate’s watch, that
claimed to be able to steer and then couldn’t box the compass to save his

The captain made no answer, and the steward withdrew.

“George! it’s not a bad idea,” mused Pitkin.  “It would do those three
‘able seamen’ good to meet the Old Man of the Seas, I honestly believe.”

The more thought he gave the matter, the better he liked it; and by
breakfast time, when the captain, his sister, and the mate gathered about
the table, the former had arranged in his mind the principal details of
the ceremonies which he decided should take place that morning.

Miss Pitkin did not receive the narration of her brother’s plans with the
approval he had expected; in fact, she was in a decidedly unpleasant
frame of mind.

“Why, Rosy, you seem out of sorts this morning.  I thought you’d be
pleased to hear that Neptune was coming aboard.”

“Neptune, indeed!  The Flying Dutchman will be the next thing on the
programme, I suppose.  And as for being out of sorts—Charles Pitkin, are
you aware that this is the first morning for two weeks that you have not
resembled a thundercloud?”

“Perhaps; but I’ve had reason to look black.  Now the Doldrums are done
with, I’m as merry as a lark, and you ought to be, too.”

“You are mistaken.  That beast of a cat has killed my poor canary.”

Miss Rose said this in a tone of mingled anger and grief, looking hard at
her coffee-cup meanwhile.  She seldom indulged in the feminine weakness
of tears, or a few would doubtless have been shed now as a tribute to the
departed canary.

“Pshaw! that’s too bad, Rose,” said the captain, sympathetically.  “Shall
we kill the cat?  I detest the stealthy, cold-blooded creatures, and this
one does nothing but lie around in the sun all day instead of catching

“No, Charles, we will not do that.  I came near throwing her overboard
myself, but I suppose the creature was only following her instincts.  I
must try and bear it.”

Miss Pitkin had celebrated some forty birthdays, but the years had
touched her lightly, and her charms, though mature, were not
inconsiderable.  A plump, well-rounded figure, fresh complexion, black
eyes and hair, combined with regular features, made an attractive whole,
the one serious blemish of which was an habitual expression of firmness
and decision which was so strong as to be almost masculine.  She had four
brothers, all younger than herself, and on the early death of their
father and mother, Rose assumed the cares of housekeeping and the
bringing up of the younger children.  Thus she had come to be looked up
to by her brothers, and regarded rather in the light of a parent than as
a sister.

As they left the table she said: “I am going to overhaul the store-room.
It needs to be done, and will keep me from thinking of poor Goldie.”

“But you’ll return to the deck when Neptune comes aboard?”

“I’m in no humor for any such tomfoolery.  Perhaps, between you all, you
may manage to get up a snowstorm, or have an earthquake when we cross the

“But wait, Rosy, I want to ask a favor.”

The lady vanished, and was soon delving among lime-juice, guava jelly,
apples, potted meats, and sundry other stores.

There was something strangely incongruous in such a woman being addressed
by so childish and undignified a name as Rosy, but her brother had so
called her when scarcely able to toddle about, and now that he was
thirty, she was “Rosy” still.

Time was, when no craft of any description crossed the Equator without
having all the landsmen on board introduced to the royal Neptune; but the
good old custom has been gradually falling into disuse, and in this
prosaic age the ceremony of “Crossing the Line” is rarely observed.

Captain Pitkin decided that Fritz, the carpenter, should be metamorphosed
into King Neptune—principally because he was large and massive, and had a
long, thick beard.  Fritz was an excellent carpenter, though his mental
development was far from being on a par with his physical.  However, he
would look the part, and that was no small item.

His majesty always comes aboard with an attendant, and here it was that
Pitkin hit upon an original and brilliant idea.  He had been humming an
old song whose first verse runs:

    “’Twas Friday morn when we set sail,
       And we were not far from the land
    When the captain spied a lovely mermaid
       With a comb and a glass in her hand.”

These words ran in his head some time, until he finally exclaimed: “Well,
I’ll ‘spy a mermaid,’ too, though she may not be very lovely.  Yes, a
mermaid shall come aboard this bark to-day with Father Neptune.”

He congratulated himself upon this happy thought and set about carrying
it into execution.  There was but one woman aboard—his sister—and her
assuming the role of mermaid was, of course, not to be thought of.  Among
the crew was a bright, good-looking fellow, known as Mike—just the man to
make an acceptable mermaid.  In stature he was somewhat below the medium
height, but well proportioned and with rather attractive features.  He
was much tanned, of course, and his expression was decidedly bolder than
is thought pleasing in one of the fair sex; but these were minor
difficulties in comparison with the great question, How to obtain
suitable clothes?  The captain solved this, as he thought, by deciding to
ask his sister for the loan of some of her old skirts and waists, but she
had buried herself in the store-room before he had time to prefer his
request.  This was just as well, he concluded, for in her present humor
he would have met with a peremptory refusal.

So, having ascertained that Rose was engaged in hauling the steward over
the coals for misplacing a case of honey and leaving matches where the
rats could get at them, the captain entered his sister’s room.  He felt
rather guilty, but suitable attire for the mermaid must be had, and he
tried to think that “Rosy wouldn’t mind,”—hoping, nevertheless, that the
ceremonies would be over before she came on deck.

“What a lot of clothes women have,” he soliloquized, examining the
various gowns and other apparel hanging on pegs.  His sister’s best
garments were laid away in her trunks, and he spent considerable time in
trying to choose what seemed to be the least valuable skirt and waist
among the lot.  He finally selected an old black alpaca for which Rose
cared little, and a red dressing jacket for which she cared a great
deal—it was the one she slipped on every morning when combing her hair.
Just as he was leaving a green veil caught his eye.

“That will make Mike look mysterious,” he thought.  He took it, bundled
the things up in a newspaper, and Mr. Rivers, the mate, conveyed them

The morning was hot, but a fine breeze tempered the heat and prevented
discomfort.  The seas chased each other along the vessel’s sides, and
occasionally sobbed and gurgled in the lee scuppers as the bark leaned
over to port.  Just as the man at the wheel struck five bells, two
strange figures climbed over the bows and gained the forecastle deck.
They were the Old Man of the Seas and his companion.

The royal Neptune’s head was encircled by an elaborate wooden crown,
painted green, about which were twined several pieces of sea-weed.  His
long beard was carefully combed out, and swept down upon his chest with a
truly patriarchal air.  The principal garment was a long green toga
(formerly a piano-cover), which extended from the neck to the heels, and
was ornamented with sea-weed stitched on in various fantastic shapes.
The arms and feet of the royal personage were entirely bare, and in his
right hand he carried a substantial sceptre some five feet in length,
having three prongs at the upper end.

Neptune’s companion was a sight to behold.  From the crown of her head to
her waist, floated a wealth of yellow hair, of which any mermaid might
well have been proud.  This telling effect had been achieved by
unbraiding and combing out several strands of sennit.  The
dressing-jacket and the alpaca skirt did not seem exactly “the thing” for
a sea-nymph, and yet they fitted as well as could have been expected,
except that the jacket was too tight across the shoulders.  A straw hat
covered with sea-weed was perched upon the damsel’s head, and the green
veil concealed the fact that she had been freshly shaven.  Her feet were
encased in a pair of knit slippers.  Depending from a belt around her
waist were a small cracked hand-glass, a comb, and a flying-fish which
had fallen on the deck that morning.

“Mariners, behold Neptune, the Ruler of the Seas, and his daughter, the
beautiful Mermaid of St. Paul’s Rocks!”

Neptune made this announcement in a deep bass voice, and Captain Pitkin
and the mate bowed low before the two august personages.

“Your majesty has conferred an unspeakable honor in deigning to come
aboard,” answered Pitkin.  “Will it please you to accompany us to the
main deck, where some slight preparation has been made for your

The captain and mate led the way, followed by Neptune and his daughter.
The former held his head high in the air and looked neither to the right
nor to the left, while the Mermaid walked with a mincing gait and twined
her long hair about her fingers.

All hands were assembled in the waist, eager to see the siren and her
father, and as the quartette approached, the crew winked, nudged each
other, and cast meaning glances at the three “candidates,”—Oscar,
Christian and Josef, who formed a little group by themselves.

A low platform had been constructed about the capstan, and when Neptune
took his seat upon the brass surface of the latter, his appearance was
really imposing.  A cloth-covered box had been provided for the Mermaid,
but she disdained it, and leaned gracefully against the throne.

“And what bold craft have we here, which thus invades our domain and
hopes to cross the Line with landsmen aboard, for the wrinkles in this
vessel’s copper prove that more than one lubber stands before us!”

Neptune delivered this speech in accents of wrath, and brought his
sceptre down with such force that those nearest fell back a few steps.

     [Picture: “Let the landsmen come before us!” commanded Neptune]

“We are the barkentine _Mohawk_, sire, from Portland for Buenos Ayres,
and your majesty’s keen perception has not erred in assuming that there
are landsmen aboard.  I cheerfully relinquish to you the freedom of the
vessel, and trust that all aliens here will shortly be transformed into
loyal subjects.”

The captain bowed and withdrew to the poop, where he had an excellent
view and could hear all that was said.

“Let the landsmen come before us,” commanded Neptune.

But the trio hesitated, evidently not relishing the aspect of affairs.
All three possessed a certain amount of common sense,—though mostly
latent,—and half-suspected that King Neptune and the carpenter were one
and the same.  But the silent female figure puzzled them completely, for
the Mermaid, although unconventional in appearance, was so cleverly
arrayed that the illusion was quite perfect.

Josef timidly whispered a few words to Oscar, but before he could reply,
Neptune stamped his foot.  Royalty cannot brook delay, and at this token
of displeasure, half a dozen of the crew seized Oscar, Josef and
Christian, and dragged them before the throne.  The two former were
conducted to one side in obedience to Neptune’s gesture, while Christian
remained standing before the frowning monarch.

A slight hitch now occurred, caused by Neptune forgetting his lines.  He
was unequal to the task of extemporizing, and the more he tried to
remember what “came next,” the more confused he became.  His majesty
glared about, his face meanwhile becoming red with embarrassment, which
poor Christian attributed to rage.  The Mermaid was equal to the
emergency, and came to her father’s rescue.

Mike was something of a ventriloquist, and when the order was issued
“Minion, box the compass!” Christian was not the only one who stared in
amazement, wondering whence the strange voice proceeded.  He had never
been called by such a name before, and was in much doubt as to whether he
was the one addressed.  The Mermaid whispered something in Neptune’s ear,
and the latter, tapping the culprit with his sceptre, commanded: “Answer,
varlet, and quickly!”

The compass was a Chinese puzzle to Christian, {175} but he dared not
remain silent, and began desperately: “North, northeast, east by
north-east, east by east,—”

Here the crew set up a roar of derision, and the mate remarked: “A fine
able seaman you are.  The shipping-master that put you aboard this bark
ought to be sent around the world as mate of a ship with two dozen like
you for a crew!”

Neptune had by this time got his bearings, and asked:

“Does the sun cross the equator on the 21st of June, or the 21st day of

“June,” hazarded Christian.

“What route must a steamer take to go from New York to Honolulu in eight

“The middle route.”

“Why is the gulf-stream always full of sharks?”

“I never knew the reason, sir.”

“What year was the Panama Canal discovered?”

“I—I don’t know.”

“What time does the moon rise at the South Pole?”

No answer.

“How many wrecks are there on the bottom between here and Pitcairn

“There must be a good many, sir.”

Half a dozen equally absurd questions followed, most of which the wisdom
of Minerva could not have answered correctly.

“Enough; away with him to the shaving-chair!” finally cried Neptune.
“He’s the most unpromising subject we ever came across, and calls me
‘sir,’ instead of ‘your majesty!’”

An old steamer chair had been tilted back, and the victim—for such he now
considered himself—was marched to it, and requested to sit down.  Behind
this chair stood a large wash-tub filled with water, but the tarpaulin
spread over it concealed this fact.

The Mermaid now produced a tar-pot, in which she swished a brush about
until the “lather” was of the right consistency.  A piece of sacking
having been spread over the occupant of the chair, the operator
brandished her brush and prepared to begin.

“I don’t need to—to be shaved,” gasped Christian.

This was true, for he was one of those men—mostly Finns and
Scandinavians—who couldn’t have raised a beard had his life depended on
it.  A few colorless hairs appeared on his cheeks and upper lip, which
the Mermaid proceeded to count aloud.

“Twenty-nine!” she announced, contemptuously.  “Rather different, father
dear, from the visages of Columbus, Magellan, and Vasco de Gama, upon
whom I operated in centuries gone by.”

She now lathered the face of the squirming Christian, laying on the tar
with the peculiar slapping sound made by an experienced painter when
applying a coat of paint to a flat surface.

The patient had by this time resigned all hope, and betrayed little
interest when the brush was laid aside for the razor.  This was a
marline-spike, and the Mermaid gave it an edge—if a round object can be
said to have an edge—by stropping it on a capstan bar which one of the
crew had placed in the capstan.  She then held the cracked hand-glass
before Christian’s face, that he might see how he looked, and proceeded
to shave him.  This was a decided relief, and the man wondered if it was
not the end of the performance.

Vain hope!  Scarcely had the lather been scraped off, when two of the
crew advanced to the tub and removed the tarpaulin.  They then tipped the
chair back suddenly, causing its occupant to slide into the tub, where he
was immersed all but the feet.  He was quickly drawn out and hustled
forward on the port side, directly beneath the fore yard.  A bowline had
been rigged up at the extremity of the yard-arm overhanging the water,
and the ends of the rope hung down to the deck.  One end was made fast
around Christian just beneath the arms, and a dozen hands grasped the
other end amidst the most uproarious hilarity.

An old salt with bare feet, brass rings in his ears, and a red cotton
handkerchief wound about his head, now ascended to the roof of the
forward house and played a wild air upon a wheezy violin.  He danced
about at the same time, and sang in a hurricane voice and with great
gusto, the first verse of a song whose subject was: “The Baptism of
Captain Kidd.”  Everyone joined in the chorus, even Neptune and his
daughter, while the shrieking Christian was hoisted up to the yard-arm.
There he remained suspended between sea and sky while the old salt
rendered another verse, and then, as all hands took up the refrain, the
rope was slackened away.  Three times was the Swede ducked in the heaving
swell, before being drawn up and lowered on deck again.  He was then
released, and patted on the back by the Mermaid, who said patronizingly:

“My son, you are a lubber no more,—in name at least,—and can now consider
yourself a true subject of Neptune.”

The new subject was past speech, but he drew a deep breath of relief and
got upon the galley roof, where he sat down to dry, as well as to see
what befell Oscar and Josef.  He had not been hurt in the least, but, as
some one has said, “A man might as well be killed as scared to death.”

The other two felt that their time had come.  At first they had watched
the proceedings with great interest, which gradually changed to dismay,
and finally gave place to absolute terror.  That Christian was to be
hanged or drowned, they did not in the least doubt; and just as he was
ducked for the third time, Oscar gave a yell and broke from his guards,
who were absorbed in watching the rites.  He ran to the main rigging and
darted up it as though Satan were at his heels.  The guards were about to
pursue, when they remembered Josef, and the latter’s break for liberty
was nipped in the bud.

Neptune, the Mermaid and attendants now came aft, and many volunteers
presented themselves to bring Oscar down from the top-mast head, whither
he had climbed with an alacrity entirely foreign to his nature.  The
royal personages consulted together and announced that Josef would be
“finished” before Oscar was taken in hand.  So everybody gathered about
the throne; even the cat, who sat gravely upon her haunches and licked
her chops as though desiring another canary.

A number of ridiculous questions were propounded to Josef, who had a very
imperfect knowledge of English, and made worse work than Christian in
answering them.  He was hurried to the chair, and the tar-bucket again
brought into requisition.

Meanwhile Miss Pitkin had inspected the store-room thoroughly, and now
came up the companion-way with a comfortable sense of duty performed.
She scanned the horizon line for a sail, took a look at the compass, and
then started to find her brother.  There he was on the poop, and she
ascended thither.

“Why, what is the matter, Charles?  Why are all hands in the waist?  Oh,
I remember,—Neptune.”

The captain was relieved at seeing his sister smile, and began to hope
that she was rallying from the grief and ill-temper into which the
canary’s death had thrown her.  Suddenly, through the crowd of figures
pressing around the throne, she caught a glimpse of the Mermaid.
Surprise at sight of this extraordinary vision kept her silent a moment,
when she called out: “Mr. Rivers, what is that creature,—man or woman?”

The Mermaid’s wit got the better of her discretion, and she answered,
before the mate could reply, “Neither one, ma’am: I’m ’alf and ’alf, like
the ale and stout we mix together in Liverpool, or like one of those
morphodite {183} brigs, that’s part brig and part schooner.”

The crew respectfully fell back at sight of Miss Pitkin, and the nymph
was exposed to view.  Rose instantly detected the deception, and in spite
of the cleverly disguised voice, her feminine facility for jumping at
conclusions told her that Mike was the speaker.  Without knowing why, she
was as absolutely certain of this fact as of her own name.  Then she
recognized the dressing jacket!  The lady could hardly believe the
evidence of her senses; but it was not her habit to remain in doubt if it
could be avoided, and she hurried from the poop to verify her suspicions.

The captain was considerably disturbedby the expression of his sister’s
face, and called out: “Don’t do anything rash, Rosy; it’s only a mermaid.

“Hang that fool of a Mike,” he muttered.  “Why couldn’t he have kept
quiet?  I wish I’d never heard of mermaids or anything of the sort.”

Miss Pitkin sought her room and took a hurried inventory of her
possessions.  Yes, what she deemed impossible had occurred; one of the
crew had actually dared to invade the sanctity of the cabin—her own room,
even—and deliberately steal her clothes!  The theft, audacious as it
seemed, was yet of secondary importance compared to the outrageous breach
of discipline it involved.  At this rate the crew would soon want to dine
with the captain, or sit in easy chairs upon the quarter-deck!

“And there sat my brother on the poop with his eyes open, and never even
noticed that that creature was wearing his sister’s clothes!” she
thought, surprise for the moment taking the place of indignation.

She gained the main deck, and advanced towards the capstan, where the
ceremonies had been resumed the moment she went below.  Her black eyes
flashed ominously, and the crew, with a common impulse, fled in all
directions, though none could have told precisely what they were fleeing
from.  The two mates thought it prudent to withdraw to their rooms, and
the guilty Mermaid set down the tar bucket and escaped, leaving Josef in
the chair with but one side of his face lathered.  Neptune alone remained
to face the enemy, not being actuated by bravery so much as by
astonishment at the sudden rout of his attendants.  While the Ruler of
the Seas sat upon the throne trying to decide what to do, Miss Pitkin
stepped up and surveyed him with scornful amusement.  There was her green
veil in his left hand, whither it had been thrust by the Mermaid!

Unable longer to control her indignation, Rose seized the tar brush,
exclaiming, “Take that, you great overgrown dunce.”  Suiting the action
to the word, she gave his majesty’s cheek a sound slap; which insult,
instead of rousing him, appeared to befog his faculties still more.  She
plucked the sceptre from the monarch’s palsied hand, knocked the crown
from his head, and threw both overboard.

Neptune’s daughter had taken refuge in the carpenter shop, but the red
jacket caught Miss Pitkin’s eye as she passed the window.  Pursued and
pursuer darted through the room and out of the opposite door, but as Rose
was used to skirts and the nymph was not, the latter was at a
disadvantage.  Thrice was she nearly thrown down by the alpaca, until
gathering it up in one hand, she dashed to the rigging, and attempted to
ascend.  Miss Pitkin was close behind, and made a pass at the Mermaid
with a harpoon she had picked up; the end catching in the damsel’s hair,
which all came off, together with her hat.  The looking glass fell to the
deck and was shivered into fragments.  There was the erstwhile siren part
way up the rigging, all her wit, confidence and gayety gone; while the
very members of the crew who had so lately admired her, now jeered and
derided from the other side of the deck.

“It will go hard with you when we reach port!” cried the irate lady, when
she had recovered her breath; “and if Captain Pitkin doesn’t have you in
irons before night, he’s not the man I take him for.  You brazen thief,
to steal my clothes!”

“I never did steal a thing of anybody aft since I came aboard, ma’am.  Do
you think I’d be going into the cabin where I’ve no business, and risk
being caught?  I’m no fool.  The captain told me all I had to do was to
be a mermaid (may the Virgin forgive me), and he’d furnish the togs.”

“Do you mean to say that Captain Pitkin gave you those clothes?”

“He sent them to the fo’k’sl, ma’am, this very morning.”

“Would my brother do such a thing?” Rose asked herself, as she again took
her way aft.

The captain was invisible.  In fact, he had retired to his room, and was
endeavoring to banish the present by a perusal of the fascinating
adventures of D’Artagnan and his reckless companions.  He was roused by a
knock at the door, but before he could say “Come in,” his sister entered.

The captain took in the situation at a glance, and knew he was in for it.
The years seemed to roll back, and as Rose marched him to the sofa he
imagined himself a boy of ten, and the subject of well-merited
chastisement.  He made a full confession, asked to be forgiven, and swore
never again to hold any intercourse with Neptune or his relatives.  He
could not help adding: “It was partly your fault, though, for if you
hadn’t flounced out of the room at breakfast, I should have had a chance
to ask for the use of the clothes. Are they completely ruined?  Can’t
they be washed?”

“_Are they ruined_?  Do you suppose I will ever touch them again after
that Mike has worn them?  And have they not been in the forecastle?”

Rose whispered a single word in her brother’s ear.  It was the name of a
creature all mention of which is strictly tabood in good society; or, if
referred to at all, it is usually between housewives exchanging
confidences, and then only with bated breath.  “I cannot name ’t but I
shall offend,” and it suffices to say that it is a certain little animal
which invariably inhabits ships’ forecastles, though on all
well-regulated craft it never invades the cabin.

“Good heavens, Rose, I never thought of that,” replied the captain,
looking serious.  “But never mind, it can’t be helped, and you shall have
what clothes you want in Buenos Ayres, if you can find anything to suit.”

Rose was fond of her brother—in her own way,—and his straight-forward
confession mollified her considerably.  She did not yet allow this to
appear, however, but announced sternly:

“After the manner in which you have made away with my garments, Charles,
I very much doubt whether I shall make another voyage on the _Mohawk_.
It would serve you right if I left you to your own devices.  You could
mend your clothes, lose your pipes, go without my desserts, and live on
hash and lobscouse for years to come, besides having the satisfaction of
knowing that the steward was secretly drinking bottles of ale and beer,
and making way with provisions.”

The captain made a gesture as if to banish some disagreeable remembrance.

“Don’t, Rosy,—I couldn’t endure to live the way I used to.  It seemed all
right then, but since you’ve taken the cook, and steward and cabin in
hand, it’s like a different vessel.”

This admission pleased Rose, and she answered, “Well, we shall see,” in
tones which informed the captain that he was forgiven.

He put his arm about his sister’s waist and escorted her to the deck,
with a sensation of having recovered a treasure whose worth had not been
fully appreciated.

“It’s curious how one woman can upset everything, and raise Pandemonium
in no time,” he said, aside to Mr. Rivers, a few moments later.

Orders were given for the wash-tub to be restored to its proper place,
the platform about the capstan to be removed, and for everything to
resume its wonted appearance.

As for Christian, Oscar and Josef, they might very appropriately have
been likened to the three degrees of thankfulness.  Christian, drying
himself on the galley roof, represented the positive degree, and was
merely thankful that Neptune had got through with him without taking his
life.  Josef, with one cheek lathered, felt like a fish that has been
hooked, and then succeeds in escaping.  He looked rather woebegone, but
was thankful indeed to have escaped with such comparative comfort.  But
Oscar, who had now ventured part way down the main mast, had fairly
baffled Neptune and his daughter; and had there been any degree beyond
the superlative, it could not have been too strong to express the state
of his feelings.  Henceforth he regarded Miss Pitkin as a deliverer, and
had she been a goddess, his veneration could scarcely have been greater.

The _Mohawk_ crossed the Line during the afternoon on the 30th meridian
of west longitude, and for all we know, Oscar and Josef are lubbers yet.


[Picture: Missing] The trades of the Indian Ocean usually blow with great
regularity except at the semi-annual change of the monsoons, and the bark
_Harvester_ was slipping easily along at a six-knot rate on her voyage
from Singapore to New York.

It was the second dog-watch; that time at sea when, the day’s work being
over, decks swept up, and supper eaten, all hands bring out their pipes
and gather in groups to discuss passing events, or to while away the
twilight hour in telling stories.

Job, the negro cook, sat in the galley door singing one of the plaintive
melodies of his race.  An old banjo, played as only a darky can play that
instrument, furnished the accompaniment.  The singer’s voice was rich and
mellow, and the simple notes floated out on the still evening air with a
soothing charm that went straight to the heart, and struck many a
forgotten chord in the breasts of the four rough seamen who comprised his
audience.  Near the booby hatch were gathered the mate, the bo’s’un and
the steward; each relating in turn some reminiscence or bit of adventure
connected with his past life.  Many of these provoked roars of laughter,
while the conclusion of a few was followed by a period of silence
rendered more eloquent by a shake of the head or a sigh.  That was the
way these hardy men received the narration of some half-forgotten ocean

“Yes, Mr. Morgan,” the steward was saying, “I recollect hearing of those
two gales off Cape Flattery, now you speak of it.  About ’87, wasn’t it?”

The mate thought a moment before he answered: “It was in the spring of
’87, in the first of those gales, that the ship _St. Lawrence_ went to
the bottom.  If I live to be a hundred I’ll never forget it; but if I
should happen to, here’s something that’ll make me remember.”

He pushed back the thick hair from his forehead and revealed an
ugly-looking scar of a peculiar reddish-brown color. “Now you know why I
wear my hair long even in the tropics,” he said.  “I’ve not got much
beauty to boast of, maybe, but I’m a little sensitive about that cursed
mark all the same.  I hate to think of it!”

The steward seemed astonished.  “The _St. Lawrence_!  You were on that
ship, Mr. Morgan?” he exclaimed, in accents that betrayed his

“I was mate of her on her last four voyages.”

“We were in Antwerp at the time, but I always understood that all hands
were lost with her.”

“All but the carpenter and me.”

He rose, emptied his pipe, and appeared anxious to drop the subject, but
the curiosity of the steward led him to ask how those two had managed to
escape.  The bo’s’un seconded the request, so Morgan again seated
himself, and after a short silence related the affair in these words:

The _St. Lawrence_ was a neat little ship—you may have seen her,—and
Captain Fairley was one of the finest men I ever met,—quiet, and a man of
few words, but when he said a thing he meant it.  I didn’t like his wife
so well, but his daughter, Miss Marion,—oh, she was a lovely girl.  She’d
never lived on shore much, and had that shy, retiring disposition that
you often see in such cases, where the captain’s children always go with
him and have nobody of their own age to associate with.  She never
hankered after shore life though, and seemed perfectly happy to be always
at sea.

Miss Marion had quite a liking for me, and many and many an evening would
she pace the deck in my watch, telling me the names of the different
stars and how far off some of them were, and all such things.  That was
her favorite study—astronomy. Then she read a great deal and used to tell
me about her books.  All the tidies for the cabin chairs were made by her
hands.  You remember that silk handkerchief I showed you,—that one with
the _M_ embroidered on it?  She worked that letter and gave me the
handkerchief on my birthday.  It was the first birthday present I ever
got, and I guess it’ll be the last. Poor girl! she wasn’t quite seventeen
when the accident happened.

We came across from Hong Kong to San Francisco and found that the ship
had been chartered to load coal on Puget Sound.  We arrived at Nanaimo
near the end of March.  In those days there were no stevedores at most of
the coal ports on the Sound, and it was the captain’s or mate’s business
to superintend the work of the crew in loading the vessel.  Captain
Fairley had to go to Tacoma on some business matter, and as ill-luck
would have it, I was taken sick the day after we got to Nanaimo, and the
doctor made me turn in.  I wasn’t able to get out of that bunk for ten
days, with the result that the second mate had charge of loading the

I won’t say anything here against Ike Summers,—all of us have our
failings,—but what I do say is this: his being drunk while she was
loading caused one of the worst accidents on record, and the loss of one
of the finest ships I ever saw.  Half of the crew were drunk of course,
and twenty-six hundred tons of coal were pitched in at random.  I’ll
swear she wasn’t half trimmed, though I was just able to get about the
morning we sailed.  Captain Fairley, his wife and Miss Marion got back
from Tacoma the afternoon before, and I told him that night it was my
opinion that the second mate had been drinking a good deal.  He looked
serious, but Ike swore everything was all right,—he’d got pretty well
sobered up that afternoon,—and as the clearance papers had been taken
out, the captain concluded to sail next day.  He wanted to get to San
Francisco as quickly as possible, for we’d been chartered to load from
there to New York.  If it hadn’t been for that, I’ve always thought the
captain would have looked into the way the cargo had been stowed.  He
must have suspected something was wrong, for he wanted Mrs. Fairley and
Miss Marion to go back by rail, but they wouldn’t hear of it.

So we were towed to sea one fine April morning, having for company a
crazy old bark named the _Lizzie Williams_.  The _St. Lawrence_ was rated
A-1 at Lloyd’s, and that bark probably had no rating at all, but the old
hulk was a good deal more fit to go to sea that morning than we were, as
it soon turned out.  Her cargo was stowed right, even if she did have to
be pumped out three times a day.

Ike Summers had the afternoon watch, and when I turned in after dinner
the tug had just cast us off, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky.  I
heard Captain Fairley tell his wife that we must be going to have a blow
on account of the falling glass, but he thought it wouldn’t amount to
much.  Miss Marion was doing some fancy work, I remember, and Ike had
just ordered some of his men to spread an old cro’-jack out on deck to be
mended.  It was a warm, pleasant day, and the sun shone on the sails of
the _Lizzie Williams_ as she slumped along like an old canal boat a few
miles to leeward.  She was the last thing I saw before I went to my room
and turned in.  I soon dropped off, being dead tired and not very strong
yet after my sickness.

How long my sleep lasted don’t matter,—it seemed about ten minutes, but
must have been several hours,—when I was roused by the steward shaking me
and yelling “Come on deck, Mr. Morgan, for God’s sake!”  That brought me
to my senses in an instant, and only stopping to throw on my shoes, I ran

What a change!  A heavy squall was bearing down, and all hands were
working like demons to get the ship stripped.  Some were aloft cutting
away the earings so as to let the sails go overboard, while others were
letting go halyards, sheets and tacks. A kind of fog or mist was settling
down, and the sails slatting against the masts and shrouds made a
horrible din, to say nothing of the hoarse orders that the captain and
Ike were bawling out.

I ran up the shrouds to help Summers cut away the mains’il.

“Good G—, Ike, you must have been mad to let that squall catch the ship
with all sail on.  Where was the captain?” I cried.

“He was below.  I just called him.  It came faster than I reckoned on.”

“You’ve done it this time!  If we ar’n’t dismasted it won’t be your

We got the mains’il loose, and I had just slid down the backstay to the
deck when Miss Marion came running up with face as white as a sheet, but
perfectly cool.

“Tell me what I can do to help,” she implored.

“Close the lazarette hatchway,” I answered, “and see all the cabin
windows and skylights shut.  Then stay below.”

Mrs. Fairley was a very nervous woman, and the suddenness of the affair
had upset her completely.  There she stood at the break of the poop
clinging to a tops’il brace, and literally paralyzed with terror.  Miss
Marion went to her mother’s assistance, and at the same moment the
captain ordered me to take my watch and haul up the fores’il.  They were
the last words I ever heard him speak.

All this had happened within two or three minutes of my coming on deck,
and but few of the light sails had been cut away when I got some of my
watch at work on the fores’il.  The first thing I knew, an extra heavy
gust struck the ship and heeled her over about twenty-five degrees.  That
wasn’t much, but I tell you a lump came in my throat the next second when
I heard a dull roar in the hold beneath.  All of us knew what that
muffled sound meant—the cargo had shifted!

            [Picture: “The ship went clear over on her side”]

Of course the ship went clear over on her side then, and the squall broke
on us in earnest right after.  Everybody grasped whatever he could lay
his hands on to keep from sliding down the deck.  There was no sea
running to speak of, and the chances of saving the ship were fair
provided the squall soon passed over; but as the thought of Ike Summers
having caused all this came over me, I was in such a fury that if he’d
been near by then, I could have pitched him overboard, and not been

I won’t speak of what we all felt as we clung there on different parts of
the ship,—it had all been so sudden, but before anything could be done to
right her, the main mast broke off underneath the deck, ripping her all
open amidships.  The water poured in at an awful rate, and all hands knew
the ship was doomed.

“The boats!  Cut the lashings before she founders!” I yelled.

Myself and two or three more sprang up on the forward house, where three
of the life-boats were made fast, and as we whipped out our knives I
happened to look aft and saw the captain and steward on the poop trying
to get the gig free before the ship went down.  Miss Marion and her
mother were holding to the spanker boom, both bearing up nobly in this
awful crisis.  I knew they would be safe in the gig along with the
captain, which was a great load off my mind.

“How shall we get water and stores for the boats?” someone cried.

How, indeed?  It was impossible.

We had just got one boat free when the ship gave a plunge, and we felt
her going.  Everyone was tugging at the boats; a few were yelling and
screaming; and then all hands were in the water.  I had hardly come to
the surface when I felt a terrible blow on the head, and dimly realized
that a piece of wreckage had struck me.  There was a gurgling sound in my
ears,—that was the last thing I recollect.

                                * * * * *

I was lying on my back with my eyes open looking up at the sky.  The new
moon was shining, and a large bright star twinkled not far away.  I
vaguely felt that one of my hands was in the water, and knew that my
limbs were being chafed by some person.  A kind of dreamy stupor was on
me, and though these ideas passed slowly through my brain, they seemed to
make no impression, and I didn’t even wonder where I was, or how I came
there.  Some one spoke to me.

“Mr. Morgan, try and brace up a bit.  You know Simms, the carpenter—”

The voice sounded strange and unnatural.

“Yes, I know Simms, the carpenter,” I muttered; but the words meant no
more to me than does some senseless phrase to the parrot that
mechanically repeats it.

“Them’s the first words you’ve spoke, sir.  Now let me pour a little
whiskey down your throat.”

The whiskey must have done me good, for I began to get my senses back
after a while and became conscious of a terrible throbbing in my head.
Putting my hand to my forehead where the pain was, my fingers came in
contact with blood.  That brought me round more than anything else, and I
shut my eyes and tried hard to remember where I was.

“Mr. Morgan, it won’t do to give up like this.  We can’t be over sixty
miles from the coast, and right in the track of the coal fleet at that.”

The voice sounded familiar now, and I knew it was the carpenter speaking.

“How did we come here, and where are the rest?  Where is the ship?” I
asked, still a good deal bewildered.

There was a groan and a short pause before the answer came.

“No mortal man will ever set eyes on the _St. Lawrence_ again, Mr.
Morgan, nor on any of her crew but you and me.”

It took me some minutes to realize those awful words.

“But Captain Fairley and his family—they escaped?”

“All gone, sir; all but us two.”

“How were we saved?” I asked, as soon as my mind had grasped the fact
that out of two dozen lives, ours alone had been spared.

“Everything was sucked down in the vortex—boats and all.  I held my
breath till I nearly burst before I came to the surface, and there you
was close beside me.  You was just going down again, I judged, when I
grabbed you.  A good ways off was Jim Parsons, but not another soul was
to be seen.  Two capstan bars floated near by, but I struck out for this
big piece of the poop-deck that we’re on now, which was half a ship’s
length off.  It must have been wrenched loose when she went down.  I made
shift to get on it after a hard fight, for I daren’t leave go of you for
fear you’d sink.  You was so limp I allowed you must be dead, and your
head was bloody besides.  Then I looked for Jim, but the poor fellow was
nowhere to be seen.”

I owed my life to the carpenter, that was certain.

“Don’t thank me any more,” said the brave fellow.  “You’d have done as
much for me.”

“How long have we been here?” I said. “Is this the first night after the

“Yes, sir; this time yesterday the ship was at Nanaimo.”

It seemed incredible.  A mere squall had wrecked that fine ship—a blow
not one twentieth part as strong as she had weathered hundreds of times
before—and all on account of a shifted cargo.

“Is there any water to drink?”  I knew very well there couldn’t be, yet I
asked the question.

“No, Mr. Morgan.  I happened to have this flask and an apple in my
pocket, which is all we’ve got.  If we were in mid-ocean now, our logs
would soon be wrote up, but I make no doubt we’ll be picked up in a day
or so at the most.  There’s no sea on, so our chance is good.”

We didn’t talk much for a long time, but just before daylight the
carpenter, who had been standing up, said: “Don’t be excited, sir, but
there’s a vessel bearing down.”

“Where away?  Point her out!”  I struggled up, though it made my head

None but a sailor would have recognized a vessel in that dark blotch away
in the north.  My heart thumped pretty loud when I sighted it, and
realized that the craft was coming our way.  We prayed for daylight,—or I
did, anyway,—and it was the first prayer I’d said for years.

Well, the sun came up, and there was a large Englishman not four miles
off.  She couldn’t help seeing us, but we never stopped waving the
carpenter’s coat—I had none—till they signalled us.  No need to tell how
we got picked up, or how glad we were to have a ship’s deck under our
feet again.  She proved to be the _Scottish Glens_, bound from Tacoma to
Hamburg, and all hands were mightily interested in our story, several
having seen the _St. Lawrence_ sail the morning before.

There we were not a hundred miles from shore, but of course the captain
wouldn’t put back, so there was nothing for it but to start on an
eighteen-thousand-mile voyage.  We worked our passage, and an awful one
it was as far as length goes.

While entering the harbor of Hamburg, one hundred and ninety days later,
a small boat came alongside with mail for the officers and crew.  There
was a large assortment of letters and papers bearing postmarks from all
parts of the world; but the carpenter and I got nothing, nor did we
expect anything, for our relatives must have long since given us up.  One
of the officers handed me a late copy of the Marine Register, and in the
department of Disasters I found this item, which sounded like my


    St. Lawrence (ship), Fairley, which sailed from Puget Sound April 7
    for San Francisco, has never been heard of since, and is supposed to
    have foundered with all hands.  Posted at Lloyd’s as missing.


[Picture: A Dangerous Cargo] The south-east trades of the Pacific usually
carry the north bound vessel well across the Line.  But they had been
failing gradually for some days; and now the long, low steel hull of the
British ship _Lochleven_ had almost ceased to move, although she was yet
a good two degrees south of the equator.  It was very provoking; the more
so that she had made very fast time thus far, and Captain Stafford had
entertained hopes of making an unusually quick passage.  But these hopes
were slowly vanishing.

The remarkable feature of a calm in the equatorial latitudes of the
Pacific is the interesting appearance of the water, which literally teems
with various forms of animal life.  It is clear and limpid as crystal,
and, viewed from the _Lochleven’s_ deck, an endless procession of strange
creatures slowly floated by with the current.  Two shapeless blotches of
film appeared, whose only sign of life was a great red eye at one end.
They seemed to have less than the consistency of jelly, and represented
one of the lowest forms of animal life.  Next was a curious jointed
creature of a deep orange tint, coiled up like a snake.  Then a fragile
nautilus was borne along, with the delicate pink shell projecting above
the surface like a sail,—“Portuguese man-of-war” seamen call it,—while a
bunch of long tentacles hung down beneath.  Just over the stern were two
active little fish the size of a brook trout, whose bodies were blue,
with wide brown stripes.  The pair swam side by side, occasionally
darting away capriciously, only to return in a moment.  How harmless and
innocent they looked!  And yet their presence was a certain indication
that a shark lurked beneath the ship.  One or two of these pilot-fish
always accompany a shark to find his prey and lead him to it, for their
ugly protector is lazy and nearsighted, and would fare badly without
them.  Close to the ship’s side a magnificent dolphin floated motionless
in the translucent water; the beauty of his steel-blue and pale lemon
tints being enhanced by the clear element until the splendid creature
seemed too glorious to be real.  So quiet was the ocean, so still the
fish, that one might easily imagine it only the image of a dolphin
reflected in a vast mirror.

Several hundred miles to the eastward of where the _Lochleven_ lay
becalmed were the Galapagos Islands, where thousands of turtles assemble,
lay their eggs in the sand, and then float away with the current;
sleeping on the water most of the time.  A dozen were now in view at
various distances from the ship, besides a big one that had just been
captured, and was crawling awkwardly about the deck.  Its great
discolored shell, dead-looking eyes, and beak massive enough to sever a
man’s wrist, gave little indication of the rich steaks and agreeable soup
into which the cook promised to convert it on the morrow.

Howard, the captain’s seven year old son, considered the turtle a new
kind of steed, and bestrode its broad back in great glee.  The
bare-footed youngster was brown as a berry, and carried a toy sailor
which had been christened Lord Nelson.  The fact that his lordship was
minus an arm only increased the affection with which he had been regarded
for two years past, when he supplanted a golden haired doll, which Howard
soon after consigned to a watery grave.

Captain Stafford had been standing by the main hatch, watching the
turtle, and seeing to it that his reckless son did not get a finger
bitten off, when he became sensible of a faint, almost imperceptible
odor.  It was so vague as to be almost intangible—probably not half a
dozen on board would have noticed it even had they stood where the
captain did then.  At first he tried to think it might be only
imagination, and this view of the matter was strengthened when he walked
to another part of the deck not far off and detected no odor whatever.
He returned to his former position and sniffed the air as a hound does
when scenting danger.  Again that slight smell of gas.

Captain Stafford knew what sort of a cargo was stowed under his feet, and
from that moment he thought no more of the turtle.  Walking to the
carpenter-shop, he beckoned to its occupant.  “Carpenter, get the main
hatch off at once.”

Cardiff coal is extraordinarily liable to spontaneous combustion, and not
a few of the many ships that carry it from Cardiff and Swansea all over
the world catch fire.  Often the danger is discovered in time to be
checked, but one of the peculiarities of this cargo is, that it may burn
for days and even weeks in the center of the mass without giving the
least sign, only to break forth at last in uncontrollable fury.  The
_Lochleven_ carried 4,000 tons of this commodity, consigned to San

The carpenter brought out his tools and began removing the hatch-cover,
while such of the crew as were aloft “tarring down” the rigging wondered
what this unusual proceeding meant.  The moment the aperture was laid
open the nostrils of those who looked down were saluted by a smell like
that of a sulphur match that has been lighted and then immediately
extinguished.  It was not overpowering, and the captain was the first man
to descend the ladder.  The carpenter followed with an iron testing-rod,
and then the mate, with several of his watch.  The latter were equipped
with spades.  Placing his hand upon the coal, the captain found it
slightly warm on the surface, and the crew commenced digging according to
his directions.  Then the carpenter inserted the testing-rod, which was
withdrawn presently, and showed that no fire existed thereabout, although
the coals were badly heated.

“Now, carpenter, take off the other hatches, and use the tester in the
other parts of the ship.  And you, Mr. Maitland, get the rest of your
watch down from aloft.  Let them bring below every spade on board, and
dig trenches wherever the coal is heated.”

The captain’s lungs were not strong and he was seized with a fit of
coughing, brought on by inhaling gas.  This compelled him to go on deck
for a time, and he saw Mrs. Stafford approaching.

“What is wrong, Edward, and why are the hatches being opened?  You look

“Nothing serious, I hope.  The cargo is badly heated, but we find no fire
as yet.”

Mrs. Stafford glanced at her husband interrogatively, as if to divine
whether he concealed anything.  She was a woman of commanding presence,
and though hardly thirty-five, her abundant hair was perfectly white.

“There is no smoke,” she said, looking down into the hold.

Even as she spoke the carpenter removed the third hatch, and instantly a
thin, yellowish vapor ascended into the air.  “That’s a bad sign,” said
McKenzie, the third mate, aside to the carpenter, who was preparing to
descend.  But he drew back, holding his nose, and before it was possible
to go down a wet sponge had to be bound over his mouth and nostrils.
Those who accompanied him took the same precaution.

It was nearly noon, and time to take sights.  Still no wind, and the
rudder-chains creaked and rattled as though to remind everyone that a
calm prevailed.

While Captain Stafford waited for the sun to reach the zenith, the
carpenter approached, with a serious face.

“There looks to be a fire, sir, in hatch No. 3.  The further down the men
dig the hotter the coal gets, and the smoke is so much thicker we can
hardly keep at work.  All hands are digging trenches, but I’m afraid,
sir, that opening the hatches is making it worse.”

“Begin now and pump water into the trenches.  We will see what effect
that has.  I shall be there as soon as possible.”

He hardly dared to think what would become of the ship in case it should
prove impossible to subdue the fire.  She was a fine new vessel, having
been built on the Clyde only two years before.  Should a fair wind spring
up and the fire continue to burn inwardly, there might be some hope of
making Callao or Panama, and thus saving the ship; but here they were in
a dead calm, at a place where a steady wind of any sort was practically
out of the question.

All the afternoon water was pumped into the hold, being led over the coal
by means of the trenches, and when pumping ceased early in the evening it
appeared to have done much good.  The coal in the main hatch was cooled
off, and the smoke had disappeared from the one next to it.  But the
morning would prove whether the fire was to be subdued or not, and the
crew were ordered to bring up their mattresses and sleep on deck.  Then
all the hatches were tightly battened down in order to exclude air from
the hold, and supper was served two hours later than usual.  But no one
in the cabin except Howard was able to do justice to the turtle-steak,
the others hardly knowing what was before them.  Anxiety and suspense
destroy appetite, and not until morning arrived would it be known whether
or not the fire had the ship at its mercy.  If the coal was merely heated
and not actually burning, the water pumped on it would probably suffice
to avert combustion.  The fact of the vapor having vanished was of little
importance—the exterior of a volcano may be treacherously fair and
peaceful at the very moment the interior is a mass of molten fire.

Howard turned in at the usual time.  He vaguely understood that something
was wrong, and wondered why all were so grave.  But the boy saw neither
fire nor smoke, and his childish mind had not yet grasped the peril which
threatened the ship.  Clad in his white nightgown, he knelt at his
mother’s knee; and, burying his face in her lap, said the evening prayer
she had taught.  He repeated the words more slowly than usual, and after
reaching “Amen” continued earnestly, “God, don’t let us be burned up, and
please let us catch another turtle to-morrow.”  Then he ran into his
little room next to that of his parents, and bounded into bed in a way
that made the slats rattle.

Ten minutes later, when Mrs. Stafford stole in on tip-toe, the child was
sleeping peacefully; the bed-clothes were all kicked off, and the
cherished figure of Lord Nelson—without which he never went to sleep—had
just fallen from one little hand.  There he lay in the sweet
forgetfulness of childhood, while his mother stood beside him thinking of
the many nights he had slept in that little bed; in storm and calm, in
heat and cold, in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, in the Indian Ocean.  How
many more nights would he sleep there?  She softly imprinted a kiss on
the tanned forehead, and left the room with moist eyes.  Ascending to the
quarter-deck, she lay down in a hammock underneath the awning.

Captain Stafford and William Wells, the second mate, were standing by the
rail discussing the chances of saving the ship, and speaking of other
vessels that had caught fire under similar conditions.  One, a large
British ship, called the _Kenilworth_, had been abandoned after being
burned entirely out inside.  She was afterwards picked up, towed into San
Francisco, and sold at auction.  An American firm was the purchaser; she
was rebuilt, and is sailing the seas to-day under the stars and stripes.
Another, less fortunate, was entirely consumed in the South Pacific, her
officers and crew escaping to the island of Juan Fernandez.

The two men thought Mrs. Stafford was asleep, but she heard every word,
and the relation of these disasters depressed her spirits exceedingly.
She struggled with this feeling, for she was not a woman to despair
easily, and at length succeeded in forgetting everything in a deep,
dreamless sleep.

Dawn put an end to suspense.  Through two of the closed hatches a thin
cloud of smoke was filtering, proof conclusive that fire had been slowly
consuming the cargo for days and days past.  Now it was eating its way to
the surface The hatches were opened, but dense clouds of hot, suffocating
yellow smoke belched forth, driving all back.  It was overpowering, and
they were covered up again as fast as possible.  It was useless to pump
more water into the hold, for the removal of the hatches, by creating a
draft, would simply fan the fire.  Nothing but a miracle could now save
the ship.

Orders were given for the crew to bring all the stores and provisions up
from below,—all their bedding, sea-chests, and whatever else there was in
the fore peak.  The smell of gas down there was intolerable, and besides,
it was necessary to keep every hatch closed in order to smother the fire
as much as possible.  When everything had been brought up, the cover was
put on and secured, and the seams caulked with oakum.

One of the apprentices did not realize until it was too late, that the
crew must live entirely on deck from that time forth; evidently supposing
it would be possible to go below again after an interval.  When he
discovered his mistake the boy asked to be allowed to fetch his
sea-chest, but the hatch was secured permanently, and his request had to
be refused.  He was the only son of a widowed mother, who had fitted him
out finely on this, his first voyage, and tears filled his eyes when he
thought of all the things she had made for him with so much care.

The calm continued—there was no sign of the longed for wind.  Several men
were kept aloft all day to scan the horizon for a sail, even the captain
ascending the rigging; but not a solitary object was in sight.

The endless procession of yesterday floated by with horrible monotony.
The red-eyed blotches of film, the jelly-fish, the orange-colored snakes,
the large turtles asleep on the water or paddling slowly about,—it was
precisely the same.  The previous day the water and its strange
inhabitants had possessed a fascinating interest to many of those on the
ship; now this same scene of tranquil beauty had become an aggravation.
As Mrs. Stafford’s anxious eyes fell on these curious sluggish creatures
contentedly floating with the current, she wondered absently whether they
derived any pleasure from such a passive and aimless existence.  The two
pilot-fish still swam by the counter; the invisible shark still lurked
beneath the ship; the dolphin alone, was gone.

It was the Sabbath,—usually a day of perfect rest on the _Lochleven_, for
Captain Stafford was a man of strong religious convictions.  Every soul
on board, from Mrs. Stafford and Howard down to the apprentices, was
required to be present at the Sunday morning services.  In pleasant
weather these exercises were conducted on the main deck, where all hands
were accustomed to assemble at six bells (11 o’clock), but to-day was an
exception, for the crew was hard at work.

Every deep-water ship, before she reaches port after a long voyage, is
thoroughly cleaned and painted from stern to stern.  This is a job
requiring at least a couple of weeks.  The _Lochleven_ had expected to
reach San Francisco within a month, and ship-cleaning was nearly
completed at the time the fire was discovered.  The iron yards and lower
masts were freshly painted, the wooden top-masts and top-gallant masts
had been scraped, sand-papered and oiled, the rigging tarred down, the
life-boats and deck-houses cleaned and painted, and the decks holystoned
and oiled up to the top notch.

Now each man in the crew was working as only desperate men can, to heave
overboard every inflammable article about the ship.  Buckets of tar and
paint; cans of benzine and linseed oil; spare spars and planks; empty
barrels; old sails; oakum and sennit;—all covered the placid surface of
the ocean.

Howard was very silent all the morning.  He knew now something very
serious had happened, and his surprise was great at sight of so many
useful articles being made way with.  More than once had he been punished
for thus disposing of belaying pins, brooms, swabs and marline-spikes.
He trotted around near the mate, who was an especial favorite of his, and
followed the example of the others by throwing into the sea such light
articles as were suited to his strength.  But when six bells struck and
the work still continued, he ran to find his father.  Never before could
he remember a Sabbath when services were not in progress at that hour.

“I thought this was Sunday, papa?”

“So it is, Howard.”

“Then why don’t we have church?  Have you preached all the sermons you

“It is not that, my boy.”

“And shan’t we have duff for dessert, either?”

“I suppose we shall; we usually do on Sunday and Wednesday.  The reason
services are not held to-day is because there is much work that cannot be
delayed. The Lord helps those who help themselves, and instead of
stopping to pray for deliverance we must first do everything in our power
to lessen the danger.”

The boy thought a moment, and then ran off to inform his mother.  “Mama
won’t believe it; she’ll think I’m fooling her!” he called out to his

During the afternoon the boats were watered and provisioned, and made
ready for launching, though Captain Stafford was determined not to
abandon the ship until the last extremity.  It is appalling to think of
leaving a large vessel in mid-ocean for a few frail cockle-shells, and
the master of the _Lochleven_ entertained a desperate hope that some sort
of a breeze might soon spring up that would at least carry the doomed
ship nearer the Galapagos Islands,—the only land within a radius of a
thousand miles of the spot where the vessel lay.  A few white wind clouds
could be seen on the south-western horizon, but they rose very slowly.

The fire was evidently gaining very rapidly, for when Mrs. Stafford went
below towards evening she noticed a strong sulphurous smell pervading the
cabin and sleeping rooms.  The captain had not reckoned on this so soon,
and took the precaution to bring his sextant, chronometers, the ship’s
papers and some of the charts on deck, where all hands made arrangements
to pass the night; the crew being in the extreme forward part of the long
vessel, the officers amidships, and the captain’s family on the
quarter-deck.  This in itself was no especial hardship, for the weather
was warm, though not excessively so.

Magnificent beyond all description was the sunset.  The sky reflected
every possible tint—indigo, light blue, pink, magenta, light and dark
green, yellow, orange, gray and other hues—all blended and shaded so
harmoniously that it was impossible to tell where one began and another
left off.  In the midst of the indigo blue hung the moon, a crescent of
burnished silver.

As midnight approached, great banks of purple clouds massed themselves in
the heavens, while forked and sheet lightning shot across the lurid sky.
A dozen hands were aloft furling the skysails and royals.

“Only a squall, Mary,” Captain Stafford said, in answer to his wife’s
question, “but there is wind behind it, though perhaps not much.”

In the early morning hours the first great drops pattered heavily on the
awning, and a puff of wind was perceptible soon after.  Mr. Wells had the
deck, and the men joyfully sprang to the braces to trim the yards in
accordance with his orders.  By the time this was accomplished the
tropical rain descended in perfect torrents,—blinding sheets,—and the
ship was well heeled over, running before a heavy squall with nearly
squared yards.  The rain hissed into the foaming ocean, the lightning
flashed, and for four hours the _Lochleven_ seemed literally to fly, as
if trying to escape the demon of destruction within.  The awning was new
and shed the torrents of water well, though the heaviness of the deluge
threatened to split it.

The squall passed over slowly, having helped the ship along nearly fifty
miles towards the islands.  Then the rain ceased and the wind nearly so,
leaving only a two-knot zephyr.  Even this was better than a calm, but
soon after sunrise it increased to a steady breeze which held all that

The captain and Mrs. Stafford undertook to go below and bring up some of
their clothes and other possessions, but were rendered nearly insensible
before they had crossed the cabin.  Up through the floor came volumes of
poisonous gas, rendering the atmosphere so stifling that both hastened
back and stumbled up the companion-way to the purer air.  The books,
trinkets and souvenirs that Mrs. Stafford had picked up all over the
world,—many of which were rendered dear by their associations, rather
than by their intrinsic value,—all these things she prized so highly were
utterly lost.  The captain had private charts belonging to himself that
could scarcely be replaced.  It was impossible to get at them.

All the scuppers were plugged up and water pumped on the main deck until
it fairly swam, There was nothing else to be done but to scan the horizon
and hope that the crisis might not come until the wind had carried them
nearer the islands, which were yet a good three hundred miles to the

Another squall from the southwest towards evening increased their speed,
though everyone was in constant fear lest the wind should fail entirely
when it passed over.  Captain Stafford resolved to take to the boats the
moment it fell calm, for it was already perilous to remain on the ship.
They were literally living over a volcano, and nothing but the desire to
get as near land as possible induced him to stick to the vessel so long.

Occasional heavy puffs of smoke and sparks came from two of the hatches
towards morning, and all hands were on the qui vive, momentarily
expecting the order to get the boats over.  The wind grew lighter, and as
it failed the poisonous vapors nearly choked those on board.

The man at the wheel struck eight bells—it was 4 A.M.  Never again would
those spokes be clasped by human hands, or that bell be heard to ring.
From away forward floated the answering sound of the bell on the

Then came the order “Abandon ship!”

The ocean was calm, and three of the boats were launched without
difficulty; Captain Stafford, Mr. Maitland and Mr. Wells each taking
charge of one.  There was no time to take a last look, no time for
anything but to hurry away from the ship, before the accumulation of gas
in the hold should burst the decks open or blow the hatches off.

The _Lochleven’s_ sails were flapping softly in obedience to the gentle
swell.  Her four tall masts with their great spread of canvas, and
imposing three hundred feet of dark hull, lent a deceptive appearance of
security and majestic strength.  She had not been deserted any too soon,
for just as the stars were fading in the east before the swift tropical
dawn, the expected rending of her decks took place.  Clouds of smoke and
sheets of flame leaped up, the canvas and rigging caught, and in an
incredibly short space of time, the great vessel was blazing fiercely.

                       [Picture: The Burning Ship]

The blowing up of the decks released the imprisoned flames, which roared
and crackled; writhing up the ropes and shrouds to the very mast heads,
as though eager for more material to devour.

Those in the boats watched the awful spectacle with fascinated eyes.  The
heat became unbearable, burning brands fell into the ocean, and a little
breeze springing up, they took advantage of it to get under way.  Fanned
by the rising wind, that four thousand tons of burning coal lighted up
the ocean for miles and miles around, while the boats seemed to be
floating on a sea of blood.  To their awe-struck occupants, it seemed
that the great beacon must be visible from the Galapagos Islands,—the
haven which they were destined to reach three days later.

Suddenly a cry came from Howard.  In the hurry and excitement of
departure, Lord Nelson had been left behind!  He begged his father to put
back—implored his mother, with choking sobs, to let him save his
cherished companion.  They tried to comfort him, but in vain.  In
speechless grief the boy held out his arms towards the burning ship,
gradually melting into the horizon line; and if Howard Stafford lives to
be four score, he will never shed more bitter or scalding tears than fell
from his eyes at that moment.

        [Picture: “Abe hurled the duff at the astounded minister”]


[Picture: The Parson’s Text] Her Majesty’s ship _Crocodile_ was anchored
in Plymouth Roads one fine Sunday morning, and a couple of seamen had
obtained shore leave for the afternoon.

Bill and Abraham (called Abe for short) were jolly good fellows of more
than average intelligence, and they determined to enjoy their day to the
utmost.  To this end they had refused to join the mess at dinner, in
order that their appetites might be the keener for the viands at the
Royal George, to whose hospitable doors they directed their steps upon
landing.  Both were rigged out in their best togs, and took their seats
at a table with the pleasant consciousness that their personal appearance
was just about at high water mark.

“Heave us one o’ them programmes, Sally,” said Bill.  “A mighty trim lass
you are, if I does tell you so.”

“Me name is Lucy, your honor,” replied the buxom waitress with a smirk,
as she placed a bill-of-fare before the twain.

“Married?” asked Bill.

“No, sir.  I’ve not yet met me fate,” answered Lucy, demurely.

“Crackey!  You must be stage-struck.”

“’Vast there, Bill, and quit your foolin’,” interrupted Abe.  “I’m
’ungry.  Wot will we ’ave?”

He was considerably older than his companion, and had reached that stage
in life when not even the charms of a pretty waitress could make him lose
sight of the fact that it was past the time for dinner.

It seemed to Abe that their orders would never arrive, so he spent the
time in devouring a bottle of little round pickles which occupied the
center of the table. Bill kept trying to attract the attention of a
golden haired fairy who was opening numerous bottles of ale in another
part of the room, and only desisted when Abe remarked: “Seems to me these
’ere pickles are awful salty.”

“Them ain’t pickles, you bloke; them’s holives,” said Bill, grinning.

“Wot’s that but another name for—”

Abe’s answer was cut short by the long-expected appearance of Lucy, and
both men were soon doing full justice to the dinner, which included
beefsteak and onions, fried sole with anchovy sauce, and a pot of stout;
besides half a dozen minor dishes, all of which they relished as only men
can who have lived for some time on ship’s stores.

At last Bill said: “Well, Abe, ain’t you most done?  I’m full to the

“Oh, sir, your honors ’asn’t ’ad the sweets yet,” expostulated Lucy.
“We’ve got some lovely tarts, and a duff, and—”

“Duff!  Bring us a whole one, quick!” cried Abe.

“We’ve eat too much,” said Bill.  “I never thought of the duff, or I
wouldn’t have eaten all this other truck.  We’ll never be able to finish
a whole one.”

“Yes we will, too,” Abe maintained; so the dainty was placed before them,
and they fell to with a will.  But both soon found that their eyes were
larger than their stomachs, and though Abe ate more than his companion,
even he had to stop before more than a third of the duff had been

“It’s too bad we ’ave to leave it,” he said regretfully.

An alarming idea suddenly struck Bill.  “Suppose we ain’t got money
enough to pay for all these things we’ve ’ad,” he whispered fearfully.
They asked for their reckoning, and alas! Bill’s surmise proved correct.

“If we ’adn’t hordered a whole duff, we’d ’ad money left,” said Abe, “and
now wot’s to be done?  We ain’t eat a quarter of it.”

Lucy thought of the shilling that Bill had recklessly slipped into her
hand unknown to Abe.  After a moment’s consideration, she said
confidentially, “I’ll leave out the price of the duff, for it’s mostly
all left, and very few calls for a whole one.  Nobody’ll be the wiser if
I brings ’em a piece of this.”

A load was removed from the minds of the sailors, both of whom thanked
the fair Lucy fervently, and if Bill had had any money left she would
have gotten it. Their table was in a corner near the entrance, and as
they rose to go a commotion in the rear of the room attracted Lucy’s
attention.  Bill was already at the door and Abe about to follow, when
the tempting duff again caught his eye.  He wavered a minute.  “I’ll be
blowed if I leaves it,” he muttered, as he unbuttoned his loose blouse.

All hands seemed to be gathering in the back of the large room, and after
a stealthy glance to be sure that he was unobserved, Abe seized the
remainder of the duff and placed it in his bosom.  Then he buttoned up
his blouse, drew his loose jacket together as much as possible, and
boldly walked out of the door with head well in the air.

Bill was a little uneasy at first upon hearing what his companion had
done, though he agreed that the duff would be delicious eating a few
hours later.  Finally he was rather glad of Abe’s action, and only hoped
that Lucy would not get into a scrape on account of it.

They walked along for some time, until they came to a church.  Many
people were entering, and the sound of the organ announced that services
were about to begin.

“Let’s go in, Abe,” said Bill.  “We looks decent, I guess, and I ain’t
been in a bloomin’ meetin’-house since Mag. Halton’s weddin’, when I was
a youngster.”

“All right.  We’ll cast anchor in this ’ere church for a while.  We’ll be
safer, too, for I’m kind afeerd of the hofficers of the law nabbing us if
we stays on the street.”

They passed through the vestibule and into the church; when an usher took
them in tow, and the pair were given seats in the extreme forward part of
the edifice—in the second row of pews.  Everything seemed strange to Abe
and Bill in that dim half-light, and their eyes had scarcely become
accustomed to the change from out doors when the grand music of the organ
again pealed forth, and the services began with a hymn from the surpliced

The novelty of the scene wore off after half an hour or so, and the
exercises began to seem a trifle tiresome.

“There ain’t nothin’ to’t but singin’ and then gettin’ down on your
knees, and then jumpin’ up and singin’ again,” whispered Abe.  “Awful
poor singin’ I calls it, too.  I’d like to give ’em a good chorus
now—somethin’ like ‘W’isky is the Life of Man’—just to show ’em wot real
singin’ is.”

“I can’t say as I admires the parson much, neither,” answered Bill.  “He
looks almighty severe, he does.  I’d hate to sign articles with a craft
he was skipper of; he’d hang two or three to the fore yard-arm every
morning, just for the fun of the thing.”

“I’m agreed on that, Bill.  But look—the old boy’s goin’ up them steps.”

The minister entered the pulpit; the sermon was about to begin.

The members of the congregation settled back in their seats with looks of
expectant interest (or resignation) as the reverend gentleman gave a
preparatory cough.  After adjusting his spectacles and calmly surveying
his flock, he announced: “Brethren, my discourse this afternoon will be
from the text, ‘Abraham, Abraham, what is in thy bosom?’”

The two sailors convulsively grasped the pew cushions as they exchanged
glances of consternation.

“Good G—, Bill!” whispered Abe, “the parson knows I stole that duff!”

Bill sat as though petrified, and the silence in the house of worship was
such that you could have heard a pin drop.

After giving the congregation a few seconds to digest his words, the
pastor brushed a troublesome fly from his nose, and repeated more slowly
and impressively, “Abraham, Abraham, what is in thy bosom?”

This was too much for Abe, who jumped to his feet exclaiming: “You know
I’ve got it, parson, so, d— you, take it!”

Suiting the action to the word, he hurled the duff at the astounded
minister, and followed by Bill, fled incontinently from the church.



[Picture: Rounding Cape Horn] The full-rigged American ship _Sagamore_
was now sixty-seven days out from New York bound for San Francisco, and
on this September evening in one of the closing years of the nineteenth
century, she was flying along in the South Atlantic under a stiff
top-gallant breeze, at a rate that no steamer in that part of the world
could eclipse, if, indeed, any could equal.  With the wind a trifle abaft
the beam, yards well off the backstays, and showers of spray whirling
over the weather bulwarks to leeward, the stately ship swept on—an
animated picture of whose majesty and grace no one may conceive who has
not seen a large square-rigged vessel driving through the water at full

To the right, scarce fifty miles away, stretched the bleak and
inhospitable coast of Patagonia; to the left, equally distant, lay the
rugged and desolate Falkland Islands; behind, growing every instant more
remote, were civilization and government; while ahead lay an almost
boundless waste of storm-swept waters frowned upon by grim Cape Horn
itself—firm ruler of a region which for three centuries has tried the
patience of mariners, and tested the endurance of the stoutest ships that
man can build.

The usual preparation for rounding the Horn had been made.  The old
patched-up sails had been taken down, and strong new ones bent in their
places—for a ship, unlike a person, wears her best suit of clothes in
foul weather;—lanyards and standing rigging had been renewed and
strengthened; preventer braces attached to the principal yards; and
life–lines stretched all over the main deck.

It was the second dog-watch from 6 to 8 P.M.—and a grand but
stormy-looking sunset had given place to the long twilight that prevails
in these high latitudes.  A solitary star of great size blazed in the
zenith, while on the northern horizon, resembling an immense open fan,
there was a fine display of the Aurora Borealis, which appeared to rise
out of the sea and was becoming more beautiful as the twilight deepened.

Up on the poop-deck, clad in warm ulsters, the two passengers were taking
their evening constitutional, occasionally pausing to make some comment
on the myriads of Cape pigeons whirling about the ship, or to watch a
lordly albatross swoop down from above and dive beneath the waters—seldom
failing to seize the hapless fish that his unerring eye had spied from
afar.  Both were young fellows of perhaps twenty-five, who in this long
voyage had sought rest; the one from college studies too closely pursued,
and the other from the countless worries and nervous tension of American
business life.

Will Hartley and Frank Wilbur had never met until the day before leaving
New York, and as both were of rather reserved dispositions, their
relations at first were those of acquaintances rather than friends.  But
all that was now changed, for gradually they began to thoroughly like
each other; and by this time were nearly inseparable.  Several months’
daily intercourse between two young men shut up in a ship together is a
severe test of companionship, but in the present case it had resulted
most happily.

Hartley broke a short silence by saying; “To think that ten weeks have
passed since I saw a newspaper!  All sorts of events have happened on
shore that no one here dreams of.”

“What do we care?” answered Wilbur, with a laugh.  “We are in a world of
our own, and as for me, I don’t bother about what is going on in the
United States.  It seems as if I had always lived on this ship, and my
whole past life appears a vague dream.  What I would like to know is,
whether the _Arabia_ and _Iroquois_ are ahead of us or not.  It will be
too bad if they beat us to San Francisco.”

“No danger of that if we keep up this rate of speed.  George! but we’re
traveling.  Let’s take a look at the log.”

Captain Meade, a fine-looking man of fifty, joined the passengers,
remarking as he rubbed his hands in a satisfied fashion, “Well,
gentlemen, this is a good start around the Horn.  We were 50° 45’ south
this noon, and if this wind would only draw into the north a trifle and
then hold, we might be across 50 in the Pacific a week from to-day.  I
made it in six days once, but never expect to again.”

When a seaman speaks of rounding Cape Horn he does not mean simply
passing the Cape itself, as one might Cape Cod or Cape Flattery.  Looking
at a map of South America, we find that the Horn is situated in 56° south
latitude; but from the moment a ship crosses the fiftieth parallel in the
South Atlantic until she has passed down around the stormy Cape and up in
the Pacific to the fiftieth parallel in that ocean,—a distance
approaching a thousand miles, she is said to be “rounding Cape Horn.”
Until she is across 50 in the Pacific, the vessel is never safe from
being blown clear back to the Cape by the furious western gales and
hurricanes that rage almost continuously in this region.  Thus the
_Sagamore_ had already started to round the Horn, although she was yet
several hundred miles from the place itself.

The wind had increased to nearly a gale, and the ship was beginning to
take some good-sized seas on board.  The big surges struck the vessel’s
sides with a shock that made her tremble as she sped on, and the mate
soon bawled out, “Clew up the mizzen to’-gallant s’il!”  The work of
stripping the ship continued until nothing remained but a few
storm-sails.  All hands had been called, and it was indeed a sight to see
the men aloft on the yards in the gathering darkness, as they tugged at
the flapping canvas, trying to lay it on the yard so as to pass the
gaskets round; while the wind howled through the rigging like mad, and
the _Sagamore_, as she plunged on, began to roll at a lively rate under
the influence of the big sea which was being kicked up.

“I’m glad I’m not a sailor,” said Wilbur, preparing to go below.  Just
then a comber broke against the stern, and a good-sized lump of water
plumped down on his back, drenching him thoroughly.  Hartley laughed; so
did the bo’s’un, who passed at that moment, and the passengers quickly
descended the companion-way to the cabin, whose warmth and security were
in sharp contrast to the bellowing gale and streaming decks without.

An exquisitely wrought lamp of Benares brass—it had once graced a
viceroy’s mansion in Calcutta—shed its soft light on the marble-topped
center table.  The captain’s compass affixed to the ceiling silently
indicated the vessel’s course, and a number of fine geraniums which
ornamented the wheel-house windows in warm weather now occupied a rack
about the inside of the skylight.  The ends of the room were occupied by
two cozy sofas, with lockers underneath; one containing old copies of
“Harper’s” and “Scribner’s,” while a liberal supply of ale, beer, and
similar comforts filled the other.  Upon the walls, handsomely finished
in panels of natural woods, were a brace of revolvers and several
glittering swords and cutlasses belonging to the captain,—excellent
weapons to have on a ship far removed from all civil law for months at a
time.  The floor was of Oregon pine, beautifully oiled and polished.
Contrary to custom, it was on this voyage covered by a carpet that the
steward had put down soon after leaving port, “so as the passengers
wouldn’t break their necks when she got to rolling off Cape Horn.”
Nearly all the way from New York to the Falklands the weather had been
glorious, and the ship stood up like a church in the few squalls that
were encountered; but now the young men began to think the steward had
known what he was about when that carpet was laid.  Walking or even
sitting still had become an accomplishment, so Hartley brought out the
fifth volume of “Les Miserables,” while Wilbur produced one of the
numerous books he had provided.  With chair-backs to the table, and feet
braced against the sofas, they defied the elements temporarily and read
on—to the accompaniment of groaning timbers, an occasional crash from the
steward’s pantry, and the muffled roaring of the gale without.

The storm gained strength as the night advanced.  While the mizzen
topsail was being furled, bo’s’un Merrell went forward under the
forecastle deck to put additional lashings on several casks of provisions
stowed in the vicinity.  He was assisted by two foremast hands, and the
trio had just secured a barrel of flour when the ship was struck by a
heavy sea, and gave a vicious roll that threw all three men against a
water-butt standing near.  The sailors gained their feet uninjured, but
before the stunned bo’s’un could recover himself, a half-filled cask of
beef broke loose and was hurled through space as though shot from a
cannon.  With a cry of warning, the two seamen stumbled out of the way,
but before Merrell could escape he was felled like an ox, and his lantern
smashed to fragments.  The motion in that extreme forward part of the
ship was very great, and the cask soon took another dive in a different
direction; when the men, guided by the groans of the injured bo’s’un,
groped their way to where he lay and contrived to drag him behind the
hatch-coaming.  He was able to sit up, and gasped out “Call the mate,
Jack; I’ve got a bad hurt.”

It was about two o’clock in the morning.  Captain Meade had been on deck
most of the night, and went forward upon hearing of the accident.  The
suffering man was borne into his little room near the galley, where he
underwent an examination which resulted in the discovery that the left
leg was broken midway between knee and ankle.

Few men have commanded deep-water ships for twenty years without having
had to deal with broken limbs occasionally, and the master of the
_Sagamore_ was no exception.  Twice before had he successfully met a
similar emergency, and in the present case there was a valuable assistant
at hand in the person of Mr. Hartley, who had just completed a course of
study at a New York medical college, and was now en route to the Pacific
Coast to practice.

Having made his way aft across the dark and steeply-inclined deck, the
captain called the steward, and then apprised Hartley of what had
occurred.  That young man had not slept for some hours, and upon learning
of the accident was most anxious to render all the assistance in his
power; for the bo’s’un was a good-natured fellow, liked by all.

While Hartley struggled into his clothes, Captain Meade procured splints
and bandages from the medicine-chest.  When both were ready, they opened
the storm-door leading onto the main deck, and awaited a favorable
moment.  The night was black, but the gloom was relieved somewhat by the
foam-covered water surging about the deck.  Holding to the life-lines
with one hand, they dashed forward along the lee side, stopping once to
seize the line tightly and haul themselves up off the deck to avoid a
deluge that tumbled over the weather bulwarks, and poured down to

The steward was already in attendance on the patient, and Hartley at once
set about uniting the broken bones and applying the splints.  What
Captain Meade would have considered a painful and disagreeable necessity,
he regarded from a professional standpoint only, and went about his work
with a coolness and assurance that greatly relieved both captain and
patient.  The abominable rolling was the worst obstacle to be overcome,
but the task was at last accomplished, and in a highly creditable manner.

Merrell was resting easier when Captain Meade and “the surgeon” proceeded
aft.  The former stretched the chart of the Cape Horn region upon the
cabin table and examined it long and closely; for Staten Land—rocky,
uninhabited, and with no lighthouse to reveal its position—was rapidly
being neared, and great caution was necessary.

There was now an apparent lull in the gale, but it was not for long.  At
daylight the _Sagamore_ entered a “tide-rip” whose waters, lashed into
fury by the gale, presented an awful spectacle.  The ocean resembled a
gigantic mill-race; the tide flowing one way, while a swift current set
in the opposite direction, forming a whirlpool.  Huge waves came from all
directions at once, pouring tons of water on the main deck and
forecastle.  Progress was well-nigh impossible, but the captain kept
resolutely on, knowing that the ship’s only salvation lay in running
through the tide-rip before she should be hurled upon her side by some
sea more mountainous than the rest.  This nearly happened once when a
towering wave half as high as the fore yard broke on board, staving in
the heavy door of the galley and flooding the interior, washing
everything movable from the decks; while the ship went over, and over,
and over, till her yard-arms almost touched the water, and her decks were
like the sloping roof of a house.

But the crisis was safely passed, and the maelstrom left behind.  The
gale blew itself out during the forenoon, the sky cleared, the sun shone
brightly through the clear frosty atmosphere, and land was visible from
the deck.


If you have never been so situated that for many weeks your eyes have not
beheld a solitary foot of ground you can hardly appreciate the emotions
of all on board the _Sagamore_ as they looked on that bleak and
forbidding promontory rising out of the mist—Cape St. John.  A few hours
later, the ship was opposite the treacherous straits of Lemaire, and very
near the shore.  The entire length of Staten Land from Cape St. John on
the east to Cape St. Bartholomew on the west, was stretched out like a
grand panorama; forty miles of low mountains, jagged rocks, and broken
valleys, without a sign of animal or vegetable life, and with naught save
great patches of snow to relieve its black nakedness.  The straits of
Lemaire separate this body of land from Tierra del Fuego, and on the
latter might now be seen Bell Mountain,—a distant but lofty peak, on
whose snow-capped summit the sun shone in wintry splendor.

Hundreds of large sailing vessels pass Cape St. John every year on their
long voyages from New York, the British Isles and Continental Europe to
our Pacific coast.  It is a great rendezvous, and the _Sagamore_
presently found herself in the midst of an imposing fleet of merchantmen
of all nations.  Here, at the southern extremity of the American
continent, were ten ships and three barks, carrying the world’s products
to San Francisco.  Scores of eager faces lined the bulwarks, while on the
poop of the nearest craft stood a woman—the first representative of the
fair sex that anyone on the _Sagamore_ had seen for three months.  As the
large vessels, with all their canvas set, slowly mounted the regular
swell, a murmur of admiration burst from the passengers, who longed for a
far-reaching camera to preserve the beautiful picture through years to
come.  Those ships had completed the first half of their long journeys,
and now sailed in company for a few hours, soon to be scattered far and
wide upon the mighty Pacific, to meet again at the Golden Gate, thousands
of miles away.  It was a sight to make the pulses thrill.


“Come on deck if you want to see Cape Horn!” called out Captain Meade to
the passengers in the cabin, who instantly hurried on deck, for one can’t
see the famous Cape every day.

The captain silently pointed his finger, and there, looming up out of the
morning mist, the passengers saw Cape Horn.  It was nearly twenty miles
off, but so deceptive are distances at sea that it seemed not half that
distance away.  Who can behold without a feeling of awe, that black and
naked rock, rising precipitously from a low islet to a height of five
hundred feet!  Like some grim and frowning sentinel, it stands guard
where the waters of the two great oceans meet; tyrannizing over and
sorely harassing the staunch ships which even its power is rarely able to
destroy; drawing on, but to beat roughly back; and occasionally
permitting one of them to fly past without even a protest, as if to say,
“I can be gracious when the mood’s upon me.”

It was a sharp, bracing morning.  Everything wore a peaceful aspect, in
spite of the peculiar moaning and whistling sound in the rigging which is
always heard here.  To the south, a vast ice-floe glittered in the
brilliant sunlight; to leeward, two thin columns of smoke-like mist
rising from the water showed where a couple of whales were blowing; while
much nearer the ship, five splendid albatross sat gracefully upon the
heavy swell—their black wings in striking contrast to their snow-white
backs and necks.  This grand looking creature is to the birds of the
ocean what the eagle is to the birds of the land, and the martial look in
its piercing black eye suggests a prince in disguise from some fairy

The cabin breakfast had just been concluded, and the Cape pigeons were
swarming around the ship, or swimming in the water alongside.  The
cunning horde knew the hours meals were served as well as they did day
from night, and at such times all were on hand, waiting for the scraps
which they knew would be thrown overboard by the cook and steward.  They
are pretty creatures, uniting the eyes and feet of a duck with the head,
bill, and other characteristics of the domestic pigeon.  The breast is
white, the head and back a bluish black, while the wings are dappled
black and white.  Beneath the feathers, the bird is covered with a
wonderfully thick, soft down, which is so dense that not a drop of the
icy water in which the creatures delight to swim and dive, can ever
penetrate to the skin.  Soon after a ship has passed the latitude of Rio
de Janeiro, the pigeons begin to make their appearance, and they follow
that vessel for weeks and weeks, until she has passed around the Horn,
and far up into the Pacific.  Then they disappear gradually as the warm
latitudes are reached, transferring their allegiance to some craft bound
back in the opposite direction.  How they obtain sleep and rest is a
mystery, for one never lights on a ship; but no matter how fast a vessel
may go, or how severe a gale may rage, the whole tribe is in attendance
every morning, like an army following its general.

The cook threw overboard a quantity of table scraps, and instantly every
pigeon flew to the spot; all keeping up a discordant scolding and
chattering, as each tried to keep the others from getting a bite, at the
same time gulping down anything it could get hold of.  Several dived far
down after sinking morsels.  The passengers deciding to catch some of the
birds, a line, with a small baited hook, was trailed out astern, and
seven pigeons were soon hauled aboard, being caught in the mouth
precisely as a fish is.

The first thing any ocean bird does upon being put on the deck of a ship,
is to become sea-sick; and the prisoners unanimously followed this
program.  After parting with their breakfasts, they felt better, and one
could not help laughing at the ludicrous expression of astonishment in
the creatures’ eyes as they surveyed their novel surroundings.  In the
air or in the water, they were the personification of grace; but now they
seemed to be all legs, and fell down, or plumped into something, after
waddling a few yards.  Then they ran along flapping their wings, as they
tried to get sufficient start to enable them to soar, but only one
succeeded in clearing the bulwarks.  An old necktie was torn into strips,
one being fastened around the neck of each bird.  Thus ornamented, the
captives were tossed up into the air, and off they went to tell their
companions amongst what strange barbarians they had fallen.

The barometer had been falling for some days, and in spite of the fine
morning, there were strong indications of an equinoctial hurricane.  A
heavy snowstorm hid Cape Horn from view that afternoon, a contrary wind
sprang up, and the ship was driven entirely off her course, being
compelled to head for the South Pole.  The passengers arrayed themselves
in oilers, not forgetting to tie strands of rope about their boot-tops to
keep the water out, and paced the quarter-deck, where George Marsh, the
mate, entertained them with tales of torrid Singapore.

But spray was flying over the _Sagamore_, the gale’s roaring made
conversation difficult, and though the speed was exhilarating, the young
men were soon driven below, leaving the mate to his lonely vigil.

He paced the deck with no companion but his own gloomy and bitter
thoughts, for his life had been a hard one.  Confined to a seamen’s
hospital for many weary months by a terrible accident, he had thus lost
command of a fine bark; and when at last he left the sick room, it was
only to receive the crushing intelligence that all his earthly
possessions had been destroyed by fire.  Though a splendid seaman, he had
since been unable to obtain a master’s berth, and now as a subordinate,
trod the deck of a ship which he was in every way fitted to command.

By midnight the ship was rolling so frightfully that it was feared some
of the masts would go.  Great seas were coming aboard, the main deck
resembled a lake, and the crew had hair-breadth escapes from going
overboard.  The bellowing of the hurricane was awful, and a constant
succession of snow-squalls struck the ship, sending the white flakes
driving through the air and upon the decks in a feathery cloud.  The
carpenter was proceeding to the pumps to sound the well when he fell upon
the slippery deck, fetching up in the lee scuppers a moment later, where
he was buried in foam and water.  He had presence of mind enough to grasp
a rope, and when the ship rolled in the opposite direction he emerged
from his unceremonious bath as though nothing had happened.  The
hurricane continued to gather force; the decks were swept of everything
movable, and the possible shifting of the cargo caused continual
apprehension.  But a more serious danger threatened the ship.  When the
temperature of the water was taken, the thermometer registered a sharp
drop, indicating the proximity of a large body of ice.  A sharp lookout
was kept, but the blackness of the night and the fury of the hurricane
made it impossible to see any distance from the ship.

                      [Picture: Among the Icebergs]

Just before daybreak, the thrilling cry of “Ice dead ahead!” came from
the lookout, and there was hardly time to give the wheel a few turns
before a great gray mass loomed up on the port bow.  A moment more, and
one of the gigantic ice mountains so dreaded in these southern seas came
into plain view.  It towered far above the mast-heads, culminating in a
circle of fantastic pinnacles which resembled the turrets of a castle.
The waves, breaking against its base with a noise like thunder, hurled
themselves far up its steep sides, soon to descend in the form of foaming
cataracts and water falls.  High up on the near side, overhanging the
water, was a threatening mass of ice that seemed ready to fall on the
ship, and blot her out of existence.  So perilously close to the great
berg was the _Sagamore_, that its freezing breath chilled all on deck to
the marrow, and the ship’s red port light, as she swept by, shone weirdly
on the frozen mass, revealing gruesome caverns that penetrated far
inward.  Everyone breathed easier when the monster was passed, and
several recalled the names of missing ships that mysteriously disappeared
in the South Atlantic.

The first streaks of dawn revealed five more bergs, which formed an icy
barrier through which it was perilous to attempt a passage; while the
dangerous group of rocks known as the Diego Ramirez effectually blocked
the way to the north.  At any moment the flying ship might crash into one
of the bergs, so it was decided to heave to, thus lessening the danger of

Tacking a large square-rigged vessel is considerable of a job at any
time, but at night, and in a hurricane, it is an arduous task.  The
stiffened braces, wet with icy salt water, got tangled up, and
occasionally a man would make a mistake amid the maze of ropes, thus
adding to the confusion.  But at last the work was finished, and the ship
brought to a standstill.  Several times she went over so far that captain
and mates hardly dared to breathe for fear she was on her side and would
never right.  But after remaining in that precarious position for a
moment, the ship would keel over with a sickening velocity from one side
to the other; the mast-heads reeling dizzily against the sky, until she
brought up with a jerk, as a sea pounded against her side.  At each roll,
the bulwarks went far under, allowing a flood to come roaring and
tumbling aboard; washing about the main deck, tangling up ropes, and
knocking men off their feet.  Several seamen were kept busy attending to
the oil-bags, whose contents were poured upon the waters in large
quantities, but without the usual effect.  The exposed position of the
forward house subjected it to the full fury of the hurricane.  The
helpless bo’s’un lay in his bunk listening to the roaring and screeching
outside, and once when an unusually big sea descended on the roof
overhead, making the oak beams crack ominously, he set his teeth and
thought of the calamity that had recently befallen an American ship, when
the whole forward house with its sleeping inmates was carried overboard,
and half the ship’s company annihilated at one fell blow.

Pandemonium reigned in the cabin.  A sea stove in the companion door, the
water pouring down stairs and flooding everything.  Several pieces of
furniture broke loose, and were banged against the partitions half the
night.  Everything was upside down; oatmeal covered the floor of the
steward’s pantry, and the bathroom was littered with broken glass.  Both
passengers were thankful when daylight dispelled the most anxious night
either had ever passed.

For a long time, the steward could not get forward, nor was the cook able
to get aft.  Consequently, there was no cabin breakfast until nearly nine
o’clock.  Such a meal!  It was eaten by lamplight, for great seas were
thundering down on the poop overhead and the storm shutters to the
windows could not be taken off.  It had been found almost impossible to
keep anything on the galley stove, but the cook and steward between them
managed to prepare some coffee, biscuits, ham and potatoes.  The biscuits
were lost when the steward fell on the deck as he conveyed the breakfast
aft, but those who gathered about the table were satisfied, as they had
their hands too full to eat anything at all, and Wilbur kept thinking of
the line, “Some ha’ meat, and canna eat.”

All that day and night the hurricane lasted.  The following afternoon,
the barometer, after falling for a week, came to a stand at 28:20, and
the climax had been reached.

“I thought I had seen storms before,” said Wilbur, “but this equinoctial
has opened my eyes.  It passes my comprehension how any ship can stand
such a pounding and wrenching as this one has endured for three days and

“You have both been wishing for a genuine hurricane ever since leaving
New York, and now that wish has been gratified,” replied the captain.
“In my twenty-six voyages around the Horn I have never seen such weather,
though some ships catch it even worse; but with the _Sagamore_ under my
feet, and plenty of sea-room, I fear nothing.”

The captain turned in early that night, for his clothes had not been
removed for seventy-two hours past, during which trying interval he had
had no rest but a few short naps.  The passengers were thinking of
retiring also, when they heard a call from the steward, who requested
them to come into the dining room a moment.

“I want to show you a fine sight,” said he, standing by the door leading
onto the main deck, which he cautiously opened part way as Hartley and
Wilbur approached.

The hurricane had spent its force, and the young men looked out upon a
night scene of rare beauty.  Every cloud in the sky had vanished as if by
magic, and the blue vault of the firmament was brilliant with countless
myriads of stars.  Some were large, some small; and to the admiring gaze
of the watchers it seemed as if they had never seen so grand a sight,
even in the Southern Hemisphere, where the numerous planets,
constellations, and single stars illumine the night sky with a splendor
surpassing anything of the kind to be seen in the North.  But among all
those stars, and groups of stars, none could compare with that blazing
constellation that had now nearly reached the zenith—the Southern Cross.
It is first seen just before crossing the equator, but is then dim and
very low in the horizon, and visible but a short time each evening.
Gradually, as Cape Horn is approached, it rises higher and higher, its
appearance each night being foretold by its two flashing “pointer” stars,
which, like heralds announcing the coming of their sovereign, are visible
above the horizon a short time before the Cross itself appears.  In the
vicinity of the Horn this matchless constellation may be seen high in the
heavens, in all its glory—the stars composing it not larger than several
others in the sky, but as completely eclipsing them in brilliancy as
diamonds do pieces of glass.  Now, after three days and nights of warring
winds and waters, that Cross looked down upon the _Sagamore’s_ naked
masts and flooded decks like an emblem of promise and of peace.  Not a
great way off were the two curious patches of luminous film known as the
Magellan Clouds, looking strange and mysterious as they floated among
that sea of stars.

The foam-covered water washed about the deck as the ship rolled, and a
heavy sea tumbling aboard caused the steward to close the door in a
hurry.  Then the passengers took a gin-fizz as a night-cap, and turned


Becalmed off Cape Horn!

This may sound paradoxical, but calms do occur, though they are not
common.  But for indescribable grandeur, and as a manifestation of the
powers of nature, there are few things that will compare with a calm in
this region.

One degree south of the Horn, on the 57th parallel, there is no land
around the whole earth’s surface—not even an island; and this is the
primary reason why the largest waves to be found anywhere are met with in
this locality.  Here, unchecked and unconfined, they sweep entirely
around the globe; gathering strength and size as they move on, with
nothing to bar their resistless march or to make them swerve aside even a
hair’s breadth.  Lashed into fury by a gale, these waves are sufficiently
remarkable, but they are then in such a state of turmoil as to destroy
all regularity, making it impossible to tell where one begins and another
ends.  So, strangely enough, it is in a dead calm that one is more nearly
able to conceive of their vast proportions.  These periods generally
follow a hard westerly gale, and then it is a sight no words can depict,
to stand upon a vessel’s deck and watch the approach of those vast walls
of water; each one sharply defined, and wonderfully regular in form.
From the base of one to the base of the next following is frequently a
space of one thousand feet—a great valley, which, contrasted with the
long hills on either side, gives one some idea of the magnitude of these

Such a condition of things prevailed on the day after the equinoctial
hurricane.  The _Sagamore_ had not even steerage way, and lay broadside
on to the heavy swell, rolling as only a vessel can roll in a Cape Horn
calm.  The great blue hills came on slowly but regularly; and each one,
as it came beneath the ship, lifted her up on its crest as though she had
been a feather, instead of a vessel three hundred feet long, drawing
twenty-six feet of water, and with four thousand tons of railroad iron
and other heavy stuff in her hold.  Then, as it passed on, there was a
rattling of blocks and the heavy reports of canvas banged against the
rigging, as the _Sagamore_ slid down the side of the hill with her decks
at an angle of fifty degrees.

She had the usual nondescript crew found on deep-water ships, and after
hearing some of them talk, one might well agree with Mr. Marsh “That the
captain or mate who goes to sea now-a-days, should understand Chinese,
Greek, Hindostanee, Russian-Finn, and a dozen other tongues, besides
having the patience of Job.”  It being Sunday, no one was required to do
any work but what was necessary in navigating the ship, and the men
improved their leisure time in various ways.  A few spruced up a bit;
among them, Gene, the Frenchman, who was far above the rest in
intelligence and ability.  After arraying himself in a scarlet woolen
shirt, new trousers and shoes, he lay down in his bunk to read, unmindful
of the turmoil about him.  Several produced sewing materials and mended
their clothes, keeping time with their feet while an agile young fellow
danced; others sang coarse songs, or told stories.  Jack, a tow-headed
Scandinavian, devoured “Demon Dick, the Dare-devil.”  He had purchased a
number of these hair-raising effusions, and read them in preference to
the tracts and pious books furnished by the Sailors’ Aid Society, only
one of which had been opened, and that was being used up for cigarette
papers.  Some played gambling games, using plugs of tobacco for stakes,
while Jumbo, the smallest man on board (formerly a trapeze performer),
gave an exhibition on a tight rope which won applause.  One group
discussed the subject of provisions, and though all agreed that the
“grub” on the _Sagamore_ was satisfactory, some found great fault with
the cookery.  Then they abused the mates, decided that Captain Meade was
afraid to carry sail enough, and speculated as to how much Hartley and
Wilbur were worth—for whenever there are passengers on merchant ships the
crew seem to consider them millionaires.

But the great “character” in the forecastle was Andrew,—usually called
San Quentin, from the fact of his having “done time” in the California
penitentiary of that name.  He was a hoary-headed old sinner, whose
three-score odd years would have rendered him of little account before
the mast had he not belonged to that past age when merchant sailors had
to know their business, and were able seamen in something besides name.
Andrew was a voluble talker, and frequently related with gusto how he had
once “knifed” a fellow sailor who had roused his ire.

“A man ought to die when he gets to be fifty,” he remarked, rubbing a
rheumatic joint.

“Better jump overboard, then,” answered a voice.

“I’m gettin’ too old for this work,” Andrew continued, “and if the cap’n
says a good word for me, I’ll try and get in the Sailors’ Snug Harbor
when we comes back to New York.  Sure, I’ve been goin’ to sea forty-six
year, and I’m no better off now nor I was when I began.  They teached me
tailorin’ when I was in the pen, but I’d ship on twenty more voyages
afore I’d shut myself up in a little shop on shore where they ain’t room
to breathe.  But I’m a lucky old cuss” (with a laugh), “for I ain’t never
been wrecked in all my time at sea,—no, nor ever seed a wreck.”

“Andrew’s going to turn into a tough old albatross when he slips his
cable,” put in Gene, a smile on his clear-cut features.

“Be careful ye don’t turn into a molly-hawk yourself, ye French devil,”
retorted San Quentin, hurling his sheath-knife in the air, and
dexterously catching the descending point on the tip of his little

“Tumble out, mates,” called a sailor, poking his head through the door.
“There’s somethin’ up.  All hands aft is squintin’ through the glass at
what the matey says is a boat.”

This news brought everyone out on deck in a hurry.  Quite a distance from
the ship, a small object floated on the swell,—now lifted high on a sea,
then disappearing from view in the trough.  The officers had been
examining it through the telescope for some time, Mr. Marsh finally
declaring it to be a boat.  The sight of a solitary boat in such a place
gave rise to much speculation, and when the calm was replaced by a gentle
breeze, the course was changed so as to bring the waif alongside.

Within an hour the tiny craft was close by, and a melancholy spectacle
she presented.  Bottom upward, with jagged splinters projecting from her
shattered sides, she floated by on the sportive waves—an eloquent symbol
of recent disaster. How had she come there?  Where were her late
occupants?  None could tell but old ocean, glittering in the frosty
sunshine.  Upon her stern were the words “Dundee, of Liverpool.”  The
captain was about to go below in order to look up the _Dundee_ in the
shipping register, when a sailor hailed the deck from aloft.  A vessel
was visible far to the south!

The mate ascended the rigging, followed by the passengers; and sure
enough, the naked eye beheld a shadowy ship on the horizon which the
glass magnified into a wreck.  All was excitement; the course was again
changed, and the ship bore down for the distant vessel.  She was nearly
twenty miles away; the breeze was provokingly light, and it seemed an age
before the _Sagamore_ drew near the stranger.

Distress signals were flying from her foremast—the only spar left
standing.  The others hung over the side, their weight helping to careen
the vessel at a dangerous angle, besides pounding against her like
battering-rams every time she rolled.  Six men could be seen, one of whom
stood apart waving a flag, while most of the others ran about in the most
frantic transports; now falling upon their knees, then rising and
extending their arms toward the _Sagamore_.  The wreck was apparently
full of water, so there was no time to be lost.

Nothing short of a case like this could have induced Captain Meade to
launch a boat off Cape Horn, for the huge waves and the liability to
sudden squalls make it a perilous proceeding at all times.  Mr. Marsh
took command of the gig with a carefully selected crew, but it required
half an hours’ maneuvering to launch her.  At length a successful start
was made, and the gig went racing up the side of a big sea, was poised
giddily on its crest, and then darted down the incline as though bound
for the bottom.  On she went, her crew rowing like demons, while two men
bailed out the water that constantly threatened to swamp her.

As the rescuers neared the sinking vessel, the mate bawled “Wreck ahoy!
what bark is that?”

“The Dundee, of Liverpool, bound from Buenos Ayres to Valparaiso.  We are

“We are the American ship _Sagamore_, from New York for San Francisco.
Heave us a rope and we’re ready for you.”

The gig was now on the lee side of the bark, and as near the stern as
prudence would allow; so the men rested on their oars while Mr. Marsh
deftly caught the rope flung from the wreck by her captain.  In order to
enter the boat it was necessary for those on the _Dundee_ to slide down
the rope, and then be hauled aboard when the end was reached.  The
steward and three seamen constituted the first load; descending in
safety, one by one, though most of them were submerged twice before they
were at length pulled into the boat.  Two seamen, an apprentice and the
captain remained on the wreck, the latter declaring his intention of
standing by his craft to the last, though he well knew she was about to
take the final plunge.  Already that uncanny moaning sound heard only on
a foundering vessel was ascending from the black depths of the hold, as
the rising waters forced out the sustaining air through every crevice.

It was a hard pull back to the _Sagamore_,—against the wind all the
way,—and while the mate steered the heavily-laden gig, the steward
narrated the story of the catastrophe.  The _Dundee_, commanded by
Captain Murray, had sailed from Buenos Ayres without a cargo, taking
aboard for ballast eight hundred tons of dirt scooped from the river
bottom; and to this improper ballast the disaster was due.  She labored
heavily during the first day of the hurricane, and sprang a leak in
several places.  The incoming water soon converted the ballast into a
liquid mass, which surged about in the hold, finally hurling her upon her
side, and rendering her unmanageable.  While in this position, great seas
swept over her, smashing all the boats and loosening heavy spars, which
washed about the decks, knocking down the crew.  Two sailors and the
carpenter received broken limbs in this manner, and before they could be
rescued, all three were washed into the sea and drowned before the eyes
of their shipmates.  The mate was killed the following night by the
falling main mast, and to complete the horror of the situation, the pumps
became choked with mud, rendering them useless.  With water pouring into
every open seam, those aboard the settling bark had resigned all hope,
and were passively waiting for death when the _Sagamore_ hove in sight.

The ship’s side having been safely reached, the rescued men were quickly
drawn up to the deck, and the boat again started for the _Dundee_.  It
was a desperate chance whether she remained above water until the gig
could reach her; and each time the little craft was lifted upon a wave
the mate looked anxiously towards the wreck, half expecting her to have
vanished while his boat was in the trough.  What kept the bark afloat
during this interval was a mystery, but float she did, though suspended
as it were by a single hair above the fathomless depths.

When the gig brought up under her stern, the rope was again placed in
position, and the apprentice told to descend.  The youth was half way to
the boat when he became panic-stricken at sight of a great sea coming on
him, and cried for help.  The wreck rolled heavily towards the boat,
slackening the rope still further; the wave rolled over the apprentice,
and when it passed, there was the rope all on the surface, but the hands
that had grasped it a moment before were gone.  The bark’s captain ran to
the rail with a coil of rope ready to fling to the youth the instant he
should appear, but he was not seen, and hope of his rescue had about
gone, when Gene, with a sudden exclamation, reached over the boat’s side.
He had the drowning man by the hair!  After a struggle which nearly
capsized the gig, the apprentice was dragged into it, more dead than
alive.  Then the two remaining seamen made the trip without accident, and
the captain was ready—the last man to leave.

He paused an instant, his eyes slowly taking in every detail of the
familiar scene.  For fourteen years had he been master of that bark, and
even his unsympathetic nature was stirred to its very depths at the
moment of leaving her forever.  Now, in these last seconds of their long
association, a hundred past events were kindled into life again, and
flashed through his brain like the successive views of a panorama.

Hastily turning away, he tossed into the boat a package containing his
sextant, a favorite chronometer, and the bark’s papers.  He grasped the
rope,—was soon in the water,—at the boat’s side,—and then safely on
board.  At a signal from the mate, Gene severed the line with his
sheath-knife, and the _Dundee_ was abandoned to her fate.

“Now then,” cried Mr. Marsh, “give way with a will—look out! she’s going.
Row, row for your lives!”

The wreck gave a sudden lurch and then recovered herself with a
staggering motion just at the moment when those in the boat so
dangerously near expected to see her founder.  The oars were plied
vigorously, and the gig was more than half way to the ship when Jumbo
exclaimed, “Look at her now!”

The bark’s last moment had come.  Her bows rose gradually out of the
water, and she rolled slowly over, disappearing stern foremost, as easily
as though she were being launched into that element which she had sailed
so many years, and which was now ending her existence.  The fore mast,
with the distress signals fluttering in the breeze, was the last thing to
vanish; and as it sunk beneath the whirling vortex a groan escaped
Captain Murray.  As chief owner of the _Dundee_, his financial loss would
be considerable, but there was another stronger feeling.  In the vessel
which had just descended to unknown depths he had traversed all the
waterways of the globe; she had been his only home for many years, and
seemed almost a part of himself.  Kindred he had none, and the old bark
had absorbed whatever of latent affection there was in his cold nature.
Now she was gone as completely as if she had never existed; a few spars,
an empty cask, and the torn British ensign, alone remaining to show where
she had last been seen.

There was a dead silence in that little boat (save for the sound of the
oars) for many minutes after the final scene.  All seemed awed, and when
at length the ship’s side was reached, Captain Murray raised his head for
the first time since he had looked on his lost vessel.  His eyes were
moist with the only tears that they had known since childhood.  As he
climbed over the bulwarks, Captain Meade came forward—the American warmly
grasped the Englishman’s hand.  With rare tact, he spoke no word, but led
his guest down the companion-way and into the privacy of his own room,
leaving Mr. Marsh to attend to the proper disposition of the remainder of
the rescued.


There are few sights more thrilling than that of a vessel foundering at
sea; and for several weeks the _Sagamore’s_ people thought of little but
the lost bark and her crew.  The _Dundee’s_ steward was set to work in
the galley, and the able seamen were divided between the two watches,
where each day’s numerous duties soon made them forget their recent
hardships.  Captain Murray took the loss of his vessel much to heart, and
was greatly depressed for some days; but to distract his attention, he
voluntarily assumed the bo’s’un’s duties, and became less despondent as
time passed.

During the week following the rescue, the _Sagamore_, with streaming
decks, slowly but surely beat her way to the westward against contrary
winds.  Sometimes it was useless to attempt to proceed against the
tremendous head sea, and she was hove to for a time.  Then a gale would
swoop down, sails would be furled or reefed; and after it was over, a few
hours of what Captain Meade facetiously called “pleasant weather” would
intervene.  Then, if it happened to be day, old Sol shed his kindly
warmth upon the ship, and the leaden sky was changed to an alluring blue.
If night, the same glorious harvest moon that shone on fields and
vineyards far away, here flooded the angry ocean with her soft,
mysterious light.  At such times, when it was possible to set a few
sails, the merry clank, clunk, clank, of the capstan was heard as the
heavy yards were hoisted, to the wild accompaniment of a sailors’ chorus.
Every day it was “Tack ship” or “All hands reef sail,” until officers and
crew were well-nigh fagged out.  Most of those on board had been through
the same experience many times, and knew that until it ended, all they
could do was to bear their trials as best they could.

But one day there were indications of a change for the better.  The ship
was so far to the west, that a fair wind would enable her to steer north,
cross the 50th. parallel, and leave Cape Horn behind.  The state of the
barometer, combined with other well known signs, led Captain Meade to
predict “a regular old ripper from the southeast,” which was just what
was wanted.

A violent snow-storm struck the _Sagamore_ that evening, soon covering
the decks with a mantle of white.  After it ceased the wind nearly
failed, and it was decided to put the ship on the other tack, so as to be
in readiness to receive the south-easter which was felt to be at hand.
When the passengers came on deck after supper, the whole southern horizon
was black as pitch, sea and sky blending together in one dark, lowering
mass.  All hands were called to strip the ship; halyards were let go,
sheets slackened, buntlines hauled in, and then the men, in rubber boots
and oilers, climbed the rigging and went out upon the swaying yards.  The
gale struck her before the work was concluded; the icy polar wind was
soon screeching through the rigging, to the accompaniment of whirling
snow-flakes and flying spray; hail-stones pattered on the deck; and
amidst all this, the port watch had to work an hour overtime before it
was possible to go below and get supper.  It is not an enviable
task,—furling stiff, wet sails, one after another, while a bitter wind
blows with a force that makes it necessary to hold on with one hand, to
avoid being blown into the sea, while you work with the other—and all
this at an elevation of sixty or seventy feet above the deck.  The wind
kept getting into the belly of the half-frozen sails, making them
slippery as inflated balloons, and causing the men ten times the usual
work to get them laid on the yards; while the pelting snow and hail,
combined with the wild plunges of the ship, made it difficult to retain
their precarious footing.  But the job was finished at last, and grog
served out.

Mr. Marsh came below cold and wet, in spite of his oilers, and his eyes
heavy from loss of sleep.

“Isn’t this as bad a gale as you were ever in?” asked Hartley.  “They
were stretching life-lines on the quarter-deck when we came below, which
is certainly unusual.”

The mate looked at him a minute, and then burst out irrelevantly, “I’d
give a month’s pay to have the son of a sea-cook here who wrote ‘A life
on the ocean wave.’  Hang me if I wouldn’t heave him overboard!”  And he
proceeded to spread a blanket on the floor before the stove, brought a
pillow from his room, and threw himself down in his clothes without more

The passengers spent the evening at the cabin windows, watching the
booming seas roll on board.  Both knew they were in for a night of it,
and upon retiring, took the precaution to place the “weatherboards” in
the front side of their berths, that they might not be pitched out before

Under two topsails and a staysail, the ship tore through the water like a
race horse; plunging madly forward, while the big seas astern chased her
as a pack of wolves might pursue their prey.  The distinctive feature of
this gale was that it came from the southeast, instead of from the west,
as all the previous ones had done, and was, therefore, a fair wind.  The
one danger now was, lest it should increase to such a degree that the
ship would be unable longer to run before it, thus losing the benefit of
a gale which, had it blown with less fury, would have carried her flying
across the 50th parallel in twenty-four hours.

Captain Meade was up all night, anxiously noting the behavior of the
ship, and calculating over and over the chances of being able to keep on
before the gale.  Two of the three remaining sails had been furled when
the watches were changed at midnight, yet still that six thousand tons of
hull and cargo was driven through the water at a rate almost beyond
belief.  Fast though she went, the seas behind were beginning to travel
more swiftly still, and already two had broken over the stern.  Anxious
as the captain was to go on, he was too good a seaman to disregard these
warnings.  In another hour the _Sagamore_ might be “pooped” at the rate
the sea was running, and so, after consulting with Mr. Marsh, he decided
that the ship must be hove to.  He did not come to this conclusion
without great reluctance and some foreboding, for with the great sea
which was now on, the mere act of turning the ship around was attended
with great risk.  In fact, when the mate was asked for his opinion, he
did not hesitate to say that he considered running before the gale
preferable to attempting to heave the ship to.  Better to stand the
chance of being swamped, he contended, than to try an operation which
might result in throwing the _Sagamore_ upon her beam ends in the trough
of that mountainous sea.  This contingency was what Captain Meade also
feared, but he decided that of the two dangers, going about was the

Accordingly, soon after daybreak, Mr. Marsh bawled, “Wear ship,”
following this order with “Port fore brace!”

The mate was clinging to the ladder on the lee side of the forward house
when he gave these orders, and before his watch started to execute them,
he spoke a few words of warning.  “Now, men, you all know there’s an ugly
sea running, so look out for yourselves, and don’t shift about without
holding fast to the life-lines.  Port fore brace!  Andrew, you stand by
the starboard brace ready to slack away.”

Jack and Montana were at the wheel, and Jumbo was at the lookout.  All
the others save Andrew, pulled on the brace until the mate shouted
“Belay!  Now haul in your slack to starboard.”  They started to cross the
swimming deck, the sea being then on the beam.  Some had reached the
starboard brace, others were in the middle of the deck; while Gene, who
had stopped to make the port brace fast, was not a third of the distance
across.  At this moment the ship gave a wild roll, and the next, when her
starboard bulwarks were far down, an immense “green sea”—a solid wall of
water—broke on board.

What followed baffles description.  Those who had hold of the starboard
brace escaped by clinging tightly to it and ducking beneath the bulwarks,
where they were buried under several feet of water, but the others fared
worse, being exposed to the full force of the sea.  Whether Norris,
Smith, and Harry grasped the life-lines or not, they never could clearly
tell, but when the ship rolled to port, the great sea swept them before
it like flies.  All three, by a providential circumstance, were knocked
down and jammed in between the iron stanchions and a spare spar lashed to
the bulwarks,—all that saved them from going overboard.

But poor Gene!  He was caught up like a bit of chaff, and whirled away
over the submerged port bulwarks.  Everyone near by, including the mate,
had all he could do to save his own life, and none of them knew for a few
moments what had happened.  Captain Meade, from the quarter-deck, saw the
awful accident, and his cry of “Man overboard!” and Gene’s despairing
shriek mingled together.  The captain was a cool man, and he desperately
hurled a coil of rope in less time than it takes to tell it, but even had
the lost man been able to grasp it, he could no more have held on at the
rate the ship was going than he could have seized a flash of lightning.
Before the words “Man overboard” were well out of the speaker’s mouth,
the poor fellow was disappearing astern; his white face and yellow
sou’-wester being plainly visible for several minutes.

It is frightful to see a fellow creature perish before one’s eyes, and at
the same time know that one is powerless to render the least
assistance—for before the _Sagamore_ could have been brought to a stand,
Gene would have been a mile or more astern.  But even had he then been in
plain sight, no life boat ever constructed could have lived five seconds
in that boiling cauldron.  The instant it touched the water, it would
have capsized or been crushed like an egg shell against the vessel’s
side.  Death is repulsive at best to the young, even when the path
leading to it is smoothed over and made easier by loving friends and
relatives, or by the consolations of religious faith.  But to be alive
and well one second, and then, before sixty seconds have told a minute,
to be swept from a vessel’s deck and left to drown—this is horrible
beyond conception.  What mental tortures must that poor fellow have
suffered before losing consciousness, to see the ship, his only hope,
vanishing in the distance; and to know that there was not even one chance
in a thousand for his rescue.  Thus was Gene lost off Cape Horn.

Meanwhile, others might share the same fate unless prompt action was
taken, and the wonder was that the mate and his whole watch had not
perished with Gene.  When the ship freed herself from that sea, Harry and
Smith managed to rise unassisted, but Norris lay as one dead, with blood
trickling from a wound on the forehead, where he had been thrown against
the iron stanchion.  Mr. Marsh ran to where he lay, and dragged the
unconscious sailor from his perilous position, into the forecastle.  Here
he had to be left until the job of wearing ship was over, for the
_Sagamore_ was in more peril during those few minutes than at any time
during the voyage.

She came around without accident, though it was a close shave, and one
roll in particular, threw her over until the masts were almost parallel
with the ocean.  She lay to, well, shipping comparatively little water,
and the mate at once investigated the injuries of Norris.  He had
regained his senses, but felt badly, having received a hard blow on the
knee, besides an internal hurt which caused him much pain.  The wound on
the head proved not to be serious, and after his external injuries had
received attention, he was helped to his bunk and relieved from duty
until complete rest should have restored him.

The gale blew itself out in twelve hours, and broke shortly after
breakfast, a fine day succeeding a night of storm, anxiety, and death.
But an atmosphere of gloom pervaded the ship.  There was one empty bunk
in the forecastle; one man less to stand his trick at the wheel or on the
lookout; one hand less to sing out as the watch hauled on the braces; and
that one was the merriest and most light-hearted of all.  His
intelligence and ready ability were in marked contrast to the ignorance
and stupidity which characterized most of the crew, and he was a
pronounced favorite with all on board;—most of all with Mr. Marsh, who
was difficult to please.  The mate felt very badly over the matter, and
would not discuss it, even with the passengers.  Captain Meade deplored
the calamity also, and said that during his score of years as master, he
had never before lost a man overboard from the deck, though three had
been killed at various times by falling from the yards.

The fatality was the subject of much discussion among the crew.

“If he’d of held onto the lines when he was a-crossin’ of the deck, he’d
been here now,” said one.

“That’s right,” said another.  “I wonder when the captain’ll auction off
his clothes?”

“Not for a month, mebbe.  He had some good togs, but I’d be afeerd to
wear ’em.”

“I never seen such an awful sea; it looked half way up to the fore yard.
Seems like Gene was too slick a bird not to hold on to somethin’, though.
I’ll warrant he jumped for the main riggin’, and missed it.  Only
yesterday he was a-tellin’ of me how glad he would be when the ship got
into warmer latitudes.”

San Quentin had so far said nothing, but now the old man gave his opinion
in a loud and authoritative voice that silenced the discussion.  “There
ain’t no use of explainin’ how he was carried overboard, nor sayin’ he’d
be here now ‘if’ somethin’ hadn’t happened.  His time had come, and he
had to go, and that’s all there is about it.  I’m more’n twice as old as
he was, but my time ain’t come, nor it won’t for ten years yet.”  With
which prophecy the subject was dismissed.

When the mate wrote up the ship’s log that afternoon, he entered: “Sept.
29th—88 days out—Long. 78° 10′ W., Lat. 52° 22′ S.—barometer 28:65;
slowly rising—very severe gale from S. E., with heavy sea.  Ran before it
till daylight, then hove to—Pumps carefully attended.”

He though a moment, and added: “Eugene Escarras, able seaman, aged 25, a
native of Algiers, was washed overboard from the main deck, and drowned.”

That was Gene’s epitaph.

                                * * * * *

The third day after the south-easter, both sea and sky wore a different
aspect than either had presented for many weeks past, and the air
reminded one of the first balmy spring day after a long winter.  Even the
moaning, whistling sound in the rigging was gone, and the Cape pigeons
and albatross circled through the air with a seemingly new significance,
which was doubtless imaginary, as these Antarctic birds revel in storm
and cold.  A gentle wind had come with the rising sun, and that morning,
for the first time in six weeks, the _Sagamore_ presented nearly her
whole spread of canvas to the breeze; everything, in fact, but skysails.

The bo’s’un’s leg was mending finely, and surgeon Hartley announced that
he would soon be able to leave his bunk.  The two mates, ill-tempered
from overwork, and worn out from loss of sleep, knew their trials were
nearly over, and looked forward to the coming weeks of fair and pleasant
weather on the glorious Pacific.  The various members of the crew
congratulated each other that their days of toil were about over.  Soon
there would be no further use for mittens, rubber boots and oil-skins,
and on Sundays they could lie around the warm dry decks or fish from the
bows for hours.  San Quentin and Jumbo made a wager as to how soon they
could go barefooted, and everyone on board was in fine spirits.

When Captain Meade worked out his sights that noon, he announced to the
passengers that the 50th parallel had been crossed during the forenoon
watch, on the 79th meridian of west longitude!

After twenty-six days, the ship was around Cape Horn.

The two captains and the passengers stood about the cabin table with the
chart spread out before them, and Captain Meade said, as they clinked
glasses, “Gentlemen, let us wish the _Sagamore_ a fifty days’ run from
here to San Francisco.”


{17a}  A smooth piece of wood painted black and varnished.  On one side
are directions in English telling those on a wreck where and how to
secure the hawser and tail-block.  On the reverse side the same
directions are printed in French.

{17b}  A running block, in which the breeches buoy travels upon the
hawser between the wreck and the shore.

{31}  An expression often heard at sea, which means that there is not
sufficient room inside the galley to turn a pan-cake.  It is a joke, of
course, but gives a fair idea of the exceeding smallness of the cook’s
domain on many brigs and schooners of light tonnage.

{79}  This frail species of craft, which is much used in South American
coast waters, is usually formed by lashing several planks together, in
the form of a raft, the middle one being longer than the others, and
slightly turned up at the forward end so as to form a rude bow.  Empty
casks are often lashed around the sides to lend buoyancy, and a single
sail completes the outfit.  The Brazilian government will not allow any
other form of vessel at Fernando de Noronha—not even one for the
Governor’s use—lest the convicts should escape.

{101}  When a seafaring man invites you to splice the main brace, he asks
you to join him in taking some liquid refreshment.

{132}  Thick cones of clouded glass let into the quarter-deck.  The
lazarette beneath obtains all its illumination from these deadlights,
which focus the rays of light powerfully.

{175}  Many readers may fancy this an exaggeration, and marvel that such
a man should be accepted.  The author recently left port on a large
American ship bound on a long voyage, and next day it was discovered that
there were four “able seamen” in the forecastle who knew no more of
steering by compass than does an infant, and could not even name the
yards and sails correctly.  Like the rest of the crew, they had been
signed and placed on board by a U.S. Shipping Commissioner, who had taken
the usual precaution of first getting them drunk.  The captain has the
privilege of rejecting any incompetent seamen, but in this case the test
questions were of no use because of the men being intoxicated.  One of
them looked quite intelligent, but next day when they became sober, their
defects were discovered.  It was then too late to get rid of them, and
for several months the officers had to put up with stupidity and
incapacity of the grossest character.  Such cases are not rare, as
shipping commissioners can usually mulct “greenhorns” of at least $10 as
the price of getting them a ship.

{183}  The common nautical contraction of “hermaphrodite.”

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