"Does he talk any?"
"He would talk all the time if I would let him; but I don't answer him when he asks questions, and I leave him alone most of the time."
"What is the condition of the galley?" asked the captain.
"It is in very bad condition, sir; the cannon-ball tore away all the shelves on the starboard side, and knocked the tins and dishes all to pieces. But I can get supper after a fashion," replied the cook.
"You may let the supper go to-night, and we will get it on board of the ship. We shall be alongside of her in less than fifteen minutes," said the captain. "Set the colors astern, Flix."
The Maud was going at full speed, and, as the two steamers were approaching each other, they came within hail off Cape Arnauti. At this time the captain ordered three cheers to be given; for he wished to make a demonstration of some kind, and this was the only way within his means. They were given with hearty good-will, and the seamen responded from the Guardian-Mother, and both vessels whistled as snappers. Then the ship stopped her screw, and the sound of escaping steam came from her.
"Maud, ahoy!" shouted Captain Ringgold from her top-gallant forecastle.
"On board the Guardian-Mother!" responded Captain Scott.
"Come alongside!" added the commander.
"Alongside, sir!" replied the captain.
The Maud made a sweep around, and when she had come about, she came alongside on the port side of the ship. The gangway was already lowered. All the cabin party had been watching the approach to the island from the promenade; but as soon as the Maud came alongside, they all hastened to the main deck to greet the young cruisers, who had been absent from the ship about thirty hours.
"Come on board, all of you!" called the commander from the head of the gangway.
"I think we had better not say anything about what has happened in the presence of the party," said Scott, as he started to mount the steps.
"Not a word," added Louis; and Morris and Felix repeated the words.
The "Big Four" ascended the gangway stairs to the main deck. The captain was permitted to pass without any assaulting embraces, but Louis dropped lovingly and submissively into the arms of his mother, as did Morris when Mrs. Woolridge presented herself. Felix hung back, for he knew what awaited him. The commander stepped aside to make room for these demonstrations.
"Come to my room, all of you, as soon as the others are at liberty," said the commander in a low tone to Captain Scott.
"I will, sir," replied he, fully understanding what was meant.
"I am so glad to see you again, Louis!" exclaimed Mrs. Belgrave, as she continued to hug her boy. "You have had a terrible time, haven't you, my dear?"
"What makes you think so, mother?" asked Louis, wondering what she meant; for it seemed impossible that she could know anything about the "Battle of Khrysoko," as it afterwards came to be called.
"Why, you were out in a terrible storm last night," replied Mrs. Belgrave. "I was afraid you would be cast away, my son, and I prayed for you half the night."
"Then your prayers were effectual, for I am safe," answered Louis with a smile.
"But wasn't it an awful tempest, my boy?" she asked, hugging the young man with a new impulse.
"Not at all, my dear mother. We had a gale of wind, and it made a rough night of it; but we got into this bay about eight o'clock this morning all right," returned Louis, reciprocating her caresses. "But you must not worry so about me, mother. We were in no danger at any time from the gale or the heavy sea."
"Here is the commander, and he wants to see you, I know," she said, stepping aside for him.
Captain Ringgold took the hand of the owner of the ship, and pressed it warmly.
"He says he has been in no danger from the storm, Captain," added the lady.
"He knows best about that; but I told you the Maud would go through it all right," added the commander as he turned to greet Morris.
"Where in the world is Felix?" cried Mrs. Blossom; for the Milesian, actually dreading the onslaught of the excellent woman who was not his mother, had dodged in at the door of the boudoir.
"I'm looking for you, grandma," said he, stepping out on the deck.
As soon as she saw him, she spread out her arms and rushed upon him; but Felix put up his left arm and warded off the burden of the attack, taking her by the hand with the right.
"How glad I am to see you, grandma!" he exclaimed, still holding her by the right hand, with his left on guard. "I am delighted to be with you again. The Guardian-Mother did not come into the bay, and I was afraid you had all gone to the bottom in the gale."
"Don't you call me 'grandma' again, Felix," protested the worthy woman quite warmly; for the Milesian had twice applied the opprobrious appellation to her. "If you ever do it again, I will never hug you another time!"
"Then I will call you so till my dying day!" Felix declared, to the great amusement of all those within hearing.
"I am not your grandma! I am only thirty-six years old, and I am not far enough into years to be the grandmother of a great strapping boy like you."
"It is only a pet name. But you didn't go to the bottom of the sea after all, grandma."
"There it is again!"
"Of course it is, grandma. But I will make a fair trade with you. If you will promise never to hug me any more, I will agree never to call you grandma again."
"That is fair," said Mrs. Belgrave.
They retired to the boudoir to talk over the matter; but the agreement was ratified between them. The "Big Four" were cordially greeted by all the passengers and by all the officers of the ship; but they were careful not to drop any hint of what had transpired in Khrysoko Bay. Before the exchange of salutations was finished the gong rang for dinner.
"For a reason to be given later on, Captain Ringgold, I must ask you to give the engineers and cook of the Maud their supper to-night," said Captain Scott at a favorable moment.
The commander sent for Baldy Bickling, the second cook, and ordered him to provide for them; and Mr. Boulong to send an engineer and a couple of hands on board of the Maud while the party came on board to supper. The company in the cabin were in a very jovial state of feeling, and it would take a chapter to record all the jokes of Dr. Hawkes and Uncle Moses. It was an excellent dinner even for the Guardian-Mother; for both the chief steward and the chief cook were artists in their line, and it was heartily enjoyed by all at the table.
The commander was impatient to hear the report of Captain Scott on his expedition, and the commander of the Maud was almost as impatient to learn what had delayed the ship; but fully an hour was spent at the table, for no one wished to break in upon the agreeable occasion. How he knew it he could not have told in detail; but the commander was satisfied, that something important had occurred in the experience of the young navigators, though not a word had yet been spoken, and he had failed to notice the ragged hole through the Maud's deck-house at the location of the galley.
He had expected to find the Fatime near the little steamer; but though he had swept the bay with his spy-glass, he could not find her, for she was no longer visible. Probably she had fallen over on the rocky and irregular bottom, and that had carried even her short masts under water. As soon as the party rose from the table, Louis and Morris detached themselves from their mothers, and hastened to the commander's room, where they found Captain Scott and Felix.
"I don't see anything of the Fatime in this bay," said Captain Ringgold, when he had closed and locked his doors.
"But she is there, sir," replied Scott mysteriously to the commander.
"Where? I looked the bay over with my glass, and I think if she were here I should have seen her," added Captain Ringgold.
"You could not see her where she is, Captain," replied Scott.
"Where is she, then?" demanded the commander.
"On the bottom, Captain Ringgold," said Captain Scott impressively.
THE REPORT OF THE BATTLE OF KHRYSOKO
Captain Ringgold looked from one to another of the "Big Four," and a smile passed over his dignified face. It was evident to him from the expression of all of them that something of importance had occurred in Khrysoko Bay, and that Captain Scott, who was, by his position, the spokesman of the party, proposed to tell his story in his own way, to which he did not object.
He believed the young men were honest, truthful, and straightforward, and he had no suspicions of any kind. As the bearer of heavy and disagreeable intelligence is inclined to approach his topic by degrees, the young captain did not like to tell the worst of his report in the beginning.
The commander was not disposed to have the news "broken" to him, and considered himself able to bear the whole of it in a mass without being overwhelmed. But he had no idea of the seriousness of the event which had occurred, and he thought it probable that the boys were making a great deal more of it than the occasion required. They had all been to the table at dinner, and were as lively and as full of fun as usual. As none of them had been killed or injured, nothing very terrible could have happened.
"When did you reach this bay, Captain Scott?" he asked, after he had measured the visages of his audience.
"About eight o'clock this morning, sir," replied Scott.
"You had a smart gale about all last night," the commander proceeded.
"Yes, sir; but we made very good weather of it, and it lasted about twelve hours."
"You had no accident?"
"None of any kind, sir; everything went on as usual."
"I suppose you expected the ship sooner than she came?"
"I looked for her this morning."
"In carrying out the plan which you suggested, Captain Scott, I found that the Fatime was not disposed to follow you as long as the Guardian-Mother was in sight," continued the commander, while the "Big Four" looked at each other, wondering that Captain Ringgold had turned aside from the subject which was a burning one to them. "In order to help Captain Mazagan in his movements, I picked up a pilot off Ras Bourlos, and stood in behind a neck of land. We took the ground there, and stuck hard in the soft mud, though the chart gave water enough to float the ship."
"That was unfortunate," added Scott.
"A government tug hauled us off on the next tide, and I followed you at the best speed of the ship. I went in at Limasol, though I did not believe you would make that port in a southerly gale, and the lookout reported the Maud in this bay. That is the reason of my delay in joining you as arranged," said the commander, finishing his narrative. "But I expected to find the Fatime here also; for she was pressing on after you the last we saw of her."
"We lost sight of her early last night," added Scott. "Her lights disappeared, and we could form no idea as to what had become of her. I think now that we outsailed her; for we carried a reefed foresail before the gale, and it must have helped a good deal."
"She came into this bay this morning," added Louis, who thought the conference was moving on very slowly.
"I see that you wish me to drag out of you the particulars of your stay here, Captain Scott," said the commander with a smile. "As I have not the least idea what you have been about here, I find some difficulty in framing my questions. You know that a lawyer, when he examines a witness in court, is in possession of all the facts, as I am not on the present occasion. I have learned that the Fatime came to this bay, and that she is at the bottom now. Perhaps you will be willing to inform me, Captain, by this time, how the Pacha's steamer happens to be at the bottom."
"We had a fight here, and I ran the Maud into her, stove a big hole in her side, and she went to the bottom!" almost shouted Scott, who had been not a little perplexed at the manner of proceeding of the commander. "I believe that is telling the whole story in a heap, sir."
Captain Ringgold sprang out of his chair, evidently startled by the intelligence; and he had never been known to make so much of a demonstration before since he had been in command of the ship. He stood looking into the face of Captain Scott as though he were incredulous in regard to the announcement just made to him; and that a little steam-yacht only forty feet in length had run into and sunk a vessel of four hundred tons was calculated to stagger a man of his experience in nautical affairs.
"Do you mean literally, Captain Scott, that you ran into and sank the Fatime?" demanded the commander.
"Literally and exactly, sir, that was what was done," replied the young captain very decidedly.
"It looks incredible," added the commander, as he resumed his seat.
"It is the exact truth, Captain Ringgold," said Louis.
"I vouch for the truth of the statement, Captain, if my word is good for anything," Felix followed.
"I give my testimony in the same direction," Morris put in.
"Of course I do not doubt the truth of your statement," replied the commander. "But it looks like an amazing fact that the little Maud was able to do so much mischief to a steamer of the size of the Fatime. However, she is about as big as some of the little tug-boats in New York Harbor that drag ships of five hundred tons after them. In spite of all that has been said in the last six months about the extraordinary strength of the Maud, I should have supposed the blow, if you went at the steamer at full speed, would have crushed in her bow."
"It did not start a bolt or bend a plate," replied Scott. "But, according to the evidence of Don, who knew something about the Pacha's yacht, she was old and nearly worn out when His Highness bought her."
"That may explain it."
"Before we proceed any farther, I ought to report that Captain Mazagan is now in the cabin of the Maud, wounded by a rifle ball in the shoulder, and in need of the services of the doctor," said Captain Scott.
"Wounded with a rifle ball," repeated the commander. "Then there is a good deal more of this affair which has not yet come out. But if the villain is suffering, it is proper that he should be attended to at once."
"Pitts has had charge of him."
Pinch, the mess steward, was sent for, and ordered to make the hospital ready for a patient. Mr. Boulong was called in, and directed to superintend the removal of the wounded Moor to this apartment, under the direction of the surgeon. Dr. Hawkes was called from the boudoir, where the company had assembled by this time, and conducted to the patient.
"With this affair all concealment comes to an end for two reasons," said the commander, as soon as he had given the orders for the disposal of the wounded man. "First, there is no longer any necessity for us to keep our own counsel, for Mazagan is now deprived of the means of following us on our voyage; and second, it would be impossible to cover up our movements under the present circumstances. The nervous mothers have no longer any cause for alarm."
"It did not occur to me that we had made an end of this scare business," said Captain Scott. "I had not thought of the matter in that connection, and all I did was to defend my steamer from the attack of the pirate, who proposed to come on board and take Louis Belgrave out of her."
"Then you did your duty!" exclaimed Captain Ringgold, rising from his arm-chair, and extending his hand to the young man. "I congratulate you on your success, and I am only sorry that the unfortunate grounding of the Guardian-Mother compelled you to fight the battle alone. I had no intention of allowing the Maud to be out of my sight more than a few hours."
Louis, Felix, and Morris clapped their hands with all their might at the indorsement the commander had given Captain Scott.
"I cannot express to you, Louis, how happy I am to have you still with us," continued the captain of the ship, as he took the hand of the young millionaire; "for it appears from the report of Captain Scott that you have been in imminent danger of being captured and carried off by that miscreant, and that you have been saved only by the bravery and determination of the commander of the Maud. He has done no more than I would have done in his place, and if the pirate had taken you I would have sunk his steamer at sight to rescue you."
"I am glad you approve the action of Captain Scott, though I had no doubt you would do so when you learned the facts," replied Louis, as he pressed the hand of the commander.
"But I have got only a skeleton of the facts yet, and now I should like to hear the whole story in detail," said Captain Ringgold.
Scott took a paper from his pocket, the one he had drawn off of the situation of the two steamers in Khrysoko Bay, with the position of the ledge, the trend of the shore, and some of the soundings as he had taken them from the chart. He had marked the course of the Maud in all the movements she had made, and also of the Fatime, giving the position of each vessel at the moment of the collision.
He began his recital with the pointing out of the places of each steamer as soon as the pirate came into the bay. The visit of her boat to the little steamer followed, and the marshalling of the five members of the ship's company armed with the repeating-rifles. The interview with Mazagan was as minutely stated as though a skilled reporter of a newspaper had taken it down.
"That was the most amazing, presumptuous, groundless, and insane demand that one person could make upon another," interposed the commander. "It was sheer piracy!"
Scott had so viewed it, and he proceeded with his narrative. Captain Ringgold had vacated his chair at the desk, on which the captain of the Maud had placed his diagram, and pointed out everything as he spoke. The attempted escape by the supposed channel near the shore was dwelt upon at some length, in order to enable the young captain to prove that he had done his best to avoid a collision with the enemy.
The first shots the Fatime had fired at the Maud, though they had fallen far short of the mark, were mentioned so as to give them their full effect; and Captain Ringgold declared that they were a sufficient declaration of war.
"Only one avenue of escape was open to me," continued Captain Scott, "and that was directly across the bow of the enemy. If I remained where I was the Fatime could come in with the rising of the tide, and sink the Maud at her leisure. Then the pirate fired the shot from her starboard gun which passed through the galley, and began to swing to, so as to bring her port gun to bear on the Maud.
"I won't deny that the shot which went through our upper works made me mad; but I feared that the next one might go through our boiler or engine, and then it would have been all over with us. I determined to prevent such a disaster if I could. I had ordered the hands to use the rifles; but most of the crew concealed themselves under the top-gallant forecastle. I shifted the helm, and drove the little steamer's bow square into the broadside of the Fatime, just abaft her fore chains.
"It seemed to me from the feeling that she was going to bore her way through the pirate craft, and I rang to stop and back her. I gave the speed bell as soon as she began to go astern, and the Maud went clear, as I was afraid she would not."
The picking up of Mazagan after the Fatime had gone down, and the visit of the boat from the shore, were given in detail, and the narrative was completed.
As soon as the story was finished, the commander took the hand of Captain Scott again, and pressed it in silence for a moment. He had listened attentively to the report, interrupting it but once, and had carefully followed the speaker as he pointed out his movements on the diagram.
"I approved your conduct, Captain Scott, when I had only a partial knowledge of what you had done," said he. "I can now approve it with a full knowledge of the whole affair even more heartily and decidedly than before. You have been resolute and unflinching from the beginning, and you have not only fought your ship as bravely and skilfully as any naval officer could have done it, but you have done your best to avoid a conflict. I commend you with all my heart and mind."
"I thank you, Captain Ringgold, for all the kind words you have spoken, and I am rejoiced to be informed on such authority as you are that I have done my duty faithfully," replied the young commander.
"I suppose the mothers in the boudoir are wondering what has become of their boys," added the commander. "I give you an hour to pass with them, and then we must sail for Port Said."
The conference was ended, and the boys all went to the boudoir.
THE INSIDE HISTORY OF THE VOYAGE
While the Guardian-Mother lay aground, the mothers in the cabin had become very anxious about their boys, and both of them had spent wakeful nights in thinking of them. In a comparison of notes it was evident that the wind had blown harder on the coast of Egypt than farther to the north. But the ship had escaped from the dilemma in the morning at an early hour, and had made a quick run to Cape Arnauti.
There was therefore great rejoicing in the cabin when it was ascertained that the Maud was safe, with all on board of her. Dr. Hawkes operated upon Mazagan in the hospital, and readily removed the bullet from his shoulder. Ball, one of the old man-of-war's-men of the crew, who had seen some service as a nurse, was appointed to take care of him.
The fact that the surgeon had a patient soon became known in the boudoir, and curiosity ran to the highest pitch to ascertain who and what he was. All that was known was the fact that he had been brought on board from the Maud, which Sparks had learned from the sailors who assisted in removing him. The commander and the "Big Four" were still closeted on the upper deck, and there was no one to answer any questions.
Before Captain Scott had finished his report, Dr. Hawkes rejoined the party; and he was immediately beset by the curious ones for information. The seal of secrecy had been removed by the commander, and he had not been instructed to be silent. He knew the patient as soon as he saw him; for Mazagan had been a prisoner on board of the ship for a considerable time after his capture in Pournea Bay.
"What is your patient, Dr. Hawkes?" asked Mrs. Blossom before he had fairly crossed the threshold of the door.
"A wounded man; bullet in the shoulder," replied the surgeon with professional discretion. "It is not a woman, and Ball has been called in as his nurse."
"A bullet in the shoulder!" exclaimed the excellent woman. "Will he die?"
"Undoubtedly he will, though perhaps not for twenty or thirty years."
"Is the wound dangerous?"
"I don't think so."
"But who is the man?"
"Captain Mazagan!" exclaimed the good lady; and the name was repeated by several others, for they had known him as the pirate who had attacked the Maud for the purpose of robbery, as they supposed, and they had seen him occasionally on the upper deck when the conferences were in progress there.
"How happened he to be wounded in the shoulder, doctor?" persisted the worthy lady.
"Because the bullet hit him there," replied the stout surgeon with a chuckle, which was promptly communicated to Uncle Moses.
"But who shot him?"
"The man who fired the gun at him."
"Who fired the gun?"
"I don't know."
"What was Captain Mazagan doing here?"
"I don't know."
"Has there been a fight here?"
"Not that I am aware of."
"Then how did he get wounded?"
"I don't know," replied Dr. Hawkes, who evidently enjoyed the defeat of the inquisitor; and Uncle Moses's huge frame was jarring like a pot of jelly under the influence of his inward chuckles.
"Have you dressed the wound of your patient without finding out anything at all about how the man was wounded?" demanded the good lady, disgusted at her failure.
"It was my affair to dress his wound, and not to pump him, as I should have done if he had taken a dose of poison," laughed the doctor. "But I think you need have no anxiety about my patient, for I have no doubt he will do very well."
"But there must have been a quarrel or a fight somewhere about here, and I should like to know something about it," continued Mrs. Blossom, as she dropped herself heavily on one of the divans.
"I can give you no information whatever; for I leave all the fights and quarrels to our worthy and discreet commander, and do not meddle with his affairs," added the surgeon.
"Do you really know nothing at all about what has happened here, Dr. Hawkes?" asked Mrs. Belgrave; and it was plain that the curiosity of the rest of the party was strongly excited, though they were more guarded in manifesting it.
"Absolutely nothing, my dear madam, beyond the fact that the man is Captain Mazagan," replied Dr. Hawkes. "I never inquire into the affairs of my patients beyond what it is necessary for me to know in treating the case. I have no doubt Captain Ringgold will give you all the particulars of whatever has happened here; for it looks as though something of importance had occurred."
A little later the commander, followed by the four boys, appeared, and Mrs. Blossom renewed the onslaught. The others were, perhaps, quite as anxious to learn what had taken place; but they were silent, and waited for the captain to answer her questions if he was disposed to do so.
"I am sorry to interrupt this pleasant party, ladies and gentlemen, but I have already given the order to weigh the anchor, and we shall go to sea immediately," said Captain Ringgold. "The young gentlemen of the Maud must take their leave, and return to the tender."
"Has anything happened here, Captain Ringgold?" asked Mrs. Belgrave, taking him by the arm.
"Something has happened here," replied the commander, loud enough to be heard by all in the boudoir. "But here are the four young men in whom you are all more or less interested, and you can see that they are not injured."
"Have you been hurt, Mr. Belgrave?" asked Miss Blanche, by whose side Louis had taken his place when he entered the apartment, as he was very much in the habit of doing when the party assembled.
"Not a hair of my head has been damaged," he replied.
"As soon as we are under way, and get clear of the shore, I shall tell you the whole story of certain events which have transpired in Khrysoko Bay during our absence," continued the commander. "I am willing to add that it will make quite a thrilling narrative. About two o'clock to-morrow afternoon I expect the Guardian-Mother and the Maud will be at Port Said, at the entrance to the Suez Canal."
The mothers hugged their boys again even for the separation of eighteen hours, and the hands of the others were duly shaken. Mrs. Blossom did not attempt to hug the Milesian this time.
"What has happened here, Felix?" she asked in a low tone; for the good lady would have been glad to get at the solution of the mystery, in order that she might give a hint of it to the others.
"Captain Ringgold will tell you all about it; it would take me six hours to do so, and I have not the time," replied Felix as he bolted through the door.
"Six hours!" exclaimed the amiable lady. "Then we shall have to sit up about all night to hear the story. I wonder what the boys have been doing in this lonely place."
She was no wiser than the rest of the party. The two sons tore themselves away from their mothers, and Louis was permitted to take the hand of Miss Blanche in bidding her adieu. The commander had sent four of the old sailors on board of the little steamer to stand the watches during the trip; for the "Big Four" were believed to be thoroughly exhausted after a night in the gale and the most exciting day of all their lives. This was certainly true of Captain Scott, for he had hardly slept a wink in the last thirty-six hours, and the others were tired enough.
The chief engineer had been notified of the immediate departure of the Maud, and the fasts were cast off as soon as the ship's company went on board. Stevens, the carpenter of the ship, had repaired the damage done in the galley, and a supply of provisions had been put on board.
Captain Scott had submitted the question as to whether anything was to be done in regard to the ship's company of the Fatime. The matter had been decided at once. Captain Mazagan had declared war against the Maud, and had proceeded to enforce his preposterous demand. He had made a failure of it, and outside of the call of ordinary humanity, the commander believed that it was not his duty to look out for the comfort of the marauders. A sufficient supply of provisions had been sent to those on shore, and the pirate himself was under treatment on board of the ship. What was to be done with him was a question for the future.
Captain Scott remained in the pilot-house of the Maud till the steamer was well off the cape, and then gave out the course, south and a half west. It was Morris's watch, and he insisted on remaining on the forecastle, as he had obtained a portion of his sleep the night before. The ship soon followed her consort; and as soon as the commander had given out the course he hastened to the boudoir, where the party were awaiting his appearance.
"It is hardly necessary for me to give the nautical points involved in 'The Battle of Khrysoko,'" said Captain Ringgold, as he laid the diagram of the captain of the Maud on the table.
"I beg your pardon, Captain—involved in what?" interrupted Mr. Woolridge, who seemed to be bothered by the proper name.
"'The Battle of Khrysoko,'" repeated the commander with a smile. "That is the name the boys gave to the affair, calling it after the bay in which it occurred, though it is rather a high-sounding designation for it."
"Are we to understand that a battle has been fought here, Captain Ringgold?" inquired the magnate of the Fifth Avenue, as Louis had called him.
"It did not rise to the dignity of a regular naval engagement, though it took place on the waters of the bay," replied the captain. "Perhaps if we call it a contest for superiority, it would cover the idea better. But this party are not prepared to understand what has taken place in Khrysoko Bay; and I must admit that I have concealed from you for the last three months certain features of our voyage, a knowledge of which would have rendered some of you very nervous and unhappy.
"I did not consult Dr. Hawkes in relation to the effect upon one of his patients, but I am confident he would have advised me to do as I have done. I am equally confident that another of your number would very soon have become one of his patients if I had been imprudent enough to put her in possession of all the facts in the situation. If I had done so at Athens, Zante, or Alexandria, I am almost certain that the Guardian-Mother would have been speeding her way across the Atlantic to New York; for some of the party would have insisted upon abandoning the voyage as projected.
"My only confidants in the inside history of this voyage for the last six months, or since we visited Mogadore, were the four young men who have just left you. Now I will relate this inside history, and give all the facts without any reservation whatever. I must begin back at Mogadore; and as I mention the incidents of our cruise so far, you will remember all of them. 'The Battle of Khrysoko' is the last chapter of the story, and for the present at least, and I hope forever, has removed all danger from our path."
By this time the entire party were all attention. The captain began his review of the incidents of the voyage at Mogadore. He used the time judiciously, but it took him a full hour to bring the history down to the final event. Whatever had been dark and mysterious in the past was made plain. The discovery of the plot made by Louis in the cafe at Gallipoli made a tremendous impression, and Dr. Hawkes had to attend to Mrs. Belgrave, she became so excited and nervous.
The stirring events in the bay were given very cautiously by the speaker, though he told the whole truth. He stated enough of the nautical situation to enable the party to understand the affair; and he warmly commended Captain Scott for the decisive act by which he had finished the encounter, after he had used every effort to escape a conflict.
"And did that wicked pirate actually fire cannon-balls into the Maud while Louis was on board of her?" asked Mrs. Belgrave, very much excited.
"He put one shot through her, though Louis was on the upper deck, firing his rifle into the enemy, and he was in no danger," replied the commander.
It was midnight when the narrative and the comments upon it were finished. The doctor attended to his patient in the cabin, and then to the other in the hospital. Mazagan felt better, and wanted to talk; but Dr. Hawkes would not permit him to do so. The party retired with enough to think about.
At the time stated by the commander, the Guardian-Mother and the Maud were off the red light on the end of the breakwater at the entrance to the Suez Canal.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SUEZ CANAL
The sea was quite smooth when the Guardian-Mother and her tender arrived off Port Said. There was about thirty feet of water off the breakwater; and though there was an extensive basin at the town, the commander preferred to anchor outside for purposes he had in view. The trip to Cyprus had interrupted the educational work of the tourists, and this was the grand object ever uppermost in his mind.
Though this instructive element of the cruise around the world had been prominent in his thoughts before the steamer sailed from New York, it was rather indefinite in its details, so that he had failed to make some preparations for the work which the experience of a year now suggested to him. In the lectures, conferences, talks, and explanations to individuals, the professor and himself had felt the want of suitable maps on a large scale.
At Alexandria he had obtained a large map of Egypt, though it was not just what was wanted; but it had answered the purpose tolerably well. The subjects which would be next in order were full of interest to him, and were likely to be so to the members of the party; for they included some of the older countries of the world, such as Syria, Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, and Arabia. Geographically they were comparatively unfamiliar to the members of the party, who, unlike the professor, the surgeon, and Uncle Moses, had not been liberally educated.
The instruction given at the various places on the voyage, and the studies of the students on the wing, had demonstrated that such maps were indispensable. But Captain Ringgold was a man of expedients. Every steamer, especially those engaged in making long voyages, has a paint-shop on board, more or less abundantly supplied with all necessary material. All seamen are required to do plain painting; for such a ship as the Guardian-Mother had to be kept in the nicest condition.
At Alexandria and Cairo the commander had procured such additional material as was needed for the production of the maps desired. Some of the sailors were more skilful in the use of the brush than others; and as soon as the captain mentioned his purpose to the first and second officers, they were able to point out a couple of men who had some artistic ideas in their composition.
All the crew were able seamen, and every one of them was skilled in the use of the sail-needle and palm, though of course in different degrees, as in all other occupations. Some of these had sewed the canvas together on which the maps were to be drawn and painted. It was not expected that anything which would pass the scrutiny of an artist would be produced; only such work as would answer the purpose of illustration.
In Mr. P. Lord Gaskette, the second officer of the ship, Captain Ringgold found his ablest assistant. He was a graduate of one of the most noted colleges of the United States, and had made some progress in the study of the legal profession. Unfortunately his health had failed him, and he had turned his attention to artistic pursuits for the sake of the out-door life to be obtained in sketching. He had taken some lessons in drawing and painting; but his physician had insisted that he should go to sea. He had been seven years a wanderer over the world, having shipped before the mast, and reached his present position.
In the paint-shop he was quite at home. He was assisted by the two seamen the most skilled with the brush, while he did the drawing himself. The large atlas of the world, a very expensive work, belonging to the commander, supplied accurate maps on a small scale, and these were transferred to the canvas, eight feet square. During the voyage to Cyprus three of these maps had been finished. One of them was the Delta of Egypt, including the Suez Canal; and the commander declared that it was handsome enough to adorn any schoolroom.
The Maud had made fast to the ship as usual when she came to anchor, and the "Big Four" were to report on board as soon as they had put their craft to rights. The party had mounted the promenade as soon as the low shore was in sight, and were looking about them at the various objects in view. Several large English steamers were in sight, including one of the P. & O. Line, and the Ophir, the largest and finest of the Orient Line, both bound to India and other countries of the Orient.
"How is your patient this afternoon, Dr. Hawkes?" asked the commander, as he met the physician on his way to the promenade.
"He is doing very well. He has very little pain now; and I think he will be as well as ever in a fortnight or three weeks, if he will only be reasonable," replied the doctor.
"Reasonable? Doesn't he wish to get well?" asked the commander.
"He wants to talk, and evidently has something on his mind. He desires an interview with you, Captain, and has asked me to obtain it for him; but I refused to do anything of the kind, for he has some fever hanging about him, and must be kept as quiet as possible."
"I don't know that I have any business with him, or he with me. I consider him one of the most unmitigated villains that ever walked the earth or sailed the seas," added Captain Ringgold. "The scoundrel does not seem to have common-sense; for he puts forward the most absurd claims that ever were invented, and it would not surprise me at all if he advanced another against me or Louis, in spite of the overwhelming defeat he has just sustained."
"He is the coolest and most impudent rascal I ever heard of. He asks Louis for a vast sum of money, and then politely requests him to become a prisoner in the cabin of the Fatime as security for the payment of the sum by his trustee;" and the doctor shook his fat sides with laughter at the absurdity.
"Very likely he has some such proposition to make to me. He really believes, I think, that he has a fair claim for what he has lost, or failed to obtain, by the miscarriage of all his plots to make a prisoner of Louis and Miss Blanche. All I desire is to get rid of the villain; and as soon as you inform me that he is off your hands I shall put him on shore."
The captain and the doctor joined the party on the promenade. Mr. Gaskette and his assistant were hanging one of the maps completed on the upper deck, where the conferences were usually held. He had assigned subjects to several members of the party, and he seemed to be anxious to have them disposed of; for he declared that this locality was one of the most interesting corners of the world to him.
On the promenade the mothers had their sons by their side, and Mrs. Blossom had secured possession of Felix in some manner that did not appear; but the good woman seemed to be superlatively happy. The commander did not take a seat, but took a stand in front of the company. He described the two big steamers that were approaching, in answer to a question put by Mrs. Belgrave.
"Of course you all recognize the shore before you," he continued.
"There isn't much shore there, only a strip of sand, with water beyond it," added Mrs. Woolridge.
"What country is it?" asked Miss Blanche in a whisper to Louis, who had his mother on one side of him and the fair maiden on the other.
"Egypt," replied Louis, wondering that she did not know.
"The water you see is Lake Menzaleh," answered the captain. "It is not much of a lake, as Americans would look at it. It is a sort of lagoon, covering from five hundred to a thousand square miles, according to different authorities; but the inundation of the Nile makes varying areas of water. The Damietta branch of the great river empties into the sea about thirty miles to the west of us, and this lagoon covers the region between it and the Suez Canal.
"The lake is separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow strip of land, which you can see, through which are a number of openings, such as we find in the sand-spits along the shore of our own country. But unlike our inlets, they were formerly mouths of the Nile, or at least of streams connected with it; and all of them have names, as the Mendesian Mouth, the Tanitic, the Pelusian, and others.
"It is full of islands, on some of which are the remains of Roman towns. The average depth of the water is not more than three feet; but it abounds in fish, and it is the abode of vast flocks of aquatic birds, which are hunted by many English sportsmen, who camp out there to enjoy the shooting. The morass has been partially drained, which accounts for the low water in the lake at the present time; and undoubtedly it will all be above the ordinary level of the Nile at no very distant time.
"The Suez Canal extends in a perfectly straight line, north and south, through this lake and the low land around it. But we will not meddle with the canal just yet, for we shall have a great deal of time to talk about it while we are going through it; for it is a hundred miles long, and steamers are required to move very slowly, except in the lakes now forming part of it. As this canal is one of the most important enterprises ever carried through to a completion, I have asked Mr. Woolridge to give us an account of its construction and uses. Then I shall invite you to adjourn to the promenade deck, where I have prepared something more in relation to Egypt, the 'Land of Goshen.'
"This canal takes its name from the isthmus or city of that name, or the Red Sea; more properly from the former, as it makes its passage through it," Mr. Woolridge began. "Our old friend, Ramses II., of whom we have heard so much in the last four weeks, is said to have been the first to dig out a Suez Canal, though I cannot inform you by what name he called it in the Egyptian language; but that was a small affair compared with the one before us. But our friend's canal got filled up from the amount of mud and sand lying loose around here.
"Darius I. of Persia cleaned it out, though it was suffered to become useless again. Then the Mohammedan conquerors of Egypt opened it once more; but they lacked the modern facilities for handling mud and sand, and it went to ruin again, and was useless till a comparatively modern date.
"When Napoleon I. was in Egypt the subject attracted his attention, and he employed an expert French engineer to examine the matter. This gentleman declared that the level of the Red Sea was thirty feet higher than that of the Mediterranean; and this report knocked the scheme higher than a kite. But in 1841 the English officers employed in this region proved the fallacy of the French engineer's conclusion, and the subject came up again for consideration.
"This time it was the Vicompte de Lesseps, another French engineer, who took up the subject. He was born at Versailles in 1805, had been educated for the diplomatic profession, and had served his country acceptably in this capacity at Lisbon, Cairo, Barcelona, and Madrid. In 1854 he began upon the work, and two years later obtained a concession of certain privileges for his proposed company, which was duly formed, and began the actual work of construction in 1860. Nine years after it was completed, and formally opened with extraordinary ceremonies and festivities, and has now been in successful operation about twenty-two years. Queen Victoria of England made the distinguished Frenchman a K. C. S. I."
"What does that mean, papa?" asked Miss Blanche.
"It is a big distinction, and that is all I know about it," replied the speaker with a laugh; for he was not student enough to look up what he did not comprehend.
"Knight Commander of the Star of India," added Louis, who had looked up the abbreviation.
"Thank you, Mr. Belgrave. From 25,000 to 30,000 men were employed upon the work. It was delayed by the necessity of completing a fresh-water canal to Ismailia, about half way through to Suez, and by some trouble with Ismail, who had succeeded as viceroy. The original capital of the company was about forty million dollars of our money; but the total cost, including the auxiliary works required to put it in running order, was one hundred million dollars. Yet it is good stock to-day; and all the steamers that used to be obliged to go around Cape Good Hope pass through the canal, and did so before some of you were born.
"As the commander observed a little while ago, the canal is 100 miles long. The width of the water surface is from 150 to 300 feet, though it has changed somewhat since the canal was built. At the bottom it was 72 feet wide, and the shoalest place has 26 feet in depth. As you see around you, two breakwaters had to be built, involving an immense amount of labor and expense; for one of them is nearly 7,000, and the other a little more than 6,000, feet in length.
"The highest level on the isthmus is 52 feet, so that they did not have to dig very deep anywhere; and there were several depressions in the level, which made the work still less. The canal passes through three lakes: first, Menzaleh, 28 miles; Timsah, 5 miles; and the Bitter Lakes, 23 miles. Every five or six miles there are side basins where one ship can pass another. That is all I need say at present; but as we are sailing through, there will be much more to say."
The usual applause followed, and then the commander took the rostrum.
THE JOURNEY OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
Captain Ringgold suggested to the magnate of the Fifth Avenue that he had omitted something, as he pointed to the long piers which extended out into the sea.
"I had it on my tongue's end to mention them; but I am not much accustomed to speaking before an audience, and I forgot to do so," replied Mr. Woolridge. "But then they are engineering work, and I doubt if this company would be interested."
"I was wondering where they obtained all the stone to build them in this place, where there appears to be nothing but sand and mud," interposed Mrs. Belgrave. "They must be nearly a mile long."
"They are quite a mile long," replied Mr. Woolridge.
"Did they bring the stone from the quarries away up the Nile, where they got the material of which the pyramids are built?"
"Not at all; that would have been about as big a job as digging out the canal."
"Hardly; for they could have brought them by water about all the way," said the commander. "But the material did not come from those quarries."
"No; they made the rocks," added the magnate.
"Made them!" exclaimed Mrs. Blossom. "Do you expect us to believe that?"
"There is a great deal of such work done in the United States, and in some of our cities there are streets paved and sidewalks built of manufactured stone," replied Mr. Woolridge. "At the town which you see, the piers start out about two-thirds of a mile apart, and approach each other till they are less than a third of a mile from each other. They were built to protect the port from the north-west winds which sometimes blow very fresh here, and to prevent the harbor of Port Said from being choked up with the Nile mud from the mouths of the great river.
"These piers were constructed by a French firm. The first thing was to manufacture the artificial stone, which was composed of seven parts sand, of which there is a plentiful supply in this vicinity, and one part of hydraulic lime, imported from France. I suppose the latter is something like the cement used in New York in building sewers and drains, or other works in wet places. This concrete was mixed by machinery, then put into immense wooden moulds, just as you make a loaf of sponge cake, Mrs. Blossom, where it was kept for several weeks. These blocks weighed twenty tons each."
"Goodness! They were heavier than Mrs. Grimper's sponge cake!" exclaimed Mrs. Blossom.
"Considerably," laughed the magnate. "The solid contents of each were thirteen and a third cubic yards. How big a cubic block would that make in feet, young gentlemen? I hope you are not neglecting your mathematics for geography and sight-seeing."
"About seven feet," replied Louis, after some mental figuring.
"A little more than that," added the professor.
"Seven feet is about the height of the cabin of this ship, and one of them would just stand up in it," continued Mr. Woolridge. "They made thirty of them every day, and twenty-five thousand were required."
"This is about as wonderful as the immense work of the ancient Egyptians," said Mrs. Belgrave.
"But all this labor was done by machinery. The moulds were removed from the blocks, and they were exposed to the air in order to harden them more effectually. They were then hoisted on peculiar boats, built for the purpose, with an inclined deck, from which they were slid into the sea. They made a tremendous splash when they were dumped overboard; and it was a sight worth seeing if we had happened to be here twenty-four years ago."
"It wasn't convaynient for some of us to be here at that time," said Felix.
"That is so, my broth of a boy; but some things happened before you were born, as well as since."
"Sure, the pyramids were built before your honor was barn."
"True for you; some things happened before I was born, and even before the twin cupids came into the world; for I believe they are the oldest persons on board," replied the magnate. "They kept dropping these tremendous blocks into the sea till they came nearly to the level, and then they built the walls as you see them now. I suppose you have noticed that lighthouse on the little strip of land between the sea and Lake Menzaleh. That is also built of these artificial stones, and it is one hundred and sixty-four feet high. It is provided with electric lights, which are to be seen from a distance of twenty-four miles. It is, therefore, one of the largest in the world. I believe I have covered the ground now, and I won't say anything about Port Said till we are moored in the grand basin."
"You have disposed of the pierres perdues very nicely indeed, Mr. Woolridge," said the professor.
"Who are they?" asked the magnate, who had forgotten all the French he ever knew.
"Literally, 'lost stones,' as they were when they went overboard; but that was what the French engineers called them."
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, I desire to invite you to the upper deck, where I wish to say something to you about the Land of Goshen, and thus finish up Egypt, except the portion we shall have in view as we continue on our voyage," said the commander rising from his seat.
The ladies were handed down from the promenade by the gallant gentlemen, though, unfortunately, there were not enough of the former to go round; but no one but the captain and Louis presumed to offer his services to Mrs. Belgrave or Miss Blanche. As the party approached the place where the conferences had usually been held, they saw that a change had been made in the appearance of things.
The first novelty that attracted their attention was the large map which was suspended on a frame rigged against the mainmast. It was brilliant with colors, with all the streams, towns, and lakes, properly labelled, upon it. A small table stood at the left, or port side, of it, covered with a cloth, with a Bible and a vase of flowers upon it. Chloe, the stewardess, had provided the latter from the pots which the ladies had kept in the cabin since their visit to Bermuda.
On the deck a large carpet had been spread out, and the thirteen arm-chairs had been placed in a semicircle, facing the map, with one behind the table for the speaker for the occasion. As soon as the company had taken in this arrangement for the educational feature of the voyage, they halted, and applauded it with right good-will.
"Please to be seated, ladies and gentlemen," said the commander, as he handed Mrs. Belgrave to the chair on the right of the table; and at the same time he took his place behind the table.
The party took their chairs according to their own fancies, and Mrs. Blossom managed to get at the side of Felix. At one side stood Mr. Gaskette and the two sailors who had assisted him in his work. They had also arranged the meeting-place from the direction of the captain. Some of the tourists wondered what the commander meant to do in the face of all these preparations. It was not Sunday, or they would have come to the conclusion that the usual religious service was to be held here; for the Bible on the table pointed in this direction. As soon as the party were seated the commander opened the Good Book at a marked place.
"I see that some of you are surprised at the altered appearance of our out-door hall," Captain Ringgold began. "I regard the instructive element of our voyage as one of the greatest importance; and if I were to fit out the ship again for this cruise, I should provide an apartment on this deck for our conference meetings. But I have done the best I could under the circumstances, with the assistance of Mr. Gaskette, the second officer of the ship.
"I see also that the map before you has challenged your attention," continued the commander, who proceeded to explain in what manner he had caused the maps to be made. "Mr. Gaskette has been my right-hand man in this work. He is not only a good navigator and a thorough seaman, but he is a highly educated gentleman, a graduate of Harvard College, a person of artistic tastes, as you may have learned from your intercourse with him. The map before you is only one of three already completed, and the work is in progress upon several others."
The company, including the ladies, received this explanation with generous applause, and all the boys called for the subject of the captain's remarks. He was presented to them, and thanked the commander for his kind words, and hoped the maps would prove to be useful in the conferences.
"I will begin what I have to say about the Land of Goshen by reading a few verses from the first chapter of Exodus: 'And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there rose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Ramses.'
"Ramses II. is generally regarded as the Pharaoh of the oppression, and doubtless the Israelites suffered a great deal of persecution in his reign," the commander proceeded as he closed the Bible. "But the one who proposed in the verse I have read to 'get them up out of the land, was the successor of Ramses II., 'the new king over Egypt,' Merenptah, the son of Ramses, and now believed to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus. He reigned about 1325 years A.D.
"The Land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, is the north-eastern part of Egypt, the whole of it lying to the east of the Damietta branch of the Nile," continued the commander, using his pointer upon the map. "Through this region then, as now, there were fresh-water canals, by which the country was made very productive, and the people were very prosperous. The city of Ramses, built by the Israelites, was doubtless the most important in Goshen. It is the ancient Tanis, the ruins of which are still to be seen. Pithom, the other city mentioned in the Scripture, is here," and the speaker pointed it out. "It is quite near the Arabian Desert, and the present fresh-water canal runs within a few miles of it.
"With the birth of Moses, and the finding of the child in the ark or basket by the daughter of Pharaoh, and her adoption of it, you are all familiar; and the story is quite as interesting as any you can find in other books than the Bible. Though of the house of Levi, he became an Egyptian for the time; but he claimed his lineage, and became the leader of the Israelites, and conducted them out of Egypt.
"A great deal of study has been given by learned men to the route by which this was accomplished. Most of them agreed that he started from Tanis, or Ramses. On that narrow strip of land between the lake and the Mediterranean, which you have seen from the promenade, was one of the usual roads from Egypt into Asia, and was the one which led into Palestine, the Holy Land. Where Moses and his followers crossed the Red Sea is still an open question, though hardly such to devout people who accept literally the Bible as their guide in matters of faith and fact both. These accept the belief that the crossing of the Red Sea, with the miracles attending it, was in the portion near Suez.
"Heinrich Karl Brugsch, a learned German and eminent Egyptologist, born in Berlin in 1827, has constructed a theory in relation to the exodus of the Israelites which is more ingenious than reasonable to the pious reader of the Scripture. It would be hardly profitable for us to go into the details of his reasoning, though he uses the Bible as the foundation of his statements. There were two roads from Egypt to Palestine, the one mentioned, and one farther south, not so well adapted to caravans on account of the marshy country it traverses.
"The German savant believed they departed by the northern road. In the British Museum is a letter written on papyrus over three thousand years ago, in which an Egyptian writer describes his journey from Ramses in pursuit of two runaway servants. The days of the month are given; and his stopping-places were the same as those of the Israelites. (Exodus xii. 37): 'The children of Israel journeyed from Ramses to Succoth;' and this is the region east of Goshen. (Exodus xiii. 20): 'And they journeyed from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness,' or the desert.
"This was also the route of the Egyptian letter writer. Then the pilgrims were commanded to turn, and encamp at a point between Migdol and the sea, (Exodus xiv. 2.) He found the fugitives had gone towards the wall, meaning the forts by which Egypt was defended from Asiatic enemies. Following the same route, the Israelites came to the Sarbonian Lake. This is a long sheet of water on the isthmus," said the commander, as he pointed it out on the map. "It was, for it no longer exists, separated from the Mediterranean by such a strip as that which you see here by Lake Menzaleh.
"Diodorus Siculus informs us that the Sarbonian Lake was filled with a rank growth of reeds and papyrus bushes, which made it very dangerous to travellers. Strong winds blew the sands of the desert over the surface, studded with leaves, so as to hide the water; and the traveller might walk upon it and sink to his death. The same ancient writer says that an army with which Artaxerxes, King of Persia, intended to invade Egypt, being unacquainted with this treacherous lake, got into it, and was lost.
"Brugsch believes this was the lake through which the Israelites passed, and that Pharaoh's army encountered a storm, were lost, and perished as did the Persian forces. But we must drop the subject here, though it may come up again when we arrive at Suez, where others believe the six hundred thousand Israelites went over dry shod, while Pharaoh and his hosts perished in the closing waters."
The company had certainly been deeply interested in the subject, and the commander retired from the rostrum with a volley of applause.
THE LAST OF CAPTAIN MAZAGAN
Captain Ringgold was very much delighted with the success which had attended his efforts to interest his passengers; for he never lost sight of the instructive feature of the voyage. None of his party were scientists in a technical sense in the studies which occupied them, though Dr. Hawkes and Professor Giroud were such in their occupation at home; but they were all well-educated persons in the ordinary use of the term.
They were not Egyptologists, philosophers, theologians, zoologists, biblical critics, ethnologists, or devoted to any special studies; they were ordinary seekers after knowledge in all its varieties. The everyday facts, events, and scenes, as presented to them in their present migratory existence, were the staple topics of thought and study. Though none of the party ascended to the higher flights of scientific inquiry, the commander endeavored to make use of the discoveries and conclusions of the learned men of the present and the past.
He was eminently a practical man, and practical knowledge was his aim; and he endeavored to lead the conferences in this direction. The building of the piers at Port Said, and the construction of the canal, as meagrely described by the magnate of the Fifth Avenue, were the kind of subjects he believed in; and he had a sort of mild contempt for one who could discourse learnedly over a polype, and did not know the difference between a sea mile and a statute mile.
"Do you believe in the explanation of that Dutchman you mentioned, Captain Ringgold?" asked Mr. Woolridge, at the close of the conference.
"What Dutchman?" inquired the commander. "I do not remember that I alluded to any Dutchman."
"I mean the man who says that Pharaoh's army perished in the lake where the weeds and papyrus grew," the magnate explained.
"Brugsch? He was not a Dutchman; he was a German."
"It is all the same thing; I have been in the habit of calling a German a Dutchman."
"If you will excuse me, Mr. Woolridge, I think it is a very bad habit," added the commander with a deprecatory smile. "A German is not a Dutchman, any more than a Dutchman is a German; and I should as soon think of calling a full-blooded American a Chinaman, as a German a Dutchman."
"Of course you are right, Captain, though I am not alone in the use of the word," replied the magnate.
"But it is more common among uneducated people than with people of even fair education. I do not accept Brugsch's explanation, but cling to the Bible story as I learned it in my childhood. I don't think Brugsch's explanation comes under the head of what is called the 'higher criticism,' or that it places him in the column of those who represent the 'advanced thought' of the present time; for he follows the Scripture record, and does not seek to invalidate it. But we are going to run into the basin, and it is time we were moving," added the commander, as he called the first officer, and ordered the anchor to be weighed.
"Do you have to pay to go through the canal, Captain Ringgold?" asked Mrs. Belgrave, after the commander had given his orders.
"Of course we do," replied the captain; and about all the party gathered around him to hear what he had to say. "As Mr. Woolridge said, the canal is good paying stock to the holders of the shares. It cost a vast sum of money, and it is worked and kept in running order at an immense expense."
"I asked a foolish question, and I might have known better," said the lady.
"Every vessel that goes through to Suez has to pay a round sum for the privilege."
"Do all ships have to pay the same amount?"
"Certainly not; for that would be very unfair. They pay by the ton; and every vessel carries a register, in which her tonnage is given. The Guardian-Mother's is 624 tons. About everything is French in this locality; and the rate charged is ten francs a ton, or a little less than two dollars. I shall have to pay a bill of $1,248 in our money."
"That looks like an enormous price," suggested Mrs. Woolridge.
"In addition to this charge, we have to pay from ten to twenty francs for a pilot, depending upon the tonnage, and the same for each passenger. Through the greater portion of the canal the speed of steamers is limited to five miles an hour; otherwise the swash of the propeller would injure the embankments on either side. It takes steamers about sixteen hours to go through to Suez."
"But that is over six miles an hour," Uncle Moses objected.
"The three lakes, making nearly thirty miles of the distance, are wide enough and deep enough to permit steamers to go ahead at full speed, which will more than make up the difference, and include the stay at Ismailia. There are sometimes unavoidable delays. A vessel may get aground, and bar the passage for a day or two. The canal is not in all places wide enough for one large steamer to pass another, and there are sidings, as on a single track railroad, where it can be done, a little more than three miles apart. Posts are set up every five kilometres to indicate the distances."
"Anchor aweigh, sir," reported the first officer.
"Heave it up," replied the captain, and went to the pilot-house.
The "Big Four" had gone on board of the Maud, and she got under way at the same time. The pilot was on board of the ship, and none was taken for the little steamer, which was regarded as the tender. Captain Scott had his plan of the harbor before him, and he could have taken his craft into the basin without any assistance; but he was required to follow the ship.
Port Said owes its existence to the canal, and without that it would amount to nothing. It is located on the eastern end of an island which is a part of the narrow neck of land which divides Lake Menzaleh from the Mediterranean. It was thought when it was laid out that it would become a considerable city; but it has not yet realized this expectation, though it has now a population of over seventeen thousand. Six thousand of this number are Europeans, the French predominating. The making of the harbor, or "Grand Basin Ismail" as it is called, was another difficult task for the canal company; for it has an area of 570 acres, which had to be excavated to the depth of twenty-six feet by dredging.
The Guardian-Mother, followed by the Maud, passed through the channel, which is marked by red and green lights, to the basin, where the former was moored at one of the walls. The town could not be seen by the tourists till the ship entered the basin, and then it was found to be a place of no small importance. It contains two good hotels, where one may board at one for three dollars a day, and at the other for two and a half.
It was necessary for the steamers to coal at this point, and the party went on shore. From the deck they could see up the principal street. The French post-office, for there is also an Egyptian, was close to the wharf; and they hastened to that, for most of them had written letters to their friends at home. It was still Egypt, and the place was true to its national character; for the travellers were immediately beset by a horde of beggars, and bakshish was still a popular clamor. The shops were like those of other regions, though they did not seem to be doing a very thriving trade; for the entire surrounding country was either a desert or a morass, and there were few to go shopping.
There was really nothing to be seen there, and the passengers soon returned to the ship, impatient to proceed on the passage through the canal; but the night was coming on, and the commander decided to make an early start the next morning, for he wished his charge to see the country as they passed through it, and especially the steamers on their way to India and China. After dinner the company gathered in the music-room; but it was observed that the commander and Dr. Hawkes were absent. They had remained in the cabin, and were in conversation.
"What is the present condition of your patient, Doctor?" asked the captain as soon as they were alone.
"He is doing very well, and is in a fair way to recover in a short time," replied the surgeon.
"After we get through the Red Sea, we strike out on a voyage of ten days or more, and I am not anxious to retain this villain on board," continued the captain. "I owe him nothing, though I shall treat him with common humanity. In a word, I wish to get rid of him as soon as possible."
"There is nothing in his present condition to prevent you from putting him on shore at any time,—to-night, if you are so disposed," replied Dr. Hawkes in decided terms.
"You would oblige me very much, Doctor, by broaching this subject to him. I suppose he has money, though I know nothing about it, and he can pay his way at one of the hotels here," suggested the captain.
"We had the United States Consul with us at dinner, as you are aware, and he can inform you whether or not there is a hospital here. I will see Mazagan at once, and do as you desire. I will see you in your cabin in half an hour," said the surgeon, as he went forward to the hospital.
Captain Ringgold went to the music-room, where the consul was enjoying himself in listening to Miss Blanche, who was giving him some account of the voyage; and she had just mentioned "The Battle of Khrysoko," of which the consul wished to know more. The captain called him aside, and proceeded to question him in regard to the care of the patient in the town.
"I have a wounded man on board, and I wish to get rid of him," he began.
"Wounded in the battle of which Miss Woolridge was telling me?" asked the official.
"Precisely so; but he is not of my party, and is the biggest scoundrel that ever went unhung;" and the commander gave a brief account of his relations to Mazagan. "Is there a hospital in Port Said?"
"None, except for fellahs and other laborers. If he is a respectable man, perhaps I can find accommodations for him at the Hotel de France," answered the consul. "I will go and see the landlord at once, and report to you in half an hour."
"Come to my cabin on the upper deck."
In less than the time he had stated he came back, and reported that the hotel would take him at sixty francs a week. While he was in the cabin the doctor presented himself.
"Does this patient require a nurse?" asked the consul.
"He does not. In the last two days he has greatly improved," replied the doctor, "though we keep a man near him to prevent him from doing any mischief."
It was settled that the patient should be sent on shore that night to the hotel, and the consul returned to the music-room.
"Mazagan protests against being sent ashore here; and I have no doubt he would do the same at Ismailia or Suez," said Dr. Hawkes. "He insists upon seeing you, and declares that he has important business with you. If you do not seriously object, perhaps that would be the easiest way to quiet him."
"Can he walk?" asked the commander.
"As well as you can, Captain. He has a lame shoulder; but he can help himself with his left hand, and I have put his right arm in a sling, to prevent him from using it," answered Dr. Hawkes.
Captain Ringgold struck his bell, and sent for Knott to conduct the patient to his cabin. In a few minutes Mazagan was seated in the chair he had occupied once before as a prisoner.
"You wish to see me?" the commander began rather curtly.
"I do, Captain Ringgold. You talk of sending me ashore at this place. I protest against it," said the prisoner; for such he was really.
"Do you intend to remain on board of my ship for an indefinite period?"
"Until you settle my account with you," answered the pirate, as self-possessed as though he had been the victor dealing with the vanquished.
"Don't say anything more to me about your account!" added the commander, fiercely for him. "Your protest is of no consequence to me, and I shall put you ashore to-night!"
"You don't know what you are doing, Captain Ringgold," said the wounded man, with a savage scowl on his face. "The Fatime was old and worn out, or your tender could not have crushed in her side. Let me tell you that my noble master, the Pacha, ordered a new steam-yacht of a thousand tons a year ago; and if you treat me with this inhumanity, he will follow you all over the world till he obtains his revenge."
"That is enough of this nonsense!" said the captain, springing from his chair, and calling for Knott, who was at the door.
"If you pay me the two hundred thousand francs, that will be the end of the affair," added the prisoner.
"I will never pay you a centime! Knott, take this villain away, and have him conveyed to the Hotel de France at once!" said the commander.
Knott obeyed the order, taking the pirate by the left arm. Mr. Boulong was instructed to carry out the order given. In five minutes more the Moor was marched up the quay between two seamen, and handed over to the landlord. At daylight the next morning the Guardian-Mother and the Maud sailed on their way through the canal; and nothing more was seen of Captain Mazagan.
THE CONFERENCE ON THE SUEZ CANAL
The Grand Basin Ismail, at Port Said, is only an extension in breadth of the canal, and the Guardian-Mother had only to proceed on her course by the narrow water-way through the desert. The Maud followed her closely, having nothing to fear on account of the depth of the water; and even the ship had plenty under her keel. But it is said that, by what appears to be a curious reversal of the ordinary rule, the very large steamers are in less danger of running aground than those of smaller dimensions.
When the commander stated this canal axiom to the passengers assembled before the starting on the promenade, Uncle Moses objected strenuously to its truth, and Dr. Hawkes warmly supported him. The statement did not look reasonable to them.
"Is it claimed that a vessel drawing twenty-five feet of water is in less peril than one needing only eighteen feet of water to float her?" asked the lawyer.
"The facts seem to prove this; but you will say that it is so much the worse for the facts," replied the captain, laughing at the earnestness of the non-nautical gentlemen; and even the ladies understood the matter well enough to be interested in the dispute.
"The affirmative side of the question must prove its position," suggested the doctor.
"Which the affirmative will be very happy to do," replied the commander very cheerfully. "If the bottom of the canal were a dead level, paved like Broadway, and the depth of the canal were just twenty-six feet in every place, with a perpendicular wall on each side, your theory would be entirely correct, and the affirmative would have nothing more to say. But the bottom is not paved, and there are no walls at the sides to secure a uniform depth."
"Then the canal is not twenty-six feet deep, as the affirmative has laid down the law," added Uncle Moses.
"That looks like a lawyer's quibble," replied the captain with a hearty laugh. "You have opened the road for the retreat of the negative."
"The facts set forth by the speakers in our conference fail to be facts," persisted the legal gentleman.
"The fact was given as a general truth that the depth of the canal is twenty-six feet; but I think that no person as reasonable as Squire Scarburn of Von Blonk Park would insist that it should be absolutely of fully that depth in every part in order to comply with the general truth of the statement. The courts don't rule in that way. I read lately of a life insurance company which refused to pay a policy on the plea that the holder had been a drunkard; but the court ruled that the use of intoxicating liquors, or even an occasional over-indulgence, did not constitute a drunkard."
"A wise ruling," added the squire.
"We call a person a good man; but even the affirmative does not insist that he shall be absolutely without sin, stain, or fault in order to entitle him to this designation."
"There would not be a single good man in that case," laughed the doctor. "We admit the general truth that the canal is twenty-six feet deep."
"The canal has been dug out of loose sand for the most part, and it would have been impossible to make it of uniform depth. Some of the largest steamers in the world pass through the canal on their way to India, China, and Australia. The Orient Line has the Ophir, a twin-screw ship, about five hundred feet long, and others nearly as large.
"This big ditch across the isthmus has an average width of three hundred feet, or two hundred less than the length of the Ophir. She could not, therefore, get across the channel. There is a current in this water, and fierce winds sometimes blow across it, and both of these affect the inertia of the vessels. A comparatively small steamer like the Guardian-Mother can be twisted about by these causes, and her bow or her stern may catch on the sloping sides."
"You have made out your case, Captain Ringgold; and the moral is that general truths are not invariably true," said Uncle Moses good-naturedly.
"I only hope we shall not get aground," added Mrs. Belgrave.
"We are fairly started now, and we have Lake Menzaleh on one side, and a low sandy plain, once covered with water, on the other," continued the commander. "It is difficult to believe that the swamp and lagoon on the starboard were once covered with fertile fields, watered by two of the branches of the Nile, where wheat was raised in abundance, from which Rome and other countries were supplied with food."
"What vast flocks of birds!" exclaimed Mrs. Woolridge.
"Those are flamingoes, just rising from their resting-place," added the captain. "They were white just now as we looked at them; notice the color of the inside of their wings, which are of a rose-tinted pink."
"But what became of the wheat-fields that were here?" asked Mrs. Blossom, after they had observed the wild birds for a time.
"The sea broke in and covered the rich lands with sand and salt; and there are towns buried there now."
"Goodness, gracious!" almost screamed Mrs. Blossom. "There's another steamer sailing on the land!"
"It appears to be so, but is not so," replied the commander.
"It is really so," added Mrs. Woolridge; and all the party gazed with interest at the phenomenon.
"Only apparently so," the captain insisted.
"Please to explain it to us, Commodore," said Miss Blanche, who had long ago applied this title to him.
"With pleasure, Miss Woolridge. It is the mirage, from the Latin miror, to wonder, which appears to be what you are doing just now. The steamer you see sailing along the shore is an optical illusion, a reflection, and not a reality. Refraction, which is the bending of the rays of light, produces this effect. If you look at a straight stick set up in the water, it will appear to be bent, and this is caused by refraction. The learned gentlemen present will excuse me for going back to the primer of physics."
"We are quite satisfied to have the memory refreshed," replied the doctor.
"The air around us is of different densities, which causes the rays of reflection of our ship to be bent, sending the image up on the shore. What sailors call 'looming,' often seen on our own shores, is produced in the same way; and we often see an island, or a vessel, looming up away above the water, from which it is sometimes separated by a strip of sky. The mirage is often seen in the desert, with a whole caravan up in the air, sometimes upside down.
"An object is often seen when at a considerable distance from it. In the Arctic regions ships below the horizon, or hull down as sailors phrase it, are revealed to other ships far distant by their images in the air. From Hastings, on the English Channel, the coast of France, fifty miles distant, from Calais to Dieppe, was once seen for about three hours. In 1854 a remarkable exhibition of the mirage was witnessed in the Baltic Sea from the deck of a ship of the British navy. The whole English fleet, consisting of nineteen sail, distant thirty miles from the point of observation, were seen up in the air, upside down, as if they had been hung up there by their keels.
"The Fata Morgana is a sort of mirage seen in the Strait of Messina. A person standing on the shore sees the images of men, houses, ships, and other objects, sometimes in the air, sometimes in the water, the originals frequently magnified, passing like a panorama before the beholder. The vapory masses above the strait may cause the pictures to be surrounded by a colored line. When the peasants see it, they shout 'Morgana! Morgana!'"
"What does that word mean?" inquired Miss Blanche.
"The French from which it is derived is 'Morgaine la Fee,' from a sister of King Arthur of the Round Table, who had the reputation of being a fairy, which is fata in Italian."
"But what is that round table?" asked Mrs. Blossom very innocently.
"You must excuse me, my dear woman," replied the commander, looking at his watch. "The Suez Canal is the subject before us, and I am talking all the morning about other things."
"But it is collateral information, called out by the mirage; and the illustrations you mentioned are quite new to me, for one," added Dr. Hawkes.
"I like this kind of a conference, where the side matters are all explained," said Mrs. Belgrave. "But it is a pity the boys are not here, for they are not getting any of the cream of this conference so early in the morning."
This was enough for the commander, coming from her; and he immediately hastened to the stern of the ship, where he hailed the Maud, and ordered her to come alongside. The four sailors who had attended the party in the excursion to Cairo and up the Nile were directed to go on board of the tender, and take the places of the "Big Four." The Guardian-Mother had to go into a "siding" to permit a steamer to pass her at this point, and the transfer was easily made.
However it may have been with the others, Louis Belgrave was glad to get back to the ship, where he could sit by the side of Miss Blanche, and answer the many questions she was continually asking; for she had an inquiring mind. As she often remarked, Louis always seemed to know all about everything. Perhaps if he had been with the party all the time, he might have lost some portion of his reputation as a walking encyclopaedia; for when he was to be with her on any excursion, he took extraordinary pains to post himself upon the topics likely to be considered.
"You notice that post near the siding," said Captain Ringgold when the party on the promenade had been re-enforced by the addition of the young men, and the steamer began to move again. "That is one of the five kilometre posts; and you will find them all the way to the Red Sea."
"What is a kilometre?" inquired Mrs. Woolridge.
"I have talked so much that I will ask Mr. Belgrave to explain it," replied the captain.
"It belongs to the French metrical system, which most people have come to believe is the best in the world. I suppose everybody here knows what a meridian is, for it was explained when we were talking about great circles and geographical or sea miles. A meridian is a great circle reaching around the earth, and passing through the equator and the poles. A quadrant of a meridian is the quarter of a meridian, extending from the equator to either pole. This is something that does not vary in extent. A commission of five learned men, especially in mathematics, was appointed by the French Academy, at the instance of the government, to adopt a standard, and they made it a metre, which is the ten millionth part of the quadrant of a meridian. The metre is 3.28 feet of our measure, with five more decimal places after it.
"Ten metres make a decametre, and one thousand metres make a kilometre, and ten thousand metres make a myriametre. Without bothering with all these decimals, a kilometre is about five-eighths of a mile. Five kilometres make three miles and one-tenth, which is the distance between these posts," said Louis in conclusion.
"How came you to be so ready with your explanation, Mr. Belgrave?" asked Miss Blanche, with a pleasant smile of approval.
"Captain Scott had talked the whole thing to us on board of the Maud while he steered the steamer," replied Louis.
"But he knows five times as much about metres as I do; for I could not have explained the meridian business," interjected the captain of the Maud.
"Five miles an hour is slow travelling; but it enables us to see the country, and also to talk about it," said Dr. Hawkes.
"If you don't mean that I am talking too much, Doctor"—
"I certainly do not mean that, and I hope you will keep it up," interposed the surgeon.
"Then I will say that the canal is run on the 'block system,' except on the lakes, where the ships can go at full speed," added the commander.
"Where are the blocks? I don't see any," said Mrs. Blossom.
"They are all along the canal."
"I don't know what is meant by the block system," added Mrs. Belgrave.
"The railroads in England and the United States, or many of them, are run by this method. The whole length of the road, or canal in this case, is divided into short sections. On the railroad no train is permitted to enter a section till all other trains are out of it, and a collision is therefore impossible. The system is controlled by telegraph, by which signals are ordered at either end of the division. On the canal the director at Port Tewfik controls the movements of every ship on its passage either way. These posts mark the sections. You will learn more of it when we get to the other end of the canal."
The breakfast gong sounded at this time, and the party were not so eager for knowledge as to pass over the morning meal.
THE CANAL AND ITS SUGGESTIONS
The tourists had been up long enough to be in excellent condition for breakfast; and the Asiatic breezes from the south-east were cool and refreshing, for they came from the mountains of the peninsula of Sinai, where Moses had received the law from Heaven. There was something inspiring in this thought to the minds of the more religious members of the party when the commander announced the proximity of the sacred mountain after he had asked the blessing.
"How far is Mount Sinai from where we are now?" asked Mrs. Woolridge.
"I cannot tell you just how far it is at this moment, for my charts are in my cabin," replied Captain Ringgold. "We are not so near it as we shall be later; but you will all see it after we get into the Red Sea. We will defer the subject till that time; and I should not have mentioned it if the south-east wind had not suggested it."
"I got a glance at an enormously big steamer ahead of us just as we were leaving the promenade," added Mr. Woolridge. "She looked as large as Noah's Ark, and appeared as though she was sailing over the land."
"Perhaps she was quite as large; for the pilot tells me that the Ophir is just ahead of us," added the commander.
"What is the Ophir?" asked Mrs. Belgrave.
"She is the largest of the Orient Line of steamers, and one of the finest ships in the world. I remember that in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible it says that the ark was larger than any British man-of-war; and probably the statement is still correct, though by a narrower margin than when the learned editor completed his work. The Empress of India and two other barbette ships of her class in the English navy have a displacement of 14,150 tons, and the last built Cunarder, the Lucania, exceeds 13,000 tons. The ark was 525 feet long, reducing her 300 cubits to our measure, which is about the length of the Ophir."
"I should like to go on board of one of those great British steamers that sail to the other side of the earth," said Mrs. Belgrave.
"Possibly we may have an opportunity to do so at Ismailia or Suez. I will ascertain when we arrive at these places," the captain replied to the lady; whose simple requests and hints were law to the gallant commander, who was a bachelor in the best possible preservation.
The company returned to the promenade without any unnecessary delay; for all of them were interested in the canal itself, and in the sights to be seen on its shores. The great steamer ahead of the Guardian-Mother was much nearer than when the party went below, and it soon appeared that she had "taken the ground." But it proved to be only a temporary hitch, for she went ahead again before the American craft reached her.
"They are at work all the time on the canal to prevent these accidents, and several changes have already been made in the original plan of the canal," said the commander. "Monsieur Lesseps, who projected this wonderful enterprise, and whose energy and perseverance carried it through to its completion, made a voyage through the canal in the Austral, one of the largest of the Orient Line, though not so large as the one ahead of us, for the purpose of observing any defects. The result has been that several improvements have been adopted which it is expected will remove all the difficulties."
"Is Monsieur Lesseps still living, Captain?" inquired Captain Scott.
"He is at the age of eighty-seven this year. His success with the Suez Canal led him to undertake the construction of the Panama Canal. The company was formed with the prestige of the great engineer's success on this isthmus, and the shares were readily sold. The work was begun; but it was a more difficult undertaking than Suez, and the company suspended payment four years ago. Speculators and 'boodlers' had 'monkeyed' with the finances, and the vast scheme is a failure. Whether it will ever be accomplished remains a question for the future."
"The poor old man and his son were dragged into the mire, and were even committed to prison, though they were soon released," added Mr. Woolridge. "I think he was a great man, and I was exceedingly sorry for his misfortunes."
"He will never receive the honor he deserves on our side of the Atlantic, I fear," added Captain Ringgold. "After rich and powerful potentates had rejected the scheme, Lesseps still cherished it. Over sixty years ago, when he was an employe in the office of the French consul at Tunis, he was sent to Alexandria on business. Here he was subjected to a residence of some time in quarantine. He was supplied with books by the French consul there, and among them was Lapere's Memoire. The author was Napoleon's engineer, whose report that the level of the two seas was not uniform, had set aside the schemes to connect them by a canal. Lesseps considered his views, and some years after made the acquaintance of Lieutenant Waghorn, favorably known in connection with the Overland Route to India by the way of Egypt. The route by descending the Euphrates River to the head of the Persian Gulf was also considered. It appears, therefore, that Lesseps was cogitating his great enterprise for nearly forty years before the work was completed."
"I cannot see the immense importance of this canal as you gentlemen represent it; but I suppose it is because I am a woman," said Mrs. Belgrave.
"It is of the greatest importance to England," replied Mr. Woolridge. "Over twenty-five hundred British vessels went through the canal in 1888; for England has a vast empire in Asia, to say nothing of Australia and other colonies in the East. Of other nations of Europe, France sent two hundred and seventy-two ships through the canal, Holland one hundred and twenty-four, Germany one hundred and twenty-two, and others less than a hundred each."
"But how many American vessels went through?" asked Captain Scott.
"None were mentioned in the report I saw; and the number must have been very few. The canal is of vastly less importance to the United States than to England, France, Holland, and Spain, all of which have colonies in the East. Since the war, our maritime commerce has been immensely reduced, though our ships still make voyages to India, China, and various ports of the East. Then the distance saved to our vessels would be much less. Roughly estimated,—in fact, guessed at,—I should say that the distance from New York to Ceylon, near the southern cape of India, is four-fifths of that around Cape Good Hope. The heavy dues for passing through the canal are an item, and it would not pay to save two thousand five hundred miles out of twelve thousand five hundred."
"But the saving from London to Bombay is forty-four per cent," added Mr. Woolridge. "From Marseilles to the same port it is nearly sixty per cent. The United States 'is not in it'"—
"Are not in it, papa," interposed Miss Blanche with a silvery laugh.
"No, my dear; is not in it," returned the magnate, with a loving smile. "I know the government is said to have ruled for the plural, but I don't accept the ruling. Why, what does E pluribus Unum mean if not the singular number? For what did we fight the War of the Rebellion if not to prove that the United States is one government, and are not forty-four of them at the present moment."
"But the grammar, papa?" asked Blanche.
"The grammar is all right, my child. What are the news, Blanche? The company is or are, just as you pay your money and take your choice," said the father, chucking the fair maiden under the chin.
"Our friend is quite right, and, so far as the canal is concerned, the United States is not in it," added the commander, laughing at the turn the conference had taken.
"How far have we gone so far, Captain?" asked Miss Blanche.
"Ten o'clock," he replied, consulting his watch. "We have been moving at this snail's pace for five hours, and made twenty-five miles, or forty kilometres. In five more we shall come to El Kantara, where the caravan route from Egypt into Asia crosses the canal."
"Do the camels have to swim across the canal?" asked Mrs. Blossom.
"They do not; but it cost the canal company some money to save them the trouble of doing so," replied the captain. "El Kantara means 'the bridge;' and there used to be one across the outlet of a lake there. The bridge was removed by the company, and a ferry substituted for it."
"I suppose all vessels have to go through the canal in the daytime," said Mrs. Woolridge.
"Not at all; the system of signals is arranged for day or night. Vessels with an electric search-light or projector which will show up an object three-quarters of a mile ahead are allowed to navigate the canal at night. We could do so if so disposed; but we wish to see the country. The channel is lighted at night by illuminated buoys."
"What sort of boys?" inquired Mrs. Blossom, who was struggling to grow wise, and had a long distance to travel in that direction.
"Iron ones," answered the captain.
"Iron boys!" exclaimed the good lady. "How could they point out the way through the canal?"
"They swim in the water, and the pilots understand the language they speak," said the commander gravely.
"Iron boys that swim and speak!" ejaculated the excellent lady. "I think you must be fooling with us, Captain Ringgold."
"You have put your foot in it again!" exclaimed Mrs. Belgrave in a whisper. "Don't say another word!"
"A buoy is a floating body in the shape of two inverted cones united at their bases, made of copper or plate iron. They are used all over the world to mark the bounds of channels, sometimes with fog-bells on them, rung by the action of the waves," continued the commander. "They are moored to the bottom here as elsewhere, and have a gas-light burning on them all the time."
"A gas-light!" exclaimed Mrs. Woolridge; "where is the gas-house?"
"There are several of them on the canal, and not one for each buoy, which is filled with gas, and contains a supply that will last for six weeks. Some folks who never went to sea suppose a lighthouse is to give light on the water, when they are only to mark certain localities, and to give ranges to navigators. These buoys are for the same purpose, and not to light up the canal. But here is El Kantara."