Not a sailor stirred. There was not one that did not admire Harry's promptness, which had saved Jack's life, and prevented the captain from becoming a murderer.
"Here, you two men, seize the boy, and carry him below!" exclaimed the captain, addressing Brown and Higgins, the two sailors nearest.
The two men looked at each other, moved a step forward, and then stopped.
"Is this mutiny?" roared the captain, with a bloodcurdling oath. "Am I master in my own ship or not?"
What might have been the issue is hard to tell, had not the Yankee passenger already referred to, Jonathan Stubbs, come forward and taken up the gauntlet.
"Look here, cap'n," he commenced, in a drawling tone, "what's all this fuss you're kickin' up? You're kinder riled, ain't you?"
"Who are you that dare to bandy words with me? Men, do you hear me? Put that boy in irons, or must I do it myself?"
"Look here, cap'n, let's argy that matter a little," said Stubbs. "What's the boy to be put in irons for?"
"For grossly insulting me, and defying my authority."
"He has prevented your committing murder, if that's what you mean. You ought to thank him."
"Take care, sir!" thundered the captain, "or I may put you in irons, also."
"I reckon you might find a little opposition," said the Yankee, quietly. "I'm a passenger on this vessel, Captain Hill, and your authority doesn't extend to me."
"We'll see about that, sir," said the captain, and he grasped Stubbs by the collar.
Now, the Yankee was not a heavy man, but he was very strong and wiry, and, moreover, in his early days, like Abraham Lincoln, he had been the best wrestler in the Vermont village in which he was born. He was a very quiet, peaceable man, but he was accustomed to resent insult in an effective way. He wrenched himself free by a powerful effort; then, with a dexterous movement of one of his long legs, he tripped up the captain, who fell in a heap upon the deck. The shock, added to the effects of his intoxication, seemed to stupefy the captain, who remained where he fell.
"Boys," said Stubbs, coolly, to the two sailors, who had been ordered to put Harry in irons, "hadn't you better help the captain into his cabin? He seems to be unwell."
Just then the mate came on deck. He didn't make inquiries, but took in the situation at a glance, and assisted the captain to his feet.
"Shall I help you downstairs, sir?" he asked.
The captain silently acquiesced, and the prime actor in this rather startling scene left the deck.
Jack Pendleton scrambled down from his elevated perch with the agility of a cat. He ran up to Harry, and grasped his hand with evident emotion.
"You have saved my life!" he said. "I will always be your friend. I would lay down my life for you."
"It's all right, Jack," said Harry, rather shyly. "You would have done the same for me."
"Yes, I would," answered Jack, heartily, "But there's no one else who would have done it for me."
"Are you going to leave me out, my boy?" asked the Yankee, with a smile on his plain but good-natured face.
"No, sir," responded Jack. "You stood up to the captain like a man. He didn't frighten you."
"No, I wasn't much scared," drawled Stubbs, contorting his features drolly. "But, I say, young man, I've got a piece of advice to give you. You don't seem to be much of a favorite with the captain."
"It doesn't look so," said Jack, laughing in spite of the danger through which he had passed.
"Just you keep out of his way as much as you can. When a man gets as full as he does, he's apt to be dangerous."
"Thank you, sir; I will."
Among the spectators of the scene just described, the most panic-stricken, probably was Montgomery Clinton, the Brooklyn dude.
After the captain had gone below, he walked up to Harry, whom he regarded with evident admiration.
"I say, you're quite a hero. I was awfully frightened, don't you know, when that big bully aimed at the sailor boy."
"You looked a little nervous, Mr. Clinton," said Harry, smiling.
"You were awfully brave, to knock the pistol out of his hand. I don't see how you dared to do it."
"I didn't stop to think of danger. I saw that Jack's life was in danger, and I did the only thing I could to save him."
"I'm glad you're not put in irons. It must be awful to be in irons."
"I don't think I should like it, though I never had any experience. You'd have stood by me, wouldn't you, Mr. Clinton?"
Clinton was evidently alarmed at the suggestion.
"Yes, of course," he said, nervously; "that is, I would have gone down to see you on the sly. You wouldn't expect me to fight the captain, don't you know."
Harry could hardly refrain from smiling at the idea of the spindle-shaped dude resisting the captain; but he kept a straight face as he answered:
"I look upon you as a brave man, Mr. Clinton. When I get into trouble, I shall be sure to call upon you."
"Oh, certainly," stammered Clinton. "But I say, Mr. Vane, I hope you'll be prudent; I do, really. Captain Hill might shoot you, you know, as he tried to shoot the sailor boy just now."
"If he does, Mr. Clinton, I shall expect you to interfere, You are not as strong as the captain, but a bold front will go a great way. If you threaten to—to horsewhip him, I think it might produce an effect upon him."
"Really, my dear Mr. Vane," said Clinton, turning pale, "I don't think I could go as far as that."
"I thought you were my friend, Mr. Clinton," said Harry, reproachfully.
"So I am, but I think you are, too—too bloodthirsty, Mr. Vane. It is best to be prudent, don't you know. There's that Yankee, Mr. Stubbs; he would do a great deal better than I. He's stronger, and older, and—you'd better speak to him, don't you know."
"A very good suggestion, Mr. Clinton," said Harry.
"I am afraid I should fare badly," thought our hero, "if I depended upon Clinton to stand by me. He isn't of the stuff they make heroes of."
Twenty-four hours passed before Captain Hill reappeared on deck. Meanwhile Harry had received congratulations from all the passengers on his display of pluck, and from some of the sailors besides. In fact, if he had not been a sensible boy, he might have been in danger of being spoiled by praise. But he answered, very modestly, that he had only acted from impulse, actuated by a desire to save Jack, and had not had time to count the consequences.
"I'll stand by you, my lad," said Hirman Stubbs. "The captain may try to do you wrong, but he will have somebody else to reckon with—I won't see you hurt."
"Thank you, Mr. Stubbs," said Harry, heartily. "I know the value of your help already. Mr. Clinton also is willing to stand by me, though he says he don't want to get into a fight with the captain."
"Clinton! That spindle-legged dude!" said Stubbs, exploding with laughter. "My! he couldn't scare a fly."
Harry laughed, too. He could not help doing so.
"He seems a good fellow, though not exactly a hero," he said. "I am glad to have his good will."
"He is more of a tailor's dummy than a man," said Stubbs. "I always want to laugh when I look at him. Hist! there's the captain."
Harry turned quickly toward the companionway, and saw Captain Hill set foot on the deck. A glance satisfied him that the captain was sober.
Captain Hill must have observed Harry and Mr. Stubbs, but walked by them without notice, and attended to his duties, giving his orders in a sharp quick tone. He was an experienced seaman, and thoroughly fitted for the post of chief, when not under the influence of liquor.
"I am glad to see that the captain is sober," said Stubbs, in a low voice.
"So am I," answered Harry.
One change, all noticed in Captain Hill. He became silent, reserved, morose. His orders were given in a quick, peremptory tone, and he seemed to cherish a grudge against all on board. Some captains add much to the pleasure of the passengers by their social and cheery manners, but whenever Captain Hill appeared, a wet blanket seemed to fall on the spirits of passengers and crew, and they conversed in an undertone, as if under restraint.
Between the captain and the mate there was a great difference. Mr. Holdfast had a bluff, hearty way with him, which made him popular with all on board. As an officer, he was strict, and expected his orders to be executed promptly, but in private he was affable and agreeable. The sailors felt instinctively that he was their friend, and regarded him with attachment, while they respected his seamanship. If a vote had been taken, there was not one but would have preferred him as captain to Captain Hill.
Thus far—I am speaking of a time when the Nantucket was three months out—there had been no serious storm. Rough weather there had been, and wet, disagreeable weather, but the staunch ship had easily overcome all the perils of the sea, and, with the exception of Montgomery Clinton, no one had been seriously alarmed. But one afternoon a cloud appeared in the hitherto clear sky, which would have attracted no attention from a landsman. Mr. Holdfast observed it, however, and, quietly calling the captain, directed his attention to it.
"I think we are going to have a bad storm, Captain Hill," he said. "That's a weather breeder."
The captain watched the cloud for a moment, and then answered, quietly: "I think you are right, Mr. Holdfast. You may give your orders accordingly."
The sails were reefed, and the vessel was prepared for the warfare with the elements which awaited it.
The little cloud increased portentiously in size. All at once a strong wind sprang up, the sea roughened, and the billows grew white with fury, while the good ship, stanch as she was, creaked and groaned and was tossed as if it were a toy boat on the wrathful ocean.
The passengers were all seriously alarmed. They had never before realized what a storm at sea was. Even a man of courage may well be daunted by the terrific power of the sea when it is roused to such an exhibition.
"Harry," said the professor, "this is terrible."
"Yes, indeed," answered the boy, gravely.
It became so rough and difficult to stand on deck, on account of the vessel being tossed about like a cockleshell, that Harry felt constrained to go below.
As he passed the cabin of Montgomery Clinton, he heard a faint voice call his name.
Entering, he saw the dude stretched out in his berth, with an expression of helpless terror in his weak face.
"Oh! Mr. Vane," he said; "do you think we are going to the bottom?"
"I hope not, Mr. Clinton. Our officers are skillful men. They will do all they can for us."
It was a terrible night. None of the passengers ventured upon deck. Indeed, such was the motion that it would have been dangerous, as even the sailors found it difficult to keep their footing. Harry was pale and quiet, unlike his friend from Brooklyn, whose moans were heard mingled with the noise of the tempest.
It was about three o'clock in the morning when those below heard, with terror, a fearful crash, and a trampling of feet above. One of the masts had fallen before the fury of the storm, and the shock made the good ship careen to a dangerous extent. What happened, however, was not understood below.
"I wonder what has happened," said the professor, nervously. "I think I will go up and see."
He got out of his berth, but only to be pitched helpless to the other end of the cabin.
"This is terrible!" he said, as he picked himself up.
"I will try my luck, professor," said Harry.
He scrambled out of his berth, and, with great difficulty, made his way upstairs.
One glance told him what had occurred. The crippled ship was laboring through the sea. It seemed like a very unequal combat, and Harry might be excused for deciding that the ship was doomed. All about the sea wore its fiercest aspect. Harry returned cautiously to his cabin.
"Well?" said the professor.
"One of the masts is gone," answered the boy. "The ship is having a hard time."
"Is there danger?" asked the professor, anxiously.
"I am afraid so," said Harry, gravely.
At length the night wore away. The violence of the storm seemed to have abated, for, after a time, the motion diminished. More enterprising than the rest of the passengers, Harry resolved to go on deck.
"Won't you come with me, Mr. Clinton?" he asked.
"I—I couldn't, 'pon my honor. I'm as weak as a rag. I don't think I could get out of my berth, really, now."
"I'll go with you, my young friend," said Mr. Stubbs.
Harry and his Yankee friend set foot cautiously on deck. The prospect was not reassuring. The ship rolled heavily, and from the creaking it seemed that the timbers of the hull were strained. The sailors looked fagged out, and there was a set, stern look on the face of the captain, whom, nevertheless, Mr. Stubbs ventured to accost.
"What's the prospect, captain?" he asked.
"You'd better make your will," said the captain, grimly.
"That's cheerful," commented Stubbs, turning to Harry.
"Yes, sir," answered Harry, soberly.
"Don't tell our foppish friend below, or he'll rend our ears with his howls. But you, my young friend, it's rather rough on you. How old are you?"
"And I'm rising fifty. Even if I am taken away, I've a good thirty years the advantage of you. I've had a good time, on the whole, and enjoyed myself as well as the average. Still, I don't quite like going to the bottom in the Nantucket. I was looking forward to at least twenty years or so more of life."
"We must submit to the will of God," said Harry.
"You are quite right, my boy! It is easy to see that you have been well trained. Mr. Holdfast"—for they had reached the place where the mate was standing—"shall we outlive the storm?"
"It is hard to say, Mr. Stubbs. It depends on the stanchness of the ship. We'll do all we can."
Ten minutes later there was a sinister answer to the inquiry of Mr. Stubbs. A sailor, who had been sent down into the hold, came with the information that the ship had sprung a leak.
Then commenced the weary work at the pumps. The sailors were already worn out with fighting the storm under the direction of the captain and mate, and it seemed almost more than flesh and blood could stand to undertake the additional labor.
Harry and Mr. Stubbs had a hurried conference.
"Can't we help at this work, Mr. Stubbs?" asked Harry. "The poor men look utterly exhausted."
"Well thought of, my boy! I am with you. I will speak to the captain."
But Mr. Holdfast, the mate, chanced to be nearer, and to him Mr. Stubbs put the question:
"Can't I help at the pumps?"
"And I, too, Mr. Holdfast," put in Harry.
"I accept your offer with thanks. The men are very tired."
So Harry and Mr. Stubbs helped at this necessary work, and when the professor and the Melbourne merchant heard of it they, too, volunteered. But Marmaduke Timmins, the valetudinarian, and Montgomery Clinton felt quite inadequate to the task.
Harry found his work tiresome and fatiguing, but he had the comfort of feeling that he was relieving the exhausted sailors, and doing something to save his own life and the lives of his companions.
He caught sight of poor Jack, looking ready to drop.
"Jack, you must be very tired," he said, in a tone of deep sympathy.
"If I stood still I should drop on the deck fast asleep," said Jack.
"Can't you lie down for an hour? I am taking your place."
Mr. Holdfast coming up at this moment, Harry suggested this to him, and the mate said kindly:
"Jack, my lad, go below and catch a little nap. I will call you when I want you."
So Jack, much relieved, went below, and, without a thought of the danger, so fatigued was he, fell asleep the moment he got into his bunk, and was not called up for four hours.
After a while they reduced the flow of water, but ascertained that the ship was badly strained, and by no means safe. It was not till the next day, however, that an important decision was reached.
All were called on deck.
"It is my duty to tell you," said Captain Hill, "that the ship is so damaged by the recent storm that it is liable to sink at any time. Those who choose to run the risk may remain, however. I propose, with such as choose to join me, to take to the boats. I will give you fifteen minutes to decide."
Excitement and dismay were painted on the faces of all. The ship might be insecure, but to launch out upon the great ocean in a frail boat seemed to involve still greater danger.
"WHO WILL STAY?"
The decision was a momentous one. It might be death to remain on the ship, but to a landsman it seemed still more perilous to embark on an angry sea in a frail boat.
The passengers looked at each other in doubt and perplexity.
They had but fifteen minutes in which to make up their minds.
The mate stood by, his face and manner serious and thoughtful.
"Mr. Holdfast," said Mr. Stubbs, "do you agree with the captain that it is our best course to take to the boats?"
"I should prefer to try the ship a little longer. I say so with diffidence, since the captain has a longer experience than I."
"I don't think much of your judgment, Mr. Holdfast," said Captain Hill, in a tone of contempt.
The mate's face flushed—not so much at the words as the tone.
"Nevertheless Captain Hill," he said, "I stand by what I have said."
"Mr. Holdfast," said Mr. Stubbs, who seemed to speak for the passengers, "if some of us decide to remain on the ship, will you remain with us?"
"I will!" answered the mate, promptly.
"Then set me down as the first to remain," said Stubbs.
Somehow this man, rough and abrupt as he was, had impressed Harry as a man in whom confidence might be reposed. He felt safe in following where he led.
"I am but a boy," he said, "but I have to decide for my life. I shall remain with the mate and Mr. Stubbs."
Quietly Stubbs shook hands with Harry.
"I am glad to have you with us," he said earnestly. "We will die or live together."
Next came Professor Hemenway.
"Put me down as the third," he said. "Harry, we sailed together, and we will remain together to the end."
"I go in the boat," said John Appleton. "I have a great respect for Mr. Holdfast, but I defer to the captain's judgment as superior."
He went over and ranged himself beside the captain.
"You are a sensible man, sir," said Captain Hill, with a scornful glance at the mate and the passengers who sided with him. "Mr. Holdfast can go down with the ship, if he desires. I prefer to cut loose from a doomed vessel."
Marmaduke Timmins, the invalid, looked more sallow and nervous than ever. He had swallowed a pill while the others were speaking, to give himself confidence.
"I will go with the captain," he said. "My life is likely to be short, for my diseases are many, but I owe it to myself to do my best to save it."
"In deciding to go with me, you are doing your best, sir," said Captain Hill.
He had not hitherto paid much attention to Mr. Timmins, whom he looked upon as a crank on the subject of health, but he was disposed to look upon him now with more favor.
At this moment Montgomery Clinton appeared at the head of the stairs. The poor fellow was pale, and disheveled, and tottered from weakness.
"What's going on?" he asked, feebly. Harry took it upon himself to explain, using as few words as possible.
"Will you go with the captain, or stay on the Nantucket?" asked Harry.
"Really, I couldn't stand sailing in a little boat, you know."
"That's settled, then!" said the captain. "Into the boats with you!"
The sailors and two passengers lowered themselves into the long boat, which was large enough to receive them all, till only Jack Pendleton and the captain remained.
"Get in, boy!" said the captain, harshly.
Jack stepped back, and said, manfully: "I will remain on board the ship, sir."
While this discussion had been going on, the boat was being stored with kegs of water and provisions, and soon after the sailors began to ply the oars.
The little band that remained looked silently and solemnly, as they saw their late companions borne farther and farther away from them on the crested waves.
"It's a question which will last longer, the ship or the boat," said Mr. Holdfast.
"We must work—I know that," said Mr. Stubbs. "Captain Holdfast, I salute you as my commander. Give us your orders."
"Are you all agreed, gentlemen?" asked Holdfast.
"We are," answered all except Montgomery Clinton, who was clinging to the side with a greenish pallor on his face.
"Then I shall set you to work at the pumps. Jack I assign you and the professor to duty first. You will work an hour; then Mr. Stubbs and Mr. Vane will relieve you. I will look out for the vessel's course."
"I am afraid I couldn't pump," said Montgomery Clinton. "I feel so awfully weak, you know, I think I'm going to die!"
Harry looked out to sea and saw the little boat containing the remnant of their company growing smaller and smaller. A sudden feeling of loneliness overcame him, and he asked himself, seriously: "Is death, then, so near?"
The sea was still rough, but the violence of the storm was past. In a few hours the surface of the sea was much less agitated. The spirits of the passengers rose, especially after learning from the mate that he had been able to stop the leak, through the experience which he acquired in his younger days as assistant to a ship carpenter.
"Then the old ship is likely to float a while longer?" said Mr. Stubbs, cheerfully.
"Not a short time, either, if the weather continues favorable."
"Captain Hill was in too much of a hurry to leave the vessel," remarked Harry.
"Yes," answered Holdfast. "Such was my opinion when I thought the Nantucket in much worse condition than at present. If the captain and sailors had remained on board, we could have continued our voyage to Melbourne without difficulty.
"And now?" said Mr. Stubbs, interrogatively.
"Now we have no force to man her. Little Jack and myself are the only sailors on board."
"But not the only men."
"That is true. I think, however, that you or the professor would find it rather hard to spread or take in sail."
Mr. Stubbs looked up into the rigging and shrugged his shoulders.
The next day Mr. Clinton appeared on deck. He looked faded and played out, but he was no longer the woebegone creature of a day or two previous. Even he turned out to be of use, for he knew something about cooking, and volunteered to assist in preparing the meals, the ship's cook having left the ship with the captain. Accordingly, he rose in the estimation of the passengers—having proved that he was not wholly a drone.
Jack and Harry grew still more intimate. The young sailor was under no restraint now that the captain was not on board, for with the mate he had always been a favorite.
All efforts were made to keep the ship on her course. They could not put up all the sails, however, and made but slow progress. They did little but drift. Nor did they encounter any other vessel for several days, so that there was no chance of obtaining the desired assistance.
"I wonder where it will all end, Jack?" said Harry, one evening.
"I don't trouble myself much about that, Harry," said the young sailor. "I am content as I am."
"Don't you look ahead, then?"
"I am happy with you and the few we have on board. They are kind to me; what more do I need?"
"I can't be contented so easily, Jack. I hope there is a long life before us. Here we are, making no progress. We are doing nothing to advance ourselves."
But this did not make much impression on Jack. He did not look beyond the present, and so that this was comfortable, he left the future to look out for itself.
"What do you think has become of Captain Hill and his companions, Mr. Holdfast?" asked Mr. Stubbs, on the third evening after the separation.
"He is probably still afloat, unless he has been fortunate enough to be picked up by some vessel."
"There is no hope of reaching land in the Nantucket is there," continued Mr. Stubbs.
"There is considerable fear of it," said the mate.
"Why do you use the word fear?" asked Stubbs, puzzled.
"What I mean is, that we are likely to run aground upon some unknown island. If the shore is rocky, it may break us to pieces, and that, of course, will be attended with danger to life or limb."
Stubbs looked thoughtful.
"I should like to see land," he said, "but I wouldn't like to land in that way. It reminds me of an old lady who, traveling by cars for the first time, was upset in a collision. As she crawled out of the window, she asked, innocently: 'Do you always stop this way?'"
"There are dangers on land as well as on the sea," said the mate, "as your story proves; though one is not so likely to realize them. In our present circumstances, there is one thing I earnestly hope for."
"What is that?"
"That we may not have another storm. I fear, in her dismantled condition, the Nantucket would have a poor chance of outliving it, particularly as we have no one but Jack and myself to do seamen's work."
Mr. Stubbs walked thoughtfully away.
Harry, who had seen him talking with the mate, asked him what the nature of the conversation was.
Mr. Stubbs told him.
"The fact is, Harry," he said, "we are in a critical condition. Whether we are ever to see old terry firmy again"—Mr. Stubbs was not a classical scholar—"seems a matter of doubt."
"And the worst of it is," said Harry, "there seems to be nothing you or I can do to increase our chances of safety."
"No, unless we could manage to see a ship which the chief officer had overlooked. That, I take it, is not very likely."
It was toward morning of the fifth night after the captain had left the ship that all on board were startled by a mighty thumping, accompanied by a shock that threw the sleepers out of bed.
Harry ran hastily on deck. The mate was there already.
"What's happened, Mr. Holdfast?" asked the boy, anxiously.
"The ship has struck on a rocky ledge!"
"Are we in danger?"
"In great danger. Call all the passengers. We must take to the boat, for the Nantucket is doomed!"
THE WRECK OF THE NANTUCKET
It was still quite dark, but it was light enough to see that the ship had struck upon a reef. Straining their eyes, the alarmed passengers could descry land. Indeed, the reef was an outlying part of it.
All eyes were turned upon the captain, as Mr. Holdfast was now called.
"If I had had men enough to stand watch, this would not have happened," he said.
"Is there any hope, Mr. Holdfast?" asked Montgomery Clinton, clasping his hands in terror.
"Plenty of it," answered the mate, curtly, "but we must leave the ship."
Under his direction the remaining boat—for Captain Hill and his companions had only taken away one—was lowered. Steering clear of the reef, they found themselves in a cove, bordered on three sides by land. By the light, now rapidly increasing, they saw grass and trees, and the sight gladdened them in spite of the grave peril that menaced them.
They put in the boat as large a supply of stores as they dared, and then rowed ashore. Landing the passengers, Holdfast selected Jack and Harry, and went back to the ship for a further supply.
"We must lay in as much as we can, for we don't know how long we are to remain here," he said.
When the second trip had been made, it was decided to rest for a time and eat breakfast.
The little group gathered on a bluff looking out to sea, and, sitting down, ate heartily. By this time the sun had made its appearance, and it bade fair to be a pleasant day.
"Have you any idea where we are, Mr. Holdfast?" asked Mr. Stubbs.
"I only know that we are on an island. There is no mainland near here," answered the commander.
"It seems to be a large one, then. While you were gone with the boys, I ascended a tree, and, looking inland, could not see the ocean in that direction."
"I feel like exploring the island," said Harry; "who will go with me?"
Curious to see what kind of a new home they had, all set out. First, however, the professor asked:
"How long before the ship is likely to go to pieces, Mr. Holdfast?"
"Not under a day or two in this weather," was the answer. "Later in the day I will board her again."
They struck inland and walked for about two miles. There were trees and plants such as they had never seen before, and the songs of unknown birds floated out upon the air. It was certainly a delightful change from the contracted life they had been leading upon shipboard.
"Do you think the island is inhabited?" asked Harry.
"I know no more about it than you do, my lad," answered Holdfast.
"Suppose we should meet with a pack of savages armed with spears!" suggested Harry, with a side look at Clinton, who was walking by him.
"Oh, good gracious! Mr. Holdfast, do you think we will?" asked that young gentleman, nervously.
"We must do the best we can. I take it we are all brave, and would be willing to fight."
After a considerable walk, they reached a grove of trees, bearing a different leaf from any to which they were accustomed. They did not appear to produce fruit of any kind, but were comely and afforded a grateful shade. This was the more appreciated, because the sun had begun to make its heat felt, and a feeling of languor diffused itself over all.
"I move we squat here a while," said Mr. Stubbs.
"Very well," said the mate. "We have all day before us, and I am afraid a great many more to come, in which we may explore the island."
All threw themselves on the grass without ceremony.
They returned to the shore about noon, and sitting down on the bluff, ate heartily of the stores they had brought with them from the ship. They had brought no water, but, fortunately, discovered a spring on their homeward walk, which promised a constant supply of refreshing drink.
"This seems a great deal like a picnic," said Harry, as they sat down on the grass with the food in the center.
"I am afraid it will prove a larger picnic than we care for," remarked the professor.
When dinner was over, if their informal meal can be dignified by that name, Mr. Holdfast said:
"I think we had better make another trip to the ship, and bring back what we can. We shall need a further supply of provisions, and there will be other things that will occur to us as likely to be needed."
"May I go with you, Mr. Holdfast?" asked Harry.
"Yes," answered the mate; "I will take you and Jack, and Mr. Stubbs, too, may come, if he will."
"I am quite at your command, captain," said the Yankee.
Nothing suited Harry better than to make one of the expeditions. He and Jack clambered up the ship's sides, and chased each other in boyish fun. Jack had no fear of a stern rebuke from Mr. Holdfast, who had a sympathy with the young. He would not have dared to take such liberties with Captain Hill.
"How long do you think the ship will hold together, Mr. Holdfast?" asked Stubbs.
"For a week, perhaps, unless the sea becomes rough, and dashes her against the reef with violence."
"At present she seems motionless."
"Yes, she is not at present receiving any damage. It will be a sad day when she goes to pieces," continued the mate, gravely.
"Yes, but it will hardly make our position worse. There is no chance of our making any use of her, I take it."
"You don't quite understand me," said Holdfast. "A sailor gets to feel an attachment for the craft he sails on, and she seems to him something like a living creature. This is my first voyage on the old Nantucket, but it will grieve me to see her disappear."
It was not easy to decide of what the boat's load should consist. In the main, provisions were taken as an article of first necessity. Some clothing, also, was selected, and among the rest, at Harry's instance, an extra pair of Mr. Clinton's trousers.
It was decided not to make another trip to the ship that day. Mr. Holdfast expressed the opinion that the Nantucket was not in any immediate danger of going to pieces, and there was much other work in hand.
"Do you know anything about the climate here, Mr. Holdfast?" asked the professor.
"I don't think it is ever cold. It is too far south for that."
"I mean as to the chance of rain. I am told that in these tropical places, rain comes on very suddenly at times."
"I suspect that this is the dry season, professor."
"Still, it may be wise to provide ourselves with some shelter."
"True; have you anything to suggest?"
"It occurred to me that we might procure some of the sails, and use as a roof covering to shield us from the heat of the sun, and from any unexpected showers."
"A good idea. I am glad you mentioned it. On the whole, I think I will make one more trip to the ship this afternoon for the special purpose of bringing back materials for a roof. Then we can put it up to-night."
"Better bring hatchets, if there are any on board, some nails and cordage."
"Also well thought of. You are a practical man, professor."
"We shall all have to think for the general benefit. I am sorry I can't do more work, but I never was handy with tools."
"I am," said Stubbs. "In fact, most Yankees are, and I am a Yankee. You can command my services, Mr. Holdfast, in any way that you see fit."
Mr. Holdfast made another trip to the vessel, and brought back quite an expanse of sailcloth. All hands, with the exception of Mr. Clinton, went to work at once, and by sunset a considerable space was roofed over, which the little company regarded with complacency.
"Aren't you going to have any sides or doors?" asked Clinton.
"That can be considered hereafter," said Holdfast. "I don't think we shall need any, since the probability is that the island is not inhabited."
The next morning a great surprise awaited them.
It might have been because it was the first night on land, or perhaps because they were unusually fatigued, but at any rate the little party slept unusually late. The first one to awake was Harry Vane. It took very little time for him to dress, since he had only taken off his coat. He glanced at his slumbering companions, who were scattered about in different postures.
"I'll go up to the spring, and have a wash," Harry decided. "I won't wake anybody, for there's no hurry about waking up."
Returning from the spring, Harry for the first time looked in the direction of the ship. What he saw filled him with amazement. The wreck which he had thought deserted, was alive with men. He saw a dozen on deck, including two who were obviously not sailors. He could not immediately discern the figures, and ran hastily to the top of the bluff. Then he made the startling discovery that these intruders were the captain and his companions, who had abandoned the ship in the expectation that it was doomed, and, after floating about in the long boat, had by a wonderful coincidence drifted to the very point which they themselves had reached.
The news was too important to keep, and he returned to the encampment, and entering, approached the mate, who was sleeping soundly. He leaned over and shook him gently.
"Mr. Holdfast!" he cried.
The mate slowly opened his eyes and started up.
"What's the matter?" he asked. "Has anything happened?"
"I've got great news for you, Mr. Holdfast. Captain Hill has arrived."
"What!" exclaimed the mate, in amazement. "Arrived—where?"
"He is at this moment on the Nantucket, with all the men that accompanied him in the long boat."
Uttering an expression of amazement, Mr. Holdfast sprang from the ground, and hastily made his way to the edge of the bluff.
"By Jove!" said he, "you're right. I never heard of anything more wonderful."
Harry could not tell from the expression of his face whether he considered the news good or not.
"Go and wake up the rest, Harry," he said. "They will be surprised, too."
It is needless to say that the news produced surprise and excitement. All hurried to the edge of the bluff.
"Will they come on shore, do you think?" asked Harry of the mate.
"They will have to; but I shall at once go out to the ship and report to my superior officer. You and Jack may go with me."
It is needless to say that both boys were very glad to accept this invitation. The rest of the party remained on shore and watched the boat's course.
"What will be the issue of this, Mr. Stubbs?" asked the professor, thoughtfully.
"I am afraid there will be friction. The captain is a natural despot, and he will undertake to control us."
"He can have no authority after the ship is wrecked."
"He will claim it, as sure as my name is Stubbs. The fact is, I am rather sorry he hadn't managed to drift to another island. Mr. Holdfast is a much more agreeable man to deal with."
"I agree with you. As a passenger, I shall not recognize the captain's authority on shore."
Meanwhile, the mate and the two boys had pulled to the ship, and, securing the boat, scrambled on deck.
"Good-morning, Captain Hill; I am glad to meet you once more," said the mate.
"Humph!" growled the captain, not over politely. "When did you reach here?"
"Where are the rest of the party?"
"We have a little camp just back of the bluff."
"I see you have been removing articles from the ship," continued the captain, in a tone of disapproval.
"Certainly," answered the mate. "We need them, and I didn't know how long the ship would last."
"It seems in no immediate danger of going to pieces."
"Things look more favorable than they did yesterday morning. What sort of a trip did you have in the boat?"
"A curious question to ask," said the captain, captiously. "We were in danger of being swamped more than once."
"We had better have remained on board the Nantucket with you, Mr. Holdfast," said Appleton, the Melbourne merchant.
Captain Hill chose to take offense at this remark.
"You were quite at liberty to stay, Mr. Appleton," he said. "I didn't urge you to go with me."
"True, Captain Hill; but I trusted to your opinion that the ship was unsafe."
The captain looked angry, but did not make any reply.
By the sailors Mr. Holdfast was warmly greeted. He was much better liked than the captain, being a man of even temper and reasonable in his demands.
THE LAST OF THE "NANTUCKET"
Though the mate had removed some of the stores, much the larger portion was left on board, for the Nantucket had been provisioned for a long voyage. Yet Captain Hill saw fit to complain.
"It is fortunate that you didn't take all the stores, Mr. Holdfast," he remarked, in a sarcastic tone.
The mate eyed the captain steadily.
"May I ask your meaning, Captain Hill?" he asked.
"I mean what I say, sir. I think my language requires no interpreter."
"Then I can only reply that it would have made no difference if I had removed all the provisions."
"You appear to forget that I am your superior officer," said the captain in a heat.
"I had no superior officer at the time I ordered the removal."
"You have now, at any rate."
"We are not at sea, Captain Hill. The vessel is wrecked, and all distinctions are at an end. Now it is each for himself."
"So, sir, you defy my authority!" exclaimed the captain, looking black.
"I don't recognize it, that is all."
"You shall, sir!" retorted the captain, frowning. "You shall learn, also, that I have means to enforce it. I have nearly a dozen seamen under me, and you have only the boy, Jack Pendleton."
"Captain Hill, all this is very foolish. We are ship-wrecked, and have taken refuge on the same island. Instead of quarreling, we should help each other."
"So you presume to lecture me!" sneered the captain.
Mr. Holdfast didn't care to continue the dispute.
"I am ready to help you remove what you require," he said, quietly. "It will be well to remove as much as possible today, for we may at any time have a storm, that will effectually put an end to our work."
"Very well, sir; I am glad you show a better spirit."
The mate was both annoyed and amused at this evident intention to throw upon him the whole onus of the quarrel, but he did not care to reply. He and the two boys helped remove the stores, and it being quite early, by noon several boatloads had been deposited on shore, to be removed farther inland when there was a good opportunity. One thing Mr. Holdfast noted with apprehension. There was a considerable quantity of brandy and other spirits in the captain's cabin, which he took care to have included in the articles removed. Remembering the captain's weakness, he feared this might lead to trouble. But he did not take it upon himself to remonstrate, knowing that in the state of the captain's feelings toward him it would be worse than useless.
By three o'clock about all the stores, with other needful articles, had been removed, and there was a large pile on the bluff.
"Captain, will you walk over and see my encampment?" asked Holdfast, now that there was leisure.
"Lead on, sir," said the captain, though not overpolitely. It was not far away, and a short walk brought them in front of it.
"Perhaps you will feel inclined to settle near by," suggested Holdfast.
"No, sir; I don't care to intrude upon you."
Eventually the captain selected a spot about half a mile away. Here an encampment was made, very similar to the mate's but on a larger scale.
"I am glad the captain is not close alongside," said Jack Pendleton.
"So am I," answered Harry, to whom this remark was made. "We are better off by ourselves."
"He would be sure to interfere with us. I saw him scowling at me more than once this morning. You know he don't like me."
"Nor me, either, Jack. It will be well for both of us to keep out of his way."
To the great delight of Clinton, more of his "wardrobe," as he called it, was brought ashore. For this he was indebted to the good-natured persistence of Harry, who, though amused at the vanity of the young man from Brooklyn, felt disposed to gratify him in a harmless whim.
The two parties remained apart, the original company remaining with the captain, while four passengers and Jack Pendleton stayed with the mate. Captain Hill showed a disposition to claim Jack, but Holdfast said, quietly: "I think captain, Jack had better stay with me for the present, as he is company for Harry Vane."
The captain looked dissatisfied, but was too tired to remonstrate at that time. He went to his own encampment, and indulged in liberal potations of brandy, which had the effect of sending him to sleep.
That night a violent wind sprang up. It blew from the sea inland, and though it did not affect the ship-wrecked parties or their encampment seriously, on account of their being screened by the intervening bluff, it had another effect which a day or two previous might have been disasterous. The ill-fated Nantucket was driven with such force against the reef that the strength of its hull was overtaxed. When the mate went to the bluff in the morning to take an observation, he was startled to find in place of the wreck a confused debris of timbers and fragments of the wreck.
As the mate was surveying the scene of ruin, Jack and Harry joined him.
"Look there, my lads!" said Holdfast. "That's the last of the poor old Nantucket. She will never float again."
They had known this before, but it was now impressed upon their minds forcibly, and a feeling of sadness came over the three.
"That settles it," said Harry, giving expression to a common feeling. "We are prisoners on the island now, and no mistake."
"When we leave here, it won't be on the Nantucket, anyway," said Jack.
"It is lucky this happened after we had brought our stock of provisions ashore," said the mate.
"Let us go down and see what these kegs and boxes contain," suggested Harry.
So the three descended to the reef, and began to examine the articles thrown ashore. For the most part they were of little value, though here and there were articles that might prove useful.
"Couldn't we make a raft out of the timbers of the old ship?" asked Jack.
"That is worth thinking of, though a raft would not do for a long voyage," said Holdfast. "No, but we might be picked up."
"When the captain's party is awake it will be well for us to haul the loose timbers up to a place of safety."
"Here's Clinton's trunk," said Harry, bending over and recognizing the initials. "Here is the name, 'M. C., Brooklyn.' He will be overjoyed. Suppose we take it up between us."
No opposition being made by Mr. Holdfast, the boys took the trunk up between them, preceding the mate. They had just reached the summit of the bluff.
"Put down that trunk!" said a stern voice.
Looking up, the boys saw that the speaker was Captain Hill.
The captain's face was of dull, brick-red, and it was clear that he had already been drinking, early as it was. Naturally the boys, on hearing his voice, put down the trunk in their surprise, but they maintained their position, one on each side of it. Of the two, Jack was the more impressed, having been one of the crew, and subject to the captain's authority on shipboard. Harry, as a passenger, felt more independent. Indeed, he was indignant, and ready to resist what he thought uncalled-for interference on the part of the captain.
"This is Mr. Clinton's trunk," he said. "We are going to carry it to him."
"Do you dare to dispute my authority?" roared the captain, his red face becoming still redder.
"I don't see what you have to do with the trunk," answered Harry, boldly.
"This to me!" shrieked the captain, looking as if he were going to have a fit of apoplexy. "Do you know who I am?"
"You were the captain of the Nantucket," said Harry, quietly.
The captain, notwithstanding his inebriated condition, did not fail to notice that Harry used the past tense.
"I am still the captain of the Nantucket, as I mean to show you," he retorted.
"Then, sir, you are captain of a wreck that has gone to pieces."
Captain Hill upon this looked at the fragments of the unfortunate ship, and for the first time took in what had happened.
"It doesn't matter," said he, after a brief pause, "I am in command here, and"—here he interpolated an oath—"I don't allow any interference with my authority."
"You are not captain of Mr. Clinton's trunk," said Harry, in a spirited tone. "Jack, let us carry it along."
This was too much for the captain. With a look of fury on his face, he dashed toward Harry, and there is no doubt that our hero was in serious danger. He paled slightly, for he knew he was no match for the tall, sinewy captain, and was half regretting his independence when he felt himself drawn forcibly to one side, and in his place stood the mate, sternly eyeing the infuriated captain.
"What do you want to do, Captain Hill?" he asked.
"To crush that young viper!" shouted the captain, fiercely.
"You shall not harm a hair of his head!"
By this time the captain's wrath had been diverted to the mate. He struck out with his right hand, intending to fell him to the ground, but, the mate swerving, he fell from the force of his abortive blow, and, being under the influence of his morning potations, could not immediately rise.
"Boys," said Mr. Holdfast, "you may take hold of the trunk again and go on with it. Don't be afraid. If the captain makes any attempt to assault you, he will have me to deal with."
Harry and Jack did as directed. Jack, however, could not help feeling a little nervous, his old fear of the captain asserting itself. But Harry, confident in the protection of his good friend, the mate, was quite unconcerned.
Mr. Holdfast walked on beside them.
"The captain seems disposed to make trouble," he said. "He fancies that he is captain of this island, as he was chief officer of the Nantucket. I shall convince him of his mistake."
"I hope you won't get into any trouble on my account, Mr. Holdfast," said Harry, considerately.
"Thank you, my lad; but Tom Holdfast doesn't propose to let any man walk over him, even if it is his old skipper. Now that the ship is gone, Captain Hill has no more authority here than I have."
As the captain fell, his head came in contact with a timber with such violence that, combined with his condition, he was forced to lie where he fell for over an hour.
As the boys emerged upon the bluff with the trunk, Clinton, who had just got up, recognized it, and ran up to them, his face beaming with delight.
"Oh, Mr. Vane!" he said, "have you really brought my trunk? You are awfully kind."
Then they had breakfast—a very plain meal, as might be supposed. Some of the sailors came over from the other camp, and one of them asked Mr. Holdfast if he had seen the captain.
"You will find him on the beach," answered the mate. "He has been carrying too much sail, I think," he added, dryly.
After a while the captain picked himself up, and gazed moodily at the wreck, of which so little remained. Then, the events of the morning recurring to him, he frowned savagely, and, turning toward the bluff, he shook his fist angrily in the direction of the mate's encampment.
Among the sailors was an Italian named Francesco. Probably he had another name, but no one knew what it was. In fact, a sailor's last name is very little used. He was a man of middle height, very swarthy, with bright, black eyes, not unpopular, for the most part, but with a violent temper. His chief fault was a love of strong drink. On board the Nantucket grog had been served to the crew; and with that he had been content. But at the time of the wreck no spirits had been saved but the captain's stock of brandy. Francesco felt this to be a great hardship. More than any other sailor he felt the need of his usual stimulant. It was very tantalizing to him to see the captain partaking of his private stock of brandy while he was compelled to get along on water.
"The captain is too mucha selfish," he said one day to a fellow-sailor. "He should share his brandy with the men."
Ben Brady, the sailor to whom he was speaking, shrugged his shoulders.
"I think I will try some of the captain's brandy when he is away," said Francesco, slyly.
"If you do, you will get into trouble. The captain will half murder you if he finds it out."
"He is not captain now—we are all equal—all comrades. We are not on ze sheep."
"Take my advice, Francesco, and leave the brandy alone."
Francesco did not reply, but he became more and more bent on his design.
He watched the captain, and ascertained where he kept his secret store. Then he watched his opportunity to help himself. It was some time before he had an opportunity to do so unobserved, but at length the chance came.
The first draught brought light to his eyes, and made him smack his lips with enjoyment. It was so long since he had tasted the forbidden nectar that he drank again and again. Finally he found himself overcome by his potations, and sank upon the ground in a drunken stupor.
He was getting over the effects when, to his ill-luck, the captain returned from his usual solitary ramble.
"He has been at my brandy!" Captain Hill said to himself, with flaming eyes. "The fool shall pay dearly for his temerity."
He advanced hastily to the prostrate man, and administered a severe kick, which at once aroused the half-stupefied man.
Francesco looked up with alarm, for the captain was a much larger and stronger man than himself.
"Pardon, signor captain," he entreated.
"You have been drinking my brandy, you beast," said Captain Hill, furiously.
I draw a veil over the brutal treatment poor Francesco received. When it was over he crawled away, beaten and humiliated, but in his eye there was a dangerous light that boded no good to the captain.
Presently Francesco began to absent himself. Where he went no one knew or cared, but he, too, would be away all day. His small, black eyes glowed with smoldering fires of hatred whenever he looked at the captain, but his looks were always furtive, and so for the most part escaped observation.
One day Captain Hill stood in contemplation on the edge of a precipitous bluff, looking seaward. His hands were folded, and he looked thoughtful. His back was turned, so he could not, therefore, see a figure stealthily approaching, the face distorted by murderous hate, the hand holding a long, slender knife. Fate was approaching him in the person of a deadly enemy. He did not know that day by day Francesco had dogged his steps, watching for the opportunity which had at last come.
So stealthy was the pace, and so silent the approach of the foe, that the captain believed himself wholly alone till he felt a sharp lunge, as the stiletto entered his back between his shoulders. He staggered, but turned suddenly, all his senses now on the alert, and discovered who had assailed him.
"Ha! it is you!" he exclaimed wrathfully, seizing the Italian by the throat. "Dog, what would you do?"
"Kill you!" hissed the Italian, and with the remnant of his strength he thrust the knife farther into his enemy's body.
The captain turned white, and he staggered, still standing on the brink of the precipice.
Perceiving it, and not thinking of his own danger, Francesco gave him a push, and losing his balance the captain fell over the edge, a distance of sixty feet, upon the jagged rocks beneath. But not alone! Still retaining his fierce clutch upon the Italian's throat, the murderer, too, fell with him, and both were stretched in an instant, mangled and lifeless, at the bottom of the precipice.
When night came, and neither returned, it was thought singular, but the night was dark, and they were unprovided with lanterns, so that the search was postponed till morning. It was only after a search of several hours that the two were found.
After the captain's death two distinct camps were still maintained, but the most cordial relations existed between them. At the suggestion of the mate, an inventory was made of the stock of provisions, and to each camp was assigned an amount proportioned to the number of men which it contained.
There was no immediate prospect of want. Still, the more prudent regarded with anxiety the steady diminution of the stock remaining, and an attempt to eke them out by fresh fish caught off the island. But the inevitable day was only postponed. At length only a week's provisions remained. The condition was becoming serious.
"What shall we do?" was the question put to Mr. Holdfast, who was now looked upon by all as their leader and chief.
Upon this the mate called a general meeting of all upon the island, sailors and passengers alike.
"My friends," he said, "it is useless to conceal our situation. We are nearly out of provisions, and though we may manage to subsist upon the fish we catch, and other esculents native to this spot, it will be a daily fight against starvation. I have been asked what we are to do. I prefer rather to call for suggestions from you. What have you to suggest?"
"In my view there are two courses open to us," said Mr. Stubbs, finding that no one else appeared to have anything to propose. "We must remain here and eat the rest of our provisions, but there seems very little chance of our attracting the attention of any passing vessel. We appear to be out of the ordinary course. Of course, it is possible that some ship may have passed the island without attracting our notice. What is your opinion, Mr. Holdfast?"
"The flag of the Nantucket, as you know, has floated night and day from a pole erected on a high bluff," said the mate. "The chances are that if any vessel had come sufficiently near it would have attracted attention, and led to a boat being lowered, and an exploring party sent thither."
"While we've got any provisions left," said the boatswain, "let us take the boats, and pull out to sea. We can go where the ships are, and then we'll have some chance. They'll never find us here, leastways, such is my opinion."
"My friends," said the mate, "you have heard the proposal made by the boatswain. All who are in favor of it will please raise their right hand."
All voted in the affirmative.
"My friends," said Mr. Holdfast, "it seems to be the unanimous sentiment that we leave the island, and sail out far enough to be in the course of passing vessels. I concur in the expediency of this step, and am ready to command one of the boats. Mr, Harrison will command the other."
"How soon shall we start?" asked a passenger.
"The sooner the better! To-morrow morning, if it is pleasant."
This decision pleased all. Something was to be done, and hope was rekindled in the breasts of all. Heretofore they had been living on, without hope or prospect of release. Now they were to set out boldly, and though there was the possibility of failure, there was also a chance of deliverance.
No sooner was the decision made than all hands went to work to prepare for embarking.
In the appointment of passengers, Mr. Holdfast, who commanded the long boat, retained Harry, the professor and Clinton. Six sailors, including Jack Pendleton, made up the complement.
"I am glad you are going to be with us, Jack," said Harry, joyfully. "I shouldn't like to be separated from you."
"Nor I from you, Harry," returned Jack.
At eight o'clock the next morning they started. As the island faded in the distance, all looked back thoughtfully at their sometime home.
Three days the boats floated about on the bosom of the ocean—three days and nights of anxiety, during which no sail was visible. But at length a ship was sighted.
"In one way or another we must try to attract attention," said the mate.
Not to protract the reader's suspense, let me say that by great good fortune the mate of the approaching ship, in sweeping the ocean with his glass caught sight of the two boats, and changed the course of the vessel so as to fall in with them.
"Who are you?" he hailed.
"Shipwrecked sailors and passengers of the ship Nantucket," was the answer of Mr. Holdfast.
They were taken on board, and discovered that the vessel was the Phocis, from New York, bound for Melbourne.
"We shall reach our destination after all, then, professor," said Harry, "and you will be able to give your entertainments as you at first proposed."
Professor Hemenway shook his head.
"I shall take the first steamer home," he said. "My wife will be anxious about me, and even now is in doubt whether I am alive or dead. You can return with me, if you like."
"No," answered Harry. "After the trouble I have had in getting to Australia, I mean to stay long enough to see what sort of a country it is. I think I can make a living in one way or another, and if I can't, I will send to America for the money I have there."
In due time they reached Melbourne, without further mischance. Harry induced Jack to remain with him, but Mr. Clinton, with a new stock of trousers, purchased in Melbourne, returned to America on the same steamer with the professor.
Here we leave Harry and Jack to pursue their course to such eminence as they may desire from the characteristics they have portrayed in this narrative.