"It was terrible for you all to be left tossing about on the raging sea in a couple of open boats!" said Fritz sympathisingly, pressing his brother's arm,—"worse than being in a leaky ship, I should think."
"Yes," answered Eric; "but we kept up our courage well, the captain sustaining us with brave words, saying that, as we were not many miles south of Cape Arguilhas and had the wind blowing right on to the land, we must soon reach shore. But, I don't know, I'm sure, how he came to place the ship where he did; for, according to my reckoning, we were several degrees, at the least, to the eastward of the Cape. However, I suppose he said what he did to prevent our giving way to despair, which, perhaps, we might otherwise have done, eh?"
"Most probably," said Fritz, agreeing with his brother. "It would be very unlikely for the captain to make so great an error in his calculations as that. He was esteemed a good navigator, you know, by Herr Grosschnapper."
"Well, anyway," continued Eric, without waiting to argue this point with his brother, "we did not reach land that day, which some of the men expected from his words; nor did we the next morning, although, then much to our sorrow, we could see the pinnace no longer near us, she having parted company in the night time and gone to the bottom, as we thought."
"You were wrong," interrupted Fritz; "the boat was picked up by an Australian ship, the survivors being taken on to Melbourne. It was through these that we heard later on of the loss of the Gustav Barentz; and naturally, as you had not been rescued at the same time, we all gave you and the captain's party up."
"Oh, indeed!" said Eric. "I'm right glad to hear that! Why, we thought that they were the lost ones, not us, lamenting them much accordingly! That Groots, the first mate, was a capital chap, as fine an officer as ever stepped aboard a ship; so I'm pleased to know he's safe. But, to go on with my yarn, there we found ourselves alone in the morning on the wild waste of waters, dancing about in an angry sea that threatened every moment to overwhelm us, and with the gale increasing instead of having blown itself out, as we hoped. We didn't feel very comfortable, I can tell you, Fritz."
"I should think not," responded his brother.
"No; for it was as much as we could do to prevent the boat from filling every moment, the waves were breaking over her so continually. It only escaped sinking by constantly baling her out with our boots and keeping her head to the wind with a floating anchor, which we rigged together out of all the spare oars and spars we had aboard, veering the little craft to leeward of this by the painter. All that day, too, the gale kept up; and the sea, you may be sure, did not calm down, rolling mountains high, as it seemed to us just down to its level in the jolly- boat! So it was the next night, there not being the slightest lull, we having to ride it out all the while; but, on the third morning, the gale moderated sufficiently for us to be able to scud before it in the direction of the Cape. It was lucky for us that the wind, by the way, did not shift once while we were lying-to, blowing steadily from the same quarter it began in, from the south-east. If it had changed at all, especially during the night at any time, it would have been all up with us!"
"Yes?" said Fritz interrogatively.
"Why, of course it would, for it was as dark as pitch, so that you could not see your hand before your face; and if the wind had chopped round, bringing us athwart the heavy rolling sea that was running, we should have been swamped in a moment, without the chance of saving ourselves by turning the boat's head so as to meet the waves; do you see now?"
"I see," said Fritz, with a shudder. "It was bad enough to confront your peril in daylight, but it would have been awful to have been engulfed in the darkness!"
"That was what was in our minds," proceeded Eric; "at least, I can answer for my own thoughts. However, on the morning of the third day, as I've told you, the wind slackening down somewhat, although still blowing steadily from the south-east, we hauled up to our floating anchor, which we quickly proceeded to take to pieces, hauling on board again the oars and old boat-stretchers that had composed it, and which had served the purpose of fending off somewhat the rollers, these breaking over the spars, under whose lee we had comparatively still water. We then, with a great deal of difficulty, as it was a dangerous operation on account of getting broadside on to the waves, managed to slew the jolly-boat's head round; when, rigging up a scrap of a sprit- sail amidships, so as not to bury the little craft's nose, which might have been the case if we had tried to step our proper mast more forward, with the captain steering with an oar out to windward to give him greater command of her than the rudder would have done, we scudded away towards the African coast, giving up the pinnace as lost, and looking out only for ourselves."
"You had plenty to do," said Fritz, "without thinking of any one else."
"Yes," replied Eric; "but still, we could not forget them so easily as all that. Shore folk think sailors are heartless, and that when a poor chap is lost overboard, they only say that 'So-and-so has lost the number of his mess!' and, after having an auction over his kit in the fo'c's'le, then dismiss him from their memory! But, I assure you, this is not always the case. You see, a ship is a sort of little world, and those on board are so closely bound together—getting to know each other so thoroughly from not having any others to associate with—that when one is taken away from amongst them, particularly by a violent death, his absence, cannot but be felt. A sailor often misses even a messmate whom he may dislike. How much the more, therefore, did we feel the loss of the whole boat's crew of the pinnace, every man of whom was almost as much a brother to me as you!"
"I beg your pardon if I spoke thoughtlessly," said Fritz; "but I should have imagined that being in such imminent danger, you would not have had much time to mourn your lost comrades."
"Nor did we," continued Eric, "so long as we had something to do, either in helping to bale the boat out or keeping her head to wind; but, when we began to run before the gale, the men stretched out in the bottom and along the stern-sheets, doing nothing,—for there was nothing for us to do,—we began to think of the poor fellows. This was only for a short time, however, as presently we had a more serious consideration on our minds than even the fate of the others. During all the strain on us, when we were in such danger, none of us had thought of eating or drinking; and, consequently, we had not examined the provisions—put hastily on board as we were leaving the sinking ship. But, now, feeling almost famished, on proceeding to overhaul the lockers, we found to our dismay that the sea water had spoilt everything, our biscuit being paste and the other food rendered unfit for use."
"What a calamity!" exclaimed Fritz.
"Yes," said Eric, "it was. Fortunately, we had some water, although our two barricoes did not contain an over-abundant supply for seven men as there were of us in the jolly-boat all told, including me. The captain, too, had stowed away a bottle of rum in the pocket of his pea jacket; and this being served out all round in a little tin pannikin we had, diluted to the strength of about four-water grog, it strengthened us all up a bit, bracing up our energies for what lay before us."
"What did you do?" asked Fritz.
"Why, what could we do, save let the boat go where the wind chose to take us, and trust in providence!" said Eric, seemingly surprised at the question.
"Ah, we had an awful time of it," he resumed presently. "When you come to being five days in an open boat, with nothing to eat and only a small quantity of water to assuage your burning thirst with at stated intervals, exposed all the time, too, to rough seas breaking over you— encrusting your hair and skin and everything with salt that blistered you when the sun came out afterwards, as it did, roasting us almost as soon as the gale lessened—why it was a painful ordeal, that's all! The rum did not last out long; and soon after the final drop of this was served out, the captain succumbed to weakness, having been dying by inches, and the stimulant only sustaining him so long. We kept him a couple of days, and then flung the body overboard, along with those of two other men who had died in the meantime from exposure and want of food; thus, only three others were now left in the jolly-boat besides me."
"And then?" interrupted Fritz anxiously.
"I don't know what happened afterwards," said Eric. "I got delirious, I suppose, for I remember fancying myself at home again in Lubeck, with Lorischen bending over me and offering me all sorts of nice things to eat! Really, I do not recollect anything further as to what occurred in the boat."
"How were you saved, then?" asked Fritz.
"It was that good Captain Brown there, talking to the gentleman whom you came in here with," replied Eric, pointing out the broad-shouldered, jolly-looking, seafaring man whom Fritz's friend, the deck hand of the steamer, had accosted and was now conversing with, close to where the two brothers were seated on the divan.
"Oh, he rescued you!" said Fritz, looking at the seafaring man with some interest. "I should like to thank him."
"Yes; he's a good fellow," Eric went on. "The first thing I saw when in my right senses again, I think, after we had heaved the bodies of our dead shipmates overboard the boat, was Captain Brown bending over me. I must have confused his face with that of Lorischen, whom I had been dreaming of, for I thought it was hers, and called the captain by her name."
"Yes; I remember his laughing and saying, 'poor little chap,' meaning me. He took care of me well, though; and it was only through his kind care that they were able to bring me round again. They told me afterwards that I was in a most pitiable state of emaciation—a skeleton, they said, with only fragments of burnt, blistered skin covering my poor bones!"
"And the others," inquired Fritz,—"did they recover too?"
"No; not one of the three was alive when Captain Brown's ship came across our boat. I was the only one who had any life remaining. They thought me a corpse, too, and would have left me to die with the rest, if it hadn't been for the captain, who declared there was breath still in my apparently dead body, and kindly had me hoisted on board and attended to."
"But how was it you never wrote home?" said Fritz after a bit, the recollection of what he had gone through overcoming Eric and making him silent for a moment.
"How could I, when the first land I touched, since I was picked up in the ocean south of the Cape, was when I stepped ashore here last week!"
"I can't make that out," said Fritz, puzzled at this.
"Why," replied the other, "you must know that Captain Brown's ship, the Pilot's Bride, is a whaling vessel; and she was on her usual cruise for her fishing ground in the Southern Ocean, when I was rescued. If there had been a boatload of us, or had our skipper been alive, perhaps Captain Brown would have put in to the Cape to land us and so give news of the loss of our ship; but, as there was only me, a boy, and I was for days insensible and unable to give him any particulars about the vessel I belonged to, of course he continued his voyage. When I came to myself, he promised to put me on board the first home-going ship we met; but, as we were far out of the track of these, we never came across a sail. We did land at Tristan d'Acunha, about which I'll have to tell you something bye-and-bye as to a plan I've got in my head, however, as no vessel with the exception of ourselves had been there for six months, there was not much use in my leaving a letter to be forwarded home, on the chance of its being called for, was there?"
"No," said Fritz, laughing. "A bad sort of post office that!"
"So," continued Eric, "I had to wait till I landed here last Friday, when I wrote at once to dear mother and you, whom I thought would of course still be at Lubeck."
"Ah, you don't know all that has happened since you left," said Fritz solemnly.
"Nothing is the matter with mother, dear mutterchen?" asked Eric in a frightened voice.
"No; she's quite well, thank God," said Fritz, who then proceeded to give his brother a history of all that had transpired in his absence— the account taking all the longer from Eric's ignorance of the war and everything connected with it, he not having seen a newspaper from the time of his leaving home until his arrival at Rhode Island, when, the events of the past memorable year being of course stale news, they had no chance of being communicated to him.
"And now," said Fritz, when he had made an end of his confidences in return for his brother's story, "I want to know Captain Brown, and thank him for all his kindness to you, Eric."
As Fritz said this, the broad-shouldered, jolly, seafaring man Eric had pointed out—who was still talking to Fritz's acquaintance of the steamboat, close to the divan and within sound of the brothers' voices— hearing his name spoken, looked towards Fritz, who at once raised his hat politely.
"Sarvint, sir," said he, coming forward and stretching out an open hand about the size of a small-sized ham.
"You're the brother, I reckon from the likeness, of this young shaver I picked up off the Cape, hey? My name's Brown, Cap'en Brown, sir, of the Pilot's Bride, the smartest whaling craft as ever sailed out o' Providence, I guess. Glad to know you, mister!"
"Yes, I'm Eric's brother," said Fritz, grasping the huge paw of the other, and shaking hands cordially,—"Fritz Dort, at your service. I'm only too glad to have the pleasure of personally thanking you, on my own and my mother's behalf, for your bravery in saving my poor brother here from a watery grave, as well as for all your kindness to him afterwards! He has told me about you, captain, and how you rescued him at sea, besides treating him so very handsomely afterwards."
"Avast there!" roared out the Yankee skipper in a voice which was as loud as if he were hailing the maintop from his own quarter-deck, albeit it had a genial, cheery tone and there was a good-natured expression on his jolly, weather-beaten face. "Stow all thet fine lingo, my hearty! I only did for the b'y, mister, no more'n any other sailor would hev done fur a shepmate in distress; though, I reckon I wer powerful glad I overhauled thet there jolly-boat in time to save him, afore starvation an' the sun hed done their work on him. I opine another day's exposure would hev settled the b'y's hash; yes, sir, I du!"
"I've no doubt of that," said Fritz kindly. "From what he says, you must have picked him up just in the nick of time."
"Yes, sirree, you bet on thet," responded the skipper. "Six hours more driftin' about in thet boat, with the sun a-broilin' his brain-box an' his wits wool-gatherin' in delirimums, would ha' flummuxed him to a haar, I guess. He wer so mad when we got him aboard thet he took me fur his gran'mother, Lorry sunthin' or other—I'm durned if I ken kinder rec'lect the name!"
"So he tells me," said Fritz, laughing at the idea of old Lorischen being mistaken for the broad-shouldered, red-faced, whaling captain. The old nurse, who was very particular about her personal appearance, would have had a fit at the bare supposition, much less at such an allusion to her age as would have supposed her ancient enough to be Eric's grandmother!
"Never mind, mister," continued the skipper, giving Eric a hearty slap on the back, which made the lad wince although he smiled at what the worthy sailor intended for a little friendly attention. "He's all right now, the b'y is—ain't you, my bully, hey?"
"Yes; all right, captain, all right, sir, thanks to you," replied Eric.
"Thet's your sort," said the skipper exultantly. "We've coddled him up an' made a man of him ag'in, we hev, sirree. Jerusalem, mister, you wouldn't know him ag'in for the skillagalee young shaver we h'isted aboard! An', what is more, mister, look here, we've made a sailor of the b'y since he's been along of us in the Pilot's Bride—none of your lazy, good-for-nothin' idlers; but, a reg'ler downeaster cat block, clear grit an' no mistake, a sailor every inch of him, yes, sir!"
"I should have thought he had seen enough of the sea, eh?" said Fritz, turning to Eric with a smile.
"Thunder, mister!" exclaimed the Yankee skipper indignantly. "What d'ye mean with your ''nough of the sea,' when he's only jest cut his eye- teeth an' taken to larnin'? Why, mister, it would be a sin to let thet b'y turn his hand to anythin' else, fur he's a born sailor to the very backbone!"
"What say you, Eric?" said Fritz to his brother.
"Oh, I'm with the captain," replied he. "I always loved the sea, and the wreck of the old Gustav Barentz has not altered my thinking about it just the same. I don't believe I could ever settle down to a shore life now! I have learnt a lot of seamanship, too, with Captain Brown; and he says, that if I will go with him on his next whaling voyage, he'll make me third mate of the Pilot's Bride."
"Jest so, my young cock shaver," said that gentleman; "an' what old Job Brown sez, why I guess he'll stick to! You rec'lect what I told you 'bout wages, hey? We whalin' men don't gen'rally give a fixed sum, as we go shares in the vally o' the venture; but, if yer brother haar likes it better, I'll give you twenty dollars a month, besides yer keep an' mess money, thaar!"
"I'm sure, Captain Brown, that is a very generous offer," replied Fritz, acting as spokesman for his brother; "still, I hardly think my poor mother would like his being away for so long a time as your voyage would last."
"We'll be away, I reckon, fur a twelvemonth, countin' from next month, when we'll start—thet is if my shep's ready for the v'y'ge, as I kinder guess she'll be, with me to look arter her an' see the longshore men don't lose time over the job," interrupted the skipper. "Say now, she sails latter end o' July, so as to git down to the Forties afore October, or tharabouts; waall, I guess we'll cast anchor in Narraganset Bay ag'in 'fore next fall—will that du for you, mister, hey?"
"You see," explained Fritz, "my poor mother thinks him dead; and, of course, after she gets the letter he tells me he has just sent home, it will be as bad as a second death to her to know that he has now started on another voyage without returning to see her first! Besides that, I've read and heard that whaling life is terribly dangerous—isn't it?"
"Not a bit of it," said the skipper bluntly, in sea-dog fashion. "I reckon it's nary half so dangerous as sailin' back'ards an' for'ards across the herrin' pond 'twixt Noo Yark an' your old Eu-rope in one o' them ocean steamers, thet are thought so safe, whar you run the risk o' bustin' yer biler an' gettin' blown up, or else smashin' yer screw-shaft an' goin' down to Davy Jones' locker! Why, thaar ain't a quarter the per'l 'bout it, much less half, as I sed jest naow! You jest ax my friend haar, whom you seem to hev known afore. Say, Nat, what d'ye think o' whalin' life?"
"Safe as the National Bank, I guess, Job," promptly responded the individual addressed, Fritz's acquaintance the "deck hand," whose full name he now learnt was Nathaniel Washington Slater—usually addressed as "Nathaniel W Slater," or called familiarly "Nat" by his friends!
"Thaar!" exclaimed the skipper, "what more d'ye want than thet, hey? You see, mister, the Pilot's Bride don't do whalin' up in Baffin's Bay an' further north, whar I'll allow the fishin' is a bit risky. We only makes reg'ler trips once a year to the Southern Ocean, callin' in on our way at Saint Helena an' the Cape o' Good Hope. Thaar, I guess, we meets a fleet of schooners thet do all the fishin' fur us 'mongst the islands. We fetch 'em out grub, an' sich-like notions, an' take in return all the ile an' skins they've got to bring home. In course, sometimes, we strike a fish on our own 'count; but, we don't make a trade of it, 'cept the black fins comes under our noses, so to speak! The b'y'll run no risk, you bet, if you're skeart about him."
"No, not a bit, mister," corroborated Nat; "and it's a downright capital openin' for him, I guess, too. Why, there are scores of people would give something handsome as a premium to get the cap'en to take their sons along o' him!"
"Thet's a fact," said the skipper; "though I reckon I don't kinder like to be bothered with b'ys—'specially sich as are mother's darlin's. They're gen'rally powerful sassy, or else white-livered do-nuthins! I've taken a fancy to this lad, howbeit; an' thet's the reason I wants fur to hev him with me."
"Besides, Fritz," put in Eric, who had refrained from speaking as yet throughout the conversation, although so interested in it, "you must recollect what a sum mother paid for my outfit? Well, I have lost every stitch of it, and shall not get the slightest return from the owners for what went down in the Gustav Barentz—merchant sailors have to run the risk of all such casualties, you know! Now, I should not like to go back on mother's hands again, like a bad penny, with nothing to bless myself with; but, here's a capital chance for me. As Captain Brown says, I shall return in a year, and then my wages would be something handsome to take home to mutterchen, even if I then gave up the sea."
"Did you tell mother of this in your letter?" asked Fritz.
"Certainly; for, of course, I did not expect to see you here. I told her that I had almost pledged my word with Captain Brown to go with him, even if it were only to pay him for what he had already done for me, in advancing me money to buy clothes and other necessaries, for I hadn't a rag on when he rescued me, as well as promising to keep me here till the vessel is ready to start again on her next voyage. Why, Fritz, he's so kind, that he actually offered to pay my passage home, if I were bent on seeing mother first before deciding about his offer!"
"That settles it then, Eric, for mother will be certain to say that the right thing to do will be to pay your debts first; in addition to which, knowing I am now out here, she will not expect you to return yet. Really, Captain Brown," added Fritz, turning to the skipper, who appeared to be anxiously awaiting the result of the colloquy between the two brothers, "I'm quite at a loss to express my gratitude to you, both on my brother's and my own behalf! I hope you will not think me lukewarm in the matter, from my taking so long to make up my mind?"
"Sartenly not, sirree," said the Yankee skipper with emphasis, as he gripped Fritz's hand again. "Sartenly not, sirree. Bizness is bizness, an' pleasure's another kind o' notion altogether! I only gev' the b'y an invitation, thet's all, I reckon!"
"An invitation which he now accepts with thanks," replied Fritz. "Eh, Eric?" he added, turning to the lad, who was looking at Captain Brown with a face as beaming as his own.
"Of course I will," answered Eric, without a moment's hesitation. "I should be a donkey to refuse such an offer."
"Waall," drawled out the skipper in high good humour, "I'm raal glad to hear you say thet so. You won't repent j'inin' me, I ken tell you, nor regret slingin' yer hammock aboard the Pilot's Bride!"
He then proceeded to wring Eric's hand as cordially, and forcibly too, in his big fist as he had done his brother's.
"Now thet's all settled an' fixed up slick," said Captain Brown, when he had finished hand-shaking, passing on the friendly civility to Mr Nat Slater. "I guess we'd better hev a liquor-up to seal the barg'in; an' when thet's done, if you've got nuthin' better to du, I reckon you'd better come along o' me to my little shanty at the head of the bay—your brother's ben made welcome thaar already."
"You are very kind," replied Fritz, to whom this courteous speech was addressed; "but this gentleman here," indicating Nat, "was just going to show me a boarding-house where I can put up at. He has also promised to introduce me to some shipping firm where I can get work."
"Out o' collar, then?" asked the skipper, with deep interest.
"Yes," answered Fritz. "I could get no employment in New York, and that is what made me come up here, so providentially as it has now turned out."
"Waall, come home along o' me, anyhow, till you find sunthin' to put yer hand to," said the other kindly. "My folks'll make you downright welcome, you bet, mister."
"Thank you, I will," replied Fritz, accepting the kind invitation in the same spirit in which it was offered; and presently the two brothers, reunited so strangely, were on their way, in company with the good- hearted skipper to his "shanty," as he called it, on Narraganset Bay—a comfortable, old-fashioned house, as Fritz presently found out, commanding a fine view of the Providence river on one hand, and of the wide Atlantic, rolling away into the illimitable distance, on the other.
"Nat" declined to accompany the party, on the plea of an engagement He made an appointment, however, with Fritz for the morrow, promising then to introduce him to some business men, who, he said, would probably find the young German employment; after which he took leave of the Yankee skipper and the two brothers, with a brief parting, "So long!"
Fritz was not long in the company of Mr Nathaniel Washington Slater on the following day before he discovered, much to his disappointment, that he was one of those superficial characters who are given largely to dealing in promises that they either have no intention of keeping when making them originally, or which they never were or would be in a position to carry out.
When coming up Long Island Sound on board the Rhode Island steamer and having that friendly chat in the bows of the boat, the deck hand had been lavishly expansive as to what he would be able to accomplish for his newly-made acquaintance, in the way of procuring him employment; but, when Fritz met him again, according to their arrangement of the previous afternoon, "Nat" did not appear to exhibit that eager alacrity in introducing him to business men—or "big bugs," as he termed them— which his words of the night before had led Fritz naturally to expect.
Whether this arose from the fact that the deck hand's desire to aid the young German had evaporated as rapidly as it had arisen, or because his morning reflections had convinced him that he had too rashly promised something which he was unable to perform, Fritz, of course, could not precisely tell. Whatever was the reason, the result came to the same thing, that Mr Slater showed a most unmistakable inclination to "back out" of the matter in the same easy way in which those double-ender floating palaces Fritz had noticed on the way up could go astern in order to avoid an obstruction; albeit Nat was prolific in the extreme with all manner of excuses—excuses that were as baseless and unsubstantial as the foam churned up by the steamboat's paddle-wheels!
He "felt ugly" and was "no end sorry," but he really "hadn't the time that morning." This was his first attempt at shunting the engagement; but then, when Fritz, in the exuberance of hopeful possibilities, offered to meet him at the same place and time on the following day, "Nat" "couldn't think of putting him to the trouble," as he "might have to return to New York in the boat at a moment's notice." Besides, he said, it would be "better to put off the appointment awhile," as he'd just heard that the "boss" of the very identical shipping firm where he thought he could have got Fritz a berth had started "right away" for Boston, and he was such a "durned electric eel of a cuss, here, there, and everywhere," that it would be "just dubersome to kalkerlate" when he would "reel his way back to hum!"
Fritz could not understand many of these very choice Americanisms; still, he was sufficiently gifted with common sense to see pretty plainly that all the deck hand's "tall talking" of the previous evening had been, to use his own expressive vernacular, nothing but "bunkum," and that, if he wished to get any situation in the place, he must trust more to his own good fortune than to Mr Slater's kind offices as a go- between.
This disheartened him at the time; but when he got back to Captain Brown's shanty later on, the worthy old skipper, noticing his despondency, soon cheered him out of it.
"Bless you, sonny," said he affectionately, for he seemed to have taken as great a fancy to Fritz as he had to Eric—the young fellow having told him all his plans and prospects, besides giving him an epitome of his adventures during the war when narrating the same for his brother's edification,—"Bless you, sonny, nary you mind what thet ne'er-do-well Nat Slater sez. I'd half a mind to tell you thet yesterday, when I seed you so thick with him! Jerusalem, mister, he's a coon thet's bin allers a loafer all his life, stickin' to nuthin' even fur a dog-watch, an' as shifty as one o' them sculpens in the creek thaar! You jest wait an' make yourself comf'able haar till bye-em-bye, an' I reckon we'll fix you up to sunthin'."
The same evening, when the two brothers were alone together, and speaking of old Captain Brown's kindness, Eric suddenly, as if in a moment of inspiration, said, "Why should you not come along with me in the Pilot's Bride when we start next month?"
"What!" exclaimed Fritz in astonishment.
"Don't look so startled, brother," said Eric, laughing at the expression of the other's face. "Recollect, that as you say, you've been unable to get any work here, so, why not go with me? I'm sure Captain Brown would take you with us if you ask him."
"But I'm not a sailor," argued Fritz; "and, besides, if I were one, going to sea would not be the way to make the fortune I have planned, so that I may be able to return home and marry Madaleine."
"Ah, that dear Madaleine!" said Eric. "I wonder when I'll see her, and whether I shall think her all that you describe? Never mind," he added, seeing that Fritz appeared vexed at this speech, "I've no doubt she's a beautiful maiden, and that you'll both be as happy as the day is long! But, I'm going to speak about business now, my brother; and, if you listen, you'll see that my idea of your coming in the Pilot's Bride is not such a wild-goose chase, after all."
"I confess I don't see it yet," interposed Fritz, with a smile at Eric's boyish eagerness. "In what way will going whaling with Captain Brown and your important self advance my fortunes?"
"Listen," said the other, "and I'll soon tell you. Do you recollect when I was recounting my story, that after I was picked up from the boat and taken on board the Pilot's Bride, I mentioned the fact of the ship calling at Tristan d'Acunha?"
"Yes; and you also said that you would inform me of something important about the place 'bye-and-bye,' if you alluded then to what you're going to tell me now."
"Precisely, 'bye-and-bye' is 'now,'" said Eric, laughing again and tossing his mane-like hair back from his forehead in the old fashion. "We landed at Tristan d'Acunha—"
"Where on earth is that place?" interrupted Fritz. "I've a confused notion that it is an island of some sort; but, in what precise spot it is situated, I'm sure I can't tell!"
"Well, then," commenced Eric grandiloquently—only too glad of the opportunity of having to instruct his elder brother, who had been regarded in the family circle as the centre of all wisdom—"'Tristan d'Acunha' is the centre island of a group, so-called after the Portuguese navigator who discovered them in the early beginning of the sixteenth century. The islands are probably the most isolated and remote of all the abodes of men, lying as they do almost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and nearly equidistant from the continents of America and Africa; for, they are situated nearly on the line that could be drawn between Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope—from the latter of which they are distant some fifteen hundred miles in a westerly direction, while Saint Helena, the nearest other land to them on the north, is thirteen hundred miles away."
"You're very explicit, I'm sure," said Fritz in a chaffing way; "you must have been coaching up your geography recently."
"I disdain vulgar interruption and idle clamour," returned the other in a similar vein. "But, to proceed. The group consists of the larger island of Tristan and two smaller islands—Inaccessible Island, some eighteen miles to the south-west, and Nightingale Island, twenty miles to the south. These islands are uninhabited, save by penguins and seals; but an interesting little colony of some eighty souls occupies Tristan, breeding cattle and cultivating vegetables, with which they supply passing vessels, mostly whalers—these calling there from time to time, on their way to and from their fishing grounds in the great Southern Ocean."
"Your account is highly interesting, my dear Eric," said Fritz, when his brother had completed this exhaustive description of the Tristan d'Acunha group; "still, I confess I do not see in what way it affects me."
"Then you will soon; listen a moment longer. I told you that, with the exception of the larger one, these islands are uninhabited save by the penguins and seals and such-like marine animals."
"Yes, you've told me that; and I don't wonder at it when they are situated so remotely from all civilisation."
"That fact has its advantages none the less," proceeded Eric. "Being so cut off from communication with men makes these islands just the favourite resort of those animals that shun the presence of their destroyers. Seals, as you know, are very nervous, retiring creatures seeking their breeding-places in the most out-of-the-way, deserted spots they can find; and the advance of the human race, planting colonies where the poor things had formerly undisputed sway around the shores of the South American continent, has driven them further and further afield, or rather to sea, until they are now only to be met with in any numbers in the Antarctic Ocean, and such islands as lie adjacent to that great Southern continent which has never yet been discovered—although Lord Ross pretty nearly put foot on it, if any explorer can be said to have done that."
"Really, Eric," exclaimed Fritz jokingly, "you surpass yourself!"
"Oh, I've read up all this in some books Captain Brown lent me," said the boy. "I wanted to learn everything that was to be learnt about a whaler's life, and to become acquainted with the special parts of the ocean that have to be visited by vessels in the trade in order to find a profitable fishing ground."
"But you've been talking about seals, not whales," remarked Fritz.
"Yes, because it is with seals that my present business lies," said the other, not a bit put out by the correction.
"Banished now from their once favourite waters around Cape Horn, adjacent to the islands of the Pacific, there are yet some stray outlandish spots left which the animals frequent, so as to be able to breed in peace and multiply, without fear of that wholesale extermination which is their unhappy lot elsewhere. Amongst such isolated places is the Tristan d'Acunha group; and, to Inaccessible Island as well as the other islets they come in countless numbers every year. Seal fishing is a very profitable concern; for, not only is the oil valuable, but the skins fetch the most extravagant prices in the market, especially those of the finer sort. Now, do you see what I'm after, brother?"
"You want to go sealing, I suppose; but, won't you have plenty of that in the Pilot's Bride with Captain Brown, eh?"
"Not in the way I mean," replied Eric. "I have an idea of settling for a time at Tristan d'Acunha, going in thoroughly for the thing as a business on shore."
Fritz appeared to prick up his ears at this.
"But, I thought you said there was a colony there already; why don't the people manage to cultivate the trade? Besides, if they have it all their own way, I think they would not like a couple of strange interlopers, like you and me, going amongst them to rob them of their harvest from the sea!"
"Ah, I see you're bitten with the idea," exclaimed Eric, clapping his hands triumphantly. "But, it was not of Tristan, the larger island, I was thinking; it was of Inaccessible Island, where there wouldn't be another living soul but ourselves, the seals, and sea birds."
"'Monarchs of all we survey,' eh, like Robinson Crusoe?" said Fritz with a smile. "That would be very nice, wouldn't it?"
"Don't laugh, brother," returned Eric, speaking earnestly. "I assure you I've considered this thing well. The people living at Tristan told me that they went fishing to the other islands once a year; but, the weather is generally so rough and the beach so hard to land at or get off from, on account of the heavy ocean rollers coming in when the wind is up at all, that the islanders can never make a long stay at the islets—and so cannot get half the number of sealskins which might be easily procured by any one stopping ashore there for any length of time. I really thought, I assure you, of asking Captain Brown, when I went on my next voyage with him, to land me at Inaccessible Island, with provisions enough to last me six months or so, and to call for me on his return voyage from the Cape, as he was wending his way back home again here."
"And you would have gone there alone?"
"Yes; why not? But now, oh, Fritz, if you would only go with me, we might settle at this place like regular Robinson Crusoes—as you said just now—and make a pile of money, or, rather, of skins, in a year or two!"
"The idea is feasible," said Fritz in a reflective way. "I'll talk to Captain Brown, and see what he says of it." The elder brother had a good deal of German caution in his composition; so that, although prompt of action, he was never accustomed to undertake anything without due deliberation.
Eric, on the contrary, all impulse, was thoroughly carried away by the notion, now that he saw that Fritz, instead of ridiculing it, thought it worth consideration.
The project of going to settle on a real uninhabited island, like Robinson Crusoe, that hero of boyhood throughout the world, exceeded the realisation of his wildest dreams, when first as a little chap he had planned how he should go to sea as soon as he was big enough. Why, he and Fritz would now be "Brother Crusoes," if his project were carried out, as there seemed every likelihood of its being—crusoes of their own free-will and not by compulsion, besides having the satisfaction of knowing that within a certain period it would be in their power to end their solitary island life; that is, should they find, either that it did not come up to their expectations in a business point of view, or that its loneliness and seclusion combined with the discomforts of roughing it were more than they could bear.
It was a glorious plan!
This was Eric's conclusion, the more he thought of it; while Fritz, on his part, believed that there was something in the suggestion—something that had to be weighed and considered carefully—for, might he not really conquer Fortune in this way?
Captain Brown did not throw any cold water on the matter either, when it was brought before him.
"By thunder! it's a durned good plan, it air, mister," said he to Fritz, "thet it air, fur a young scaramouch like thet youngster thaar! I seed him palaverin' with one o' them islanders at Tristan—they're a sort of half-caste tan colour there, like mulattoes in the States. I rec'lect one of the men who wer oncest on a whaler with me a v'y'ge or two to Kerguelen Land an' back, tellin' me 'bout the lot of seals thet were on Inaccessible Island, now I come to think of it; but I've never been thaar myself. Its name's good enough fur me, since most of us thet go by thaar gives it a pretty wide berth, you bet; fur it air inaccessible, with a vengeance—a rocky coast plungin' down abruptly into the sea, with a terrible surf breakin' ag'in the cliffs, an' no anchorage ground anywheres nigh thet's safe!"
"And how could we land then?" asked Fritz.
"Oh, it ken be done, mister, fur the Tristaners go over thaar, as the b'y told you, every year fur a week or so; an' they hev to git ashore somehow or other. Yes, we'll manage to land you, safe enough, in a whale-boat when the time comes. What I meant to say was, thet the ship couldn't stay any while lyin' off, so as to see whether you liked the place or not. If you land, thaar you'll hev to stay till we come back fur you next v'y'ge!"
"All right, I shan't mind that, with Eric. If I were alone, of course it would be another matter."
"Jest so," replied the Yankee skipper; and he then proceeded to advise the brothers what would be best to take with them, Fritz wishing to lay out his small remaining stock of money to advantage.
He also told them, good-naturedly, that he would convey them to their contemplated destination for nothing, so that they would have no passage to pay. Eric, indeed, would work his, being considered as attached to the ship, his name besides being retained on the list of the crew while sealing on shore; and, as for Fritz, Captain Brown said, he would "grub him and give him a bunk into the barg'in."
Then, again, in respect of the provisions they would need for their maintenance during their stay on the island, the skipper promised to supply them from the ship's stores, on their arrival there, at cost price; so that, not only would they thus get them much cheaper than they would have been able to purchase them in open market, but they would likewise save the cost of their freightage to Inaccessible Island, which any one else would have expected them to pay.
Could Fritz desire more?
"I guess, mister," concluded the skipper, "so be it as how you kinder makes up yer mind fur the venture, thet you two coons will start in bizness with a clean sheet an' no book debts, like the boss of a dry goods store; an' if you don't make a pile in less than no time, why it won't be Job Brown's fault, I reckon!"
This settled the matter; when, the captain giving them a short memorandum of certain necessary articles which they would find useful on the island and which they could readily procure in Providence while the Pilot's Bride was refitting, the two brothers set to work making their preparations without delay for the novel enterprise to which Eric's project had given birth—that of going crusoeing in the South Atlantic!
THE "PILOT'S BRIDE."
The more Fritz thought over the project, the more enthusiastic he became about it.
Unlike Eric, he was deeply reflective, never adventuring into any scheme or undertaking action in any matter until he had fully weighed the pros and cons and had considered everything that could be said for and against it; but, once his judgment was convinced, there was no more hearty co-operator than he.
It was so in this instance.
Eric's idea had struck him as feasible at the first blush, the boy being so eager in giving vent to his own impressions and experiences of what he had seen at Tristan d'Acunha with regard to the advantage of starting a new sealing station of their own; but, when Fritz came to ponder over the plan, it seemed so chimerical that he felt inclined to be angry with himself for having entertained it for a moment. These second thoughts, however, did not long stand their ground after old Captain Brown had been consulted; for, that experienced mariner, who had, as he thought, such better means of judging than himself, immediately took so sanguine a view of the enterprise, that Fritz's original opinion in favour of it became confirmed, and he entered upon the preparations for the expedition with even greater zest than Eric, its first inceptor and propounder.
"Brother," said he to the latter, on Captain Brown's approving of the plan and promising his cordial assistance in helping them to carry it out to a successful issue, "we'll not leave anything to chance. We will put our shoulders to the wheel and determine to win!"
"Aye," responded the other, "and we oughtn't to make a failure either; for, you know, the old adage has it that, 'Fortune favours the brave,' eh?"
"Yes," said Fritz, the practical. "However, it is in little things that success is attained, so we must not neglect these."
Nor did they. Indeed, so much did Fritz impress Eric with the value of carefully considering every petty detail of their outfit, so that they might not find something omitted at the last moment which would be of use, that there was danger of their forgetting more important articles— the "little things," apparently, absorbing all their attention.
So engrossed were they in this enthusiasm for collecting and packing up the most out-of-the-way trifles which it struck one or other of the two brothers that they might want—getting these ready, too, for their departure weeks before the Pilot's Bride could possibly be refitted for her voyage—that they were the subject of many a joke from the hospitable household of the little "shanty" on Narraganset Bay.
The captain and Mrs Brown, or else Celia their daughter—a lively American lassie of Eric's age, who seemed to have taken as great a fancy to the young sailor as her father had done towards Fritz—would ever be suggesting the most extraordinary things as likely to "come in handy on the island," such as a warming pan or a boot-jack; with which latter, indeed, the skipper gravely presented the elder brother one day, telling him it would save him time when he was anxious to get on his slippers of an evening after sealing on the rocks!
But, although they "chaffed" them, the kind people helped them none the less good-naturedly in completing their equipment, the old captain's "missis" and his "gal" plying their needles as energetically on their behalf as Madame Dort and Lorischen would have done in the little house at home in the Gulden Strasse of Lubeck. The very eagerness and "thoroughgoingness" of the hopeful young fellows enlisted sympathy for them, in addition to those good qualities which had already made them prime favourites.
"Bully for them, old woman," as the skipper said, when talking them over to his wife. "They're raal grit an' bound to run into port with a fair wind an' no mistake, you bet; they're such a tarnation go-ahead pair o' coons, with no empty gas or nonsense about 'em!"
But, full as he was of the venture, and embarking heart and soul into its details with every energy he possessed, Fritz did not neglect to write home a long letter to his mother and Madaleine, telling them all about the new undertaking in which his hopes and prospects alike were centred and expressing his feelings thoroughly in the matter—thus showing the amount of reflection he had given to the scheme.
Eric, he said, was a sailor; and, therefore, should the venture not succeed, its failure would not affect him much, as it would be merely an episode in his nautical life, Captain Brown promising to retain his name on the books of the Pilot's Bride and allow him to ship again as third mate in the event of his taking to the sea once more when the two got tired of their sojourn on the island or found that sealing did not answer their expectations; but, for him, Fritz, the enterprise was a far more important one, changing the whole aspect of his career.
However, he wrote, he not only hoped for the best, but believed the undertaking would result more favourably than his most sanguine wishes led him to estimate its returns; still, in any case, it was better, he thought, to engage in it, rather than waste any further time in vainly searching for employment in the States.
But, whether successful or unfortunate, he was fully determined, so he concluded his letter, to return home within the period of three years to which he had limited his absence when leaving Lubeck; and, he prayed that his coming back would be the opening of a new era of happiness for them all—that is should the good God, who had so mercifully preserved their Eric from the dangers of the deep and restored the dead to life, prosper the joint enterprise of the reunited brothers, who, come what may, would now be together.
"Good-bye, dear mutterchen, and you, my darling Madaleine," were his last words. "Watch and pray for us, and look forward to seeing us again beneath the old roof-tree in time for our third Christmas festival from now; and, then, won't there be a home-coming, a house-warming, with us altogether once more!"
Much to Fritz's satisfaction, before the Pilot's Bride was ready to put to sea, a reply was received to this communication, bidding the brother crusoes a cheery "God speed!" from home. Madame Dort was so overjoyed with the unexpected news of Eric's safety that she made no demur to the prolongation of his absence from home, the more especially now that he would be in Fritz's company. As for Madaleine, she expressed herself perfectly contented with her betrothed's plans, considering, as she did, that he would know best; but she was all the better pleased, she wrote, that he was going to an uninhabited island, as then he would be unable to come across other girls, who might blot her image from his heart.
"The little stupid!" as Fritz said fondly to himself when he read this,—"as if that were possible, the darling!"
If Madaleine, however, could have known that, when she penned those words, Master Fritz was engaged making himself agreeable to a party of New York belles who had come up from the stifling "Empire City" to see their cousins the Browns and sniff the bracing sea breezes of Narraganset Bay, she might not have been quite so easy in her mind!
But, she need not have alarmed herself much, for Fritz was too busily engaged, along with Eric, in helping Captain Brown to prepare the Pilot's Bride for her forthcoming voyage, to spare much time to the fascinating fair ladies from Fifth Avenue.
The elder brother could do but little to aid the skipper in a nautical way; still, as a clerk, he proved himself of great assistance, attending to all the captain's correspondence and acting as a sort of supercargo.
Eric, however, having now had considerable experience of the sea, besides, as the skipper had said, being "a born sailor," came out in strong colours in all those minutiae required in getting a vessel ready for sea.
Really, he showed himself so active and intelligent that the skipper looked upon him as "his right-hand man"—at least, so declared he one day in the presence of Mrs Brown, Celia, and the entire family at the shanty, in full and open conclave; and no one disputed his statement, albeit Master Eric was sadly confused at the compliment.
But, how was it with the ship, in which, like twin Caesars, the brothers were about to embark "all their fortunes?"
Well, the Pilot's Bride, after going into dry dock and discharging cargo on her return home, first had her sheathing stripped and the exterior of her hull carefully examined to see that no rotten timber- work should be overlooked that might subsequently be fatal to her when battling with the billows in mid-ocean. She had then been recaulked and coppered; besides having her rigging set up again and tarred down, as well as the coverings and seizings replaced, and the chaffing gear paid over. Finally, on the yards being sent up and the rigging completed, with all the running gear seen to and thoroughly overhauled, a good coat of paint, and an overcoat, too, in addition was given to the vessel from bow to taffrail down to the water-line, with a white streak, in regular Yankee fashion, running along her ports. The stern gallery and rail were then gilded, as was also the figure-head—a wooden damsel, with arms akimbo, of the most unprepossessing appearance, representing the bride of the "pilot" whose name she bore.
This completed the exterior refitting of the ship.
Much remained to be done to her interior, however; and, here it was that Eric was able to be of considerable service, having learnt all of a sailor's duty in reference to the stowage of a vessel's hold—a matter that might seem easy enough to a landsman who only has to do with the packing of boxes, but which is of serious importance on board a ship, where the misplacement of the cargo may not only affect her sailing properties but also the safety of those she carries.
To commence with, the Pilot's Bride being a whaler would have to start from her home port comparatively "light"—as, having no cargo to speak of, save the provisions for her own crew for twelve months and the stores she carried for the use of the sealing schooners amongst the islands, she was forced to take in a great deal of ballast to ensure her stability, and this had to be so apportioned in her hold as to make her of good trim.
This being done, the water and provisions were then shipped and a large number of empty casks placed on top of all the stores in the hold, amidships. These latter were carried to be subsequently filled with the oil and skins that might be collected by the schooners acting as tenders to the Pilot's Bride amongst the islands; and, besides, the ship had "trying pots" of her own to melt down the blubber of any whales or odd fish she might capture "on her own hook."
The brothers' belongings were next taken on board and placed in the cabin appropriated by Captain Brown to Fritz's use; and then, only the live stock remained to be shipped and the crew mustered for the vessel to be ready for sea, as now, with her sails bent she lay along the wharf at Providence, waiting but to be hauled out into the stream.
She was a barque of some three or four hundred tons, riding rather high out of the water in consequence of being mostly in ballast. In appearance she looked somewhat wall-sided, and she had those heavy round bows that are seen mostly in whaling vessels, which are thus protected forwards in order to resist the pressure of the ice in those arctic regions whither they go to and fro; but, in spite of her build, which resembled more that of a Dutch galliot—such as Fritz's eyes were accustomed to see in the ports of the North Sea—than an American merchantman, with her freshly painted hull, whose ports were picked out in white, and her tall shapely spars all newly varnished, the Pilot's Bride looked as dapper and neat as her namesake. Eric certainly thought this, no matter what his brother's opinion might be, and believed there was every reason for Captain Brown taking the pride in the vessel that he did.
"There you are," said the skipper to the brothers, taking them with him to survey her from the jetty when all her preparations were finished, the vessel only waiting his mandate to haul out into the river—"did you ever see sich a tarnation duck of a beauty in all yer born days, hey?"
"She looks very pretty," observed Fritz admiringly.
"Blow thet!" exclaimed the skipper with a laugh. "Folks would think you were talkin' 'bout a gal; but, what ken a longshore fellow know 'bout a shep!" he added compassionately. "What d'ye say 'bout her Mas' Eric, hey?"
"I say she's a regular clipper, captain," answered the lad in prompt sailor fashion, much to the skipper's delight. Eric's encomium was all the more appreciative from the fact of his having been familiar with the ship through part of her last voyage. Then, she was all battered and bruised from her conflict with the elements during her cruise in southern seas; so, now, her present transformation and gala trim made the difference in her appearance all the more striking to him, causing her good points to shine out with all the greater display and hiding most of her drawbacks.
"Ah, thet's your sort of 'pinion I likes," said the skipper in reply to Eric's tribute to the vessel's merits. "Yes, suttenly, she's a clipper, if ever there wer one; an' a beauty to the back of thet, I reckon, hey, sonny?" and he gave the lad one of his thundering pats of approval across the shoulders with his broad hand that almost jerked him off the jetty.
"I guess," he added presently, "the only thing we've got to do now is to shep a tol'able crew aboard; an' then, I kalkerlate, mister, she'll be the slickest whaler this v'y'ge as ever loos'd tops'les an' sailed out o' Narraganset Bay!"
"Will there be any difficulty in getting men?" asked Fritz.
"No, I reckon not, mister," replied the skipper, with a huge guffaw at his ignorance. "Why, the crimpers would send 'em to me in shoals, fur Job Brown is as well-known in Providence as Queen Victoria is in England, God bless her fur a good woman, too! The diff'culty lies in pickin' out the good ones thet air worth their salt from the green hands, as ain't up to a kid of lobscouse fur all the work they ken do aboard a shep!"
"Well, I hope you'll get the men you want," said Fritz cordially.
"Nary a doubt 'bout thet," answered the other, slewing round and trotting across the wharf to a line of warehouses and merchants' offices on the other side. "I'm just a-goin' to my agents now; an' I ken tell you, fur a fact, thet Job Brown is never licked, no, sir, not when he makes up his mind to anythin'!"
In the evening of the same day he astonished Fritz somewhat.
"Who d'ye think wished fur to sign articles with me to-day fur the v'y'ge?" said he, after he mentioned that he had shipped his crew and that the Pilot's Bride would haul out into the stream the next morning, preparatory to starting off altogether on the following day.
"I'm sure I can't say," replied Fritz.
"Who but our old friend Nat Slater!" said the skipper with a broad grin. "I guess Nathaniel Washington hez come down in the world ag'in, fur all his tall talkin' about what he wer goin' to do to help you, hey?"
"Have you taken him on?" asked Fritz, somewhat dubious about the pleasure which the society of the whilom "deck hand" of the steamboat would afford him when the two of them should be cooped together on board the same vessel for any length of time, especially after the way in which that individual had behaved to him.
"Yes, I let him jine," answered the skipper. "I couldn't do else, considerin' the poor cuss wer so down on his luck as to ask me; 'sides, mister, I knewed him afore he went to the bad; an' if he du come with me, it'll do him good in one way. He'll never get none o' thet infarnal drink till he comes back ag'in to Providence, fur I never allows a drop o' pizen in any craft I sails from the time we leaves port till we casts anchor ag'in!"
"I'm glad to hear that," said Fritz. "There's mischief enough done with it on land without taking it to sea."
"Right you air, mister," rejoined the other; "but, mind you, I don't ask my men to do what I don't do myself. This old hoss doesn't believe in a fellow's preachin' one thing and practisin' another; no, sirree! I ain't a teetotaler, nohow; but I never touches a drop o' licker from the time I sots foot aboard ship till I treads land ag'in—an' what I does, every man Jack o' my crew shall do ditto, or I'll know an' larn 'em the reason why, you bet! Howsomedever, mister, I guess we'd all better turn in now," he added, making a signal which Mrs Brown and Celia always interpreted as meaning their departure to bed. "Recollect, this'll be our last night ashore, fur we shall all hev to rise airly in the mornin' to git the Pilot's Bride under weigh."
THE VOYAGE OF THE SHIP.
When Fritz awoke the next day, however, he could not quite make out what was going on in the place. There was a strong smell of gunpowder in the air, and he could hear the cracking reports of small cannon, let off at frequent intervals with much noise in the streets by a crowd of boys, whose voices mingled with the excruciating sound of squeaking trumpets and the shrill, ear-piercing scream of penny whistles.
For the moment, he thought he was dreaming again of the old days of the war, and that the confused medley, which became each moment louder, was but the half-waking recollection of the bivouac around Metz, with its many constant alarms of sallies and sorties from the beleaguered fortress; but, when he came downstairs from his bedroom, he was speedily undeceived as to the reason for the pandemonium without.
The captain and Eric had already started off for the ship, and only Mrs Brown and Celia were below waiting breakfast for him.
"What on earth is the matter?" he asked. "It seems like Bedlam broken loose. Is there an insurrection going on?"
"Ah, they're having a fine time, ain't they!" said Miss Celia.
"But, what is it all about?" he repeated, gazing from one to the other of the smiling ladies, almost bewildered by the uproar out of doors.
"Fourth of July," replied the lady of the house, as if that was quite a sufficient answer and accounted for everything.
"The fourth of July!" he repeated mechanically. "What has the day of the month got to do with it—is it an anniversary of some sort—some national holiday?"
"An anniversary, indeed!" exclaimed Miss Celia indignantly. "I thought you were such a good hand at history. Why, haven't you ever heard of our glorious Declaration of Independence, when the free states of America severed the hated yoke that bound them under the thraldom of the tyrant England?"
"Oh, yes, I forgot. I'm sure I beg your pardon for not recollecting what must be to you a sacred day!" said Fritz, somewhat deceived by the girl's affected enthusiasm, Celia having spoken as grandiloquently as if she were an actress declaiming tragedy.
"Sacred day, fiddlesticks!" she replied, laughing at his grave face and solemn manner. "I guess we don't worry ourselves much about that! We try and have a good time of it, and leave it to the politicians and skallywags to do the speechifying and bunkum! The boys have the best time of it, I reckon."
"Yes," he replied, his ideas as to the patriotic associations of American citizens considerably modified. "They seem to enjoy themselves, if the noise they're making affords any criterion of that!"
"I guess so," answered the girl. "They've burnt a few fire crackers this morning; but, it's nothing to what they do at Boston. Law, why you should see the goings on there'll be in front of Faneuil Hall to-night, when the 'Bonfire Boys' set to work!"
"By that time, I imagine, I'll be on the sea," said Fritz. "Your father told us last evening that he would start to-day if the wind was fair, and I noticed a bit of a breeze blowing through my window when I was dressing."
"Yes," put in Mrs Brown; "and he said this mornin', 'fore he went off down town, to tell you to be sure and hurry up as soon as ever you'd swallowed your breakfast—not for what I want to hasten you away, though!"
"Did he?" said Fritz, bolting a bit of buckwheat cake and hastily rising from the table. "If that's the case, I'd better be off to see about my traps."
"Bless you, they're all aboard hours ago! Eric took them with him when he started off with pa," remarked Celia demurely.
"Oh, you saw him before he went, then?" said Fritz.
"Yes, I wished your brother good-bye," replied the girl, colouring up.
"Oh!" repeated Fritz meaningly, with a sly glance at her.
"And now, Mr Dort, we must wish you good-bye, too," interposed Mrs Brown, in order to distract his attention from Celia, who looked a bit confused by Fritz's interrogatories respecting Master Eric.
"Aren't you coming down to see us off?" said he.
"Guess not," replied Mrs Brown with much composure, her husband's departure with his ship being of such periodic occurrence as to have long since lost all sense of novelty. "We'll see you when you get out in the bay, and wish you good luck in the distance. I hope, mister, that you and your brother will be successful in your venture—that I do heartily."
"Thank you," said Fritz, shaking the hand of the good-natured woman cordially. "I can't express how grateful we both are to you and your husband for all your kindness to us, strangers in a foreign land!"
"What, do you leave me out?" put in Miss Celia saucily.
"I should think not," returned Fritz gallantly. "I included you, of course, when thanking your mother. I'm sure words would fail to give you any idea of my feelings on the subject; but I dare say Eric spoke on my behalf this morning."
"Indeed, he had too much to say for himself," retorted the girl; "and, instead of his behaving like a quiet German lad, as I thought him, he was more of a saucy American sailor boy! Not that I minded that much," she added demurely. "It made him more sparkish-like and all the pleasanter."
"Really?" said Fritz, smiling. "I think I shall have to talk to Master Eric when I get on board the ship."
"No, nary you mind that," pleaded Miss Celia most magnanimously. "I forgive him this time; but you can tell him, though, I'll pay him out when he comes back to our shanty, that I will!"
"All right, I will give him your message," replied Fritz, as he shook hands with the fair little Rhode Islander, whose eyes were full of tears as she said good-bye, in spite of her sprightly manner and off-hand way. "And now, ladies," he added, addressing them both collectively, "I must say farewell, hoping to have the pleasure of seeing you again on our return from Inaccessible Island, somewhere about two years hence."
"I'm sure I hope so, too," said the lady of the house kindly, Celia joining cordially in the wish; and Fritz then left the shanty, directing his steps down to the quay, where he expected to find the Pilot's Bride still moored.
She was not here, however; but, after a moment, he could discern the vessel lying out in the river some little distance from the shore. There, anchored almost in mid-stream and with a blue peter flying at the fore as well as the American stars and stripes trailing over her stern, she looked even more picturesque than when Fritz had seen her lying along the wharf on his first view of her.
It was much earlier in the month than Captain Brown had stated was his usual time for starting on his annual voyage to the South Atlantic; but the skipper had accelerated his departure in order to have time to go to Tristan d'Acunha on his outward trip, instead of calling there as he usually did just before returning to Providence—so as to allow the brothers to pick up a little information that might be of use to them from the little colony at Tristan, before proceeding to their own selected settlement on Inaccessible Island.
The ship was now, therefore, quite ready to start as soon as the wind and her captain willed it; for, her sails were bent, with the gaskets cast-off and the topsails loose, ready to be let fall and sheeted home at the word of command. A nautical man would have noticed, too, that she was hove short, right over her anchor, so that no time should be lost in bowsing that up to the cathead and getting under weigh, when the time came to man the windlass and heave up the cable, with a "Yo-heave ho!"
Presently, Fritz observed a boat that had been towing astern of the ship hauled up alongside, and then this put off for the shore, with some one in the stern-sheets whom he did not recognise at first, on account of the person having a gilt-banded cap on; but, as soon as the boat got nearer, he saw that it was Eric, who now hailed him while yet a hundred yards away.
"Hullo!" he shouted; "how is it you're so late? The captain is only waiting for you to set sail, for the pilot's coming on board now!"
"I didn't think you were going until the evening," replied Fritz, descending the steps of the jetty, which the boat had now nearly approached.
"Nor were we, if this breeze hadn't sprung up since morning so very suddenly, when we least expected it! I suppose it's because of all that gunpowder firing that the air's got stirred up a bit? But, jump in, old fellow, the skipper seems a bit impatient; and the sooner we're all on board the better he'll be pleased."
With these words, Eric stretched out a hand to help his brother into the little dinghy, which could barely carry two comfortably besides the man pulling amid-ship, and then the frail little craft started on her way back to the mother ship, of which she seemed the chicken!
No sooner were they alongside and up the ladder, than Captain Brown's voice was heard rapidly giving orders, as if no time were to be lost.
"Veer thet boat astern an' hook on the falls," he roared in stentorian accents. "I want her walked up to the davits 'fore I can say Jack Robinson! There, thet's the way to do it, men. Now, get her inboard an' secure her; we shan't want her in a hurry ag'in, till we come back to the bay!"
"Mr Dort," he sang out presently to Eric, who was standing by ready for the skipper's orders and watching his eye—prepared to jump anywhere at a second's notice, and looking so full of eagerness and attention that Fritz felt quite proud of him!
"Aye, aye, sir," answered the lad, touching his cap; for, nowhere is deference insisted on so stringently from inferior officers to their superiors as on board ship, especially in merchantmen commanded by captains worth their salt. In no other way can proper respect be paid to authority, or the necessary orders requisite for the safety and comfort of all enforced.
"I give you charge o' the mizzen mast," said Captain Brown, meaning that Eric would have to see to all that was necessary for making sail in the after part of the ship. At the same time, the second mate stationed himself amidships, and the first officer went forward to the bows, to superintend the getting up of the anchor, each of them repeating the several directions of the captain in turn.
"All hands make sail!" then shouted the skipper, who, with his hands in the pockets of his monkey jacket, stood on the poop deck aft, looking everywhere apparently in one glance, it was so comprehensive of everything that was going on below and aloft; whereupon, the men, racing up the rigging with alacrity, the topsails were soon sheeted home and the yards hoisted, after which more canvas was unfolded to the breeze, that came in short, sharp puffs off the land.
The headsails were then backed, as the ship brought up over her anchor; and, the windlass coming round with a ringing "clink, clank!" of the pawl to the hearty long heaves of the sailors—who worked at it with a will, singing in chorus the while—the heavy weight of metal that still attached the Pilot's Bride to the sand and shells at the bottom of Narraganset Bay was ere long lifted gradually above the water and run up to the cathead. The jib and foretop-sail were then allowed to fill again and the yards squared; when, the vessel, paying off, began to move, at first slowly, and then more rapidly as she gathered way, out of the harbour away towards the open sea, some thirty miles beyond.
The wind being light and flickering, the crew were soon ordered aloft again to set the top-gallant-sails, for the breeze was so far favourable that the ship did not have to beat out of the bay; consequently, she was able to spread more canvas than if she had been forced to tack, or had to be steered by her sails.
Nor was Captain Brown satisfied with top-gallants alone; for, quickly, the order came to set the royals and flying jib before the men could climb down the ratlins; and, soon, the vessel was under a cloud of sail alow and aloft, taking advantage of every breath of air. Towards the afternoon, the north-westerly breeze still lasting, the ship cleared Narraganset Bay, running before the wind; when, shaping a course between the treacherous Martha's Vineyard on the one hand and Gardiner's Island on the other, she was steered out into the open Atlantic.
No sooner had they got to sea than Captain Brown called all hands aft, mustering the crew—who numbered some twenty in all, including the cook and a couple of boys. He then gave them a short speech from the poop.
Some of the men had been with him before, he said, so they knew what he was; but, as for those who didn't, he would tell them that, as long as they did their duty manfully, they would find him always considerate towards them. If they "turned rusty," however, why then "they'd better look out for squalls," for they would discover, should they try on any of their notions, that he was "a hard row to hoe!"
The men were next divided into watches and dismissed to their several duties; after which the Pilot's Bride settled down steadily to her voyage.
At first, Fritz found the life on board very enjoyable. The motion of the ship was so slight, as she slipped through the water with the wind on her quarter, that there was no rolling; and the difference of her arrangements, with clean cabins and the absence of that sickening smell of the engine-room which had permeated the steamer in which he had made the passage from Bremen to New York—his only previous acquaintance with the ocean-made him fancy that he could spend all his days on the deep without discomfort. But, after a time, the routine grew very monotonous; and long ere the Pilot's Bride had reached tropical latitudes, Fritz would have been glad if she had reached their appointed destination.
Truth to say, the vessel was not that smart sailer which a stranger would have imagined from all the skipper had said about her. It was nearly three weeks before she ran into the north-east trades; and three more weeks, after she got within these favouring winds, before she managed to cross the Line, which she did somewhere about 24 degrees West. All this time, too, to add to Fritz's disgust, they never passed a single other sail!
The weather throughout the voyage, up to now, had treated the vessel fairly enough, so no complaint could be made on that score; but, no sooner had they arrived at the equator, than the wind suddenly shifted round to the west and south-west, accompanied by a violent squall that would have settled the Pilot's Bride, if Captain Brown had not fortunately anticipated it and prepared in time.
The ship was nearing Pernambuco, off the South American coast, on a short "leg," before taking the long one that would fetch down towards Tristan d'Acunha, proceeding in the ordinary track of vessels going round the Cape of Good Hope; when, suddenly, towards evening, it fell nearly calm and sheet lightning was noticed towards the eastward, where a dense bank of dark clouds had mounted up, obscuring the sky.
This was enough for Captain Brown, who had gone through a similar experience before.
"All hands take in sail!" came his order, without a moment's delay.
The men sprang aloft immediately and furled the royals and top-gallant- sails; while others below took in the flying jib and hauled up the mainsail and trysail—the hands wondering all the time what on earth the skipper was at, taking in all the spread of the vessel's canvas, when there wasn't a breath of air blowing!
However, the "old man," as he was generally called by the crew, knew better than they; and so, with the ship's yards stripped and squared, he awaited what science and forethought had taught him to expect.
Science and forethought had not caused him to make these preparations in vain!
The blackness in the south-east extended round the horizon to the west, and, presently, a thick mist came rolling up from that quarter, enveloping the vessel in its folds and covering the stars in front like a curtain, although those lesser lights of the night shone out brightly in other parts of the sky.
Then, all at once, the squall burst with a furious blast that made the ship heel over almost on her beam ends, the wind being followed by a shower of rain and hail that seemed as if it would batter in the decks.
"Let go the halliards!" sang out Captain Brown; and, his order being promptly attended to, the vessel was not taken aback—otherwise every spar would have snapped away, or else she would have gone down stern foremost.
Now, however, instead of any accident happening, the good ship, although reeling with the blow like a drunken man, paid off from the wind handsomely—running on for some time before the gale and tearing through the water with everything flying, "as if old Nick were after her," the men said!
All hands being then called again, the topsails and trysails were close- reefed, the courses furled, and the foretopmast-staysail set; when, the barque was brought round nearly to her course again, with the weather- braces hauled in a bit to ease her.
This was the first rough weather Fritz experienced, and it cannot be said to have increased his admiration for a sea life, all he saw of which only tended to make him wonder more and more every day what could induce his brother Eric to have such a passionate inclination towards it! It was a strange fancy, he thought, as he watched the disturbed state of the wild ocean, lashed into frenzy by the force of the gale, which seemed to wax more lusty each hour; for, the ship appeared to be, now, careering like a mad thing through some deep watery valley, between lofty mountainous peaks of spray, and, the next moment, seeming to be on the toppling edge of a fathomless abyss, into which she looked about to plunge headlong to destruction as she rose above the plane of tempest- tossed water, borne aloft on the rolling crest of one of the huge waves that were racing by each other as if in sport—the broken, billowy element boiling and seething as far as the eye could reach, in eddies of creamy foam and ridges of turbid green, with the clouds above of a leaden tinge that deepened, as they approached the horizon, to a dark slatish hue, becoming blue-black in the extreme distance.
"That Shakespeare was a fine fellow!" Fritz said to Captain Brown, who stood close by the binnacle, keeping an eye to the two men who were now at the wheel steering; for, the ship required careful handling in the heavy sea that was running to prevent her from broaching to, and it needed very prompt action frequently to jam down the helm in time, so as to let her fall off her course before some threatening mountain of water that bore down on her bows.
"Ha-ow?" ejaculated the skipper inquiringly, turning to the other, who was looking over the taffrail surveying the scene around and had spoken musingly—uttering his thoughts aloud.
"I mean Shakespeare, the great dramatist," replied Fritz, who, like all educated Germans, had a keen appreciation of the bard and could quote his pregnant sayings at pleasure. "He wrote plays, you know," he added, seeing that Captain Brown did not quite comprehend him.
"Oh, I rec'lect now," replied the skipper, understanding him at last, and his face beaming with curious intelligence. "Him as wrote a piece called 'Hamlet,' hey? I reckon I see it once when I wer to Boston some years ago, an' Booth acted it uncommon well, too, yes, sirree!"
"Well then," said Fritz, going on to explain the reason for his original remark, "Shakespeare exactly expresses my sentiments, at this present moment, in the words which he puts into the mouth of one of his characters in the 'Tempest,' Gonzalo, I think. 'Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground; long heath, brown furze, anything: the wills above be done, but I would fain die a dry death!'"
The young fellow laughed as he ended the apt quotation.
The skipper, however, did not appear to see the matter in the same light.
"I guess thet there Gonzalo," he remarked indignantly, "wer no sailor; an' Mister Shakespeare must hev hed a durned pain in his stummick when he writ sich trash!"
Some hours afterwards, fortunately for Fritz's feelings, the gale broke; when, the wind shifting round to the northward of west, the Pilot's Bride was enabled to steer away from the South American coast and shape a straight course for Tristan d'Acunha.
ARRIVAL AT TRISTAN D'ACUNHA.
"This air prime, now ain't it?" said the skipper to Fritz, as the ship, with her nose pointing almost south, was driving away before the north- west wind and making some ten knots an hour.
"Yes, she's going along all right," replied he; adding frankly, however, "I should like it all the better, though, if the vessel didn't roll about so much."
"Roll?" exclaimed Captain Brown indignantly; "call this rolling? Why, Jee-rusalem, she only gives a kinder bit of a lurch now an' ag'in! I thought you would hev got your sea-legs on by this time."
Fritz could only bow to this statement, of course; but, all due deference to the skipper, nevertheless, the Pilot's Bride did roll, and roll most unmercifully, too.
She was just like a huge porpoise wallowing in the water!
It may be remembered that she had sailed from port light, with a pretty considerable freeboard; and now, with the wind almost right aft, so that she had no lateral pressure to steady her—as would have been the case if the breeze had been abeam or on her quarter—she listed first to port and then to starboard, with the "send" of the sea, as regularly as the swing of a clock's pendulum. Really, the oscillation made it almost as impossible for Fritz to move about as if the ship had been contending with all the powers of the elements in a heavy storm, whereas the skipper said she was only "going easy," with a fair wind!
Why, the "breeze" had not lasted a day, before nearly every particle of glass and crockery-ware in the steward's cabin was smashed to atoms; while preventer stays had to be rove to save the masts from parting company.
Roll, eh? She did roll—roll with a vengeance!
Fortunately, this did not last long; the wind shifting round to the north-east, after a three days' spell from the west, which brought the ship on a bow line, steering, as she was, south-east and by south. Had not this change come when it did, "the old tub would hev rolled her bottom out," as Mr Slater, the whilom deck hand, "guessed" one morning to Fritz, while the crew were engaged in washing decks.
Of course, the brothers themselves had many a chat together while the voyage lasted, talking over their plans as well as chatting about the different scenes and circumstances surrounding the endless panorama of sea and sky, sky and sea, now daily unfolded before them.
Naturally—to Fritz, at least—all was new; and it was deeply interesting to him to notice the alteration in the aspect of the heavens which each night produced as the ship ran to the southward. The north star had disappeared with its pointers, as well as other familiar stellar bodies belonging to higher latitudes; but, a new and more brilliant constellation had risen up in the sky within his new range of view, which each evening became more and more distinct.
This was the Southern Cross, as it is called, consisting of four stars, three of the first magnitude and the fourth somewhat smaller, arranged in the form of an oblique crucifix, pointing across the firmament "athwartship-like," as the skipper explained one night-watch when the brothers were looking out together. Only once in the year, Captain Brown said, is this cross perfectly perpendicular towards the zenith; for, as it circles round our planet, it reverses its position, finally turning upside-down.
When the Pilot's Bride ceased to roll and began to make steady way towards Tristan, with the wind from the northward and eastwards on her beam, she ran along steadily on one tack, with hardly a lurch, covering some two hundred miles a day as regularly as the log was hove and the sun taken at noon.
All this time, no sight could now have been more glorious than the heavens presented each night after sunset. The myriads upon myriads of stars that then shone out with startling brilliancy was something amazing; and the puzzle to Fritz was, how astronomers could name and place all these "lesser lights"—following their movements from day to day and year's end to year's end, without an error of calculation, so that they could tell the precise spot in the firmament where to find them at any hour they might wish!
"And yet," said Fritz, musingly, "these wise men are puzzled sometimes."
"Nary a doubt o' thet," responded the skipper, who, in spite of his rough manner and somewhat uncultivated language, thought more deeply than many would have given him credit for; "I guess, mister, all the book-larnin' in the world won't give us an insight inter the workin's o' providence!"
"No," said Fritz. "The study of the infinite makes all our puny efforts at probing into the mysteries of nature and analysing the motives of nature's God appear mean and contemptible, even to ourselves."
"Thet's a fact," assented the skipper. "Look thaar, now! Don't thet sky-e, now, take the gildin' off yer bunkum phi-loserphy an' tall talkin' 'bout this system an' thet—ain't thet sight above worth more'n a bushel o' words, I reckon, hey?"
Fritz gazed upwards in the direction the other pointed, right over the port quarter of the ship and where the starry expanse of the stellar world stretched out in all its beauty.
Eastwards, near the constellation Scorpio, was the Southern Cross, which had first attracted their attention, the figurative crucifix of the heavens; while the "scorpion," itself, upreared its head aloft, surmounted by a brilliant diadem of stars that twinkled and scintillated in flashes of light, like a row of gems of the first water—the body of the fabled animal being marked out in fine curves, in which fancy could trace its general proportions, half-way down the heavens. In a more southerly direction, still, the parallel stars of the twin heroes Castor and Pollux could be seen, shining out with full lustre in a sky that was beautifully, intensely blue, conveying a sense of depths beyond depths of azure beyond; and, as the wondering lookers gazed and the night deepened, fresh myriads of stars appeared to come forth and swell the heavenly phalanx, although the greater lights still maintained their glittering superiority, Jupiter emitting an effulgence of radiant beams from his throne at the zenith, while the Milky Way powdered the great celestial dome with a smoke wreath of starlets that circled across the firmament in crescent fashion, like a sort of triumphal arch of flashing diamonds which the angels could tread in their missions from heaven to earth, or the feet of those translated to the realms of the blest!
"Grand, ain't it?" repeated the skipper.
But Fritz said nothing; his thoughts went deeper than words.
A day or two after this, the north-east wind suddenly failed and a dead calm set in, lasting for twenty-four hours. This circumstance did not please Captain Brown much, for he hardly knew what to make of it; however, after a day and night of stagnation, the breeze returned again, although, in the interim of lull, it took it into its head to shift round more to the southwards, causing the Pilot's Bride to run close- hauled.
On the evening before this change of wind, and while the calm yet continued, the sea presented what seemed to Fritz—and Eric too, for he had never seen such a sight before, although he had much better acquaintance with the wonders of the deep than his brother—a most extraordinary scene of phosphorescent display, the strange effect of it being almost magical.
The sun had set early and the moon did not rise till late; but, as soon as the orb of day had disappeared below water, the horizon all round became nearly as black as ink, without any after-glow, as had invariably been noticed at previous sunsets. The whole sky was dark and pitchy like; only a few stars showing themselves momentarily for a while high up towards the zenith, although they were soon hidden by the mantle of sombre cloud that enveloped the heavens everywhere.