CAST AWAY IN THE COLD:
An Old Man's Story of a Young Man's Adventures, as Related by Captain John Hardy, Mariner.
by DR. ISAAC I. HAYES, Author of "An Arctic Boat Journey," "The Open Polar Sea," Etc.
Boston: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by Ticknor and Fields, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
CHAPTER I. PAGE Relates how an Ancient Mariner met three Little People and promised them a Little Story 1
Captain John Hardy, otherwise Ancient Mariner, otherwise Old Man 8
Which shows the Old Man to be a Man of his Word 11
The Old Man, having related to the Little People how the Young Man went to Sea, now proceeds to tell what the Young Man did there 24
In which the Ancient Mariner, continuing his Story, borrows an Illustration from the "Ancient Mariner" of Song, and then proceeds to tell how they went into the Cold, and were cast away there 34
The Old Man meets the Little People under Peculiar Circumstances, and relates to them how the Young Man, being cast away in the Cold, rescued a Shipmate, and also other Matters, which, if put into this Title, would spoil the Story altogether 50
In which the Reader will discover, as the Little People did, how a Life was saved, and a Life was begun 68
In which the Mariner's Rest and the Ancient Mariner himself receive Particular Attention 85
Contains a Recovery, a Discovery, and a Disappointment 90
Shows how Some Things may be done as well as Others, with God's Help and with much Perseverance 100
In which the Little People are convinced of the Goodness of Providence, as the Reader ought to be,—seeing that to be cast away is not to be forsaken 114
Relates how a Desert Island became a Rock of Good Hope, and other Hopeful Matters which to be understood must be read of 131
The Ancient Mariner takes the Little People on a Little Voyage; and the Little People become convinced that an Arctic Winter, and Aurora Borealis, and an Ancient Mariner, are very Wonderful Things 144
Proves the Ingenuity of Seals, and shows that the Great Polar Bear is no Respecter of Persons 162
Shows, among other Curious Matters, that two Boys are better than one, and that Pluck is a Good Thing, especially when Polar Bears are around 177
Covers a Long Period of Time, and shows, among other Things, how a Race may be lost at Both Ends 191
A very Peculiar Person appears and disappears, and the Castaways are filled alternately with Hope and Fear 207
A Number of Peculiar People appear, and the Castaways disappear from the Rock of Good Hope 222
The Peculiar People proving to be Savages, the Castaways seize the First Opportunity to leave them, not relishing their Company 238
Brings the Holidays of the Little People and the Story of the Old Man to an End 254
CAST AWAY IN THE COLD.
Relates how an Ancient Mariner met three Little People and promised them a Little Story.
A bright sun shone on the little village of Rockdale; a bright glare was on the little bay close by, as on a silver mirror. Three bright children were descending by a winding path towards the little village; a bright old man was coming up from the little village by the same path, meeting them.
The three children were named William Earnest, Fred Frazer, and Alice. Alice was William Earnest's sister, while Fred Frazer was his cousin. William Earnest was the eldest, and he was something more than eleven and something less than twelve years old. His cousin Fred Frazer was nearly a year younger, while his sister Alice was a little more than two years younger still. Fred Frazer was on a holiday visit to his relatives, it being vacation time from school; and the three children were ready for any kind of adventure, and for every sort of fun.
The children saw the old man before the old man saw the children; for the children were looking down the hill, while the old man, coming up the hill, was looking at his footsteps.
As soon as the children saw the old man, the eldest recognized him as a friend; and no sooner had his eyes lighted on him than, much excited, he shouted loudly, "Hurrah, there comes the ancient mariner!"
His cousin, much surprised, asked quickly, "Who's the ancient mariner?" And his sister, more surprised, asked timidly, "What's the ancient mariner?"
Then the eldest, much elated, asked derisively, "Why, don't you know?" And then he said, instructively: "He's been about here for ever so long a time; but he went away last year, and I haven't seen him for a great while. He's the most wonderful man you ever saw,—tells such splendid stories,—all about shipwrecks, pirates, savages, Chinamen, bear-hunts, bull-fights, and everything else that you can think of. I call him the 'Ancient Mariner,' but that isn't his right name. He's Captain Hardy; but he looks like an ancient mariner, as he is, and I got the name out of a book. Some of the fellows call him 'Old Father Neptune.'"
"What a funny name!" cried Fred.
"What do they call him Father Neptune for?" inquired Alice.
"Because," answered William, looking very wise,—"because, you know, Neptune, he's god of the sea, and Captain Hardy looks just like the pictures of him in the story-books. That's why they call him Old Father Neptune."
By this time the old man had come quite near, and William, suddenly leaving his companions, dashed ahead to meet him.
"O Captain Hardy, I'm so glad to see you!" exclaimed the little fellow, as he rushed upon him. "Where did you come from? Where have you been so long? How are you? Quite well, I hope,"—and he grasped the old man's hand with both his own, and shook it heartily.
"Well, my lad," replied the old man, kindly, "I'm right glad to see you, and will be right glad to answer all your questions, if you'll let them off easy like, and not all in a broadside"; and as they walked on up the path together, William's questions were answered to his entire satisfaction.
Then they came presently to Fred and Alice, who were introduced by William, very much to the delight of Fred; but Alice was inclined to be a little frightened, until the strange old man spoke to her in such a gentle way that it banished all timidity; and then, taking the hand which he held out to her, she trudged on beside him, happy and pleased as she could be.
The party were not long in reaching the gate leading up to the house of William's father. A large old-fashioned country-house it was, standing among great tall trees, a good way up from the high-road; and William asked his friend to come up with them and see his father, "he will be so delighted"; but the old man said he "would call and see Mr. Earnest some other time; now he must be hurrying home."
"But this isn't your way home, Captain Hardy,—is it?" exclaimed William, much surprised. "Why, I thought you lived away down below the village."
"So I did once," replied the old man; "that is, when I lived anywhere at all; but you see I've got a new home now, and a snug one too. Look down there where the smoke curls up among the trees,—that's from my kitchen."
"But," said William, "that's Mother Podger's house where the smoke is."
"So it was once, my lad," answered the old man; "but it's mine now; for I've bought it, and paid for it too; and now I mean to quit roaming about the world, and to settle down there for the remainder of my days. You must all come down and see me; and, if you do, I'll give you a sail in my boat."
"O, won't that be grand!" exclaimed William; and Fred and Alice both said it would be "grand"; and then they all put a bold front on, and asked the old man if he wouldn't take them to see the boat now, they would like so much to see it.
"Certainly I will," answered the old man. "Come along,"—and he led the way over the slope down to the little bay where the boat was lying.
"There she is!" exclaimed he, when the boat came in view. "Isn't she a snug craft? She rides the water just like a duck,"—whereupon the children all declared that they had never, in all their lives, seen anything so pretty, and that "a duck could not ride the water half so well."
It was, indeed, a very beautiful little boat, or rather yacht, with a cosey little cabin in the centre, and space enough behind and outside of it for four persons to sit quite comfortably. The yacht had but one mast, and was painted white, both inside and out, with only the faintest red streak running all the way around its sides, just a little way above the water-line.
Captain Hardy (for that was the old man's proper name and title, and therefore we will give it to him) now drew his little yacht close in to a little wharf that he had made, and the children stepped into it, and ran through the cosey cabin, which was but very little higher than their heads, and had crimson cushions all along its sides to sit down upon. These crimson cushions were the lids of what the Captain called his "lockers,"—boxes where he kept his little "traps." In this little cabin there was the daintiest little stove, on which the Captain said they might cook something when they went out sailing.
When they had finished looking at the yacht, they jumped ashore again, and then, after securing the craft of which he was so proud, the Captain took the children to his house. It was a cunning little house, this house of the Captain's. It was only one story high, and it was as white and clean as a new table-cloth, while the window-shutters were as green as the grass that grew around it. Tall trees surrounded it on every side, making shade for the Captain when the sun shone, and music for the Captain when the wind blew. In front there was a quaint porch, all covered over with honeysuckles, smelling sweet, and near by, in a cluster of trees, there was a rustic arbor, completely covered up with vines and flowers. Starting from the front of the house, a path wound among the trees down to the little bay where lay the yacht; and on the left-hand side of this path, as you went down, a spring of pure water gurgled up into the bright air, underneath a rich canopy of ferns and wild-flowers.
William was much surprised to find that this house, which everybody knew as "Mother Podger's house," should now really belong to Captain Hardy; and he said so.
"You'd hardly know it, would you, since I've fixed it up, and made it ship-shape like?" said the Captain. "I've done it nearly all myself too. And now what do you think I've called it?"
The children said they could never guess,—to save their lives, they never could.
"I call it 'Mariner's Rest,'" said the Captain.
"O, how beautiful! and so appropriate!" exclaimed William; and Fred and Alice chimed in and said the same.
"And now," went on the Captain, "You must steer your course for the 'Mariner's Rest' again,—right soon, too, and the old man will be glad to see you."
"Thank you, Captain Hardy," answered William, with a bow. "If we get our parents' leave, we'll come to-morrow, if that will not too much trouble you."
"It will not trouble me at all," replied the Captain. "Let it be four o'clock, then,—come at four o'clock. That will suit me perfectly; and it may be that I'll have," continued he, "a bit of a story or two to tell you. Besides, I think I promised something of the kind before to William, when I came home this time twelvemonth ago. Do you remember it, my lad?"
William said he remembered it well, and his eyes opened wide with pleasure and surprise.
"Now what is it?" inquired the Captain, thoughtfully. "Was it a story about the hot regions, or the cold regions? for you see things don't stick in my memory now as they used to."
"It was about the cold regions, that I'm sure of," replied William; "for you said you would tell me the story you told Bob Benton and Dick Savery,—something, you know, about your being 'cast away in the cold,' as Dick Savery said you called it."
"Ah, yes, that's it, that's it," exclaimed the old man, as if recalling the occasion when he had made the promise with much pleasure. "I remember it very well. I promised to tell you how I first came to go to sea, and what happened to me when I got there. Eh? That was it, I think."
"That was exactly it, only you said you were 'cast away in the cold,'" said William.
"No matter for that, my lad," replied the Captain, with a knowing look,—"no matter for that. If you know how a story's going to end, it spoils the telling of it, don't you see? Consider that I didn't get cast away, in short, that you know nothing of what happened to me, only that I went to sea, and leave the rest to turn up as we go along. And now, good-day to all of you, my dears. Come down to-morrow, and we'll have the story, and maybe a sail, if the wind's fair and weather fine,—at any rate, the story."
The children were probably the happiest children that were ever seen, as they turned about for home, showering thanks upon the Captain with such tremendous earnestness that he was forced in self-defence to cry, "Enough, enough! run home, and say no more."
Captain John Hardy, Otherwise Ancient Mariner, Otherwise Old Man.
CAPTAIN HARDY, or Captain John Hardy, or Captain Jack Hardy, or plain Captain Jack, or simple Captain, as his neighbors pleased to name him, was a famous character in the village. Everybody knew the captain, and everybody liked him. He was a mysterious sort of person,—here to-day and there to-morrow,—coming and going all the time, until he fairly tired out the public curiosity and people's patience altogether, so that even the greatest gossips in the town had to confess at length that there was no use trying to make anything of Captain Jack, and they prudently gave up inquiring and bothering their heads about him; but they were glad to see him always, none the less.
The Captain was known as a great talker, and was always, in former years, brimful of stories of adventure to tell to any one he met during his short visits to the village,—any one, indeed, who would listen to him; and, in truth, everybody was glad to listen, he talked so well. Many and many a summer evening he spent seated on an old bench in front of the village inn, reciting tales of shipwrecks, and stories of the sea and land, to the wondering people. Of late years, however, he was not disposed to talk so much, and was not so often seen at his favorite haunt. "I'm getting too old," he would say, "to tarry from home after nightfall."
He had now grown to be fifty-nine years old, although he really looked much more aged, for he bore about him the marks of much hardship and privation. His hair was quite white, and fell in long silvery locks over his shoulders, while a heavy snow-white beard covered his breast. There was always something in his appearance denoting the sailor. Perhaps it was that he always wore loose pantaloons,—white in summer, and blue in winter,—and a sort of tarpaulin hat, with long blue ribbons tied around it, the ends flowing off behind like the pennant of a man-of-war.
Captain Hardy was known to everybody as a generous, warm-hearted, and harmless man; but he was thought to be equally improvident. The poor had a constant friend in him. No beggar ever asked the Captain for a shilling without getting it, if the Captain had a shilling anywhere about him. Sometimes he had plenty of money, yet when at home he always lived in a frugal, homely way. Great was the rejoicing therefore, among his friends (and they were many), when it was known that he had fallen in with a streak of good fortune. Having been instrumental in saving the British bark Dauntless from shipwreck, the insurance companies had awarded him a liberal salvage, and it was to secure this that he had gone away on his last voyage. As soon as he came home he went right off and bought the house which we have before described, with the money he brought back; and for once got the credit of doing a prudent thing.
The old man's happiness seemed now complete. "Here," exclaimed he, "Heaven willing, I will bring the old craft to an anchor, and end my days in peace." But after the excitement of fitting up his house and grounds, and getting his little yacht in order, had passed over, he began to feel a little lonely. He was so far away from the village that he could not meet his old friends as often as he wished to. We have seen that he was a great talker; and he liked so much to talk, and thus to "fight his battles over again," as it were, and he had so much to talk about, that an audience was quite necessary to him. It is not improbable, therefore, that he looked upon his meeting with William and Fred and Alice as a fortunate event for him; and if the children were delighted, so was he. He was very fond of children, and these were children after his own heart. To them the coming story was a great event,—how great the reader could scarcely understand, unless he knew how much every boy in Rockdale was envied by all the other boys, big and little, when he was known to have been especially picked out by Captain Hardy to be the listener to some tale of adventure on the sea.
Which Shows the Old Man To Be a Man of His Word.
As we may well suppose, the Captain's little friends did not tarry at home next day beyond the appointed time; but true as the hands of the clock to mark the hour and minute on the dial-plate, they set out for Captain Hardy's house as fast as they could go,—as if their very lives depended on their speed. They found the Captain seated in the shady arbor, smoking a long clay pipe. "I'm glad to see you, children," was his greeting to them; and glad enough he was too,—much more glad, maybe, than he would care to own,—as glad, perhaps, as the children were themselves.
"And now, my dears," continued he, "shall we have the story? There is no wind, you see, so we cannot have a sail."
"O, the story! yes, yes, the story," cried the children, all at once.
"Then the story it shall be," replied the old man; "but first you must sit down,"—and the children sat down upon the rustic seat, and closed their mouths, and opened wide their ears, prepared to listen; while the Captain knocked the ashes from his long clay pipe, and stuck it in the rafter overhead, and clearing up his throat, prepared to talk.
"Now you must know," began the Captain, "that I cannot finish the story I'm going to tell you all in one day,—indeed, I can only just begin it. It's a very long one, so you must come down to-morrow, and next day, and every bright day after that until we've done. Does that please you?"
"Yes, yes," was the ready answer, and little Alice laughed loud with joy.
"Will you be sure to remember the name of the place you come to? Will you remember that its name is 'Mariner's Rest'? Will you remember that?"
"Yes, indeed we will."
"And now for the boat we're to have a sail in by and by; what do you think I've called that?" asked the Captain.
"Sea-Gull?" guessed William.
"Water-Witch?" guessed Fred.
"White Dove?" guessed Alice.
"All wrong," said the Captain, smiling a smile of the greatest satisfaction. "I've painted the name on her in bright golden letters, and when you go down again to look at her, you'll see Alice there, and the letters are just the color of some little girl's hair I know of."
"Is that really her name?" shouted both the boys at once, glad as they could be; "how jolly!" But little Alice said never a word, but crept close to the old man's side, and the old man put his great, big arm around the child's small body, and as the soft sunlight came stealing in through the openings in the foliage of the trees, flinging patches of brightness here and there upon the grass around, the Captain began his story.
"Now, my little listeners," spoke the Captain, "you must know that what I am going to tell you occurred to me at a very early period of my life, when I was a mere boy; in fact, the adventures which I shall now relate to you were the first I ever had.
"To begin, then, at the very beginning, I must tell you that I was born quite near Rockdale. So you see I have good reason for always liking to come back here. It is like coming home, you know. The place of my birth is only eleven miles from Rockdale by the public road, which runs off there in a west-nor'westerly direction.
"My mother died when I was six years old, but I remember her as a good and gentle woman. She was taken away, however, too early to have left any distinct impression upon my mind or character. I was thus left to grow up with three brothers and two sisters, all but one of whom were older than myself, without a mother's kindly care and instruction; and I must here own, that I grew to be a self-willed and obstinate boy; and this disposition led me into a course of disobedience which, but for the protecting care of a merciful Providence, would have brought my life to a speedy end.
"My father being poor, neither myself nor my brothers and sisters received any other education than what was afforded by the common country school. It was, indeed, as much as my father could do at any time to support so large a family, and, at the end of the year, make both ends meet.
"As for myself, I was altogether a very ungrateful fellow, and appreciated neither the goodness of my father nor any of the other blessings which I had. Of the advantages of a moderate education which were offered to me I did not avail myself,—preferring mischief and idleness to my studies; and I manifested so little desire to learn, and was so troublesome to the master, that I was at length sent home, and forbidden to come back any more; whereupon my father, very naturally, grew angry with me, and no doubt thinking it hopeless to try further to make anything of me, he regularly bound me over, or hired me out, for a period of years, to a neighboring farmer, who compelled me to work very hard; so I thought myself ill used, whereas, in truth, I did not receive half my deserts.
"With this farmer I lived three years and a half before he made the discovery that I was wholly useless to him, and that I did not do work enough to pay for the food I ate; so the farmer complained to my father, and threatened to send me home. This made me very indignant, as I foolishly thought myself a greatly abused and injured person, and, in an evil hour, I resolved to stand it no longer. I would spite the old farmer, and punish my father for listening to him, by running away.
"I was now in my eighteenth year,—old enough, as one would have thought, to have more manliness and self-respect; but about this I had not reflected much.
"I set out on my ridiculous journey without one pang of regret,—so hardened was I in heart and conscience,—carrying with me only a change of clothing, and having in my pocket only one small piece of bread, and two small pieces of silver. It was rather a bold adventure, but I thought I should have no difficulty in reaching New Bedford, where I was fully resolved to take ship and go to sea.
"The journey to New Bedford was a much more difficult undertaking than I had counted upon, and, I believe, but for the wound which it would have caused to my pride, I should have gone back at the end of the first five miles. I held on, however, and reached my destination on the second day, having stopped overnight at a public house or inn, where my two pieces of silver disappeared in paying for my supper and lodging and breakfast.
"I arrived at New Bedford near the middle of the afternoon of the second day, very hot and dusty, for I had walked all the way through the broiling sun along the high-road; and I was very tired and hungry, too, for I had tasted no food since morning, having no more money to buy any with, and not liking to beg. So I wandered on through the town towards the place where the masts of ships were to be seen as I looked down the street,—feeling miserable enough, I can assure you.
"Up to this period of my life, I had never been ten miles from home, and had never seen a city, so of course everything was new to me. By this time, however, I had come to reflect seriously on my folly, and this, coupled with hunger and fatigue, so far banished curiosity from my mind that I was not in the least impressed by what I saw. In truth, I very heartily wished myself back on the farm; for if the labor there was not to my liking, it was at least not so hard as what I had performed these past two days, in walking along the dusty road,—and then I was, when on the farm, never without the means to satisfy my hunger.
"What I should have done at this critical stage, had not some one come to my assistance, I cannot imagine. I was afraid to ask any questions of the passers-by, for I did not really know what to ask them, or how to explain my situation; and, seeing that everybody was gaping at me with wonder and curiosity (and many of them were clearly laughing at my absurd appearance), I hurried on, not having the least idea of where I should go or what I should do.
"At length I saw a man with a very red face approaching on the opposite side of the street, and from his general appearance I guessed him to be a sailor; so, driven almost to desperation, I crossed over to him, looking, I am sure, the very picture of despair, and I thus accosted him: 'If you please, sir, can you tell me where I can go and ship for a voyage?'
"'A voyage!' shouted he, in reply, 'a voyage! A pretty looking fellow you for a voyage!'—which observation very much confused me. Then he asked me a great many questions, using a great many hard names, the meaning of which I did not at all understand, and the necessity for which I could not exactly see. I noticed that he called me 'landlubber' very frequently, but I had no idea whether he meant to compliment or abuse me, though it seemed more likely to me that it was the latter. After a while, however, he seemed to have grown tired of talking, or had exhausted all his strange words, for he turned short round and bade me follow him, which I did, with very much the feelings a culprit must have when he is going to prison.
"We went down a steep hill, and arrived presently at a low, dingy place, the only peculiar feature of which was that it smelled of tar and had a great many people lounging about in it. It was, as I soon found out, a 'shipping office,'—that is, a place where sailors engage themselves for a voyage. No sooner had we entered than my conductor led me up to a tall desk, and then, addressing himself to a sharp-faced man on the other side of it, he said something which I did not clearly comprehend. Then I was told to sign a paper, which I did without even reading a word of it, and then the red-faced man cried out in a very loud and startling tone of voice, 'Bill!' when somebody at once rolled off a bench, and scrambled to his feet. This was evidently the 'Bill' alluded to.
"When Bill had got upon his feet, he surveyed me for an instant, as I thought, with a very needlessly firm expression of countenance, and then started towards the door, saying to me as he set off, 'This way, you lubber.' I followed after him with much the same feelings which I had before when I followed the man with the red face, until we came down to where the ships were, and then we descended a sort of ladder, or stairs, at the foot of which I stumbled into a boat, and had like to have gone overboard into the water. At this, the people in the boat set up a great laugh at my clumsiness,—just as if I had ever been in a boat before, and could help being clumsy. To make the matter worse, I sat down in the wrong place, where one of the men was to pull an oar; and when, after being told to 'get out of that,' with no end of hard names, I asked what bench I should sit on, they all laughed louder than before, which still further overwhelmed me with confusion. I did not then know that what I called a 'bench,' they called a 'thwart,' or more commonly 'thawt.'
"At length, after much abuse and more laughter, I managed to get into the forward part of the boat, which was called, as I found out, 'the bows,' where there was barely room to coil myself up, and the boat being soon pushed off from the wharf, the oars were put out, and then I heard an order to 'give way,' and then the oars splashed in the water, and I felt the boat moving; and now, as I realized that I was in truth leaving my home and native land, perhaps to see them no more forever, my heart sank heavy in my breast; and it was as much as I could do to keep the tears from pouring out of my eyes, as we glided on over the harbor. Indeed, my eyes were so bedimmed that I scarcely saw anything at all until we came around under the stern of a ship, when I heard the order 'lay in your oars.' Then one of the men caught hold of the end of a rope, which was thrown from the ship; and, the boat being made fast, we all scrambled up the ship's side; and then I was hustled along to a hole in the forward part of the deck (having what looked like a box turned upside down over it), through which, now utterly bewildered, I descended, by means of a ladder, to a dark, damp, mouldy place, which was filled with the foul smells of tar and bilge-water, and thick with tobacco-smoke. This, they told me, was the 'fo'casle,' that is, forecastle, where lived the 'crew,' of which I became now painfully conscious that I was one. If there had been the slightest chance, I should have run away; but running away from a ship is a very different thing from running away from a farm.
"If I had wished myself back on the farm before, how much more did I wish it now! But too late, too late, for we were all ordered up out of the forecastle even before I had tasted a mouthful of food. In truth, however, it is very likely that I was too sick with the foul odors, tobacco-smoke, and heart-burnings to have eaten anything, even had it been set before me.
"Upon reaching the deck, I was immediately ordered to lay hold of a wooden shaft, about six feet long, which ran through the end of an iron lever; and being joined by some more of the crew, we pushed down and lifted up this lever, just like firemen working an old-fashioned fire-engine. Opposite to us was another party pushing down when we were lifting up, and lifting up when we were pushing down. I soon found out that by this operation we were turning over and over what seemed to be a great log of wood, with iron bands at the ends of it, and having a great chain winding up around it. The chain came in through a round hole in the ship's side, with a loud 'click, click,' and I learned that they called it a 'cable,' while the machine we were working was called a 'windlass.' The cable was of course fast to the anchor, and it was very evident to me that we were going to put to sea immediately. The idea of it was now as dreadful to me as it had before been agreeable, when I had contemplated it from the stand-point of a quiet farm, a good many miles away from the sea. But I could not help myself. No matter what might happen, my fate was sealed, so far as concerned this ship.
"We had not been long engaged at this work of turning the windlass, before my companions set up a song, keeping time with the lever which we were pushing up and down, one of them leading off by reciting a single line, in which something was said about Sallie coming, or having come, or going to come to 'New York town'; after which they all united in a dismal chorus, that had not a particle of sense in it, so far as I could see, from beginning to end. When they had finished off with the chorus, the leader set to screaming again about 'Sallie' and 'New York town,' and then as before came the chorus. Having completely exhausted himself on the subject of Sallie, he began to invent, and his inventive genius was rewarded with a laugh which interfered with the chorus through about two turns of the windlass. What he invented I will recite, that you may see how senseless it was; and I will drawl it out very slow to imitate them. But first let me say, when they were through with this chorus, the leader put in his tongue again, inventing a sentiment to rhyme with the first, howling it out as if he would split his throat in the endeavor. This is what it all was:—
'We've picked up a lubber in New Bedford town,— Come away, away, sto-r-m along, John, Get a-long, storm a-long, storm's g-one along,'
'Our lubber's lugger-rigged, and we'll do him brown,— Come away, away, sto-r-m along, John, Get a-long, storm a-long, storm's g-one along.'
"The last sentiment about lugger-rigged lubber being done brown made them all laugh even more than the other, and caused an interruption of the chorus to the extent of at least four revolutions of the windlass; but when the laugh was over, they went at the dismal chorus with double the energy they had shown before, repeating all they had then said about 'John's getting along,' and 'storming along,' as if they rather liked John for doing these things. Thus they went on without much variety, until I was sick and tired enough of it. The 'lubber' part of it was too clearly aimed at me to be mistaken; but I could not discover in it anything but nonsense all the way through to the end.
"After a while I heard some one cry out, 'The anchor's away,' which as I afterwards learned, meant the anchor had been lifted from the bottom; and then the sailors all scattered to obey an order to do something, which I had not the least idea of, with a sail, and with some ropes, which appeared to me to be so mixed up that nobody could tell one from the other, nor make head nor tail of them. In the twinkling of an eye, however, in spite of the mixed-up ropes, there was a great flapping of white canvas, and a creaking and rattling of pulleys. Then the huge white sail was fully spread, the wind was bulging it out in the middle like a balloon, the ship's head was turned away from the town, and we were moving off. Next came an order to 'lay aloft and shake out the topsail'; but happily in this order I was not included, but was, instead, directed to 'lend a hand to get the anchor aboard,' which operation was quickly accomplished, and the heavy mass of crooked iron which had held the ship firmly in the harbor was soon fastened in its proper place on the bow, to what is called a 'cat-head.' By the time this was done, every sail was set, and we were flying before the wind out into the great ocean.
"And now you see my wish was gratified. I was in a ship and off on the 'world of waters,' with the career of a sailor before me,—a career to my imagination when on the farm full of romance, and presenting everything that was desirable in life. But was it so in reality when I was brought face to face with it,—when I had exchanged the farm for the forecastle? By no means. Indeed, I was filled with nothing but disgust first, and terror afterwards. The first sight which I had of the ocean was much less satisfactory to me than would have been my father's duck-pond. I soon got miserably sick; night came on, dark and fearful; the winds rose; the waves dashed with great force against the ship's sides, often breaking over the deck, and wetting me to the skin. I was shivering with cold; I was afraid that I should be washed overboard; I was afraid that I should be killed by something tumbling on me from aloft, for there was such a great rattling up there in the darkness that I thought everything was broken loose. I could not stand on the deck without support, and was knocked about when I attempted to move; every time the ship went down into the trough of a sea I thought all my insides were coming up. So, altogether, you see I was in a very bad way. How, indeed, should it be otherwise? for can you imagine any ills so great as these?
1st, To have all your clothes wet; 2d, To have a sick stomach; and, 3d, To be in a dreadful fright.
"Now that was precisely my condition; and I was already reaping the fruits of my folly in running away from home and exchanging a farm for a forecastle."
* * * * *
The Captain here paused and laughed heartily at the picture he had drawn of himself in his ridiculous role of "the young sailor-boy," and, after clearing his throat again, was about to proceed with the story, when he perceived that the shades of evening had already begun to fall upon the arbor. Looking out among the trees, he saw the leaves and branches standing sharply out against the golden sky, which showed him that the day was ended and the sun was set. So he told his little friends to hasten home before the dews began to fall upon the grass, and come again next day. This they promised thankfully, and told the Captain that they "never, never, never would forget it."
But the head of William was filled with a bright idea, and he was bound to discharge it before he left the place. "O Captain Hardy," cried the little fellow, "do you know what I was thinking of?"
"How should I, before you tell me?" was the Captain's very natural answer.
"Why, I was thinking how nice it would be to write all this down on paper. It would read just like a printed book."
The Captain said he "liked the idea," but he doubted if William could remember it. But William thought he could remember every word of it, and declared that it was splendid; and Fred and Alice, following after, said that it was splendid too. But whether the story that the Captain told was splendid, or the idea of writing it down was splendid, or exactly what was splendid, was not then and there settled; yet it was fully settled that William was to write the story down the best he could, and ask his father to correct the worst mistakes. And now, when this was done, the happy children said "Good evening" to the Captain, and set out merrily for home, little Alice holding to her brother's hand, as she tripped lightly over the green field, turning every dozen steps to throw back through the tender evening air, from her dainty little fingertips, a laughing kiss to the ancient mariner, whose face beamed kindly on her from the arbor door.
The Old Man, having related to the Little People how the Young Man went to Sea, now proceeds to tell what the Young Man did there.
The two days which the old man and his young friends had passed together had so completely broken down all restraint between them, that the children almost felt as if they had known the old man all their lives. It was therefore quite natural, that, when they went down next day, they should feel inclined to give him a surprise. So they concerted a plan of sneaking quietly around the house that they might come upon him suddenly, for they saw him working in his garden, hoeing up the weeds.
"Now let's astonish him," said William.
"That's a jolly idea," said Fred, while Alice said nothing at all, but was as pleased as she could be.
The little party crawled noiselessly along the fence, through the open gate, and sprang upon the Captain with a yell, like a parcel of wild Indians; and sure enough they did surprise him, for he jumped behind his hoe, as if preparing to defend himself against an attack of enemies.
"Heyday, my hearties!" exclaimed the Captain, when he saw who was there. "Ain't you ashamed of yourselves to scare the old man that way?" and he joined the laugh that the children raised at his own expense,—enjoying it as much as they did.
"That's a trick of William's, I'll be bound," said he; "but no matter, I'll forgive you; and I'm right glad you've come, too, for it's precious hot, and I'm tired hoeing up the weeds; so now, let us get out of the sun, into the crow's nest."
"The crow's nest!" cried William. "What's that?"
"Why, the arbor, to be sure," said the Captain. "Don't you like the name?"
"Of course I do," answered William. "It's such a cunning name."
It was but a few steps to the "crow's nest," and the happy party once seated, the Captain was ready in an instant to pick up the thread where he had broken it short off when they had parted in the golden evening of the day before, and then to spin on the yarn.
"And now, my lively trickster and genius of the quill," said he to William, "how is it about writing down the story? What does your father say?"
"O," answered William, "I've written down almost every word of what you said, and papa has examined it, and says he likes it. There it is";—and he pulled a roll of paper from his pocket and handed it to the Captain.
The old man took it from William's hand, looking all the while much gratified; and after pulling out a pair of curious-looking, old-fashioned spectacles from a curious-looking, old-fashioned red-morocco case, which was much the worse for wear, he fixed them on his nose very carefully, and then, after unfolding the sheets of paper, he glanced knowingly over them.
"That's good," said he; "that's ship-shape, and as it ought to be. Why, lad, you're a regular genius, and sure to turn out a second Scott, or Cooper, or some such writing chap."
"I am glad you like it, Captain Hardy," said William, pleased that he had pleased his friend.
"Like it!" exclaimed the Captain. "Like it!! that's just what I do; and now, since I'm to be made famous in this way, I'll be more careful with my speech. And no bad spelling either," ran on the Captain, while he kept turning back the leaves, "as there would have been if you had put it down just as I spoke it. But never mind that now; take back the papers, lad, and keep them safe; we'll go on now, if we can only find where the yarn was broken yesterday. Do any of you remember?"
"I do," said William, laughing. "You had just got out into the great ocean, and were frightened half to death."
"O yes, that's it," went on the Captain,—"frightened half to death; that's sure enough, and no mistake; and so would you have been, my lad, if you had been in my place. But I don't think I'll tell you anything more about my miserable life on board that ship. Hadn't we better skip that?"
"O no, no!" cried the children all together, "don't skip anything."
"Well, then," said the obliging Captain, glad enough to see how much his young friends were interested, "if you will know what sort of a miserable time young sailors have of it, I'll tell you; and let me tell you, too, there's many a one of them has just as bad a time as I had.
"In the first place, you see, they gave me such wretched food to eat, all out of a rusty old tin plate, and I was all the time so sick from the motion of the vessel as we went tossing up and down on the rough sea, and from the tobacco-smoke of the forecastle, and all the other bad smells, that I could hardly eat a mouthful, so that I was half ready to die of starvation; and, as if this was not misery enough, the sailors were all the time, when in the forecastle, quarrelling like so many wild beasts in a cage; and as two of them had pistols, and all of them had knives, I was every minute in dread lest they should take it into their heads to murder each other, and kill me by mistake. So, I can tell you, being a young sailor-boy isn't what it's cracked up to be."
"O, wasn't it dreadful!" said Alice, "to be sick all the time, and nobody there to take care of you."
"Well, I wasn't so sick, maybe, after all," answered the Captain, smiling,—"only sea-sick, you know; and then, for the credit of the ship, I'll say that, if you had nice plum-pudding every day for dinner, you would think it horrid stuff if you were sea-sick."
"But don't people die when they are sea-sick?" inquired Alice.
"Not often, child," answered the Captain, playfully; "but they feel all the time as if they were going to, and when they don't feel that way, they feel as if they'd like to.
"However, I was miserable enough in more ways than one; for to these troubles was added a great distress of mind, caused by the sport the sailors made of me, and also by remorse of conscience for having run away from home, and thus got myself into this great scrape. Then, to make the matter worse,—as if it was not bad enough already,—a violent storm set upon us in the dark night. You could never imagine how the ship rolled about over the waves. Sometimes they swept clear across the ship, as if threatening our lives; and all the time the creaking of the masts, the roaring of the wind through the rigging, and the lashing of the seas, filled my ears with such awful sounds that I was in the greatest terror, and I thought that every moment would certainly be my last. Then, as if still further to add to my fears, one of the sailors told me, right in the midst of the storm, that we were bound for the Northern seas, to catch whales and seals. So now, what little scrap of courage I had left took instant flight, and I fell at once to praying (which I am ashamed to say I had never in my life done before), fully satisfied as I was that, if this course did not save me, nothing would. In truth, I believe I should actually have died of fright had not the storm come soon to an end; and indeed it was many days before I got over thinking that I should, in one way or another, have a speedy passage into the next world, and therefore I did not much concern myself with where we were going in this. Hence I grew to be very unpopular with the people in the ship, and learned next to nothing. I was always in somebody's way, was always getting hold of the wrong rope, and was in truth all the time doing mischief rather than good. So I was set down as a hopeless idiot, and was considered proper game for everybody. The sailors tormented me in every possible way.
"One day (knowing how green I was) they set to talking about fixing up a table in the forecastle, and one of them said, 'What a fine thing it would be if the mate (who turned out to be the red-faced man I had met in the street, and who took me to the shipping-office) would only let us have the keelson.' So this being agreed to in a very serious manner (which I hadn't wit enough to see was all put on), I was sent to carry their petition. Seeing the mate on the quarter-deck, I approached, and in a very respectful manner thus addressed him: 'If you please, sir, I come to ask if you will let us have the keelson for a table?' Whereupon the mate turned fiercely upon me, and, to my great astonishment, roared out at the very top of his voice, 'What! what's that you say? Say that again, will you?' So I repeated the question as he had told me to,—feeling all the while as if I should like the deck to open and swallow me up. I had scarcely finished before I perceived that the mate was growing more and more angry; if, indeed, anything could possibly exceed the passion he was in already. His face was many shades redder than it was before,—and, indeed, it was so very red that it looked as if it might shine in the dark. His hat fell off, as it seemed to me, in consequence of his stiff red hair rising up on end, and he raised his voice so loud that it sounded more like the howl of a wild beast than anything I could compare it to. 'You lubber!' he shouted. 'You villain!' he shrieked; 'you, you!'—and here it seemed as if he was choking with hard words which he couldn't get rid of,—'you come here to play tricks on me! You try to fool me! I'll teach you!'—and, seizing hold of the first thing he could lay his hands on (I did not stop to see what it was, but wheeled about greatly terrified), he let fly at me with such violence that I am sure I must have been finished off for certain had I not quickly dodged my head. When I returned to the forecastle, the sailors had a great laugh at me, and they called me ever afterwards 'Jack Keelson.' The keelson, you must know, is a great mass of wood down in the very bottom of the ship, running the whole length of it; but how should I have learned that?
"At another time I was told to go and 'grease the saddle.' Not knowing that this was a block of wood spiked to the mainmast to support the main boom, and thinking this a trick too, I refused to go, and came again near getting my head broken by the red-faced mate. I did not believe there was anything like a 'saddle' in the ship.
"And thus the sailors continued to worry me. Once, when I was very weak with sea-sickness and wanted to keep down a dinner which I had just eaten, they insisted upon it, that, if I would only put into my mouth a piece of fat pork, and keep it there, my dinner would stay in its place. The sailors were right enough, for as soon as my dinner began to start up, of course away went the fat pork out ahead of it.
"But by and by I came to my senses, and, upon discovering that the bad usage I received was partly my own fault, I stopped lamenting over my unhappy condition, and began to show more spirit. Would you believe it? I had actually been in the vessel five days before I had curiosity enough to inquire her name. They told me that it was called the Blackbird; but what ever possessed anybody to give it such a ridiculous name I never could imagine. If they had called it Black Duck, or Black Diver, there would have been some sense in it, for the ship was driving head foremost into the water pretty much all the time. But I found out that the vessel was not exactly a ship after all, but a sort of half schooner, half brig,—what they call a brigantine, having two masts, a mainmast and a foremast. On the former there was a sail running fore and aft, just like the sail of the little yacht Alice, and on the latter there was a foresail, a foretop-sail, a foretop-gallant-sail, and a fore-royal-sail,—all of course square sails, that is, running across the vessel, and fastened to what are called yards. The vessel was painted jet-black on the outside, but inside the bulwarks the color was a dirty sort of green.
"Such, as nearly I can remember, was the brigantine Blackbird, three hundred and forty-two tons register. Brigantine is, however, too large a word; so when we pay the Blackbird the compliment of mentioning her, we will call her a ship.
"Having picked up the name of the ship, I was tempted to pursue my inquiries further, and it was not long before I had got quite a respectable stock of seaman's knowledge, and hence I grew in favor. I learned to distinguish between a 'halyard,' which is rope for pulling the yards up and letting them down, from a 'brace,' which is used to pull them around so as to 'trim the sails,' and a 'sheet,' which is a rope for keeping the sails in their proper places. I found out that what I called a floor the sailors called a 'deck'; a kitchen they called a 'galley'; a pot, a 'copper'; a pulley was a 'block'; a post was a 'stancheon'; to fall down was to 'heel over'; to climb up was to 'go aloft'; and to walk straight, and keep one's balance when the ship was pitching over the waves, was to 'get your sea legs on.' I found out, too, that everything behind you was 'abaft,' and everything ahead was 'forwards,' or for'ad as the sailors say; that a large rope was a 'hawser,' and that every other rope was a 'line'; to make anything temporarily secure was to 'belay' it; to make one thing fast to another was to 'bend it on'; and when two things were close together, they were 'chock-a-block.' I learned, also, that the right-hand side of the vessel was the 'starboard' side, while the left-hand side was the 'port' or 'larboard' side; that the lever which moves the rudder that steers the ship was called the 'helm,' and that to steer the ship was to take 'a trick at the wheel'; that to 'put the helm up' was to turn it in the direction from which the wind was coming (windward), and to 'put the helm down' was to turn it in the direction the wind was going (leeward). I found out still further, that a ship has a 'waist,' like a woman, a 'forefoot,' like a beast, besides 'bull's eyes' (which are small holes with glass in them to admit light), and 'cat-heads,' and 'monkey-rails,' and 'cross-trees,' as well as 'saddles' and 'bridles' and 'harness,' and many other things which I thought I should never hear anything more of after I left the farm. I might go on and tell you a great many more things that I learned, but I should only tire your patience without doing any good. I only want to show you how John Hardy began his marine education.
"When it was discovered how much I had improved, they proposed immediately to turn it to their own account; for I was at once sent to take 'a trick at the wheel,' from which I came away, after two hours' hard work, with my hands dreadfully blistered, and my legs bruised, and with the recollection of much abusive language from the red-faced mate, who could never see anything right in what I did. I gave him, however, some good reason this time to abuse me, and I was glad of it afterwards, though I was badly enough scared at the time. I steered the ship so badly that a wave which I ought to have avoided by a skilful turn of the wheel, came breaking in right over the quarter-deck, wetting the mate from head to foot. He thought I did it on purpose (which you may be sure I did not do). Again his face grew red enough to shine of a dark night, and his mind invented hard words faster than his tongue would let them out of his ugly throat.
"I tell you all this, that you may have some idea of what a ship is, and how sailors live, and what they have to do. You can easily see that they have no easy time of it, and, let me tell you, there isn't a bit of romance about it, except the stories that are cut out of whole cloth to make books and songs of. However, I never could have much sympathy for my shipmates in the Blackbird; for if they did treat me a little better when they found that I could do something, especially when I could take a trick at the wheel, I still continued to look upon them as little better than a set of pirates, and I felt satisfied that, if they were not born to be hanged, they would certainly drown."
"I don't think I'll be a sailor," said Fred.
"Nor I either," said William. "But, Captain," continued the cunning fellow, "if a sailor's life is so miserable, what do you go to sea so much for?"
"Well, now, my lad," replied the Captain, evidently at first a little puzzled, "that's a question that would require more time to explain than we have to devote to it to-day. Besides" (he was fully recovered now), "you know that going to sea in the cabin is as different from going to sea in the forecastle as you are from a Yahoo Indian. But never mind that, I must get on with my story, or it will never come to an end. I've hardly begun it yet."
In which the Ancient Mariner, continuing his Story, borrows an Illustration from the "Ancient Mariner" of Song, and then proceeds to tell how they went into the Cold, and were cast away there.
"'And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold: And ice mast-high came floating by, As green as emerald.'
"I recite this from a famous poem because it suits so well what came of us, for you must understand that, while all I have been telling you was going on, we were approaching the northern regions, and were getting into the sea where ice was to be expected. A man was accordingly kept aloft all the time to look out for it: for you will remember that we were going after seals, and it is on the ice that the seals are found. The weather now became very cold, it being the month of April.
"At length the man aloft cried out that he saw ice. 'Where away?' shouted the red-faced mate. 'Off the larboard bow,' was the answer. So the course of the ship was changed, and we bore right down upon the ice, and very soon it was in sight from the deck, and gradually became more and more distinct. It was a very imposing sight. The sea was covered all over with it, as far as the eye could reach,—a great plain of whiteness, against the edge of which the waves were breaking and sending the spray flying high in the air and sending to our ears that same dull, heavy roar which the breakers make when beating on the land.
"As we neared this novel scene, I observed that it consisted mostly of flat masses of ice, of various sizes (called by the sealers 'floes'); some were miles in extent, and others only a few feet. The surface of these ice floes or fields rose only about a foot or so above the surface of the water. Between them there were in many places very broad openings, and when I went aloft and looked ahead, these ice-fields appeared like a great collection of large and small flat white islands, dotted about in the midst of the ocean. Through these openings between the fields the ship was immediately steered, and we were soon surrounded by ice on every side. To the south, whence we had come, there was in an hour or so apparently just as much ice as there was before us to the north, or to the right and left of us,—a vast immeasurable waste of ice it was, looking dreary and frightful enough, I can assure you.
"I have said that the pieces of ice now about us were called 'floes,' or ice-fields; the whole together was called 'the pack.' We were now in perfectly smooth water, for you will easily understand that the ice which we had passed broke the swell of the sea. But the crew of the ship did not give themselves much concern about the ice itself; for it was soon discovered that the floes were covered in many places with seals.
"Now you must understand that seals are not fish, but are air-breathing, warm-blooded animals, like horses and cows, and therefore they must always have their heads, or at least their noses, out of water when they breathe. When the weather is cold, they remain in the water all the time, merely putting up their noses now and then (for they can remain a long time under water without breathing) to sniff a little fresh air, and then going quickly down again. In the warm weather, however, they come up bodily out of the sea, and bask and go to sleep in the sun, either on the land or on the ice. Many thousands of them are often seen together.
"As we came farther and farther into the 'pack,' the seals on the ice were observed to be more and more numerous. Most of them appeared to be sound asleep; some of them were wriggling about, or rolling themselves over and over, while none of them seemed to have the least idea that we had come all the way from New Bedford to rob them of their sleek coats and their nice fat blubber.
"We were now fairly into our 'harvest-field,' and when a suitable place was discovered the ship was brought up into the wind, that is, the helm was so turned as to bring the ship's head towards the wind, when of course the sails got 'aback,' and the ship stopped. Then a boat was lowered, and a crew, of which I was one, got into it, with the end of a very long rope, and we pulled away towards the edge of a large ice-field, hauling out the rope after us, of course, from the coil on shipboard. As we approached the ice, the seals near by all became frightened, and floundered into the sea as quickly as they could, with a tremendous splash. In a few minutes they all came up again, putting their cunning-looking heads out of the water, all around the boat, no doubt as curious to see what these singular-looking beings were that had come amongst them, as the Indians were about Columbus and his Spaniards, when they first came to America.
"As soon as we had reached the ice, we sprang out of the boat on to it, and, after digging a hole into it with a long, sharp bar of iron, called an ice-chisel, we put therein one end of a large, heavy, crooked hook, called an ice-anchor, and then to a ring in the other end of this ice-anchor we made fast the end of the rope that we had brought with us. This done, we signalled to the people on board to 'haul in,' which they did on their end of the rope, and in a little while the ship was drawn close up to the ice. Then another rope was run out over the stern of the ship, and, this being made fast to an ice-anchor in the same way as the other, the ship was soon drawn up with her whole broadside close to the ice, as snug as if she were lying alongside of a dock in New Bedford.
"And now began the seal-hunt. It would not interest you to hear all about the preparations we made, first to catch the seals, and then to preserve the skins and try out the oil from the blubber, and put it away in barrels. For this latter duty some of the crew were selected, while others were sent off to kill and bring in the seals. These latter were chosen with a view to their activity, and I, being supposed to be of that sort, was one of the party. I was glad enough, I can assure you, to get off the vessel for once on to something firm and solid, even if it was only ice, and at least for a little while to have done with rocking and rolling about over the waves.
"Each one of the seal-catchers was armed with a short club for killing the seals, and a rope to drag them over the ice to the ship. We scattered in every direction, our object being each by himself to approach a group of seals, and, coming upon them as noiselessly as possible, to kill as many of them as we could before they should all take fright and rush into the sea. In order to do this, we were obliged to steal up between the seals and the water as far as possible.
"My first essay at this novel business was ridiculous enough, and, besides nearly causing my death, overwhelmed me with mortification. It happened thus. I made at a large herd of seals, nearly all of which were lying some distance from the edge of the ice, and before they could get into the water I had managed to intercept about a dozen of them. Thus far I thought myself very lucky; but, as the poet Burns says,
'The best laid schemes o' mice and men Gang aft a-gley, And leave us naught but grief and pain For promised joy,'—
so it fell out with me. The seals, of course, all rushed towards the water as fast as they could go, the moment they saw me coming. But I got up with them in time, and struck one on the nose, killing it, and was in the act of striking another, when a huge fellow that was big enough to have been the father of the whole flock, too badly frightened to mind where he was going, ran his head between my legs, and, whipping up my heels in an instant, landed me on his back, in which absurd position I was carried into the sea before I could recover myself. Of course I sunk immediately, and dreadfully cold was the water; but, rising to the surface in a moment, I was preparing to make a vigorous effort to swim back to the ice, when another badly frightened and ill-mannered seal, as I am sure you will all think, plunged into the sea without once looking to see what he was doing, and hit me with the point of his nose fairly in the stomach.
"I thought now for certain that my misfortunes were all over, and that my end was surely come. However, I got my head above the surface once more, and did my best to keep it there; but my hopes vanished when I perceived that I was at least twenty feet from the edge of the ice. It was as much as I could do to keep my head above water, without swimming forward, so much embarrassed was I by my heavy clothing, the great cold, and the terrible pains (worse than those of colic) caused by the seal hitting me in the stomach. I am quite certain that this would have been the last of John Hardy's adventures, had not one of my companions, seeing me going overboard on the back of the seal, rushed to my rescue. He threw me his line for dragging seals (the end of which I had barely strength to catch and hold on to), and then he drew me out as one would haul up a large fish.
"I came from the sea in a most sorry condition, as you can well imagine. My mouth was full of salt water. I was so prostrated with the cold that I could scarcely stand, and my pains were so great that I should certainly have screamed had I not been so full of water that I could not utter a single word. But I managed, after a while, to get all the water spit out, and then, after drawing into my lungs a few good long breaths of air, I felt greatly refreshed. I could still, however, hardly stand, and was shivering with the cold. But I found that I had strength enough to stagger back to the ship, where I was greeted in a manner far from pleasant.
"The sailors looked upon my adventure as a great joke, never once seeming to think how near I was to death's door, and the mate simply cried out 'Overboard, eh? Pity the sharks didn't catch him!' It was clear enough that this red-faced tyrant would show me no mercy; and when, pale and cold and panting for breath, I asked him for leave to go below for a while, he cried out, 'Yes, for just five minutes. Be lively, or I'll warm your back for you with a rope's end.'
"The prospect of a 'back warming' of this description had the effect to make me lively, sure enough, although I was shivering as if I would shake all my teeth out, and tumble all my bones down into a heap. As soon as I reached the deck, the mate cried out again for me to 'be lively,' and when he set after me with an uplifted rope's end, his face glaring at me all the while like a red-hot furnace, you may be sure I was quite as lively as it was possible for me to be, and was over the ship's side in next to no time at all, and off after seals again. After a while I got warmed up with exercise, and this time, being more cautious, I met with no similar misadventure, and soon came in dragging three seals after me. The mate now complimented me by exclaiming, 'Why, look at the lubber!'
"We continued at this seal-hunting for a good many days, during which we shifted our position frequently, and made what the sealers called a good 'catch.' But still the barrels in the hold of the ship were not much more than half of them filled with oil, when a great storm set in, and, the ice threatening to close in upon us, we were forced to get everything aboard, to cast loose from the ice-field, and work our way south into clear water again, which we were fortunate enough to do without accident. But some other vessels which had come up while we were fishing, and were very near to us, were not so lucky. Two of them were caught by the moving ice-fields before they could make their escape, and were crushed all to pieces. The crews, however, saved themselves by jumping out on the ice, and were all successful in reaching other vessels, having managed to save their boats before their ships actually went down. It was a very fearful sight, the crushing up of these vessels,—as if they were nothing more than eggshells in the hand.
"This storm lasted, with occasional interruptions, thirteen days, but the breaks in it were of such short duration that we had little opportunity to 'fish' (as seal-catching is called) any more. We approached the ice several times, only to be driven off again before we had fairly succeeded in getting to work, and hence we caught very few seals.
"By the time the storm was over the season for seal-fishing was nearly over too; so we had no alternative, if we would get a good cargo of oil, but to go in search of whales, which would take us still farther north, and into much heavier ice, and therefore, necessarily, into even greater danger than we had hitherto encountered. Accordingly, the course of the vessel was changed, and I found that we were steering almost due north, avoiding the ice as much as possible, but passing a great deal of it every day. The wind being mostly fair, and the ice not thick enough at any time to obstruct our passage, we hauled in our latitude very fast."
"Excuse me, Captain Hardy," here interrupted William, "what is hauling in latitude?"
"That's for going farther north," answered the Captain. "Latitude is distance from the equator, either north or south, and what a sailor makes in northing or southing he calls 'hauling in his latitude,' just as making easting or westing is 'hauling in his longitude.'"
"Thank you, Captain," said William, politely, when he had finished.
"Is it all clear now?" inquired the Captain.
"Yes," said William, "clear as mud."
"Clear as mud, eh! Well, that isn't as clear as the pea-soup was they used to give us on board the Blackbird, for that was so clear that, if the ocean had been made of it, you might have seen through it all the way down to the bottom; indeed, one of the old sailors said that it wasn't soup at all. 'If dat is soup,' growled he, 'den I's sailed forty tousand mile trough soup,'—which is the number of miles he was supposed to have sailed in his various voyages.
"But no matter for the soup. The days wore on none the less that the soup was thin, and still we kept going on and on,—getting farther and farther north, and into more and more ice. Sometimes our course was much interrupted, and we had to wait several days for the ice to open; then we would get under way again, and push on. At length it seemed to me that we must be very near the North Pole. It was a strange world we had come into. The sun was shining all the time. There was no night at all,—broad daylight constantly. This, of course, favored us; indeed, had there been any darkness, we could not have sailed among the ice at all. As it was, we were obliged to be very cautious, for the ice often closed upon us without giving us a chance to escape, obliging us to get out great long saws, and cut out and float away great blocks of the ice, until we had made a dock for the ship, where she could ride with safety. We had many narrow escapes from being crushed.
"At first, when we concluded to go after whales, there were several vessels in company with us. At one time I counted nine, all in sight at one time; but we had become separated in thick weather; and whether they had gone ahead of us, or had fallen behind, we could not tell. However, we kept on and on and on; where we were, or where we were going, I, of course, had not the least idea; but I became aware, from day to day, that greater dangers were threatening us, for icebergs came in great numbers to add their terrors to those which we had already in the ice-fields. They became at length (and suddenly too) very numerous, and not being able to go around them on account of the field-ice, which was on either side, we entered right amongst them. The atmosphere was somewhat foggy at the time, and it seemed as if the icebergs chilled the very air we breathed. I fairly shuddered as we passed the first opening. The ice was now at least three times as high as our masts, and very likely more than that, and it appeared to cover the sea in every direction. It seemed to me that we were going to certain destruction, and indeed I thought I read a warning written as it were on the bergs themselves. Upon the corner of an iceberg to the left of us there stood a white figure, as plain as anything could possibly be. One hand of this strange, weird-looking figure was resting on the ice beside it, while the other was pointing partly upwards toward heaven, and backwards toward the south whence we had come. I thought I saw the figure move, and, much excited, I called the attention of one of the sailors to it. 'Why, you lubber,' said he, 'don't you know that the sun melts the ice into all sorts of shapes. Look overhead, if there isn't a man's face!' I looked up as the sailor had directed me, and, sure enough, there was a man's face plainly to be seen in the lines of an immense tongue of ice which was projecting from the side of a berg on the right, and under which we were about to pass.
"I became now really terrified. In addition to these strange spectral objects, the air was filled with loud reports, and deep, rumbling noises, caused by the icebergs breaking to pieces, or masses splitting off from their sides and falling into the sea. These noises came at first from the icebergs in front of us; but when we had got fairly into the wilderness of ice which covered the sea, they came from every side. It struck me that we had passed deliberately into the very jaws of death, and that from the frightful situation there was no escape.
"I merely mention this as the feeling which oppressed me, and which I could not shake off. Indeed, the feeling grew upon me rather than decreased. The fog came on very thick, settling over us as if it were our funeral shroud. Some snow also fell, which made the air still more gloomy. The noises were multiplying, and we could no longer tell whence they came, so thick was the air. We were groping about like a traveller who has lost his way in a vast forest, and has been overtaken by the dark night.
"It seemed to me now that our doom was sealed,—that all our hope was left behind us when we passed the opening to this vast wilderness of icebergs; and the more I thought of it, the more it seemed to me that the figure standing on the corner of the iceberg where we entered, whether it was ice or whatever it was, had been put there as a warning. How far my fears were right you shall see presently.
"The fog, as I have said, kept on thickening more and more, until we could scarcely see anything at all. I have never, I think, seen so thick a fog, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the ship was kept from striking the icebergs. Then, after a while, the wind fell away steadily, and finally grew entirely calm. The current was moving us about upon the dead waters; and in order to prevent this current from setting us against the ice, we had to lower the boats, and, making lines fast to the ship and to the boats, pull away with our oars to keep headway on the ship, that she might be steered clear of the dangerous places. Thus was made a slow progress, but it was very hard work. At length the second mate, who was steering the foremost boat, which I was in, cried out, 'Fast ice ahead.' Now 'fast ice' is a belt of ice which is attached firmly to the land, not yet having been broken up or dissolved by the warmth of the summer. This announcement created great joy to everybody in the boats, as we knew that land must be near, and we all supposed that we would be ordered to make a line fast to the ice, that we might hold on there until the fog cleared up and the wind came again. But instead of this we were ordered by the mate to pull away from it. And then, after having got the vessel, as was supposed, into a good, clear, open space of water,—at least, there was not a particle of ice in sight,—we were all ordered, very imprudently, as it appeared to every one of us, to come on board to breakfast.
"We had just finished our breakfast, and were preparing to go on deck, and then into the boats again, when there was a loud cry raised. 'Ice close aboard! Hurry up! Man the boats!' were the orders which I heard among a great many other confusing sounds; and when I got on deck, I saw, standing away up in the fog, its top completely obscured in the thick cloud, an enormous iceberg. The side nearest to us hung over from a perpendicular, as the projecting tongue on which I had before seen the man's face. It was very evident that we were slowly drifting upon this frightful object,—directly under this overhanging tongue. It was a fearful sight to behold, for it looked as if it was just ready to crumble to pieces; and indeed, at every instant, small fragments were breaking off from it, with loud reports, and falling into the sea.
"We were but a moment getting into the boats. The boat which I was in had something the start of the other two. Just as we were pulling away, the master of the ship came on deck, and ordered us to do what, had the red-faced mate done an hour before, would have made it impossible that this danger should have come upon us. 'Carry your line out to the fast ice,' was the order we received from the master; and every one of us, realizing the great danger, pulled as hard as he could. The 'fast ice' was dimly in sight when we started, for we had drifted while at breakfast towards it, as well as towards the berg. Only a few minutes were needed to reach it. We jumped out and dug a hole, and planted the ice-anchor. The ship was out of sight, buried in the fog. A faint voice came from the ship. It was, 'Hurry up! we have struck.' They evidently could not see us. The line was fastened to the anchor in an instant, and the second mate shouted, 'Haul in! haul in!' There was no answer but 'Hurry up! we have struck.' 'Haul in! haul in!' shouted the second mate, but still there was no answer. 'They can't hear nor see,' said he, hurriedly; and then, turning to me, said, 'Hardy, you watch the anchor that it don't give way. Boys, jump in the boat, and we'll go nearer the ship so they can hear.' The boat was gone quickly into the fog, and I was then alone on the ice by the anchor,—how much and truly alone you shall hear.
"Quick as the lightning flash, sudden as the change of one second to another, there broke upon me a sound that will never leave my ears. It was as if a volcano had burst forth, or an earthquake had instantly tumbled a whole city into ruins. A fearful shock, like a sudden explosion, filled the air. I saw faintly through the thick mists the masts of the ship reeling over, and I saw no more;—vessel and iceberg and the disappearing boat were buried in chaos. The whole side of the berg nearest the vessel had split off, hurling thousands and hundreds of thousands of tons of ice, and thousands of fragments, crashing down upon the doomed ship. Escape the vessel could not, nor her crew, the shock came so suddenly. The spray thrown up into the air completely hid everything from view; but the noise which came from out the gloom told the tale.
"Presently there was a loud rush. Great waves, set in motion by the crumbling iceberg, with white crests that were frightful to look upon, came tearing out of the obscurity, and, perceiving the danger of my situation, I ran from it as fast as I could run. And I was just in time; for the waves broke up the ice where I had been standing into a hundred fragments, and crack after crack opened close behind me.
"I had not, however, far to run before I had reached a place of safety, for the force of the waves was soon spent. And when I saw what had happened, I fell down flat upon the ice, crying, 'Saved, but for what? to freeze or starve! O that I had perished with the rest of them!'
"So now you see that I was really and truly cast away in the cold. In almost a single instant the ship which had borne me through what had seemed great perils was, so far as appeared to me, swallowed up in the sea,—crushed and broken into fragments by the falling ice, and every one of my companions was swallowed up with it. And there I was on an ice-raft, in the middle of the Arctic Sea, without food or shelter, wrapped in a great black, impenetrable fog, with the prospect of a lingering death staring me in the face."
* * * * *
The Captain here paused as if to take breath, for he had been talking very fast, and had grown somewhat excited as he recalled this terrible scene. The eyes of the children were riveted upon him, so deeply were they interested in the tale of the shipwreck; and it was some time before any one spoke.
"Well!" exclaimed William at last, "that was being cast away in the cold for certain, Captain Hardy. I had no idea it was so frightful."
"Nor I," said Fred, evidently doubting if Captain Hardy was really the shipwrecked boy; but Alice said not a word, for she was lost in wonder.
"I should not have believed it was you, Captain Hardy," continued William, "if you had not been telling the story yourself, this very minute; for I cannot see how you should ever have got out of that scrape. It's ever so much worse than going into the sea on the seal's back."
The Captain smiled at these observations of the boys, and said: "It was a pretty bad scrape to get into, and no mistake; but through the mercy of Providence I got out of it in the end, as you see; otherwise I shouldn't have been here to tell the tale; but how I saved myself, and what became of the rest of the crew, you shall hear to-morrow, for it is now too late to begin the story. The evening is coming on, and your parents will be looking for you home; so good by, my dears. To-morrow you must come down earlier,—the earlier the better, and if there's any wind we'll have a sail." And now the children once more took leave of the ancient mariner, with hearts filled with thanks, which they could never get done speaking, and with heads filled with astonishment that the Captain should be alive to tell the tale which they had heard.
The Old Man meets the Little People under Peculiar Circumstances, and relates to them how the Young Man, being cast away in the Cold, rescued a Shipmate, and also other Matters, which, if put into this Title, would spoil the Story altogether.
This time Captain Hardy was not to be caught napping, as on the previous day. Indeed, he was out looking for his young friends even before the time. "If they don't come soon," said he to himself, "I'll go after them";—and they did not come soon, at least the Captain thought they were a long time in coming, and he started off, if not after them, at least to look after them. When he had reached the brow of the hill from which both the Captain's and Mr. Earnest's houses could be seen, the old man discovered the children coming down one of the winding paths which led through Mr. Earnest's grounds. It was some moments before they saw the Captain, and when they did see him there was much wondering what had happened to bring him up so far on the hill.
"Why, what's the matter with him?" exclaimed William. "Look, he's flinging up his hat!"—and the little people set off upon a rapid run.
Meanwhile the Captain stood on the brow of the hill, whirling round his tarpaulin hat with the long blue ribbons flying wildly in the wind. When the children came nearer, they heard the old man calling loudly to them, "Come, my hearties, you are slow to-day. Be lively, or we'll lose the chance."
"What chance?" asked William, when they had come up with him.
"The wind, the wind,—why, don't you see there's a spankin' breeze? I was afraid we'd lose our sail, so I came to hurry you up."
"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted both the boys together; and without further ado the Captain hurried the little people along with him down through the woods to the water.
The old man had been down there before, and had everything in readiness. The little yacht was lying close beside the little wharf. "Look sharp now, and be lively," exclaimed the Captain as he helped them one by one aboard; and then he got in himself, and shoved the yacht off from the landing, and with the assistance of a singular-looking boy, whom the Captain called "Main Brace," he spread the sails, and the lively craft was soon skimming over the waters, carrying as lively a party as ever set out on an afternoon frolic. "Jolly" was the only word which seemed at all to express the children's pleasure, and if the boys said "it's jolly" once, they must have said it fifty times at least; while little Alice exhibited her excitement by jumping from one side of the boat to the other, stopping now and then to lean over the side and watch the little waves gurgling past them, sometimes dipping her delicate hands into the water, and screaming with delight when the spray flew over her.
The party were seated (when seated at all) in what is called the "stern sheets," that is, on the seat in the open space behind the cabin heretofore described,—the good-natured and kindly Captain in the midst of them, firmly holding the helm or tiller of his boat, and guiding it with steady hand wherever he wished it to go, cracking a pleasant joke now and then, and enjoying in all the fulness of his big, warm heart the joyous delight of his young guests. And he was in no hurry to stop the sport, for he ran on clear across the harbor, and then said he would "'bout ship," and put back again.
"What's 'bout ship?" inquired William.
"That's going about on the other tack," replied the Captain.
"What's going about on the other tack?" asked William, as wise as he was before.
"I'll show you," said the Captain. "Now see here: first I give the proper order, as if somebody else was giving it to me, and I was the man at the wheel: 'Hard-a-lee,' do you observe;—now look, I put the helm down as far as I can jam it,—there;—look now, how that turns the boat and brings her up into the wind,—you see the sails begin to shiver,—the wind is blowing right in your faces now;—now we have turned nearly round; the boat, you see, has come up on an even keel,—level, you know;—now look out sharp for your heads there,—the boom is going to jibe over to the other side;—there, don't you see we've turned round,—that house over there near the beach that was almost ahead of us is now behind us. There goes the boom,—bang! There fills the sail, see it bulging out,—the jib, you see, shakes a little yet,—but there she goes now filled out like the other; and now you see I've got the helm back where I had it before, in the middle, 'steady,' you know, and there goes the Alice off on the starboard tack, and an easy bowline back towards the Mariner's Rest again. Wasn't that nicely done?"
"Splendid! splendid!" cried William; "I wish I could do it."
"I'll teach you,—it's easy learned," answered the Captain; "but look out there, or you'll go overboard; get up to windward, and trim the boat; you see we are leaning over to the other side now."
And thus the Captain kept on "tacking" across the harbor, going to and fro, for more than an hour, enjoying every minute of it just as much as the children did. When at length, however, the children began to quiet down a little (the sharp edge of novelty being worn off), the Captain ran into shoal water, and brought his boat's head once more up into the wind; but this time, instead of letting her head "pay" off to starboard, he steered her right into the wind's eye, with the sails shivering all the time, until the boat stopped, when he cried out to Main Brace to "let go the anchor," which Main Brace did promptly, with an "Ay, ay, sir!" and then he "clewed" up the sails, and spread a white and red striped and red-fringed awning over the place where they were seated, and said he was now going on with the story. "Isn't this a tip-top place," said he, "for story-telling?" And the children all said it was "tip-top," and "jolly," and "grand," and made many little speeches about it, which to put down here would make this account so long that everybody would get tired before getting to the end of it.
"Now I call this a much better place than the 'Crow's Nest,'" went on the Captain; "for, don't you see, when we knocked off yesterday I was standing in the middle of the sea, on a great ice-raft. To be sure we are not exactly in the middle of the sea here, nor on an ice-raft either, but we are on salt water, and that's where I like to be. The air is better for the wits, and the tongue too, for that matter, than on the land there, which is a good enough place to be when there is no wind; but I like to be on the water, and have plenty of sea-room, when the wind blows, especially when it blows a gale,—for on land, at such times, I'm always afraid that the trees will blow over on me, or the house will blow down on my head, or some dreadful accident will happen, whereas on the sea one has no fears at all; and besides, at sea one is always at home,—come rain or shine, he's always his house with him, and never has to go groping about for shelter."
"Only you mustn't be in the forecastle," put in cunning William, who remembered the Captain's fright when he first found himself at sea in the Blackbird.
"Never mind that, lad," replied the Captain, "I was only a boy then, and hadn't come to years of discretion. I've made better friends with the sea since that day. But let us go on, or we'll never get through with this story, any more than the Flying Dutchman will get into port, though he keeps on beating up and down forever; and as for to-day, why, we'll leave off just where we began, like thieves in a treadmill, if we don't get started pretty soon.
* * * * *
"Well, you see, as I was saying, you left me standing on an ice-raft in the middle of the Arctic Sea, cast away in a cold and forbidding place, and all alone. My shipmates were all either drowned or killed outright by the falling ice, so far at least as I knew. The prospect ahead was not a pleasing one, for of course, as I think I have said before, the first thought which crossed my mind was, that I should starve or freeze to death very soon. I was greatly astonished by what had happened, and indeed it was hard for me to believe my senses, so suddenly had this great disaster come upon me. I stood staring into the mist, and listening to the terrible sounds which came out of it, as one petrified; yet after a little time I recovered myself sufficiently to realize my situation. The instinct of life is strong in every living thing, and young sailor-boys are no exception to the rule; so, after I had stood in the presence of this frightful chaos for I have not the least idea how long, I began to think what I should do to save myself.
"The waves which had been raised after a while began steadily to subside, and, as the sea became more calm, I found that I could approach nearer to where the wreck had happened by jumping over some of the cracks which had been made in the ice, and walking across piece after piece of it. These pieces were all in motion, rolling on the swell of the sea, and, the farther I went, of course the greater the motion became. I had to proceed cautiously, and when I jumped from one fragment of ice to another, I was obliged to look carefully what I was about, for if I missed my footing I should fall into the sea, and be either drowned or ground up by the moving ice.
"Had the iceberg all gone to pieces at once, the sea would soon have become quiet; but it was evident from the noises which reached me that a considerable part of the berg was still holding together, and was wallowing in the sea in consequence of its equilibrium being disturbed by the first crash, and was still keeping the waters moving. I could indeed vaguely see this remaining fragment, swaying to right and left, and I could also perceive that, with every roll, fresh masses were breaking off, with loud reports, like the crash of artillery. I could, however, discover nothing of the ship nor either of the boats. I was able to detect, even at a considerable distance, some fragments of ice floating and rolling about, when the fog would clear up a little; and, as I peered into the gloom, I thought at one time that I saw a man standing upon one of them. It was but a moment, for the fog closed upon the object, whatever it may have been, and it vanished as a spectral figure.
"My eyes were strained to catch a further glimpse of this object, but nothing more was to be seen of it. From this my attention was soon attracted by a dark mass which had drifted upon the edge of the broken ice, not far to the right of the place where I had been standing when the boat left me. I soon made this out to be some part of the wreck of the ship. In a few moments I could clearly see that it was a piece of a mast; then I could plainly distinguish the 'foretop.' Each succeeding wave was forcing it higher and higher out of the water, and I discovered, after a few moments, that other timbers were attached to it, and that beside these were sails and ropes, making of the whole a considerable mass.