In the Eastern Seas, by W.H.G. Kingston,
The book, quite a long one, is concerned with the adventures of a boy, Walter Heathfield, and of his sister Emily. They appear on the scene in chapter one, in rather a dramatic fashion, as they are rescued from a sinking ship, along with their dying father, moments before the ship finally vanishes. On reaching London their relations are traced, but none appear at all interested in them, except for Uncle Tom, who has but little money, and who unfortunately dies before the chapter is done, of a horse-riding accident.
As a result the ship's captain and his family decide to look after them.
The captain has a daughter, Grace, and a kindly wife. He asks them all to accompany him on the ship's next voyage, which is to the eastern seas. There is a passenger, a Mr Nicholas Hooker, who is a naturalist, and who of course delivers himself of numerous speeches describing the animals and plants they see during the trip.
They have numerous adventures, including of course (as you would expect in a Kingston novel) the loss of the ship. Walter keeps a journal, though at times Emily has to write it for him. When they finally get back to Old England, the old relative, Lord Heatherly, who had refused to help them, dies, and it turns out Walter is his heir. So the fortunes of Walter and Emily are very much changed.
Quite a good read, or listen.
IN THE EASTERN SEAS, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
"Well, Thudicumb, I hope by noon we may at last get a glimpse of the sun," said Captain Davenport to his first officer, as they walked the deck of the Bussorah Merchant, homeward bound from the East Indies, and at that time rolling on over the long heaving seas of the Atlantic. The sky was overcast, but ever and anon a gleam of light burst forth amid the clouds, playing on the foaming crest of a wave. It was blowing hard, but had evidently been blowing much harder, of which fact the condition of the Indiaman gave evidence. A portion of the starboard bulwarks were stove in, one of her quarter boats was shattered, and other slight damages were visible.
"We must be ready for him, sir, at all events," said the first officer, looking at his watch. "It is not far off noon now."
"Tell Oliver to bring me my sextant," said the captain, as the mate descended from the poop into his cabin.
Mr Thudicumb soon returned, bringing his own instrument, and followed by a boy with the captain's. Continuing their walk, they looked anxiously every now and then at the spot in the heavens where they expected the sun to appear. They were accompanied by one who seemed to take as much interest as they did in what was going forward. When they turned, he turned; when they looked up at the sky, he looked up also; balancing himself when the ship rolled as they did, by leaning over to the opposite direction to which she was heeling. He, however, could not have afforded them any assistance in their observation, for though his eye and the expression of his countenance exhibited much sagacity, he was of the canine species—a large dog—a magnificent-looking fellow, who could, the crew declared, for he was a great favourite with them, do everything but talk—and, they might have added, take a meridional observation, or a lunar.
Mr Thudicumb again looked at his watch. "There he is, sir," he exclaimed at length.
He and the captain stopped in their walk; their sextants were quickly at their eyes; and there they stood, their feet planted firmly on the heaving deck, in an attitude long practice alone could have enabled them to maintain. A clear space was seen in the sky, increasing rapidly, and yet not altogether blue, but the vapour which drove across it was not sufficiently thick to prevent the sun's rays descending upon the sea.
"She has dipped, sir," said the first officer.
"She has," observed the captain.
The sun's elevation was read off on the index, and the instruments were returned to their cases. The calculation was very quickly worked out on a scrap of card.
"Make it noon, Mr Thudicumb," said the captain, as, returning the case to the young cabin-boy, he directed him to take it below. While the captain and his first officer were making their observation, a group of midshipmen had collected on the deck with their quadrants in their hands, doing their best to shoot the sun, but their less experienced eyes could make but little of it in that heavy sea; and when they came to read off their observations, they were somewhat surprised at the wonderful difference which existed among them. Stopping to listen to a few remarks made to them by the captain, they hurried off the deck to deposit their quadrants in places of safety. The dog all the time stood with his feet firmly planted on the deck, watching the captain, as if he fully understood what was going on. Captain Davenport, as he turned, patted him on the head. "You are a wise dog, Merlin," he observed; "but you cannot take an observation yet." Merlin wagged his tail as if he had received a compliment, or, at all events, well pleased at the notice taken of him.
The captain was a tall man of spare figure, his white locks and weather-beaten countenance making him appear considerably older than his firm, yet light and active step, seemed to warrant. His eye, too, was still full of life and fire, and his voice clear and strong, evidence of which had been given when he issued his orders in the late gale, and when, by his promptitude and decision, he had saved the ship, seemingly on the point of destruction.
Scarcely had eight bells been struck, when the voice of the boatswain from the forecastle was heard shouting, "A vessel on the lee bow, sir! A dismasted ship! It can be nothing else!"
Captain Davenport went forward, followed by Merlin.
"Where away is she, Mr Tarbox?" he asked of the boatswain.
"There, sir, you will catch her over the bumkin-head," answered the boatswain. "I saw her again just as you stepped on the forecastle. She cannot have gone down in the meantime!"
"I hope not indeed," said the captain, looking out eagerly in the direction towards which the boatswain pointed. At last he too caught sight of a dark object lifted on the top of a sea. "A dismasted ship; no doubt about that," he observed. "We will keep away for her. There are probably people on board, and although it would be a difficult matter to take them off while this sea is running, we may do so if it goes down, as it has been gradually doing since daylight."
The Indiaman stood on, now rising to the summit of a sea, now gliding into the valley below, gradually approaching the dark object which had been discovered. The boatswain had gone aloft, and quickly returned.
"No doubt about it, Captain Davenport. She is a big ship—lost her masts, no doubt, in the gale; and from the way she is rolling, I have a notion she has no small amount of water in her. If we had not sighted her, it is my opinion that those on board would be fathoms down in the ocean, as she will be before another sun rises."
"We will do what we can to save any people on board her," said Captain Davenport. "Get the life-boat ready for lowering, Mr Tarbox."
"Ay, ay, sir; I am ready to go in her," answered the boatswain.
"Perhaps Mr Thudicumb may wish to go, or the second officer; but if not, Tarbox, I would intrust her to you more readily than to anybody."
The news that a dismasted ship was in sight brought all the passengers who were below on deck, and numerous glasses were now turned towards her. No signs, however, of any one being on board were discovered. She was a complete wreck; the masts had gone by the board, the bulwarks were stove in, the caboose and booms and everything on deck had been swept clear away. The Indiaman stood on, passing close to leeward of her.
"She is deserted, sir; little doubt about that," said Mr Thudicumb, examining the ship. "The people thought she was going down, and took to their boats. Better have stuck to her in such a sea as they must have had to encounter. Little chance of any boat living."
"Haul the tacks aboard then, Mr Thudicumb; down with the helm," said the captain. "Unless for the sake of rescuing any fellow-creatures, I would not risk a boat to board her, while the sea runs as high as it now does."
As he was speaking, Merlin had been eagerly watching the wreck; and now, stretching out his fore-feet and neck towards her, he uttered a loud mournful howl or wail, which sounded strangely wild and sad to all who heard it.
"What is the matter, Merlin?" asked the captain, bending down and patting the dog's head.
"That dog has got more sense than many human beings," observed the boatswain. "Now, I should not be surprised but what he knows there is somebody on board that craft—dead or dying, may be—just as well as if he saw them. If I was our skipper, I would not leave that wreck without an overhauling."
Just then a human head was seen issuing from the companion-hatch. It was that of a young boy. He sprang on deck and waved a handkerchief wildly, apparently shouting with all his power, though his voice could not be heard amidst the roaring of the sea and the lashing of the ropes as the ship was luffed up close to the wind. Captain Davenport seized his speaking-trumpet and shouted, "We will keep by you! Do not fear!" Just then another head was seen. "A young girl!" cried several of those looking on. A mere child she seemed at that distance, her light hair blowing about in the wind.
"Bless them!" said old Tarbox; "I would go to help them if there was twice the sea there is on."
Preparations were now made for heaving the ship to, but the captain was anxious to wait, in the hopes of the sea going down still more before night, when there might be less risk in bringing the people from off the wreck. A great risk under similar circumstances is run when those on board a ship on fire or likely to sink leap hurriedly in too great numbers into the boat alongside. In many such instances the boat has been swamped, and the lives of all in her sacrificed. Here, such a danger was not likely to occur, as no crew apparently remained on board. The question, however, was, whether the wreck would float till the sea had sufficiently gone down to enable a boat to board her without risk. As the ship gradually receded from the wreck, the young boy was seen to lift up his hands imploringly, as if to beg for assistance. At length the boatswain came aft and addressed the captain.
"If you will let me have the life-boat, sir, there are six hands ready to go in her; and I will undertake to board that craft, and bring off any people we may find alive. To my mind, from the way she rolls, she has not got many hours longer to swim; and if she was to go down, those young people we saw would have to go down in her, and that's what my eyes would not like to watch."
"No indeed, Tarbox," said the captain. "Mr Thudicumb, what do you say?"
"I was going to volunteer, sir," said the first officer; "but though I yield to no other man on board in the management of a boat, I acknowledge that Tarbox can handle one in a sea better than any man I have ever met with; and on that account, and not because I am afraid of risking my life, I yield to him."
"Thank you, Mr Thudicumb," said the boatswain. "I should have said the same thing of you, sir; but you have a wife and children at home, and it matters little what becomes of old Dick Tarbox."
Once more the ship was brought up as close as she could be to the wreck, and again being hove to, the life-boat, with the six hands selected by the boatswain, was carefully lowered. And now everybody on board watched her with anxious eyes, as she pulled towards the wreck. The young lad saw her coming, and was observed to be bending down as if to announce the event to some one below. Again the little girl's head appeared above the deck, but the lad would not allow her to come up further, evidently being afraid of her being jerked overboard—an event but too likely to occur, from the way the ship was rolling. On pulled the boat, now sinking down deep into the trough of the sea, which curled into mountain billows, and seemed about to overwhelm her; now she rose up high on the crest of a wave. Many of those who gazed at her held their breath, scarcely believing that she could possibly live amid the tumult of waters. Slowly she proceeded, guided by the well-practised hand of the old boatswain. She was close to the wreck. Now she seemed to sink far down below the deck, now to rise up, as if the next instant she would be thrown upon it. Could any human being ever manage to gain the wreck from that tossing boat? Yes, yes! a man stands up in the boat. He makes a spring! He has gained the deck, hauling himself up by a rope which he has clutched. He waves off the boat till he is ready to return to her.
Dick Tarbox was the man. He was seen to leap down the hatchway. For some time he did not appear. What could have become of him? "There he is! there he is!" shouted several voices. He came, bearing a young girl in his arms. The boat again drew near the dismasted ship. Those who looked on held their breath, for how could he manage to convey his burden to the tossing boat? He stood for a minute or more waiting, but not irresolute. His eye was watching the boat. He was calculating the rolling of the ship. He made a signal to one of the men to be ready to receive the girl. Then, quick as lightning, he leaped across the deck, and dropped her—so it seemed—into the man's arms. The boat again kept away from the ship, and the boatswain disappeared once more down the hatchway.
"He will bring the boy this time!" But no; he came up carrying a far heavier burden—a man wrapped in a cloak, and apparently unable to help himself. Dick shouted to one of the crew to go aboard and help him. Together they got the sick man into the boat. The little girl clasped her hands in her anxiety as she saw him lowered down. Sorrowfully she stooped over him, supporting his head in her arms; forgetting, apparently, where she was, and the fearful danger to which she was still exposed. The boy had followed the boatswain, apparently with the intention of leaping into the boat by himself. Dick was seen to hold him back: then he lifted him in his arms, and, waiting for the right moment, sprang into the boat.
No one on board had watched these proceedings with more apparent eagerness than Merlin; and as the boat came alongside the ship, he ran to the gangway to receive those whom she brought. The little girl was first lifted up the side, and received by the captain, Merlin instantly coming up to lick her hands and attract her attention. She had no thought, however, for any one round her, but endeavoured to look down into the boat to watch her companions. The sick man was next hoisted up; the boy, till he was safe, refusing to leave the boat. He then, aided by Dick Tarbox, hauled himself up on deck.
"We will carry him aft, and take him at once to my cabin," said the captain. "He looks very ill."
This was done; the young people keeping by the sick man's side, anxiously gazing on his countenance, apparently scarcely aware where they were, and paying no attention to any one else.
"Is he your father, young gentleman?" asked the captain, as the sick man was placed on the bed.
"Oh yes, yes!" answered the boy. "But can you do nothing for him? He is, I am afraid, very, very ill."
At that moment the surgeon, who had been attending on a patient below, came up, and entering the cabin, looked at the sick man's countenance and felt his pulse. The look he gave the captain was observed by the little girl: she seemed to understand it.
"Oh do, sir, tell me what is the matter with him! Will he die?" she asked, bursting into tears.
"There is no time to be lost," observed the surgeon, hurrying away to his own cabin without answering the question.
"Our lives are in God's hands, young lady," said the captain, in a kind tone. "The doctor will do all he can for your papa; be assured of that."
The surgeon instantly returned with a restorative; after taking which the sick man recovered slightly, and was able to utter a few words in a faint voice. He recognised his children, and beckoned them to approach.
"I am leaving you, I fear," he whispered; "for I feel as I have never felt before. Walter, take care of Emily; never leave her. Think of your dear mother and me sometimes." Then he turned his glance towards the captain. "These, sir, will be orphans before many hours have passed," he said, in a faltering voice. "You, perhaps, are a father, and can feel for me. As a fellow-creature, you can do so. You have been the means of preserving the lives of those children; watch over them, and do what you can for them. They will tell you about themselves. I cannot speak more."
While he was uttering these words, he seemed about to relapse into a state of insensibility. His eye was growing dim. He stretched out his hands, however, and took those of his children; and thus, almost without uttering another word, his spirit passed away.
"We will leave your father now," said the surgeon; and made a sign to the captain, who led the boy and girl out of the cabin.
The boy seemed to understand what had happened; but there was an anxious, scared, and inquiring expression on the countenance of the little girl, which showed that even now she was not certain that her father had been taken from her.
Captain Davenport was a father, and a kind, affectionate one, and knew how to sympathise with the bereaved children. He had been in the cabin but a few minutes when a midshipman entered.
"She is sinking, sir!" he exclaimed.
Captain Davenport hurried on deck. The boy had caught the words, and followed him. Just then Merlin uttered a low, mournful howl. They were just in time to see the after-part of the dismasted ship, as, plunging head first, she went down beneath the foaming billows.
"We were but just in time to save you, my lad," said the captain, turning to the boy, whose hand Merlin was licking, as if to congratulate him on his escape.
"Indeed you were, sir," answered the boy; "and we are very, very grateful to you, and to that brave sailor who carried my father and Emily out of the ship, and helped me into the boat. I want to thank him more particularly, and so would my father; but oh, sir, do you think he will soon recover out of that fearful swoon? Or do, do tell me, for I did not like to ask you before my sister, is he—is he really—dead?"
The boy's voice dropped as he spoke.
"I fear, Walter, that he is dead," answered the captain. "But we will do our best to comfort your little sister; and so, I am sure, will you. You have reason to be thankful that he was permitted thus to die quietly in bed, and to know that your lives were spared."
"Oh yes, yes! I know," answered the boy, hiding his face in his hands.
It was some hours before Emily could understand that her father could never again speak to her or caress her. Her brother's anxiety to console her probably prevented him from so poignantly feeling his own loss.
The captain and all on board treated the young orphans with the greatest kindness and consideration. The following day their father's body was committed to its ocean grave; and Walter and Emily felt that for the future they must be all in all to each other.
"Yes," thought Walter, as he gazed at his sister's fair and gentle countenance, "I will watch over her—and die for her, if needs be—to protect her from harm."
THE HISTORY OF WALTER AND EMILY.
The captain and those on board were naturally anxious to know something about the young orphans, and how it happened that they and their father had been left alone on board the sinking ship.
"The people would not take poor papa in the boat, and we would not leave him," said Emily, when the captain first spoke on the subject.
"I should think not," said Walter. "It was very, very sad to have poor papa so ill, and no one to help him except us. The poor captain and the first officer had been washed overboard; and the surgeon was killed by the falling of the masts, when papa was hurt at the same time. He was ill, though, when we sailed; but he thought the change, and the warm climate of the country we were going to, would restore him to health. We had good reason, however, to be thankful we did not go in the boats; for scarcely had they left the ship, as I was watching them from the companion-hatch, than I saw the sea break over one of them, and down she went, the unfortunate people in her struggling for a few instants before they all sank. I was in hopes that the other, which was larger, might escape; but she had got to no great distance when it seemed to me that she went right into a curling sea. Whether she went through it and rose again I could not discover, for I saw no more of her. It was very dreadful; but I had to hurry back to papa, for I heard Emily calling me. I did not tell him what had happened, for I thought it would make him even, more sad than he was."
The boy, overcome with his feelings, could with difficulty speak, and was for some minutes silent. He then continued:—
"The ship was the Mountaineer. We had been three weeks at sea, and had had frequent calms, when we met with the fearful gale from which she suffered so much. Papa was going out as British Consul to —, in the Brazils; and as mamma died a year ago, and he had no one to leave us with, he determined, to our great joy, that we should accompany him. Emily had been at school; but when mamma was ill she came home to stay with her, and after that papa could not hear the thoughts of again parting with her. I had been at Winchester School, and had intended going into the army; but papa lost his fortune soon after mamma's death, and told me that I must give up all thoughts of that, as he could not purchase my commission, and I could not be in the army without money. The loss of his property tried him very much. He had to take me away from school; and he used to say he was afraid we should all die of starvation. However, when he got the appointment he was in better spirits, and Emily and I hoped we should see him once more like himself."
"But have you no relations or friends, young gentleman?" asked the captain, in a kind tone.
"I do not know about friends," answered Walter; "but I have some relations. Unfortunately, however, my father was not on good terms with them. His elder brother—my uncle—had quarrelled with him. Why, I do not know. But when, before we were leaving England, papa desired to be reconciled to him, he refused; and I know, from what I have heard, that he would on no account have anything to say to Emily or me."
"But had your mother no relations?" asked Captain Davenport.
"Not many. She had, I know, a brother, and I think I recollect him when I was a little boy; but he left England many years ago, and I know has not for a long time been heard of. Papa, besides his brother, had some cousins. One, I know, is Lord Heatherly; but I never saw him, and I think papa kept up no communication with him. We now and then saw his brother, Mr Tom Heathfield—for the family name is the same as ours. He is a very good-natured, merry person, and used always to try to make us laugh when he called. And our eldest uncle had some sons, but I never met them; indeed, I am sure their papa would never have let them come to the house."
"From all accounts, then, the only relation you know anything about is your father's cousin, Mr Tom Heathfield. Do you know where he lives?"
Walter thought a moment. "No," he answered; "somewhere in London, I know, and I daresay I can find out."
"Well, we must do our best to discover him when we get on shore," said the captain.
It was evident to him that the young people had not realised their thoroughly destitute condition. Whatever property their poor father might have had must have been lost in the Mountaineer. "However," he thought to himself, "if the brother's heart cannot be moved to take care of the orphans, perhaps this Mr Tom Heathfield or Lord Heatherly will do so. In the meantime, I must look after them."
The Bussorah Merchant reached the Thames in safety, and went into the docks to discharge her cargo.
"You must come with me, my young friends, till we can find out your cousin," said the kind captain. "My good wife, Mrs Davenport, will be very glad to see you, as will our little girl Grace. You must be content with such fare as we can offer, and you may be sure of a hearty welcome."
"Thank you, sir," said Walter. "Emily and I, I am sure, shall be very happy with you. Do you live in the West End of London?"
"No," answered the captain, smiling; "I live at Poplar. It is a different sort of locality; but I have had a good many losses, and am not so well off as some masters of ships. But my life has been preserved when others have lost theirs, and I retain my health and strength. I have a good wife and an affectionate little girl, and I have therefore reason to be thankful; and so I am."
Captain Davenport, as soon as he was at liberty, accompanied by his young charges, set off for his home. It differed, however, greatly from the sort of house Walter and Emily had been accustomed to live in. But it was very neat; with green palings in front, and neatly-painted shutters, and the whitest of stone steps leading up to the hall door. The captain had had no time to tell his wife of the guests she might expect. After, therefore, the first greetings between them were over, and he had embraced his little daughter Grace, Mrs Davenport naturally inquired who the young strangers were. No sooner had she heard their history than she gave an affectionate embrace to Emily.
"Yes, indeed, you are welcome here," she said; "and if you are content with this house, we shall be glad to have you remain in it. And I am sure Grace will do her best to make you at home, young lady," she said, placing the girls' hands in each other's.
The captain, of course, had a great deal to do on his first arrival after a long absence, and could not, therefore, go in search of Mr Tom Heathfield, Walter's cousin. Walter acknowledged that he was not likely to find him himself, as he had but seldom been in London, and did not know his way about. All he could tell was, that he lived somewhere in the West End, and he thought he belonged to two or three clubs.
"Very likely, young gentleman," said the captain, laughing. "However, when I can get hold of one of those books they call Court Guides, I may be able to find him."
A week passed pleasantly enough away. Grace was very kind to Emily, and Walter was never tired of walking about the docks, and watching the large ships loading and unloading the bales and casks of goods coming and going to all parts of the world. It gave him some idea of the vast amount of commerce of London, when such a stream of merchandise was coming in and going out all day long.
At length the captain told him that he had some hours to spare, and they set off together to try and find Mr Heathfield. They got down at Charing Cross, where a bookseller allowed them to look over a Court Guide.
"Yes, that must be my cousin," said Walter, seeing the name. "I now remember going there with my father. Yes, and those are the clubs he belongs to."
Having put down the address, the captain and Walter at once set off to find it. They were not long in getting there. A woman opened the door.
"Mr Heathfield is not in town; he seldom is at this time," was the answer. "He may come up for a day, or he may not; but letters addressed here will find him."
"But can you tell me where he is?" asked Walter. "I am a relation of his."
"As to that, he may be at Newmarket, or some other races. You know he is a sporting gentleman, and is likely to be in one place one day and in another place another. But he sends for his letters, and, as I have told you, if you like to write, one will find him."
This was not very satisfactory information.
"I am afraid he is not likely to do much for the poor children," thought Captain Davenport. "However, there is nothing like trying."
He then bethought him that he would inquire the address of their uncle, whose heart might relent when he heard of the death of his brother. "If not, I will write to Lord Heatherly himself," said the captain.
The nobleman's address was easily found, and after some trouble the captain ascertained that of Walter's uncle, and with this information he returned home.
"You must have patience, my boy," he said. "If you are not tired of staying with us, we are not tired of you."
On reaching home, the captain wrote the three letters. Several days passed by, and no answer came. At length two appeared by the same post. One was from the orphans' uncle, stating that he had children of his own, and that he had long ceased to have any communication with his brother. He must therefore decline interfering in the matter. The other contained the words:—"Lord Heatherly presents his compliments to Mr Davenport, and not having been personally acquainted with the late Mr Heathfield for many years, must decline in any way interfering with regard to any children he may have left."
"Oh dear me!" said Mrs Davenport, when she saw the letters. "If the poor young orphans are treated in this way by their nearest relative and by the head of their family, I am afraid we can expect very little from the only other relation we have heard of."
"Well, my dear wife," said the captain, "if nobody else looks after them, God intends that we shall. We must not decline the charge he has given us, but do the best we can for them."
The following day a private cab was seen passing along the street with a sporting-looking tiger behind. The gentleman driving stopped once or twice, then turning round, brought up at Captain Davenport's door. Down jumped the tiger, and out sprang the gentleman. Walter and Emily were in the parlour.
"Why, that is cousin Tom!" exclaimed Walter, and he ran out to open the front door.
Cousin Tom came in, and shook hands with Walter and Emily, and was soon talking away to Mrs Davenport as if he had known her all his life.
"I am very much obliged to you and to your worthy husband for all you have done for these young people," he said. "And my poor cousin Harry, I little thought he was so soon to be cut off. However, we must not talk about those sort of things. Why, Walter, you are almost a man now. We must see what we can do for you. Your uncle Bob will not help you; I have heard all about that. We will not talk about him; and as for Heatherly, there is no help to be got from him. I am going out of town to-night, or I would have had you, Walter, come and dine with me and talk matters over. However, if your friends will look after you for a day or two longer, I hope we may settle something. I have an idea that my aunt, Lady Di Pierpoint, will take charge of Emily. I must insist upon her doing so. She mixes a good deal in the world, rouges, and is rather addicted to scandal, it is true; but I say, Emily, you must not follow her example, and you will get on very well with her. Look after her lapdogs, feed her parrots, write her notes for her, and all that sort of thing. Well, I think we may consider that settled.—And now, my good madam, I must wish you and the young people good-bye. I hope to be back in a few days with Lady Di's answer. And as to Walter, I have no doubt about him. In the meantime, I will just beg you to take these two notes, which you will have the kindness to expend as you think best in getting a proper outfit for the young people—as I have no doubt they lost everything when the ship went down; and I should wish, if you will allow me, to repay you for the expense to which you have been put."
"Thank you, sir," said Mrs Davenport. "We desire no repayment; but I will gladly expend the money to the advantage of my young friends as you desire."
"Well, well, do as you like!" exclaimed Mr Tom. "I am very much obliged to you in every way. And now, good-bye, Emily; good-bye, Walter; and I wish you farewell, madam. Present my compliments to your kind husband. I should have liked to have made his acquaintance. I hope to do so another time. I am deeply indebted to him, for I had a great regard for poor Harry. Though he might not have been very wise— none of us are; and his wife, she was an angel. Good-bye, good-bye!"
Thus rattling on, Mr Tom Heathfield ran out at the door, and jumped into his cab; the tiger skipped up behind, and off he drove.
Day after day passed by, and no news came of Mr Tom Heathfield. The packet he had left behind contained a couple of ten-pound notes, with a few words written on the paper surrounding them:—"It is all I have got; but if Constellation wins, I will send another hundred."
Captain Davenport was now again busily engaged in preparing his ship for another voyage. She required but few repairs, so she was likely to be soon ready. He had resolved to take his wife and daughter with him; and Grace was very full of the thoughts of accompanying her father. Mrs Davenport had made two or three voyages; but Grace had not been at sea since she was a very little girl.
"I wish I was going too," said Emily; "how delightful it would be!"
"I am sure I wish that I was going!" exclaimed Walter. "I have often thought I should like to be a sailor; and though I once should only have wished to go into the royal navy, I should now like to go anywhere with Captain Davenport."
Week after week passed by. The Bussorah Merchant was ready for sea. A cabin had been fitted up for Mrs Davenport, and another for Grace. No news came from Mr Tom Heathfield. Captain Davenport wrote: he considered it his duty to do so. The day before he sailed, his letter came back in an enclosure, stating that Mr Tom Heathfield had broken his neck riding a steeple-chase, and that though he had wished to leave his property to his young cousin, as all would be swallowed up in paying his debts, there would be none forthcoming. Walter and Emily felt very sorry when they heard the sad end of their poor cousin, though Emily confessed to Grace she was very glad that she had not to go and live with Lady Di Pierpoint.
"Well, my young friends," said Captain Davenport, "I have no one with whom I can leave you, and I certainly will not desert you. If, therefore, Emily would like to come and be Grace's companion, we shall be very glad of her company; and, Walter, if you wish to come to sea and learn to be a sailor, I will undertake to instruct you as if you were my own son."
Walter was truly glad to accept the kind captain's offer; indeed, it would be difficult to say what else he could do.
"When we return to England," said Captain Davenport, "we will make more inquiries about your relations, and if they still persist in refusing to acknowledge you, you will, at all events, have learned a profession, and be independent of them. After all, you will be far better off than had you been brought up in idleness, and dependent on those who might care very little for your true interests and welfare."
WALTER HEATHFIELD'S JOURNAL.
The Bussorah Merchant was now ready for sea. Mr Thudicumb was first mate, as he had been on the previous voyage; Dick Tarbox was boatswain; young Oliver Farwell was cabin-boy. Merlin, too, who indeed never left the ship, was on board, and welcomed my sister and me, whom he recognised the moment we appeared with signs of the greatest satisfaction. The ship was bound out to the coast of China and Japan, with a prospect of visiting several other interesting places before she returned home. I was delighted with the thoughts of all I should see, and was very glad to find on board several books descriptive of those regions. The ship came to an anchor at Gravesend, where several passengers joined her. Among them was a gentleman with very broad shoulders, a broad forehead, and light curling hair covered by a very broad-brimmed white hat. His eyes were blue and remarkably keen; he had a nose somewhat turned up; and a firm mouth, with a pleasing smile, showing a set of strong white teeth. He brought with him a number of cases and boxes; among them gun-cases, and fishing-rods, and cases which looked as if they enclosed instruments, with numerous other articles not usually carried by travellers. His business-like, quiet manner showed that he was well accustomed to move about the world. Who he could be I could not tell. Soon after he came on board he called Oliver Farwell to help him arrange his cabin; but as Oliver had other duties to attend to, I offered my services.
"Yes, my lad, I shall be very much obliged to you," said the gentleman. "I should have liked to have got these things on board before the ship left the docks; but there was no time for that; and it is important that they should be secured before we get into a tumbling sea, from which they may receive damage."
I observed that Mr Nicholas Hooker was painted on all the cases, and of course concluded that such was the name of the gentleman. He had a number of screws with which he fastened some of the articles to the bulkheads, and lashed others in a seamanlike fashion. There were charts and telescopes; indeed, from the various articles he had with him, I fancied that perhaps the gentleman was a naval officer. Still, as I did not see R.N. at the end of his name, I thought again that he could not be so.
At length Mr Hooker, having unpacked his books, various instruments, and other articles, begged that the cases might be stowed away below. His directions were promptly obeyed, and having surveyed his cabin, he seemed satisfied that all was in perfect order.
"Now, young gentleman," he said, with a pleasant smile which won my confidence, "I daresay you would like to know what all these things are for. Some are for taking the latitude and longitude, ascertaining the exact position of places on the earth's surface. Others are for measuring the height of mountains, some the temperature of the air and water, and so on. Then I have cases for creatures which move in the water or fly in the air, which walk or crawl on the earth or burrow beneath it; and I have the means of shooting them or trapping them. Those I can, I hope to preserve alive; and if not, to be able to exhibit to my scientific friends, when I return home, the forms of some perfect, the skins of others, and the skeletons of others. And now, having told you thus much, I must leave you to guess what I profess myself to be. One thing I can tell you, I know very, very little compared to what there is to be known. I hope to gain more knowledge but I am very well aware that, gain all I can, I can but add a very small portion to what is already known, and a still smaller compared to what is to be ascertained. Here comes the captain. We are old friends, and that induced me to select this ship for my voyage. Are you his son?"
"No, sir," I answered; "but he is a very kind friend of mine; and were it not for him, I know not what would have become of me and my sister."
The Bussorah Merchant had a fine passage down Channel, and taking her departure from the Land's End, stood across the Bay of Biscay. Four days afterwards the captain told us that we were in the latitude of Cape Finisterre, but no land was to be seen. Another eight days, with the wind abeam, carried us into the neighbourhood of the island of Madeira.
"Would not it be as well to have a look at it, sir," I said, "and then we shall better know where we are."
The captain smiled. "That is not at all necessary," he answered. "By the observations we are able to take with the perfect instruments we possess, we are able at all times to ascertain our exact position on the ocean; and we might thus sail round either Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope to New South Wales without once sighting land till we were about to enter Port Jackson."
"It is very wonderful," I said. "What puzzles me is how you can find the longitude. I know you get the latitude by seeing how high the sun is above the horizon at noon, and then with the aid of the nautical almanac you can easily work out the calculation."
"With the aid of the chronometer we can as easily ascertain the longitude, though the calculation is a little longer," answered Captain Davenport. "I can explain it to you more easily. The chronometer shows us the exact time at Greenwich. We know by our nautical almanac that, at a certain hour on a certain day, the sun will have attained at Greenwich a certain altitude. When on that day and that hour we find that the sun is so many minutes behind hand in attaining that altitude, we know we must be a certain distance further to the west, as, the world turning from west to east, the more westerly a place is the longer it will be before the sun appears there. If, on the contrary, we find the sun has gained a fixed altitude some time before it would have gained that altitude at Greenwich, we know that we must be to the east of Greenwich, or have met the sun sooner than the people at Greenwich have done. Thus, the further we sail east day after day, the sooner we see the sun; while the further we sail west, the longer the time which passes before he shines upon us."
"I think I have an idea about it now, sir," I exclaimed; "and I should be very much obliged if you will show me how to take an observation and to make use of the books, as well as to work out the calculations. Why, may I ask, do you cry Stop, sir, to the second officer or to Mr Thudicumb, who are watching the chronometer while you are taking an observation?"
"That they may mark the exact moment shown on the chronometer, while I mark the sun's elevation as shown on the index of the sextant."
"But then you take observations at night sometimes, sir, looking at the moon or the stars?"
"We do that to discover the distance which one star appears from another at a certain hour, or their elevation above the horizon. The object is the same as that for which we take an observation of the sun, though the calculation is rather more intricate."
After this I set to work, and whenever the captain and his mates took an observation, I took one also, although I was, I must own, at first very far from correct. Sometimes my observation was imperfect; at other times I made mistakes in the calculation.
At length the ship, which had been favoured with a breeze more or less strong ever since she left England, was becalmed. Sometimes she got a little wind which lasted for an hour or two, and then died away; then light airs came, first from one quarter, then from another, and the crew were constantly employed in bracing up, or squaring away the yards.
"It is always like this in these Horse Latitudes," said the boatswain as he walked the forecastle, where I had gone to have a talk with him.
"Why do you call them 'Horse Latitudes?'" I asked, as I listened to his remarks.
"Why, I have heard say that they were so called by the Yankees, or the people of New England, before they were separated from Old England. They used to send out deckloads of horses to the West Indies, and they were very often kept becalmed so long in these latitudes that their water grew scarce, and to save the lives of some of the horses they were obliged to throw the others overboard; so that is how this part of the ocean came to be called the 'Horse Latitudes.'"
I afterwards told Mr Hooker what Tarbox had said.
"A more scientific name would be the Tropic of Cancer," he answered. "We had a good breeze before we entered it, but often the wind to the north of where we now are is very variable. After we have passed this belt of calm and light airs we shall get into the regions of the north-east trades, which will carry us along at a fine rate till we get into the very worst part of the ocean for trying a person's temper, called the Doldrums. Remember to ask me more about it when we get there. You will remember, then, the Variables are to the north of the Tropic of Cancer. The 'Horse Latitudes' are on either side of the Tropic. Then we get into the north-east trade-winds, which carry us up to the Doldrums about the Equator; and passing through them with more or less trial of temper, we get into the south-east trade-winds, which we shall have to cross with our tacks aboard. Then we shall probably find calms about the Tropic of Capricorn; after which, without once sighting land, we may very likely find a breeze, more or less favourable, but seldom against us, which will carry us through the Straits of Sunda, between Java and Sumatra, to the west of the great island of Borneo, right away to the north, through the China sea, leaving the Philippine Islands on our right hand, up to Japan. I will have a talk with you another day about those East India Islands, for they are very curious, and are probably less generally known than most parts of the world."
The events occurred very much as Mr Hooker had predicted. For nearly a whole week our ship lay with her head sometimes one way, sometimes another, the sails flapping against the masts. Then she got a breeze which carried her a few miles further to the south, and people's spirits began to rise, soon again to fall when once more the sails would give a loud flap, and hang down without a particle of wind in them. At length, however, they once more bulged out. The yards were squared away. The captain walked the deck with a more elastic step than for the last week had been the case, and on the ship went hour after hour, the breeze rather increasing than lessening.
"We are in the north-east trades," observed Mr Hooker. "Little fear now, for another two weeks or so we shall have a fine run of it."
Three day after this, a seaman from aloft shouted out, "Land ahead!"
"Ay, ay," answered Mr Thudicumb, who had charge of the deck. "It is land that will not hurt us, though;" and he continued to let the ship run on in the course she had been steering.
Curious to know what had attracted the man's attention, I went aloft, and there I saw spread out on the surface of the calm ocean, what looked like a dark field, but little raised, however, above the water. On returning on deck, I told the first officer that I really thought there must be land ahead.
"No, Walter, no fear of that," answered Mr Thudicumb; "we are crossing the Sargasso Sea. You will observe that it is merely sea-weed and drift-wood collected in this spot from all parts of the ocean. The currents and winds bring it, but why this place is selected I do not exactly know. In a calm it might bother us, but we shall only pass through a small portion of it, and there is wind enough to send us along in spite of the obstruction it may offer. We must get a bucket ready, for Mr Hooker will be anxious to have some of it up on deck, that he may examine the creatures who live upon it. In the Pacific there is a collection of the same sort, and people who could not otherwise for want of fuel inhabit some of the islands in that region, are enabled to do so in consequence of the supply of drift-wood it brings them."
The ship, soon clear of the Sargasso Sea, glided on proudly, with all sail set below and aloft. The weather was delightful; the passengers constantly on deck. Emily and Grace were very happy together, for everything was new and interesting. They had plenty of employment; for Mrs Davenport, knowing what a sea voyage is, had brought work of all sorts. And then they had books; and they were not above running about the deck, and playing at ball occasionally, and Les Graces, and other games suitable for ship-board.
Thus day after day passed pleasantly by: the sea sparkling, the sky bright, or occasionally mottled with light clouds. One morning, however, when they came on deck expecting to see the blue sky above their heads, they saw only a thick canopy of clouds. The sails were flapping against the masts; the air was oppressive. There the ship lay, her head moving now in one direction, now in another. Those who had before been full of life and spirits began to complain of lassitude and weariness. The seamen no longer moved actively about the decks, but went sauntering along when called upon to perform any duty. The heat grew greater and greater. The iron about the ship was unpleasant to touch. The pitch bubbled in the seams of the deck and stuck to the feet. Emily and Grace no longer wished to play at ball, or Les Graces, or any other game. Even Merlin went disconsolately up and down the decks, as if he thought something serious was going to happen. I felt as I had seldom felt before.
"Are we going to have a storm, sir?" I asked of the captain. "I have read that storms are apt to come on after weather such as we now have."
"I do not expect one," answered Captain Davenport, "though we may possibly have a squall of a few hours' duration; and I should not be sorry for it, if it would carry us out of this region. We are now in the Doldrums."
"Not a bad name, considering the condition of all us poor mortals on board," observed Mr Hooker.
"We are now under the cloud ring which encircles this part of the earth. God has placed these clouds above our heads in this region for a particular purpose. You will observe that the thermometer and barometer stand lower under this cloud ring than they do on either side of it. The clouds not only promote the precipitation which takes place in this region, but they also cause the rains to fall on places where they are most required, shading the surface from which the heating rays of the sun are to be excluded, and thus giving tone to the atmospherical circulation of the world and vigour to its vegetation. You have often, when the sun is sending his rays with great heat down on the earth, seen the atmosphere dancing, as it were, and trembling. This appearance is caused by the ascending and descending columns of air. The cloud ring creates on a greater scale this circulation of the atmosphere; indeed, the more we examine the phenomena of Nature, the more we shall discover the hand of a directing Providence, in suiting all things for the convenience and use of the beings placed by Him on the earth."
Day after day the ship remained in this calm region with a cloudy sky. People began to feel ill; and some fancied that as they were going further south the heat would increase, and could scarcely understand that as they proceeded the atmosphere would again become cold. Captain Davenport and the officers were on the watch to make use of every breath of air which would forward the ship on her course; and at length she once more got the breeze, and those who had before been complaining of lassitude and illness suddenly revived and came on deck to enjoy the renovating and refreshing breeze. The sky was clear; the sea bright and sparkling as before. Cheerful countenances were everywhere visible, instead of the weary, downcast looks which most of those on board had worn for the previous ten days. The only person who never seemed depressed was Mr Hooker. When not taking exercise on deck, he always had a volume in his hand, from which he was constantly making notes into his pocket-book.
"You see, my young friend," he said to me one day, "I am anxious to ascertain what others have known, because all that man can aim at is to increase the stock of knowledge possessed by his fellow-men."
The varied changes of the ocean, and the creatures which appeared beneath its surface, and occasionally above it, afforded us an unfailing source of interest. On a bright morning I was engaged with some work by the side of the boatswain when I heard Grace cry out—
"Oh, look—look what funny birds!"
"Why, miss, those are not birds, unless they may be called water birds; those are flying-fish," said Mr Tarbox, who had come with me to the ship's side.
Others, with Mr Hooker, came also, looking on at the curious sight. Numbers of fish with wings, or more properly fins, as long as their bodies, were rising out of the water and darting along for a considerable distance above the surface, again, however, to fall helplessly into their native element. Directly after them, in pursuit, appeared several large fish—now one of the latter leaped half out of the water, now another, seldom failing to catch one of the beautiful creatures in its huge jaws.
"The dolphins are getting a fine banquet," I heard Mr Hooker remark. "The poor dactylopteri are the sufferers; but they do not fall a prey to their persecutors without a brave attempt to escape. See, no sooner have they wetted their wings than they are out of the water again, and will lead them a long chase, till the dolphins are wearied out."
We watched the pursuers and pursued till they were lost to sight in the distance.
The ship once clear of the Doldrums, met the steady trade-wind blowing from the south-east. With her tacks aboard, she stood away towards the South American coast. When I went on deck at night, I observed a change in the appearance of the constellations; and now the beautiful one of the Southern Cross became every day clearer, rising as it were in the sky. The magellhenic clouds also came in sight, showing that the ship was now in the southern hemisphere. Frequently patches of light were passed in the water; caused, Mr Hooker told me, by the pyrosoma. They exhibited a beautiful pale silvery light; but when they were taken out of the water the light disappeared, till any particular part of the creature was touched, when the light again burst forth at that point, pervading the whole animal mass.
The Bussorah Merchant did not, however, as many ships do, touch at Rio de Janeiro; but passing through another belt of calms at the Tropic of Capricorn, kept away eastward towards the Cape of Good Hope. One evening, while I was keeping watch under the first officer—for I was considered fit to take regular duty on board—the ship running at the rate of four or five knots an hour through the water, I heard a sound as if substances were falling upon the deck. As I went to windward, a large dark object, wet and cold, struck me on the shoulder, and then fell down. I instantly sung out; when the boatswain, who was on deck, brought a lantern; and there, to the surprise of all of us, a dozen or more cuttle fish were found, which had sprung over the weather bulwark.
"Well," exclaimed Mr Tarbox, "I never did see such a thing as this before."
Mr Hooker, however, said that he had heard of it, as the creatures can spring an immense distance. "I have known some," he said, "to spring right over a ship; though, certainly, to look at them, it is difficult to ascertain their means of rising out of the water."
The island of Tristan da Cunha was sighted, looming in the evening light like some huge monster rising out of the ocean. Looking over the sides the water appeared unusually clear; and I could see, far down, the fish swimming about by the side of the ship. Even Mr Hooker, however, did not succeed in catching any. The stormy petrel now made its appearance; and I and Emily and Grace were delighted soon afterwards to see a magnificent white bird with outstretched wings following the ship. "An albatross! an albatross!" I shouted, for I guessed at once what it was. Mr Hooker said he wished to catch two or three and prepare them to send back to England by the Bussorah Merchant. He accordingly made preparations to catch them.
"I should not like to shoot one though," I remarked. "You remember what became of the 'Ancient Mariner' who shot an albatross; how his ship floated all alone on the ocean day after day, and week after week, and month after month, till all on board had died and he alone remained."
"Oh no; pray don't!" exclaimed Emily, "lest so dreadful a fate should overtake us."
"It is only a fancy of the poet's, perhaps," I remarked. "At the same time I like to try and believe it."
"I hope the same fate does not overtake those who catch the bird with a bait. It is his own fault, recollect, if he swallows it," said Mr Hooker, who had now got a strong line with a hook and a piece of meat on it, with a float to keep it from sinking. This he now veered astern. I could not help admiring the wondrous power exhibited by the bird as it glided on without flapping its wings. Now one was seen to dash down at a piece of refuse which the cook had thrown overboard, slowly again to rise and then to follow the ship, apparently without the slightest exertion.
"That gives me an idea," said Mr Hooker, throwing a large piece of fat overboard before he let go his baited hook. Again the albatross darted down on it; and then, without rising again, swam vigorously after the baited hook.
"There—he has snapped it up!" I exclaimed.
Instantly the bird found the obstruction. When the sailors who had come aft began to attempt to haul him in, out went his wings, with which he endeavoured to hold himself back, offering a powerful resistance to the line. Although three men were pulling away with might and main, yet the bird could not be drawn nearer the stern; and, at length, crack went the line, and off it flew with the hook and the remainder of the line in its mouth.
"Poor creature! I am afraid it will die a miserable death, instead of speedily being put out of its sufferings, as it would have been had it more wisely come on board," observed Mr Hooker. "However, we must get another line and take care there is no flaw in it."
The passengers now amused themselves by throwing bits of meat overboard, and seeing the albatrosses pounce down and snap up the tempting morsels. At last Mr Hooker's fresh line was got ready. No sooner had the bait reached the water than down pounced a bird upon it, rising immediately with the hook in his mouth. This time the sailors, instead of pulling the line up, had to haul it down, just as a paper kite is hauled down from the sky; and, at length, by running forward, the huge bird was brought on deck. Still it fought bravely with its wings, which it would have been dangerous for any one to have approached. At length Mr Hooker put an end to its sufferings by a blow from a boat's stretcher. The other albatrosses, in no way disconcerted by the disappearance of their companion, still followed the ship. Two more were caught; one hauled out of the water, the other hauled on deck like the first.
A young gentleman going out to Japan then made his appearance with a gun in his hand; and in spite of my warnings of what might be our fate should he kill one, began firing away at the birds. Even a practised marksman would not have found it easy to hit one of them, although they were in no way scared by the report of the gun. At length, however, a bullet struck one of them on the head, just as he descended into the water. In an instant down pounced his companions, driving their beaks into the dead body; and in a few minutes, while it still remained in sight, they had torn it almost to pieces.
"I hope no harm will come of that shot of yours," I said to the young civilian; "but look out!"
The young gentleman laughed, and said he did not believe in such nonsense. Mr Hooker was soon busily employed in skinning his albatrosses and preparing the skins for stuffing.
I PERFORM A SATISFACTORY EXPLOIT.
Scarcely had the albatross been shot, than the wind, which had hitherto been moderate, increased considerably, and in a short time we had two reefs in our topsails. The weather, however, was in other respects fine, and away the ship went, careering over the foaming seas like a high-bred hunter, dashing them aside as she rushed onward on her course. There was something very exhilarating in the movement. The air, too, was bracing, and everybody seemed in high spirits. As I happened to pass the caboose, however, I heard Potto Jumbo, the black cook, grumbling greatly. Some one had told him that he would have to roast one of the albatrosses for dinner. Although generally a very merry, good-natured fellow, this had made him excessively irate.
"No good ever came from shooting albatross!" I heard him exclaim. "Dey like to live as much as man. Dey love freedom. Soar high, high up in de sky, den swoop down, and fly along de foaming waves. Ah, if I had wings like dem, I no peel potatoes and boil soup for ship's company!"
He looked up, as he spoke, towards the magnificent birds which ever and anon appeared high above the ship's bulwarks, as they darted forward as if to show at how far greater a rate they could dart through the air than she could glide over the ocean.
"Ah, you once slave, Potto Jumbo! Fancy you flying with white wings! Ha, ha, ha!"
This remark was made by a dark-skinned native of the East, who was standing at the time near the caboose. He was the serang of the Lascars, of whom we had a dozen on board. Ali Tomba was his name. He and Potto Jumbo could not abide each other, so it seemed. His dark countenance, with high cheek-bones and fierce eyes, was far from prepossessing, though his figure was well-formed; his shoulders broad, with a small waist, and muscular arms and legs, denoting great strength and activity. His hands and feet were wonderfully small, considering the work to which they had been put from his earliest days. He and his men wore their Eastern dress, consisting of shirt and jacket, and a sort of kilt formed from a circular piece of plaid, a scarf worn over the shoulders, which served as a covering in bad weather, or could be wrapped round the arm for a shield in battle. A red cotton handkerchief, generally well stiffened, was their usual head-dress. They were remarkably active fellows aloft, and few things which an English sailor could do they would not venture to undertake. However, neither Ali nor his men were favourites on board. They obeyed the superior officers readily enough, but I observed that when Mr Tarbox directed them to do anything, they did it in a sulky way. Why this was I could not make out.—Ali stood by, bantering the cook about his remark. Potto Jumbo had taken a liking to me. He had been on board the ship in her former voyage, and I believe knew my history. He himself was deserted—without friends in the world—and this gave him a fellow feeling, as he considered that his case was similar to mine. I had an idea, indeed, that there was more in Potto Jumbo than appeared. Though he had a warm and quick temper, he was evidently kind-hearted I judged it by the way he treated the animals on board. Merlin, especially, was a favourite of his, and he took good care that he should never be without a plentiful dinner. Even in the way he put the dog's food down he showed his kind disposition; and while he was mixing up the mess and Merlin stood by wagging his tail and licking his lips, Potto Jumbo always cast a kind glance downwards at his four-footed friend, and generally had a pleasant word to give him into the bargain.
For Oliver Farwell, however, he had a greater regard than for anybody on board. I rather think because he more than any one else seemed to require sympathy and protection. Though the boy had plenty of spirit, he seemed scarcely fitted for the rough life on board ship. The other boys, when they could do so without being seen by Potto Jumbo, amused themselves by ridiculing and teasing Oliver. They seemed to delight in playing him all sorts of tricks, and very often pretty rough ones too. I had never spoken much to Oliver, though I observed that whenever Mr Hooker was describing anything, Oliver, if he could do so without impropriety, stopped and listened, and seemed to take great interest in what was said. When work was over, I often saw him in the pantry reading. Not only on Sundays, but every day nearly, it seemed to me, he read the Bible at odd moments; indeed, a sailor at sea, unless he takes odd moments for reading, may never read at all. Oliver had not only his duties as a cabin-boy to attend to, but as he wished to become a sailor, and the captain desired that he should become one, he was frequently employed on deck.
At the moment I am describing, Oliver Farwell had gone forward, and with several other boys was in the fore-rigging. What they were about I do not remember, but, looking up, I saw they were skylarking, and it seemed as if the others were trying to play Oliver some trick. Be that as it may, all of a sudden I saw one of them fall from aloft. I thought it was Oliver. Of course it ought not to have made any difference to me who it was. I expected that he would be killed, but he struck the hammock nettings, and bounded overboard. I did not stop a moment to think. It did not occur to me that it would take a long time to heave the ship to, and to lower a boat, and with the heavy sea running the operation would be a difficult and dangerous one, and that it would be equally difficult to pick anybody out of the water. I had been noted at school for being a good swimmer, and had, just before I left, saved the life of a school-fellow who had got out of his depth, and been carried out a good way by the current. I had followed him, dived after he had sank, and brought him to the surface, and then hauled him on to the bank of the river where we were bathing. I remembered this, or perhaps I should say I did not think about anything but the one idea of saving the life of a fellow-creature. I was lightly clad. Throwing off my jacket, before Potto Jumbo could cry out, or any one else attempt to stop me, I was overboard. I was in the water almost as soon as the cry of "A man overboard!" was raised.
A glance aloft showed me that it was Oliver Farwell who had fallen. As I reached the water I could see him on the top of a wave, just as the ship's quarter glided past me. I shouted out to him, and swam forward. I now found how different it was swimming in smooth water and swimming in the heavy sea there was running. At the same time I had been accustomed to fresh water, which is less buoyant than salt, and thus I felt myself greatly supported.
The instant the cry of "A man overboard!" was raised, a life-buoy was let go. It fell some distance from me. I doubted whether I should swim to that and tow it to Oliver, or go to Oliver first and try to get him up to it. My fear was that Oliver would sink before I could reach him. I determined to get hold of Oliver. I could hear the cries of the people on board as they watched me, encouraging me in my attempt. I had scarcely been in the water ten minutes when I heard a peculiar rushing sound, and turning round my head saw the long wings of an enormous albatross passing close above me. A blow from its beak would have been fatal. I looked towards Oliver more anxiously than ever, fearing that, passing me, it might strike him. I shouted to him, and told him to shout too, hoping that the noise might scare off the bird. Others, however, came sweeping by. Again a wing almost touched my head. Diving, I knew, would have been of no use, for the creature might have followed me far lower than I could have sunk. Still I swam on.
I heard another shout, and as I rose to the top of a wave I saw just astern of the ship a black head and face—it was Potto Jumbo. Above his head he waved a long knife. He intended it as a signal that he was coming to my assistance. At the same instant a loud bark came from the stern of the ship, and I saw Merlin, who appeared one moment at the taffrail, and the next leaped over into the foaming ocean. Nearer and nearer he approached. I was more anxious for him than for my human friend, as I was afraid the albatrosses would attack him, and he had no means of defending himself. Although I had followed Oliver almost immediately into the water, it seemed a long time before I could get up to him. A curling wave rolled towards him; he was buried beneath it. I thought he had sunk for ever. I darted forward, and caught sight of him just beneath the surface. I seized him by the collar of his jacket, and together we rose to the surface. He was still conscious.
"Throw yourself on your back!" I cried. I helped him to do so. And now I struck out for the life-buoy. A sea providentially threw it towards us. Sooner than I could have expected I had hold of it, and had placed one of the beckets in Oliver's hands. Not a moment too soon. I turned my glance upward for an instant at the bright blue sky, out of which the hot sun shone on the sparkling waters. Suddenly a dark shadow seemed to intervene. I heard a rushing sound, distinct amid the roar of the waves, and, to my horror, I saw close above me a huge pair of white wings, from which projected the head and formidable beak of a bird. He was darting towards me. A blow from that beak might have struck either of us senseless. The only means of defence I could think of was my shoe. I pulled it from my foot to ward off the blow. The bird seized it, and, as if content with his prize, off he flew. A shout of applause from Potto Jumbo reached us, and in another minute he and Merlin got up to the life-buoy. A sea was on the point of taking off Oliver, but Merlin seized him by the collar, and dragged him back within my reach. Satisfied for the moment, he kept swimming round and round us, as if prepared to render any assistance which might be required. I was indeed thankful that he had come, for I could with difficulty help Oliver to hold on to the life-buoy. Another, and another bird flew towards us, but whether frightened at our shouts, or the flourish of Potto Jumbo's sharp blade, I do not know, but, circling round, they flew off again as if in search of other prey.
We could now see the ship hove to. A boat was lowered, but so long was she before shoving off, so it seemed to me, that we were afraid some accident had happened. One idea occurred to me while in the water. Should I be lost, what would become of Emily? I thought of the prayer of the sinking master of the ship in Falconer's "Shipwreck," and I prayed for her I loved best on earth, as many a seaman undoubtedly has prayed, when tossing on the foaming waves. Still I had no fears; I knew that that prayer would be heard.
"Keep up, Massa Walter! Keep up!" cried Potto Jumbo, as he helped me to hold our companion on to the life-buoy, and saw that I indeed required aid myself. "Keep up, Massa Walter! boat soon come. See, see! dere she is away from the ship! Hurrah! Never say die! See, she comes! Joe Tarbox or the first mate in her. Never fear! Hurrah, hurrah!"
Thus he continued shouting, for the double purpose of keeping up our spirits, and of scaring away the albatrosses. Now, at length, I saw that the boat was clear of the ship. On she came. Now she appeared on the summit of a foaming sea, now she was hid from view in the trough below it; then again she came in sight, for when she was sinking we at the same time were rising in most instances, and could therefore look over the intervening seas. Still the time seemed very long. It required careful management to get near the life-buoy without striking us. To pick up one person was difficult, but to take up three the risk was far greater.
"You go first!" cried Potto Jumbo, as the boat approached.
"No, no," I said; "let Oliver be taken in. He is almost drowned as it is."
We could see the boat's bows almost above us. It seemed as if the next instant she would come down like a huge hammer upon our heads. But Joe Tarbox knew well what he was about, and turned her head aside, while a strong arm stretched forth, seized hold of Oliver as Potto Jumbo held him up, and he was safe on board. My companion insisted on my going next. Again the boat, which had been driven off by the sea, approached us.
"Quick! quick!" cried Joe. "Have them both in at once!"
I was nearest my friend, and seizing hold of me he hauled me in over the quarter, while Potto sprang to the side, and was dragged in by the other men. Merlin waited till he saw us both on board, and not till then did he push for the boat, with his snout lifted up as if asking for assistance. Ready hands were stretched out to him, and with their help he quickly scrambled on board, and made his way aft to the stern-sheets, where he looked into my face as if to inquire whether I was all right.
"We must have the life-buoy, though," cried Joe; "for another of us may be falling overboard before long."
As there was no danger of injuring the life-buoy, that was quickly got on board. And now commenced our return to the ship. It required careful steering to make our way amid those heavy seas, and still more dangerous was it to get alongside. Oliver, who was scarcely conscious, was first hoisted up. I was very glad of assistance to get up too; for though I did not feel fatigued, my strength had really almost gone. No sooner had I reached the deck than I found myself in Emily's arms.
"Dear, dear Walter!" she exclaimed; "you brave boy; and yet—" and she burst into tears.
Mrs Davenport and Grace were close behind her. "You must come below, Walter—come below and get off your wet things!" they exclaimed.
Merlin followed Potto Jumbo on deck, and, giving himself a thorough shaking, came aft, wagging his tail, to receive the approving pats of his friends; while the black cook, casting a look behind him, which seemed to say that he was indifferent to the compliments which might have been paid him, made his way forward into the fore-peak to shift his wet clothes.
I will not repeat the complimentary things which were said to me by the passengers. Mr Hooker wrung my hand.
"It was well and bravely done, Walter," he exclaimed. "I am glad to see that you have got it in you."
"Oh! I did not think about it," I answered honestly. "I once before picked a fellow out of the water, so I thought I ought to try to do it again. I know there are a good many people who cannot swim, and I hoped that I could do it."
I quickly had my wet things off, and made my appearance again on deck, not much the worse for my exertions, though perhaps my hand did tremble a little; and I was not sorry when the captain asked me into the cuddy-cabin, and gave me a glass of wine.
"I am thankful that you saved that poor boy, Walter," he said, giving me one of his kind looks. "I should be deeply grieved to lose him. He is the only son of a widowed mother, and her heart would have been broken had he been lost. He had shipped on board a vessel bound for the coast of Africa, when I found him, and persuaded the captain to let him come aboard my ship; for the crew were a rough lot, and he would have learned no good among them, while the risk of losing his life on the coast would have been very great. His poor mother had seen better days, I found. I do not know much of her history, but I know she brought up two daughters, and gave them a good education, and she had done in the same way all she could for this boy; but I believe that her means failed her, and she was then unable to pay for his instruction, so that he only got what she herself could give him. The boy's whole heart had been set on going to sea, little knowing, of course, what he would have to go through."
Soon after we came on board, it began to blow much harder; and we had good reason to be thankful that the accident had not happened later in the day. I was, after this event, made a good deal of on board. The captain observed that I ran a considerable risk of being spoiled. It was not fair, indeed, that I should get all the praise, when the black cook had also behaved in a gallant manner. Indeed, if it had not been for him, I suspect that the albatrosses would have finished both Oliver and me before the boat could have got up to us.
"Very glad you escaped, Massa Walter," said Potto Jumbo, the following day. "Dear me! I jump overboard twice as much sea as dat!" he added, when I told him how thankful I was to him. "Me fight shark with one big knife, and cut him under the t'roat and kill him. Potto Jumbo one 'phibious animal, so doctor once say to me. I swim in de water like porpoise, and climb tree like monkey. Ah! you see de monkeys when we get out dere," and Potto Jumbo pointed eastward. "Ah! dat one fine country, only little too hot sometimes for lily-white skins;" and Potto Jumbo grinned from ear to ear, as if congratulating himself that his own dark covering was impervious to the sun's rays of that or any other region.
Potto Jumbo's chief friend was an English seaman—Roger Trew by name. Roger was short and stout, with wonderfully long arms, and of immense strength; but he never put it forth except in the way of duty, and was on ordinary occasions as mild and gentle as a lamb. I believe Potto Jumbo admired him because he had the power of knocking any man down on board who might offend him, and yet did not use it. The captain considered Trew a good seaman; and so, I know, did Joe Tarbox. His figure did not appear well suited for going aloft, and yet no man could more quickly overhaul the weather earing in a heavy gale than he could. I have said sufficient about the ship's company for the present. I do not mention others, because there was nothing very remarkable about them. I had been doing my best to become a seaman ever since I stepped on board, both by making myself acquainted with every manoeuvre performed, and learning the arts of knotting and splicing, reefing and steering, as well as studying navigation. The captain told me that he was well pleased with my progress, and this encouraged me to persevere. My great ambition was to learn a profession, and thus to be independent. It is what all boys should aim at. I had originally no particular taste for the sea; but having chosen it, I was determined to be a thorough sailor. How many among my schoolfellows could not make up their minds what to be, or did not seem to think that it was necessary to be something or other. Now my idea was, and is stronger now, that every person ought to possess some especial knowledge of a profession, calling, or trade, by the practice of which he can maintain himself. If all boys and lads were impressed with this important practical truth, how many might be saved from ruin, from "going to the dogs," as the phrase is, simply because they have no honest means of supporting themselves. I say this here, because I may otherwise forget to say it elsewhere, and I am very anxious to impress it on the minds of my readers. We had two men on board the Bussorah Merchant who had been at good schools, and at a university, but had failed to benefit by their advantages. They had had money—one, indeed, several hundreds a year— but they had dissipated the whole of it, and had been wandering about the streets of London for several months utterly penniless, till they shipped as seaman before the mast on board a ship bound round Cape Horn. After knocking about in the Pacific for some years, they had returned home no richer than when they went out, and were glad immediately to ship aboard us. From their appearance and manners I should not have suspected what they had been, till one day I heard one of them quoting "Horace" to the other. He was rather surprised when I capped the verse; and by degrees, having gained their confidence, they gave me the account I now repeat, with a great many more circumstances which I do not consider it necessary to narrate. Poor fellows, they had been so thoroughly accustomed to the rough ways of the roughest of seamen, that I suspect they had lost all taste for a more refined style of life. So I say to my young readers, whatever you do, fix upon a profession, and try to make yourself thoroughly competent to fill it. Do not rest or flag till you have done so; and never for a moment suppose that you will have any permanent enjoyment in an idle life.
We had got nearly half-way across the Indian Ocean, when, one day as I was aloft, I saw in the far distance an object which looked like a log of wood, with a tiny white sail appearing above it. I hailed the deck, and Mr Thudicumb bringing his glass, came up to look at it. After some time it was reported to the captain, and the ship was kept away towards it. As we approached, Mr Thudicumb said it appeared to him like a canoe; but though she seemed to be steering steadily before the wind, no one could be seen aboard her.
SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOUR OF THE LASCARS.
Numerous telescopes were turned towards the object I have described. "I see a man's head!" cried one. "Yes; and his shoulders!" exclaimed another. "He is leaning back in the stern of the canoe, steering with a paddle." He had not discovered us, though, for on he went careering over the seas as unconcernedly as if he were not some hundreds of miles away from land.
In a short time we were abreast of the canoe, passing her to leeward. A dark-skinned man, lightly clad, sat in the stern steering with an oar. His sail was a piece of calico spread on a slender yard, the mast being scarcely thicker than the yard. Not till we were close to him did he perceive us. Lifting up his hands towards the ship, he pointed to his mouth, making an imploring gesture at the same time. Apparently he was trying to speak, but his voice was too weak to be heard. Still he sat as before, not attempting to rise and lower the sail; but on went the light canoe, dancing from wave to wave, now gliding down from the top of one, quickly to mount to the summit of another.
"I doubt, sir, whether he has got the strength to move," said Mr Thudicumb to the captain. "Or he is afraid of his canoe broaching to, should he attempt to leave the helm."
"We must run on, and heave to for him," said Captain Davenport. "We can then lower a boat and pick him up. It is as you suppose, Thudicumb; I have no doubt about it."
The poor occupant of the canoe made a gesture of despair as he saw the ship leaving him astern. Apparently he did not understand the meaning of the words addressed to him through the captain's speaking-trumpet. Still he sat as before, his eyes kept constantly ahead, while with one arm he directed the course of his canoe. She flew so fast that we had to get a considerable distance ahead before we hove to. A boat was then lowered, into which Mr Tarbox and six stout hands jumped for the purpose of intercepting the approaching canoe. The boat had only just time to get ready, with her head in the direction towards which the canoe was sailing, when she was up to her. We watched her anxiously from the ship. She was soon alongside the boat. Several strong hands seized her, while the occupant was lifted out and placed in the stern-sheets of the boat. Quick as lightning the canoe was passed astern and secured, and the boat pulled back towards the ship. With the heavy sea there was running, it was a difficult matter to get alongside, and still more so to lift up a helpless person without risk of injury. By the management of the boatswain, however, helped by those above, the dark-skinned stranger was soon lifted up on deck. He was too weak to speak, but he had still consciousness sufficient to point to his lips. Soup for the passengers' luncheon was just being brought aft. A little was immediately poured down his throat. It had the effect of reviving him somewhat, and he uttered a few words, but none of those standing round were able to comprehend their meaning. The canoe was safely got on board and examined. Not a particle of food was found, but in the bottom of a small cask there remained about half a pint of water. The wood, however, from the sides of the canoe had been scraped off.
"That is what the poor fellow has been living on," observed Tarbox. "Hard fare, to be sure. It would not help much to keep an Englishman's soul in his body; but it is wonderful what these black fellows can live on."
The canoe was about eighteen feet long, cut out of a single log, worked very fine, with wash-boards nailed on above. It seemed surprising that she could have gone through the heavy sea which had been running for some days past. Her owner was carried below, and after a little more food had been given him, he fell fast asleep.
When he awoke, he appeared to be perfectly recovered, sitting up and looking round him with an air of astonishment, as if he had not been aware how he had been brought on board. I had accompanied the surgeon to visit him. He again uttered some of the strange words we had before heard, but finding no one understood him, he stopped, and appeared to be collecting his senses. He then said something which sounded like French. It was very bad French, to be sure; but we shortly made out that he was expressing his thanks to us for having rescued him.
The next day he was up and dressed, and though somewhat weak, perhaps, apparently as well as anybody on board. He now came aft, when, in his broken language, helped out with a word or two of English, he gave us a strange story. I cannot pretend to give his account in his own language—indeed it would not be very clear if I did so, as it was only after he had been on board some time that we gained all the particulars. He told us that his name was Macco, that he was born in Madagascar, at a village in the north of that large island. With several lads from the same village he had gone on board a vessel which had carried them to the Mauritius. There he had worked as a field-labourer for some time, and though not a slave, treated very little better than one. He had learned something about Christianity, but not much, I am afraid. He knew that some of his countrymen had become Christians; but as large numbers of them had been murdered, he was afraid, should he ever go back to Madagascar, that he might be treated in the same way, and was therefore unwilling to acknowledge that he was a Christian. After a time he had engaged with several other people from Madagascar, as well as Creoles of the Mauritius, to accompany a person to the island of Rodrigez, to be employed under him as fishermen. They were at once embarked on board a small colonial vessel, which conveyed them to that island, where they were hired out to different masters. It appeared, however, that the Creoles were very jealous of the Malagasys, and poor Macco found himself very ill-treated by them. Frequently they beat him, and often threatened his life. Several times he complained of their conduct to his master; but the man was hard-hearted, and only laughed at his complaints, telling him to go and thrash the Creoles, and they would soon cease to torment him. Poor Macco, however, was a mild-tempered young man, and probably thought that he would only be treated worse if he made any such attempt. At length, to avoid the persecutions to which he was subjected, he determined to run away from the island, and endeavour to reach the Mauritius. He mentioned his determination to one of his fellow-countrymen, who advised him to put it into execution. He, however, had to wait some time before he could carry out his project. He began, however, at once to store up a supply of food to support himself during his projected voyage. At first he contemplated building a canoe for himself, but as that might raise suspicions of his intentions, he resolved to take one belonging to his master. He had some scruples about stealing it, but at the same time he persuaded himself that as his master would not redress his grievances, he was justified in doing so. He probably was unacquainted with the golden rule of never doing wrong that good might come of it. It was a subject, indeed, on which casuists might differ. Be that as it may, Macco fixed on a canoe which he thought would answer his purpose. His countrymen assisted him, and he procured a piece of calico to serve as a sail, and soon cut a mast and spar on which to spread it. The only food he was able to provide for supporting existence was eight pounds of uncooked rice, and a small barrel of water.