LOST IN THE FOG
JAMES DE MILLE
Old Acquaintances gather around old Scenes.—Antelope, ahoy!—How are you, Solomon?—Round-about Plan of a round about Voyage.—The Doctor warns, rebukes, and remonstrates, but, alas! in vain.—It must be done.—Beginning of a highly eventful Voyage.
It was a beautiful morning, in the month of July, when a crowd of boys assembled on the wharf of Grand Pre. The tide was high, the turbid waters of Mud Creek flowed around, a fresh breeze blew, and if any craft was going to sea she could not have found a better time. The crowd consisted chiefly of boys, though a few men were mingled with them. These boys were from Grand Pre School, and are all old acquaintances. There was the stalwart frame of Bruce, the Roman face of Arthur, the bright eyes of Bart, the slender frame of Phil, and the earnest glance of Tom. There, too, was Pat's merry smile, and the stolid look of Bogud, and the meditative solemnity of Jiggins, not to speak of others whose names need not be mentioned. Amid the crowd the face of Captain Corbet was conspicuous, and the dark visage of Solomon, while that of the mate was distinguishable in the distance. To all these the good schooner Antelope formed the centre of attraction, and also of action. It was on board of her that the chief bustle took place, and towards her that all eyes were turned.
The good schooner Antelope had made several voyages during the past few months, and now presented herself to the eye of the spectator not much changed from her former self. A fine fresh coat of coal tar had but recently ornamented her fair exterior, while a coat of whitewash inside the hold had done much to drive away the odor of the fragrant potato. Rigging and sails had been repaired as well as circumstances would permit, and in the opinion of her gallant captain she was eminently seaworthy.
On the present occasion things bore the appearance of a voyage. Trunks were passed on board and put below, together with coats, cloaks, bedding, and baskets of provisions. The deck was strewn about with the multifarious requisites of a ship's company. The Antelope, at that time, seemed in part an emigrant vessel, with a dash of the yacht and the coasting schooner.
In the midst of all this, two gentlemen worked their way through the crowd to the edge of the wharf.
"Well, boys," said one, "well, captain, what's the meaning of all this?"
Captain Corbet started at this, and looked up from a desperate effort to secure the end of one of the sails.
"Why, Dr. Porter!" said he; "why, doctor!—how d'ye do?—and Mr. Long, too!—why, railly!"
The boys also stopped their work, and looked towards their teachers with a little uneasiness.
"What's all this?" said Dr. Porter, looking around with a smile; "are you getting up another expedition?"
"Wal, no," said Captain Corbet, "not 'xactly; fact is, we're kine o' goin to take a vyge deoun the bay."
"Down the bay?"
"Yes. You see the boys kine o' want to go home by water, rayther than by land."
"By water! Home by water!" repeated Mr. Long, doubtfully.
"Yes," said Captain Corbet; "an bein as the schewner was in good repair, an corked, an coal-tarred, an whitewashed up fust rate, I kine o' thought it would redound to our mootooil benefit if we went off on sich a excursion,—bein pleasanter, cheaper, comfortabler, an every way preferable to a land tower."
"Hem," said Dr. Porter, looking uneasily about. "I don't altogether like it. Boys, what does it all mean?"
Thus appealed to, Bart became spokesman for the boys.
"Why, sir," said he, "we thought we'd like to go home by water—that's all."
"Go home by water!" repeated the doctor once more, with a curious smile.
"What? by the Bay of Fundy?"
"Who are going?"
"Well, sir, there are only a few of us. Bruce, and Arthur, and Tom, and Phil, and Pat, besides myself."
"Bruce and Arthur?" said the doctor; "are they going home by the Bay of Fundy?"
"Yes, sir," said Bart, with a smile.
"I don't see how they can get to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Prince Edward's Island from the Bay of Fundy," said the doctor, "without going round Nova Scotia, and that will be a journey of many hundred miles."
"O, no, sir," said Bruce; "we are going first to Moncton."
"O, is that the idea?"
"And where will you go from Moncton?"
"To Shediac, and then home."
"And are you going to Newfoundland by that route, Tom?" asked the doctor.
"Yes, sir," said Tom, gravely.
"I never knew before that there were vessels going from Shediac to Newfoundland."
"O, I'm going to Prince Edward's Island first, sir, with Bruce and Arthur," said Tom. "I'll find my way home from there."
The doctor smiled.
"I'm afraid you'll find it a long journey before you reach home. Won't your friends be anxious?"
"O, no, sir. I wrote that I wanted to visit Bruce and Arthur, and they gave me leave."
"And you, Phil, are you going home by the Antelope?"
"You are going exactly in a straight line away from it."
"Am I, sir?"
"Of course you are. This isn't the way to Chester."
"Well, sir, you see I'm going to visit Bart at St. John."
"O, I understand. And that is your plan, then?"
"Yes, sir," said Bart. "Pat is going too."
"Where are you going first?"
"First, sir, we will sail to the Petitcodiac River, and go up it as far as Moncton, where Bruce, and Arthur, and Tom will leave us."
"Then we will go to St. John, where Phil, and Pat, and I will leave her. Solomon, too, will leave her there."
"Solomon!" cried the doctor. "What! Solomon! Is Solomon going? Why, what can I do without Solomon? Here! Hallo!—Solomon! What in the world's the meaning of all this?"
Thus summoned, Solomon came forth from the cabin, into which he had dived at the first appearance of the doctor. His eyes were downcast, his face was demure, his attitude and manner were abject.
"Solomon," said the doctor, "what's this I hear? Are you going to St. John?"
"Ony temp'ly, sah—jist a leetle visit, sah," said Solomon, very humbly, stealing looks at the boys from his downcast eyes.
"But what makes you go off this way without asking, or letting me know?"
"Did I, sah?" said Solomon, rolling his eyes up as though horrified at his own wickedness; "the sakes now! Declar, I clean forgot it."
"What are you going away for?"
"Why, sah, for de good oh my helf. Docta vises sea vyge; sides, I got frens in St. John, an business dar, what muss be tended to."
"Well, well," said the doctor, "I suppose if you want to go you'll find reasons enough; but at the same time you ought to have let me known before."
"Darsn't, sah," said Solomon.
"Fraid you'd not let me go," said Solomon, with a broad grin, that instantly was suppressed by a demure cough.
"Nonsense," said the doctor; and then turning away, he spoke a few words apart with Mr. Long.
"Well, boys," said the doctor, at last, "this project of yours doesn't seem to me to be altogether safe, and I don't like to trust you in this way without anybody as a responsible guardian."
"O, sir," said he, "you need not be at all uneasy. All of us are accustomed to take care of ourselves; and besides, if you wanted a responsible guardian for us, what better one could be found than Captain Corbet?"
The doctor and Mr. Long both shook their heads. Evidently neither of them attached any great importance to Captain Corbet's guardianship.
"Did you tell your father how you were going?" asked the doctor, after a few further words with Mr. Long.
"O, yes, sir; and he told me I might go. What's more, he promised to charter a schooner for me to cruise about with Phil and Pat after I arrived home."
"And we got permission, too," said Bruce.
"Indeed!" said the doctor. "That changes the appearance of things. I was afraid that it was a whim of your own. And now, one thing more,—how are you off for provisions?"
"Wal, sir," said Captain Corbet, "I've made my calculations, an I think I've got enough. What I might fail in, the boys and Solomon have made up."
"How is it, Solomon?" asked the doctor.
"You sleep in the hold, I see," continued the doctor.
"Yes, sir," said Bruce. "It's whitewashed, and quite sweet now. We'll only be on board two or three days at the farthest, and so it really doesn't much matter how we go."
"Well, boys, I have no more to say; only take care of yourselves."
With these words the doctor and Mr. Long bade them good by, and then walked away.
The other boys, however, stood on the wharf waiting to see the vessel off. They themselves were all going to start for home in a few minutes, and were only waiting for the departure of the Antelope.
This could not now be long delayed. The tide was high. The wind fresh and fair. The luggage, and provisions, and stores were all on board. Captain Corbet was at the helm. All was ready. At length the word was given, the lines were cast off; and the Antelope moved slowly round, and left the wharf amid the cheers of the boys. Farther and farther it moved away, then down the tortuous channel of Mud Creek, until at last the broad expanse of Minas Basin received them.
For this voyage the preparations had been complete. It had first been thought of several weeks before, and then the plan and the details had been slowly elaborated. It was thought to be an excellent idea, and one which was in every respect worthy of the "B. O. W. C." Captain Corbet embraced the proposal with enthusiasm. Letters home, requesting permission, received favorable answers. Solomon at first resisted, but finally, on being solemnly appealed to as Grand Panjandrum, he found himself unable to withstand, and thus everything was gradually prepared. Other details were satisfactorily arranged, though not without much serious and earnest debate. The question of costume received very careful attention, and it was decided to adopt and wear the weather-beaten uniforms that had done service amidst mud and water on a former occasion. Solomon's presence was felt to be a security against any menacing famine; and that assurance was made doubly sure by the presence of a cooking stove, which Captain Corbet, mindful of former hardships, had thoughtfully procured and set up in the hold. Finally, it was decided that the flag which had formerly flaunted the breeze should again wave over them; and so it was, that as the Antelope moved through Mud Creek, like a thing of life, the black flag of the "B. O. W. C." floated on high, with its blazonry of a skull, which now, worn by time, looked more than ever like the face of some mild, venerable, and paternal monitor.
Some time was taken up in arranging the hold. Considerable confusion was manifest in that important locality. Tin pans were intermingled with bedding, provisions with wearing apparel, books with knives and forks, while amid the scene the cooking stove towered aloft prominent. To tell the truth, the scene was rather free and easy than elegant; nor could an unprejudiced observer have called it altogether comfortable. In fact, to one who looked at it with a philosophic mind, an air of squalor might possibly have been detected. Yet what of that? The philosophic mind just alluded to would have overlooked the squalor, and regarded rather the health, the buoyant animal spirits, and the determined habit of enjoyment, which all the ship's company evinced, without exception. The first thing which they did in the way of preparation for the voyage was to doff the garments of civilized life, and to don the costume of the "B. O. W. C." Those red shirts, decorated with a huge white cross on the back, had been washed and mended, and completely reconstructed, so that the rents and patches which were here and there visible on their fair exteriors, served as mementos of former exploits, and called up associations of the past without at all deteriorating from the striking effect of the present. Glengary bonnets adorned their heads, and served to complete the costume.
The labor of dressing was followed by a hurried arrangement of the trunks and bedding; after which they all emerged from the hold and ascending to the deck, looked around upon the scene. Above, the sky was blue and cloudless, and between them and the blue sky floated the flag, from whose folds the face looked benignantly down. The tide was now on the ebb, and as the wind was fair, both wind and tide united to bear them rapidly onward. Before them was Blomidon, while all around was the circling sweep of the shores of Minas Bay. A better day for a start could not have been found, and everything promised a rapid and pleasant run.
"I must say," remarked Captain Corbet, who had for some time been standing buried in his own meditations at the helm,—"I must say, boys, that I don't altogether regret bein once more on the briny deep. There was a time," he continued, meditatively, "when I kine o' anticipated givin up this here occypation, an stayin to hum a nourishin of the infant. But man proposes, an woman disposes, as the sayin is,—an you see what I'm druv to. It's a great thing for a man to have a companion of sperrit, same as I have, that keeps a' drivin an a drivin at him, and makes him be up an doin. An now, I declar, if I ain't gittin to be a confirmed wanderer agin, same as I was in the days of my halcyon an shinin youth. Besides, I have a kine o' feelin as if I'd be a continewin this here the rest of all my born days."
"I hope you won't feel homesick," remarked Bart, sympathetically.
"Homesick," repeated the captain. "Wal, you see thar's a good deal to be said about it. In my hum thar's a attraction, but thar's also a repulsion. The infant drors me hum, the wife of my buzzum drives me away, an so thar it is, an I've got to knock under to the strongest power. An that's the identical individool thing that makes the aged Corbet a foogitive an a vagabond on the face of the mighty deep. Still I have my consolations."
The captain paused for a few moments, and then resumed.
"Yes," he continued, "I have my consolations. Surroundins like these here air a consolation. I like your young faces, an gay an airy ways, boys. I like to see you enjoy life. So, go in. Pitch in. Go ahead. Sing. Shout. Go on like mad. Carry on like all possessed, an you'll find the aged Corbet smilin amid the din, an a flutterin of his venerable locks triumphant amid the ragin an riotin elements."
"It's a comfort to know that, at any rate," said Tom. "We'll give you enough of that before we leave, especially as we know it don't annoy you."
"I don't know how it is," said the captain, solemnly, "but I begin to feel a sort of somethin towards you youngsters that's very absorbin. It's a kine o' anxious fondness, with a mixtoor of indulgent tenderness. How ever I got to contract sech a feelin beats me. I s'pose it's bein deprived of my babby, an exiled from home, an so my vacant buzzom craves to be filled. I've got a dreadful talent for doin the pariential, an what's more, not only for doin the pariential, but for feelin of it. So you boys, ef ever you see me a doin of the pariential towards youns, please remember that when I act like an anxious an too indulgent parient towards youns, it's because I feel like one."
For some hours they traversed the waters, carried swiftly on by the united forces of the wind and tide. At last they found themselves close by Blomidon, and under his mighty shadow they sailed for some time. Then they doubled the cape, and there, before them, lay a long channel—the Straits of Minas, through which the waters pour at every ebb and flood. Their course now lay through this to the Bay of Fundy outside; and as it was within two hours of the low tide, the current ran swiftly, hurrying them rapidly past the land. Here the scene was grand and impressive in the extreme. On one side arose a lofty, precipitous cliff, which extended for miles, its sides scarred and tempest-torn, its crest fringed with trees, towering overhead many hundreds of feet, black, and menacing, and formidable. At its base was a steep beach, disclosed by the retreating tide, which had been formed by the accumulated masses of rock that had fallen in past ages from the cliffs above. These now, from the margin of the water up to high-water mark, were covered with a vast growth of sea-weed, which luxuriated here, and ran parallel to the line of vegetation on the summit of the cliff. On the other side of the strait the scene was different. Here the shores were more varied; in one place, rising high on steep precipices, in others, thrusting forth black, rocky promontories into the deep channel; in others again, retreating far back, and forming bays, round whose sloping shores appeared places fit for human habitation, and in whose still waters the storm-tossed bark might find a secure haven.
As they drifted on, borne along by the impetuous tide, the shores on either side changed, and new vistas opened before them. At last they reached the termination of the strait, the outer portal of this long avenue, which here was marked by the mighty hand of Nature in conspicuous characters. For here was the termination of that long extent of precipitous cliff which forms the outline of Blomidon; and this termination, abrupt, and stern, and black, shows, in a concentrated form, the power of wind and wave. The cliff ends abrupt, broken off short, and beyond this arise from the water several giant fragments of rock, the first of which, shaped like an irregular pyramid, rivals the cliff itself in height, and is surrounded by other rocky fragments, all of which form a colossal group, whose aggregated effect never fails to overawe the mind of the spectator. Such is Cape Split, the terminus of Cape Blomidon, on the side of the Bay of Fundy. Over its shaggy summits now fluttered hundreds of sea-gulls; round its black base the waves foamed and thundered, while the swift tide poured between the interstices of the rugged rocks.
"Behind that thar rock," said Captain Corbet, pointing to Cape Split, "is a place they call Scott's Bay. Perhaps some of you have heard tell of it."
"I have a faint recollection of such a place," said Bart. "Scott's Bay, do you call it? Yes, that must be the place that I've heard of; and is it behind this cape?"
"It's a bay that runs up thar," said the captain. "We'll see it soon arter we get further down. It's a fishin and ship-buildin place. They catch a dreadful lot of shad thar sometimes."
Swiftly the Antelope passed on, hurried on by the tide, and no longer feeling much of the wind; swiftly she passed by the cliffs, and by the cape, and onward by the sloping shores, till at length the broad bosom of the Bay of Fundy extended before their eyes. Here the wind ceased altogether, the water was smooth and calm, but the tide still swept them along, and the shores on each side receded, until at length they were fairly in the bay. Here, on one side, the coast of Nova Scotia spread away, until it faded from view in the distance, while on the other side the coast of New Brunswick extended. Between the schooner and this latter coast a long cape projected, while immediately in front arose a lofty island of rock, whose summit was crowned with trees.
"What island is that?" asked Tom.
"That," said Captain Corbet, "is Isle o' Holt."
"I think I've heard it called Ile Haute," said Bart.
"All the same," said Captain Corbet, "ony I believe it was named after the man that diskivered it fust, an his name was Holt."
"But it's a French name," said Tom; "Ile Haute means high island."
"Wal, mebbe he was a Frenchman," said Captain Corbet. "I won't argufy—I dare say he was. There used to be a heap o' Frenchmen about these parts, afore we got red of 'em."
"It's a black, gloomy, dismal, and wretched-looking place," said Tom, after some minutes of silent survey.
First Sight of a Place destined to be better known.—A Fog Mill.—Navigation without Wind.—Fishing.—Boarding.—Under Arrest.—Captain Corbet defiant.—The Revenue Officials frowned down.—Corbet triumphant.
The Antelope had left the wharf at about seven in the morning. It was now one o'clock. For the last two or three hours there had been but little wind, and it was the tide which had carried her along. Drifting on in this way, they had come to within a mile of Ile Haute, and had an opportunity of inspecting the place which Tom had declared to be so gloomy. In truth, Tom's judgment was not undeserved. Ile Haute arose like a solid, unbroken rock out of the deep waters of the Bay of Fundy, its sides precipitous, and scarred by tempest, and shattered by frost. On its summit were trees, at its base lay masses of rock that had fallen. The low tide disclosed here, as at the base of Blomidon, a vast growth of black sea-weed, which covered all that rocky shore. The upper end of the island, which was nearest them, was lower, however, and went down sloping to the shore, forming a place where a landing could easily be effected. From this shore mud flats extended into the water.
"This end looks as though it had been cleared," said Bart.
"I believe it was," said the captain.
"Does anybody live here?"
"Did any one ever live here?"
"Yes, once, some one tried it, I believe, but gave it up."
"Does it belong to anybody, or is it public property?"
"O, I dare say it belongs to somebody, if you could only get him to claim it."
"I say, captain," said Bruce, "how much longer are we going to drift?"
"O, not much longer. The tide's about on the turn, and we'll have a leetle change."
"What! will we drift back again?"
"O, I shouldn't wonder if we had a leetle wind afore long."
"But if we don't, will we drift back again into the Basin of Minas?"
"O, dear, no. We can anchor hereabouts somewhar."
"You won't anchor by this island,—will you?"
"O, dear, no. We'll have a leetle driftin first." As the captain spoke, he looked earnestly out upon the water.
"Thar she comes," he cried at last, pointing over the water. The boys looked, and saw the surface of the bay all rippled over. They knew the signs of wind, and waited for the result. Soon a faint puff came up the bay, which filled the languid sails, and another puff came up more strongly, and yet another, until at length a moderate breeze was blowing. The tide no longer dragged them on. It was on the turn; and as the vessel caught the wind, it yielded to the impetus, and moved through the water, heading across the bay towards the New Brunswick shore, in such a line as to pass near to that cape which has already been spoken of.
"If the wind holds out," said Captain Corbet, "so as to carry us past Cape d'Or, we can drift up with this tide."
"Where's Cape d'Or?"
"That there," said Captain Corbet, pointing to the long cape which stretched between them and the New Brunswick shore. "An if it goes down, an we can't get by the cape, we'll be able, at any rate, to drop anchor there, an hold on till the next tide."
The returning tide, and the fresh breeze that blew now, bore them onward rapidly, and they soon approached Cape d'Or. They saw that it terminated in a rocky cliff, with rocky edges jutting forth, and that all the country adjoining was wild and rugged. But the wind, having done this much for them, now began to seem tired of favoring them, and once more fell off.
"I don't like this," said Captain Corbet, looking around.
"All this here," said he, pointing to the shore.
It was about a mile away, and the schooner, borne along now by the tide, was slowly drifting on to an unpleasant proximity to the rocky shore.
"I guess we've got to anchor," said Captain Corbet; "there's no help for it."
"To anchor?" said Bruce, in a tone of disappointment.
"Yes, anchor; we've got to do it," repeated the captain, in a decided tone. The boys saw that there was no help for it, for the vessel was every moment drawing in closer to the rocks; and though it would not have been very dangerous for her to run ashore in that calm water, yet it would not have been pleasant. So they suppressed their disappointment, and in a few minutes the anchor was down, and the schooner's progress was stopped.
"Thar's one secret," said the captain, "of navigatin in these here waters, an that is, to use your anchor. My last anchor I used for nigh on thirty year, till it got cracked. I mayn't be much on land, but put me anywhars on old Fundy, an I'm to hum. I know every current on these here waters, an can foller my nose through the thickest fog that they ever ground out at old Manan."
"What's that?" asked Bart. "What did you say about grinding out fog?"
"O, nothin, ony thar's an island down the bay, you know, called Grand Manan, an seafarin men say that they've got a fog mill down thar, whar they grind out all the fog for the Bay of Fundy. I can't say as ever I've seen that thar mill, but I've allus found the fog so mighty thick down thar that I think thar's a good deal in the story."
"I suppose we'll lose this tide," said Phil.
"Yes, I'm afeard so," said the captain, looking around over the water. "This here wind ain't much, any way; you never can reckon on winds in this bay. I don't care much about them. I'd a most just as soon go about the bay without sails as with them. What I brag on is the tides, an a jodgmatical use of the anchor."
"You're not in earnest?"
"Course I am."
"Could you get to St. John from Grand Pre without sails?"
"Course I could."
"I don't see how you could manage to do it."
"Do it? Easy enough," said the captain. "You see I'd leave with the ebb tide, and get out into the bay. Then I'd anchor an wait till the next ebb, an so on. Bless your hearts, I've often done it."
"But you couldn't get across the bay by drifting."
"Course I could. I'd work my way by short drifts over as far as this, an then I'd gradually move along till I kine o' canted over to the New Brunswick shore. It takes time to do it, course it does; but what I mean to say is this—it CAN be done."
"Well, I wouldn't like to be on board while you were trying to do it."
"Mebbe not. I ain't invitin you to do it, either. All I was sayin is, it CAN be done. Sails air very good in their way, course they air, an who's objectin to 'em? I'm only sayin that in this here bay thar's things that's more important than sails, by a long chalk—such as tides, an anchors in particular. Give me them thar, an I don't care a hooter what wind thar is."
Lying thus at anchor, under the hot sun, was soon found to be rather dull, and the boys sought in vain for some way of passing the time. Different amusements were invented for the occasion. The first amusement consisted in paper boats, with which they ran races, and the drift of these frail vessels over the water afforded some excitement. Then they made wooden boats with huge paper sails. In this last Bart showed a superiority to the others; for, by means of a piece of iron hoop, which he inserted as a keel, he produced a boat which was able to carry an immense press of sail, and in the faint and scarce perceptible breeze, easily distanced the others. This accomplishment Bart owed to his training in a seaport town.
At length one of them proposed that they should try to catch fish. Captain Corbet, in answer to their eager inquiries, informed them that there were fish everywhere about the bay; on learning which they became eager to try their skill. Some herring were on board, forming part of the stores, and these were taken for bait. Among the miscellaneous contents of the cabin a few hooks were found, which were somewhat rusty, it is true, yet still good enough for the purpose before them. Lines, of course, were easily procured, and soon a half dozen baited hooks were down in the water, while a half dozen boys, eager with suspense, watched the surface of the water.
For a half hour they held their lines suspended without any result; but at the end of that time, a cry from Phil roused them, and on looking round they saw him clinging with all his might to his line, which was tugged at tightly by something in the water. Bruce ran to help him, and soon their united efforts succeeded in landing on the deck of the vessel a codfish of very respectable size. The sight of this was greeted with cheers by the others, and served to stimulate them to their work.
After this others were caught, and before half an hour more some twenty codfish, of various sizes, lay about the deck, as trophies of their piscatory skill. They were now more excited than ever, and all had their hooks in the water, and were waiting eagerly for a bite, when an exclamation from Captain Corbet roused them.
On turning their heads, and looking in the direction where he was pointing, they saw a steamboat approaching them. It was coming from the head of the bay on the New Brunswick side, and had hitherto been concealed by the projecting cape.
"What's that?" said Bart. "Is it the St. John steamer?"
"No, SIR," said the captain. "She's a man-o'-war steamer—the revenoo cutter, I do believe."
"How do you know?"
"Why, by her shape."
"She seems to be coming this way."
"Yes, bound to Minas Bay, I s'pose. Wal, wal, wal! strange too,—how singoolarly calm an onterrified I feel in'ardly. Why, boys, I've seen the time when the sight of a approachin revenoo vessel would make me shiver an shake from stem to starn. But now how changed! Such, my friends, is the mootability of human life!"
The boys looked at the steamer for a few moments, but at length went back to their fishing. The approaching steamer had nothing in it to excite curiosity: such an object was too familiar to withdraw their thoughts from the excitement of their lines and hooks, and the hope which each had of surpassing the other in the number of catches animated them to new trials. So they soon forgot all about the approaching steamer.
But Captain Corbet had nothing else to do, and so, whether it was on account of his lack of employment, or because of the sake of old associations, he kept his eyes fixed on the steamer. Time passed on, and in the space of another half hour she had drawn very near to the Antelope.
Suddenly Captain Corbet slapped his hand against his thigh.
"Declar, if they ain't a goin to overhaul us!" he cried.
At this the boys all turned again to look at the steamer.
"Declar, if that fellow in the gold hat ain't a squintin at us through his spy-glass!" cried the captain.
As the boys looked, they saw that the Antelope had become an object of singular attention and interest to those on board of the steamer. Men were on the forecastle, others on the main deck, the officers were on the quarter-deck, and all were earnestly scrutinizing the Antelope. One of them was looking at her through his glass. The Antelope, as she lay at anchor, was now turned with her stern towards the steamer, and her sails flapping idly against the masts. In a few moments the paddles of the steamer stopped, and at the same instant a gun was fired.
"Highly honored, kind sir," said Captain Corbet, with a grin.
"What's the matter?" asked Bart.
"Matter? Why that thar steamer feels kine o' interested in us, an that thar gun means, HEAVE TO."
"Are you going to heave to?"
"Can't come it no how; cos why, I'm hove to, with the anchor hard and fast, ony they can't see that we're anchored."
Suddenly a cry came over the water from a man on the quarter-deck.
Such was the informal reply of Captain Corbet.
"Heave to-o-o-o, till I send a boat aboard."
Such was again Captain Corbet's cheerful and informal answer.
"Wal! wal wal!" he exclaimed, "it does beat my grandmother—they're goin to send a boat aboard."
Captain Corbet grinned, and shook his head, and chuckled very vehemently, but said nothing. He appeared to be excessively amused with his own thoughts. The boys looked at the steamer, and then at Captain Corbet, in some wonder; but as he said nothing, they were silent, and waited to see what was going to happen. Meanwhile Solomon, roused from some mysterious culinary duties by the report of the gun, had scrambled upon the deck, and stood with the others looking out over the water at the steamer.
In a few moments the steamer's boat was launched, and a half dozen sailors got in, followed by an officer. Then they put off, and rowed with vigorous strokes towards the schooner.
Captain Corbet watched the boat for some time in silence.
"Cur'ouser an cur'ouser," he said, at length. "I've knowed the time, boys, when sech an incident as this, on the briny deep, would have fairly keeled me over, an made me moot, an riz every har o' my head; but look at me now. Do I tremble? do I shake? Here, feel my pulse."
Phil, who stood nearest, put his finger on the outstretched wrist of the captain.
"Doos it beat?"
"No," said Phil.
"Course it beats; but then it ony beats nateral. You ain't feelin the right spot—the humane pulse not bein sitooated on the BACK of the hand," he added mildly, "but here;" and he removed Phil's inexperienced finger to the place where the pulse lies. "Thar, now," he added, "as that pulse beats now, even so it beat a half hour ago, before that thar steamer hev in sight. Why, boys, I've knowed the time when this humane pulse bet like all possessed. You see, I've lived a life of adventoor, in spite of my meek and quiet natoor, an hev dabbled at odd times in the smugglin business. But they don't catch me this time—I've retired from that thar, an the Antelope lets the revenoo rest in peace."
The boat drew nearer and nearer, and the officer at the stern looked scrutinizingly at the Antelope. There was an air of perplexity about his face, which was very visible to those on board, and the perplexity deepened and intensified as his eyes rested on the flag of the "B. O. W. C."
"Leave him to me," said Captain Corbet. "Leave that thar young man to me. I enjy havin to do with a revenoo officer jest now; so don't go an put in your oars, but jest leave him to me."
"All right, captain; we won't say a word," said Bruce. "We'll go on with our fishing quietly. Come, boys—look sharp, and down with your lines."
The interest which they had felt in these new proceedings had caused the boys to pull up their hooks; but now, at Bruce's word, they put them in the water once more, and resumed their fishing, only casting sidelong glances at the approaching boat.
In a few minutes the boat was alongside, and the officer leaped on board. He looked all around, at the fish lying about the deck, at the boys engaged in fishing, at Captain Corbet, at Solomon, at the mysterious flag aloft, and finally at the boys. These all took no notice of him, but appeared to be intent on their task.
"What schooner is this?" he asked, abruptly.
"The schooner Antelope, Corbet master," replied the captain.
"Are you the master?"
"Where do you belong?"
"Hm," he replied, with a stare around—"Grand Pre—ah—-hm."
"Yes, jest so."
"I briefly remarked that it was jest so."
"What's the reason you didn't lie to, when you were hailed?"
"Couldn't do it."
"What do you mean by that?" asked the officer, who was rather ireful, and somewhat insulting in his manner.
"Wal bein as I was anchored here hard an fast, I don't exactly see how I could manage to go through that thar manoeuvre, unless you'd kindly lend me the loan of your steam ingine to do it on."
"Look here, old man; you'd better look out."
"Wal, I dew try to keep a good lookout. How much'll you take for the loan o' that spy-glass o' yourn?"
"Let me see your papers."
"Yes, your papers."
"Hain't got none."
"Hain't got none."
The officer's brow grew dark. He looked around the vessel once more, and then looked frowningly at Captain Corbet, who encountered his glance with a serene smile.
"Look here, old man," said he; "you can't come it over me. Your little game's up, old fellow. This schooner's seized."
"Seized? What for?"
"For violation of the law, by fishing within the limits."
"Limits? What limits?"
"No foreign vessel can come within three miles of the shore."
"Foreign vessel? Do you mean to call me a foreigner?"
"Of course I do. You're a Yankee fisherman."
"Of course you are; and what do you mean by that confounded rag up there?" cried the officer, pointing to the flag of the "B. O. W. C." "If you think you can fish in this style, you'll find yourself mistaken. I know too much about this business."
"Do you? Well, then, kind sir, allow me to mention that you've got somethin to larn yet—spite o' your steam injines an spy-glasses."
"What's that?" cried the officer, furious. "I'll let you know. I arrest you, and this vessel is seized."
"Wait a minute, young sir," cried Captain Corbet; "not QUITE so fast, EF you please. You'll get YOURSELF arrested. What do you mean by this here? Do you know who I am? I, sir, am a subject of Queen Victory. My home is here. I'm now on my own natyve shore. A foreigner, am I? Let me tell you, sir, that I was born, brung up, nourished, married, an settled in this here province, an I've got an infant born here, an I'm not a fisherman, an this ain't a fishin vessel. You arrest me ef you dar. You'll see who'll get the wust of it in the long run. I'd like precious well to get damages—yea, swingin damages—out of one of you revenoo fellers."
The officer looked around again. It would not do to make a mistake. Captain Corbet's words were not without effect.
"Yea!" cried Captain Corbet. "Yea, naval sir! I'm a free Nova Scotian as free as a bird. I cruise about my natyve coasts whar I please. Who's to hender? Seize me if you dar, an it'll be the dearest job you ever tried. This here is my own private pleasure yacht. These are my young friends, natyves, an amatoor fishermen. Cast your eye down into yonder hold, and see if this here's a fishin craft."
The officer looked down, and saw a cooking stove, trunks, and bedding. He looked around in doubt.
But this scene had lasted long enough.
"O, nonsense!" said Bart, suddenly pulling up his line, and coming forward; "see here—it's all right," said he to the officer. "We're not fishermen. It's as he says. We're only out on a short cruise, you know, for pleasure, and that sort of thing."
As Bart turned, the others did the same. Bruce lounged up, dragging his line, followed by Arthur and the others.
"We're responsible for the schooner," said Bruce, quietly. "It's ours for the time being. We don't look like foreign fishermen—do we?"
The officer looked at the boys, and saw his mistake at once. He was afraid that he had made himself ridiculous. The faces and manners of the boys, as they stood confronting him in an easy and self-possessed manner, showed most plainly the absurdity of his position. Even the mysterious flag became intelligible, when he looked at the faces of those over whom it floated.
"I suppose it's all right," he muttered, in a vexed tone, and descended into the boat without another word.
"Sorry to have troubled you, captain," said Corbet, looking blandly after the officer; "but it wan't my fault. I didn't have charge of that thar injine."
The officer turned his back without a word, and the men pulled off to the steamer.
The captain looked after the boat in silence for some time.
"I'm sorry," said he, at length, as he heaved a gentle sigh,—"I'm sorry that you put in your oars—I do SO like to sass a revonoo officer."
Solomon surpasses himself.—A Period of Joy is generally followed by a Time of Sorrow.—Gloomy Forebodings.—The Legend of Petticoat Jack.—Captain Corbet discourses of the Dangers of the Deep, and puts in Practice a new and original Mode of Navigation.
This interruption put an end to their attempts at fishing, and was succeeded by another interruption of a more pleasing character, in the shape of dinner, which was now loudly announced by Solomon. For some time a savory steam had been issuing from the lower regions, and had been wafted to their nostrils in successive puffs, until at last their impatient appetite had been roused to the keenest point, and the enticing fragrance had suggested all sorts of dishes. When at length the summons came, and they went below, they found the dinner in every way worthy of the occasion. Solomon's skill never was manifested more conspicuously than on this occasion; and whether the repast was judged of by the quantity or the quality of the dishes, it equally deserved to be considered as one of the masterpieces of the distinguished artist who had prepared it.
"Dar, chil'en," he exclaimed, as they took their places, "dar, cap'en, jes tas dem ar trout, to begin on, an see if you ever saw anythin to beat 'em in all your born days. Den try de stew, den de meat pie, den de calf's head; but dat ar pie down dar mustn't be touched, nor eben so much as looked at, till de las ob all."
And with these words Solomon stepped back, leaning both hands on his hips, and surveyed the banquet and the company with a smile of serene and ineffable complacency.
"All right, Solomon, my son," said Bart. "Your dinner is like yourself—unequalled and unapproachable."
"Bless you, bless you, my friend," murmured Bruce, in the intervals of eating; "if there is any contrast between this present voyage and former ones, it is all due to our unequalled caterer."
"How did you get the trout, Solomon?" said Phil.
"De trout? O, I picked 'em up last night down in de village," said Solomon. "Met little boy from Gaspereaux, an got 'em from him."
"What's this?" cried Tom, opening a dish—"not lobster!"
"Lobster!" exclaimed Phil.
"So it is."
"Why, Solomon, where did you get lobster?"
"Is this the season for them?"
"Think of the words of the poet, boys," said Bart, warningly,—
"In the months without the R, Clams and lobsters pison are."
Solomon meanwhile stood apart, grinning from ear to ear, with his little black beads of eyes twinkling with merriment.
"Halo, Solomon! What do you say to lobsters in July?"
Solomon's head wagged up and down, as though he were indulging in some quiet, unobtrusive laughter, and it was some time before he replied.
"O, neber you fear, chil'en," he said; "ef you're only goin to get sick from lobsters, you'll live a long day. You may go in for clams, an lobsters, an oysters any time ob de yeah you like,—ony dey mus be cooked up proper."
"I'm gratified to hear that," said Bruce, gravely, "but at the same time puzzled. For Mrs. Pratt says the exact opposite; and so here we have two great authorities in direct opposition. So what are we to think?"
"O, there's no difficulty," said Arthur, "for the doctors are not of equal authority. Mrs. Pratt is a quack, but Solomon is a professional—a regular, natural, artistic, and scientific cook, which at sea is the same as doctor."
The dinner was prolonged to an extent commensurate with its own inherent excellence and the capacity of the boys to appreciate it; but at length, like all things mortal, it came to a termination, and the company went up once more to the deck. On looking round it was evident to all that a change had taken place.
Four miles away lay Ile Haute, and eight or ten miles beyond this lay the long line of Nova Scotia. It was now about four o'clock, and the tide had been rising for three hours, and was flowing up rapidly, and in a full, strong current. As yet there was no wind, and the broad surface of the bay was quite smooth and unruffled. In the distance and far down the bay, where its waters joined the horizon, there was a kind of haze, that rendered the line of separation between sea and sky very indistinct. The coast of Nova Scotia was at once enlarged and obscured. It seemed now elevated to an unusual height above the sea line, as though it had been suddenly brought several miles nearer, and yet, instead of being more distinct, was actually more obscure. Even Ile Haute, though so near, did not escape. Four miles of distance were not sufficient to give it that grand indistinctness which was now flung over the Nova Scotia coast; yet much of the mysterious effect of the haze had gathered about the island; its lofty cliffs seemed to tower on high more majestically, and to lean over more frowningly; its fringe of black sea-weed below seemed blacker, while the general hue of the island had changed from a reddish color to one of a dull slaty blue.
"I don't like this," said Captain Corbet, looking down the bay and twisting up his face as he looked.
Captain Corbet shook his head.
"What's the matter?"
"Bad, bad, bad!" said the captain.
"Is there going to be a storm?"
"Yes, hot an heavy, thick as puddin, an no mistake. I tell you what it is, boys: judgin from what I see, they've got a bran-new steam injine into that thar fog mill at Grand Manan; an the way they're goin to grind out the fog this here night is a caution to mariners."
Saying this, he took off his hat, and holding it in one hand, he scratched his venerable head long and thoughtfully with the other.
"But I don't see any fog as yet," said Bart.
"Don't see it? Wal, what d'ye call all that?" said the captain, giving a grand comprehensive sweep with his arm, so as to take in the entire scene.
"Why, it's clear enough."
"Clear? Then let me tell you that when you see a atmosphere like this here, then you may expect to see it any moment changed into deep, thick fog. Any moment—five minutes 'll be enough to snatch everything from sight, and bury us all in the middle of a unyversal fog bank."
"What'll we do?"
"Dew? That's jest the question."
"Can we go on?"
"Wal—without wind—I don't exactly see how. In a fog a wind is not without its advantages. That's one of the times when the old Antelope likes to have her sails up; but as we hain't got no wind, I don't think we'll do much."
"Will you stay here at anchor?"
"At anchor? Course not. No, sir. Moment the tide falls again, I'll drift down so as to clear that pint there,—Cape Chignecto,—then anchor; then hold on till tide rises; and then drift up. Mebbe before that the wind 'll spring up, an give us a lift somehow up the bay."
"How long before the tide will turn?"
"Wal, it'll be high tide at about a quarter to eight this evenin, I calc'late."
"You'll drift in the night, I suppose."
"O, I didn't know but what the fog and the night together might be too much for you."
"Too much? Not a bit of it. Fog, and night, and snow-storms, an tide dead agin me, an a lee shore, are circumstances that the Antelope has met over an over, an fit down. As to foggy nights, when it's as calm as this, why, they're not wuth considerin."
Captain Corbet's prognostication as to the fog proved to be correct. It was only for a short time that they were allowed to stare at the magnified proportions of the Nova Scotia coast and Ile Haute. Then a change took place which attracted all their attention.
The change was first perceptible down the bay. It was first made manifest by the rapid appearance of a thin gray cloud along the horizon, which seemed to take in both sea and sky, and absorbed into itself the outlines of both. At the same time, the coast of Nova Scotia grew more obscure, though it lost none of its magnified proportions, while the slaty blue of Ile Haute changed to a grayer shade.
This change was rapid, and was followed by other changes. The thin gray cloud, along the south-west horizon, down the bay, gradually enlarged itself; till it grew to larger and loftier proportions. In a quarter of an hour it had risen to the dimensions of the Nova Scotia coast. In a half an hour it was towering to double that height. In an hour its lofty crest had ascended far up into the sky.
"It's a comin," said Captain Corbet. "I knowed it. Grind away, you old fog mill! Pile on the steam, you Grand Mananers!"
"Is there any wind down there?"
"Not a hooter."
"Is the fog coming up without any wind?"
"Course it is. What does the fog want of wind?"
"I thought it was the wind that brought it along."
"Bless your heart, the fog takes care of itself. The wind isn't a bit necessary. It kine o' pervades the hull atmosphere, an rolls itself on an on till all creation is overspread. Why, I've seen everything changed from bright sunshine to the thickest kind of fog in fifteen minutes,—yea, more,—and in five minutes."
Even while they were speaking the fog rolled on, the vast accumulation of mist rose higher and yet higher, and appeared to draw nearer with immense rapidity. It seemed as though the whole atmosphere was gradually becoming condensed, and precipitating its invisible watery vapor so as to make it visible in far-extending fog banks. It was not wind, therefore, that brought on the clouds, for the surface of the water was smooth and unruffled, but it was the character of the atmosphere itself from which this change was wrought. And still, as they looked at the approaching mist, the sky overhead was blue, and the sun shone bright. But the gathering clouds seemed now to have gained a greater headway, and came on more rapidly. In a few minutes the whole outline of the Nova Scotia coast faded from view, and in its place there appeared a lofty wall of dim gray cloud, which rose high in the air, fading away into the faintest outline. Overhead, the blue sky became rapidly more obscured; Ile Haute changed again from its grayish blue to a lighter shade, and then became blended with the impenetrable fog that was fast enclosing all things; and finally the clouds grew nearer, till the land nearest them was snatched from view, and all around was alike shrouded under the universal veil; nothing whatever was visible. For a hundred yards, or so, around them, they could see the surface of the water; but beyond this narrow circle, nothing more could be discerned.
"It's a very pooty fog," said Captain Corbet, "an I only wonder that there ain't any wind. If it should come, it'll be all right."
"You intend, then, to go on just the same."
"Jest the same as ef the sky was clear. I will up anchor as the tide begins to fall, an git a good piece down, so as to dodge Cape Chegnecto, an there wait for the rising tide, an jest the same as ef the sun was shinin. But we can't start till eight o'clock this evenin. Anyhow, you needn't trouble yourselves a mite. You may all go to sleep, an dream that the silver moon is guidin the traveller on the briny deep."
The scene now was too monotonous to attract attention, and the boys once more sought for some mode of passing the time. Nothing appeared so enticing as their former occupation of fishing, and to this they again turned their attention. In this employment the time passed away rapidly until the summons was given for tea. Around the festive board, which was again prepared by Solomon with his usual success, they lingered long, and at length, when they arose, the tide was high. It was now about eight o'clock in the evening, and Captain Corbet was all ready to start. As the tide was now beginning to turn, and was on the ebb, the anchor was raised, and the schooner, yielding to the pressure of the current, moved away from her anchorage ground. It was still thick, and darkness also was coming on. Not a thing could be discerned, and by looking at the water, which moved with the schooner, it did not seem as though any motion was made.
"That's all your blindness," said the captain, as they mentioned it to him. "You can't see anything but the water, an as it is movin with us, it doesn't seem as though we were movin. But we air, notwithstandin, an pooty quick too. I'll take two hours' drift before stoppin, so as to make sure. I calc'late about that time to get to a place whar I can hit the current that'll take me, with the risin tide, up to old Petticoat Jack."
"By the way, captain," said Phil, "what do you seafaring men believe about the origin of that name—Petitcodiac? Is it Indian or French?"
"'Tain't neither," said Captain Corbet, decidedly. "It's good English; it's 'Petticoat Jack;' an I've hearn tell a hundred times about its original deryvation. You see, in the old French war, there was an English spy among the French, that dressed hisself up as a woman, an was familiarly known, among the British generals an others that emply'd him, as 'Petticoat Jack.' He did much to contriboot to the defeat of the French; an arter they were licked, the first settlers that went up thar called the place, in honor of their benefacture, 'Petticoat Jack;' an it's bore that name ever sence. An people that think it's French, or Injine, or Greek, or Hebrew, or any other outlandish tongue, don't know what they're talkin about. Now, I KNOW, an I assure you what I've ben a sayin's the gospel terewth, for I had it of an old seafarin man that's sailed this bay for more'n forty year, an if he ain't good authority, then I'd like to know who is—that's all."
At this explanation of the etymology of the disputed term, the boys were silent, and exchanged glances of admiration.
It was some minutes after eight when they left their anchorage, and began to drift once more. There was no moon, and the night would have been dark in any case, but now the fog rendered all things still more obscure. It had also grown much thicker than it had been. At first it was composed of light vapors, which surrounded them on all sides, it is true, but yet did not have that dampness which might have been expected. It was a light, dry fog, and for two or three hours the deck, and rigging, and the clothes of those on board remained quite dry. But now, as the darkness increased, the fog became denser, and was more surcharged with heavy vapors. Soon the deck looked as though it had received a shower of rain, and the clothes of those on board began to be penetrated with the chill damp.
"It's very dark, captain," said Bruce, at last, as the boys stood near the stern.
"Dradful dark," said the captain, thoughtfully.
"Have you really a good idea of where we are?"
"An idee? Why, if I had a chart,—which I haven't, cos I've got it all mapped out in my head,—but if I had one, I could take my finger an pint the exact spot where we are a driftin this blessed minute."
"You're going straight down the bay, I suppose."
"Right—yea, I am; I'm goin straight down; but I hope an trust, an what's more, I believe, I am taking a kine o' cant over nigher the New Brunswick shore."
"How long will we drift?"
"Wal, for about two hours—darsn't drift longer; an besides, don't want to."
"Darsn't. Thar's a place down thar that every vessel on this here bay steers clear of, an every navigator feels dreadful shy of."
"What place is that?"
"Quaco Ledge," said Captain Corbet, in a solemn tone. "We'll get as near it as is safe this night, an p'aps a leetle nearer; but, then, the water's so calm and still, that it won't make any difference—in fact, it wouldn't matter a great deal if we came up close to it."
"Quaco Ledge?" said Bruce. "I've heard of that."
"Heard of it? I should rayther hope you had. Who hasn't? It's the one great, gen'ral, an standin terror of this dangerous and iron-bound bay. There's no jokin, no nonsense about Quaco Ledge; mind I tell you."
"Where does it lie?" asked Phil, after a pause.
"Wal, do you know whar Quaco settlement is?"
"Wal, Quaco Ledge is nigh about half way between Quaco settlement and Ile Haute, bein a'most in the middle of the bay, an in a terrible dangerous place for coasters, especially in a fog, or in a snow-storm. Many's the vessel that's gone an never heard of, that Quaco Ledge could tell all about, if it could speak. You take a good snowstorm in this Bay of Fundy, an let a schooner get lost in it, an not know whar she is, an if Quaco Ledge don't bring her up all standin, then I'm a Injine."
"Is it a large place?"
"Considerably too large for comfort," said the captain. "They've sounded it, an found the whole shoal about three an a half mile long, an a half a mile broad. It's all kivered over with water at high tide, but at half tide it begins to show its nose, an at low tide you see as pooty a shoal for shipwrecking as you may want; rayther low with pleasant jagged rocks at the nothe-east side, an about a hundred yards or so in extent. I've been nigh on to it in clear weather, but don't want to be within five miles of it in a fog or in a storm. In a thick night like this, I'll pull up before I get close."
"You've never met with any accident there, I suppose."
"Me? No, not me. I always calc'late to give Quaco Ledge the widest kine o' berth. An I hope you'll never know anythin more about that same place than what I'm tellin you now. The knowlege which one has about that place, an places ginrally of that kine, comes better by hearsay than from actool observation."
Time passed on, and they still drifted, and at length ten o'clock came; but before that time the boys had gone below, and retired for the night. Shortly after, the rattle of the chains waked them all, and informed them that the Antelope had anchored once more.
After this they all fell asleep.
In Clouds and Darkness.—A terrible Warning.—Nearly run down.—A lively Place.—Bart encounters an old Acquaintance.—Launched into the Deep.—Through the Country.—The Swift Tide.—The lost Boy.
The boys had not been asleep for more than two hours, when they were awakened by an uproar on deck, and rousing themselves from sleep, they heard the rattle of the chains and the crank of the windlass. As their night attire was singularly simple, and consisted largely of the dress which they wore by day, being the same, in fact, with the exception of the hat, it was not long before they were up on deck, and making inquiries as to the unusual noise. That the anchor was being hoisted they already knew, but why it was they did not.
"Wal," said Captain Corbet, "thar's a good sou-wester started up, an as I had a few winks o' sleep, I jest thought I'd try to push on up the bay, an get as far as I could. If I'd ben in any other place than this, I wouldn't hev minded, but I'd hev taken my snooze out; but I'm too near Quaco Ledge by a good sight, an would rayther get further off. The sou-wester'll take us up a considerable distance, an if it holds on till arter the tide turns, I ask no more."
Soon the anchor was up, and the Antelope spread her sails, and catching the sou-wester, dashed through the water like a thing of life.
"We're going along at a great rate, captain," said Bart.
"Beggin your pardon, young sir, we're not doin much. The tide here runs four knots agin us—dead, an the wind can't take us more'n six, which leaves a balance to our favor of two knots an hour, an that is our present rate of progression. You see, at that rate we won't gain more'n four or five miles before the turn o' tide. After that, we'll go faster without any wind than we do now with a wind. O, there's nothin like navigatin the Bay o' Fundy to make a man feel contempt for the wind. Give me tides an anchors, I say, an I'll push along."
The wind was blowing fresh, and the sea was rising, yet the fog seemed thicker than ever. The boys thought that the wind might blow the fog away, and hinted this to the captain.
His only response was a long and emphatic whistle.
"Whe-e-e-ew! what! Blow the fog away? This wind? Why, this wind brings the fog. The sou-wester is the one wind that seafarin men dread in the Bay of Fundy. About the wust kine of a storm is that thar very identical wind blowin in these here very identical waters."
Captain Corbet's words were confirmed by the appearance of sea and sky. Outside was the very blackness of darkness. Nothing whatever was visible. Sea and sky were alike hidden from view. The waves were rising, and though they were not yet of any size, still they made noise enough to suggest the idea of a considerable storm, and the wind, as it whistled through the rigging, carried in its sound a menace which would have been altogether wanting in a bright night. The boys all felt convinced that a storm was rising, and looked forward to a dismal experience of the pangs of seasickness. To fight this off now became their chief aim, and with this intention they all hurried below once more to their beds.
But the water was not rough, the motion of the schooner was gentle, and though there was much noise above, yet they did not notice any approach of the dreaded sea-sickness, and so in a short time they all fell asleep once more.
But they were destined to have further interruptions. The interruption came this time in a loud cry from Solomon, which waked them all at once.
"Get up, chil'en! get up! It's all over!"
"What, what!" cried the boys; "what's the matter?" and springing up in the first moment of alarm, they stood listening.
As they stood, there came to their ears the roaring of the wind through the rigging, the flapping of the sails, the dashing and roaring of the waters, in the midst of which there came also a shrill, penetrating sound, which seemed almost overhead—the sound of some steam whistle.
"Dar, dar!" cried Solomon, in a tone of deadly fear. "It's a comin! I knowed it. We're all lost an gone. It's a steamer. We're all run down an drownded."
Without a word of response, the boys once more clambered on deck. All was as dark as before, the fog as thick, the scene around as impenetrable, the wind as strong. From a distance there came over the water, as they listened, the rapid beat of a steamboat's paddles, and soon there arose again the long, shrill yell of the steam whistle. They looked all around, but saw no sign of any steamer; nor could they tell exactly in which direction the sound arose. One thought it came from one side, another thought it came from the opposite quarter, while the others differed from these. As for Captain Corbet, he said nothing, while the boys were expressing their opinions loudly and confidently.
At last Bart appealed to Captain Corbet.
"Where is the steamer?"
"Down thar," said the captain, waving his hand over the stern.
"What steamer is it? the revenue steamer?"
"Not her. That revenoo steamer is up to Windsor by this time. No; this is the St. John steamer coming up the bay, an I ony wish she'd take us an give us a tow up."
"She seems to be close by."
"She is close by."
"Isn't there some danger that we'll be run down?"
As those words were spoken, another yell, louder, shriller, and nearer than before, burst upon their ears. It seemed to be close astern. The beat of the paddles was also near them.
"Pooty close!" said the captain.
"Isn't there some danger that we'll be run down?"
To this question, thus anxiously repeated, the captain answered slowly,—
"Wal, thar may be, an then again thar mayn't. Ef a man tries to dodge every possible danger in life, he'll have a precious hard time of it. Why, men air killed in walkin the streets, or knocked over by sun-strokes, as well as run down at sea. So what air we to do? Do? Why, I jest do what I've allus ben a doin; I jest keep right straight on my own course, and mind my own biz. Ten chances to one they'll never come nigh us. I've heard steamers howlin round me like all possessed, but I've never ben run down yet, an I ain't goin to be at my time o' life. I don't blieve you'll see a sign o' that thar steamer. You'll only hear her yellin—that's all."
As he spoke another yell sounded.
"She's a passin us, over thar," said the captain, waving his hand over the side. "Her whistle'll contenoo fainter till it stops. So you better go below and take your sleep out."
The boys waited a little longer, and hearing the next whistle sounding fainter, as Captain Corbet said, they followed his advice, and were soon asleep, as before.
This time there was no further interruption, and they did not wake till about eight in the morning, when they were summoned to breakfast by Solomon.
On reaching the deck and looking around, a cry of joy went forth from all. The fog was no longer to be seen, no longer did there extend around them the wall of gloomy gray, shutting out all things with its misty folds. No longer was the broad bay visible. They found themselves now in a wide river, whose muddy waters bore them slowly along. On one side was a shore, close by them, well wooded in some places, and in others well cultivated, while on the other side was another shore, equally fertile, extending far along.
"Here we air," cried Captain Corbet. "That wind served us well. We've had a fust-rate run. I calc'lated we'd be three or four days, but instead of that we've walked over in twenty-four hours. Good agin!"
"Will we be able to land at Moncton soon?"
"Wal, no; not till the next tide."
"Wal, this tide won't last long enough to carry us up thar, an so we'll have to wait here. This is the best place thar is."
"What place is this?"
"Yes. Do you see that thar pint?" and Captain Corbet waved his arm towards a high, well-wooded promontory that jutted out into the river.
"Wal, I'm goin in behind that, and I'll wait thar till the tide turns. We'll get up to Moncton some time before evenin."
In a few minutes the Antelope was heading towards the promontory; and soon she passed it, and advanced towards the shore. On passing the promontory a sight appeared which at once attracted the whole attention of the boys.
Immediately in front of them, in the sheltered place which was formed by the promontory, was a little settlement, and on the bank of the river was a ship-yard. Here there arose the stately outline of a large ship. Her lower masts were in, she was decorated with flags and streamers, and a large crowd was assembled in the yard around her.
"There's going to be a launch!" cried Bart, to whom a scene like this was familiar.
"A launch!" cried Bruce. "Hurrah! We'll be able to see it. I've never seen one in my life. Now's the time."
"Can't we get ashore?" said Arthur.
"Of course," said Phil; "and perhaps they'll let us go on board and be launched in her."
The very mention of such a thing increased the general excitement. Captain Corbet was at once appealed to.
"O, thar's lots of time," said he. "Tain't quite high tide yet. You'll have time to get ashore before she moves. Hullo, Wade! Whar's that oar?"
The boys were all full of the wildest excitement, in the midst of which Solomon appeared with the announcement that breakfast was waiting.
To which Bart replied,—
"O, bother breakfast!"
"I don't want any," said Bruce.
"I have no appetite," said Arthur.
"Nor I," said Pat.
"I want to be on board that ship," said Phil.
"We can easily eat breakfast afterwards," said Tom.
At this manifest neglect of his cooking, poor Solomon looked quite heart-broken; but Captain Corbet told him that he might bring the things ashore, and this in some measure assuaged his grief.
It did not take long to get ready. The oar was flung on board the boat, which had thus far been floating behind the schooner; and though the boat had a little too much water on board to be comfortable, yet no complaints were made, and in a few minutes they were landed.
"How much time have we yet?" asked Bart, "before high tide?"
"O, you've got fifteen or twenty minutes," said Captain Corbet.
"Hurrah, boys! Come along," said Bart; and leading the way, he went straight to the office.
As he approached it he uttered suddenly a cry of joy.
"What's the matter, Bart?"
Bart said nothing, but hurried forward, and the astonished boys saw him shaking hands very vigorously with a gentleman who seemed like the chief man on the place. He was an old acquaintance, evidently. In a few minutes all was explained. As the boys came up, Bart introduced them as his friends, and they were all warmly greeted; after which the gentleman said,—
"Why, what a crowd of you there is! Follow me, now. There's plenty of room for you, I imagine, in a ship of fifteen hundred tons; and you've just come in time."
With these words he hurried off, followed by all the boys. He led the way up an inclined plane which ran up to the bows of the ship, and on reaching this place they went along a staging, and finally, coming to a ladder, they clambered up, and found themselves on the deck of the ship.
"I must leave you now, Bart, my boy," said the gentleman; "you go to the quarter-deck and take care of yourselves. I must go down again."
"Who in the world is he, Bart?" asked the boys, as they all stood on the quarter-deck.
"Was there ever such luck!" cried Bart, joyously. "This is the ship Sylph, and that is Mr. Watson, and he has built this ship for my father. Isn't it odd that we should come to this place at this particular time?"
"Why, it's as good as a play."
"Of course it is. I've known Mr. Watson all my life, and he's one of the best men I ever met with. He was as glad to see me as I was to see him."
But now the boys stopped talking, for the scene around them began to grow exciting. In front of them was the settlement, and in the yard below was a crowd who had assembled to see the launch. Behind them was the broad expanse of the Petitcodiac River, beyond which lay the opposite shore, which went back till it terminated in wooded hills. Overhead arose the masts, adorned with a hundred flags and streamers. The deck showed a steep slope from bow to stern. But the scene around was nothing, compared with the excitement of suspense, and expectation. In a few minutes the hammers were to sound. In a few minutes the mighty fabric on which they were standing would move, and take its plunge into the water.
The suspense made them hold their breath, and wait in perfect silence.
Around them were a few men, who were talking in a commonplace way. They were accustomed to launches, and an incident like this was as nothing in their lives, though to the boys it was sufficient to make their hearts throb violently, and deprive them of the power of speech.
A few minutes passed.
"We ought to start soon," said Bart, in a whisper; for there was something in the scene which made them feel grave and solemn.
The other boys nodded in silence.
A few minutes more passed.
Then there arose a cry.
And then suddenly there came to their excited ears the rattle of a hundred hammers. Stroke after stroke, in quick succession, was dealt upon the wedges, which thus raised the vast structure from her resting-place. For a moment she stood motionless, and then—
Then with a slow motion, at first scarce perceptible, but which every instant grew quicker, she moved down her ways, and plunged like lightning into the water. The stern sank deep, then rose, and then the ship darted through the water across the river. Then suddenly the anchor was let go, and with the loud, sharp rattle of chains, rushed to the bed of the river. With a slight jerk the ship stopped.
The launch was over.
A boat now came from the shore, bringing the builder, Mr. Watson; and at the same time a steamer appeared, rounding a point up the river, and approaching them.
"Do you want to go to St. John, Bart?"
"Not just yet, sir," said Bart.
"Because if you do you can go down in the ship. The steamer is going to take her in tow at once. But if you don't want to go, you may go ashore in the boat. I'm sorry I can't stay here to show you the country, my boy; but I have to go down in the ship, and at once, for we can't lie here in the river, unless we want to be left high and dry at low tide. So good by. Go to the house. Mrs. Watson'll make you comfortable as long as you like; and if you want to take a drive you may consider my horses your own."
With these words he shook hands with all the boys for good by, and after seeing them safely on board the boat, he waited for the steamer which was to tow the Sylph down the bay. The boys then were rowed ashore. By the time they landed, the steamer had reached the ship, a stout cable was passed on board and secured, her anchor was weighed, and then, borne on by steam, and by the tide, too, which had already turned, the Sylph, in tow of the steamer, passed down the river, and was soon out of sight.
Bart then went to see Mrs. Watson, with all the boys. That lady, like her husband, was an old acquaintance, and in the true spirit of hospitality insisted on every one of them taking up their abode with her for an indefinite period. Finding that they could not do this, she prepared for them a bounteous breakfast, and then persuaded them to go off for a drive through the country. This invitation they eagerly accepted.
Before starting, they encountered Captain Corbet.
"Don't hurry back, boys," said he, "unless you very pertik'l'ry wish to go up to Moncton by the arternoon tide. Don't mind me. I got several things to occoopy me here."
"What time could we start up river?"
"Not before four."
"O, we'll be back by that time."
"Wal. Ony don't hurry back unless you like. I got to buy some ship-bread, an I got to fix some things about the boat. It'll take some time; so jest do as you like."
Being thus left to their own devices, and feeling quite unlimited with regard to time, the boys started off in two wagons, and took a long drive through the country. The time passed quickly, and they enjoyed themselves so much that they did not get back until dusk.
"It's too late now, boys, to go up," said the captain, as he met them on their return. "We've got to wait till next tide. It's nearly high tide now."
"All right, captain; it'll do just as well to go up river to-night."
"Amen," said the captain.
But now Mrs. Watson insisted on their staying to tea, and so it happened that it was after nine o'clock before they were ready to go on board the Antelope. Going down to the shore, they found the boat ready, with some articles which Captain Corbet had procured.
"I've been fixing the gunwales," said he; "an here's a box of pilot-bread. We were gettin out of provisions, an I've got in a supply, an I've bought a bit of an old sail that'll do for a jib. I'm afeard thar won't be room for all of us. Some of you better stay ashore, an I'll come back."
"I'll wait," said Bart, taking his seat on a stick of timber.
"An I'll wait, too," said Bruce.
The other boys objected in a friendly way, but Bart and Bruce insisted on waiting, and so the boat at length started, leaving them behind.
In a short time it reached the schooner.
Captain Corbet secured the boat's painter to the stem, and threw the oar on board.
"Now, boys, one of you stay in the boat, an pass up them things to me—will you?"
"All right," said Tom. "I'll pass them up."
On this Captain Corbet got on board the schooner, followed by Arthur, and Phil, and Pat. Tom waited in the boat.
"Now," said Captain Corbet, "lift up that thar box of pilot-bread fust. 'Tain't heavy. We'll get these things out afore we go ashore for the others."
"All right," said Tom.
He stooped, and took the box of biscuit in his arms.
At that time the tide was running down very fast, and the boat, caught by the tide, was forced out from the schooner with such a pressure that the rope was stiffened out straight.
Tom made one step forward. The next instant he fell down in the bottom of the boat, and those on board of the schooner who were looking at him saw, to their horror, that the boat was sweeping away with the tide, far down the river.
A Cry of Horror.—What shall we do?—Hard and fast.—Bart and Bruce.—Gloomy Intelligence.—The Promontory.—The Bore of the Petitcodiac.—A Night of Misery.—A mournful Waking.—Taking Counsel.
A cry of horror escaped those on board, and for some time they stood silent in utter dismay.
"The rope wasn't tied," groaned Arthur.
"Yes, it was," said Captain Corbet; "it bruk; catch me not tyin it. It bruk; see here!" and he held up in the dim light the end of the rope which still was fastened to the schooner. "I didn't know it was rotten," he moaned; "'tain't over ten year old, that bit o' rope, an I've had it an used it a thousand times without its ever thinkin o' breakin."
"What can we do?" cried Arthur. "We must do something to save him."
Captain Corbet shook his head.
"We've got no boat," said he.
"Boat! Who wants a boat?"
"What can we do without a boat?"
"Why, up anchor, and go after him with the schooner."
"The schooner's hard and fast," said Captain Corbet, mournfully.
"Hard and fast?"
"Yes; don't you notice how she leans? It's only a little, but that's a sign that her keel's in the mud."
"I don't believe it! I won't believe it!" cried Arthur. "Come, boys, up with the anchor."
As the boys rushed to the windlass, Captain Corbet went there, too, followed by the mate, and they worked at it for some time, until at last the anchor rose to the surface.
But the Antelope did not move. On the contrary, a still greater list to one side, which was now unmistakable, showed that the captain was right, and that she was actually, as he said, hard and fast. This fact had to be recognized, but Arthur would not be satisfied until he had actually seen the anchor, and then he knew that the vessel was really aground.
"Do you mean to say," he cried at last, "that there is nothing to be done?"
"I don't see," said Captain Corbet, "what thar is to be done till the schewner muves."
"When will that be?"
"Not till to-morrow mornin."
"Not before eight o'clock."
"Eight o'clock!" cried Arthur, in horror.
"Yes, eight o'clock. You see we had to come in pooty nigh to the shore, an it'll be eight o'clock before we're floated."
"And what'll become of poor Tom?" groaned Arthur.
"Wal," said the captain, "don't look on the wust. He may get ashore."
"He has no oar. The oar was thrown aboard of the schooner."
"Still he may be carried ashore."
"Is there any chance?"
"Wal, not much, to tell the truth. Thar's no use of buo-oyin of ourselves up with false hopes; not a mite. Thar's a better chance of his bein picked up. That thar's likely now, an not unnatooral. Let's all don't give up. If thar's no fog outside, I'd say his chances air good."
"But it may be foggy."
"Then, in that case, he'll have to drift a while—sure."
"Then there's no hope."
"Hope? Who's a sayin thar's no hope? Why, look here; he's got provisions on board, an needn't starve; so if he does float for a day or two, whar's the harm? He's sure to be picked up eventooally."
At this moment their conversation was interrupted by a loud call from the promontory. It was the voice of Bruce.
While these events had been taking place on board the schooner, Bruce and Bart had been ashore. At first they had waited patiently for the return of the boat, but finally they wondered at her delay. They had called, but the schooner was too far off to hear them. Then they waited for what seemed to them an unreasonably long time, wondering what kept the boat, until at length Bruce determined to try and get nearer. Burt was to stay behind in case the boat should come ashore in his absence. With this in view he had walked down the promontory until he had reached the extreme point, and there he found himself within easy hail of the Antelope.
"Schooner ahoy!" he cried.
"A-ho-o-o-o-y!" cried Captain Corbet.
"Why don't you come and take us off?" he cried.
After this there was silence for some time. At last Captain Corbet shouted out,—
"The boat's lost."
"The boat's adrift."
Captain Corbet said nothing about Tom, from a desire to spare him for the present. So Bruce thought that the empty boat had drifted off, and as he had been prepared to hear of some accident, he was not much surprised.
But he was not to remain long in ignorance. In a few moments he heard Arthur's voice.
"The boat's gone."
"TOM'S ADRIFT IN HER!"
"What!" shouted Bruce.
"TOM'S ADRIFT IN HER."
At this appalling intelligence Bruce's heart seemed to stop beating.
"How long?" he dried, after a pause.
"Half an hour," cried Arthur.
"Why don't you go after him?" cried Bruce again.
"We're aground," cried Arthur.
The whole situation was now explained, and Bruce was filled with his own share of that dismay which prevailed on board of the schooner; for a long time nothing more was said. At length Arthur's voice sounded again.
"Get a boat, and come aboard as soon as you can after the tide turns."
"All right. How early will the tide suit?"
After this nothing more was said. Bruce could see for himself that the tide was falling, and that he would have to wait for the returning tide before a boat could be launched. He waited for some time, full of despair, and hesitating to return to Bart with his mournful intelligence. At length he turned, and walked slowly back to his friend.
"Well, Bruce?" asked Bart, who by this time was sure that some accident had happened.
"The boat's adrift."
"Yes; and what's worse, poor Tom!"
"Tom!" cried Bart, in a horror of apprehension.
"Yes, Tom's adrift in her."
At this Bart said not a word, but stood for some time staring at Bruce in utter dismay.
A few words served to explain to Bart the situation of the schooner, and the need of getting a boat.
"Well," said Bart, "we'd better see about it at once. It's eleven o'clock, but we'll find some people up; if not, we'll knock them up."
And with these words the two lads walked up from the river bank.
On reaching the houses attached to the shipyard, they found that most of the people were up. There was a good deal of singing and laughter going on, which the boys interpreted to arise from a desire to celebrate the launching of the ship. They went first to Mrs. Watson's house, where they found that good lady up. She listened to their story with undisguised uneasiness, and afterwards called in a number of men, to whom she told the sad news. These men listened to it with very serious faces.
"It's no joke," said one, shaking his head. The others said nothing, but their faces spoke volumes.
"What had we better do?" asked Bruce.
"Of course ye'll be off as soon as ye can get off," said one.
"The lad might have a chance," said another. "The return tide may drift him back, but he may be carried too far down for that."
"He'll be carried below Cape Chignecto unless he gets to the land," said another.
"Isn't there a chance that he'll be picked up?" asked Bart.
The man to whom he spoke shook his head.
"There's a deal of fog in the bay this night," said he.
"Fog? Why, it's clear enough here."
"So it is; but this place and the Bay of Fundy are two different things."
"A regular sou-wester out there," said another man.
"An a pooty heavy sea by this time," said another.
And in this way they all contributed to increase the anxiety of the two boys, until at last scarce a ray of hope was left.
"You'd better prepare yourselves for the worst," said one of the men. "If he had an oar he would be all right; but, as it is—well, I don't care about sayin what I think."
"O, you're all too despondent," said Mrs. Watson. "What is the use of looking on the dark side? Come, Bart, cheer up. I'll look on the bright side. Hope for the best. Set out on the search with hope, and a good heart. I'm confident that he will be safe. You will pick him up yourselves, or else you will hear of his escape somewhere. I remember two men, a few years ago, that went adrift and were saved."
"Ay," said one of the men, "I mind that well. They were Tom Furlong and Jim Spencer. But that there boat was a good-sized fishing boat; an such a boat as that might ride out a gale."
"Nonsense," said Mrs. Watson. "You're all a set of confirmed croakers. Why, Bart, you've read enough shipwreck books to know that little boats have floated in safety for hundreds of miles. So hope for the best; don't be down-hearted. I'll send two or three men down now to get the boat ready for you. You can't do anything till the morning, you know. Won't you stay here? You had better go to bed at once."