The Voyage of the "Steadfast"—The Young Missionaries in the Pacific, by W.H.G. Kingston.
The "Steadfast" is a whaling vessel, based on Liverpool. The whaling grounds are in the Pacific, so each voyage involves a long time away from home. The story opens with the owner-captain's wife and daughter sitting at home during a great storm, in which a vessel is wrecked very near their house.
On board the ship are Harry Graybrook, the skipper's son, and another youngster called Dickey Bass. Leonard Champion is the mate, and is also in love with the captain's daughter, whom we met in Chapter One. There is an incident with a whale which results in the "Steadfast" being separated from a small boat containing the above, as well as an old seaman known as "old Tom", and several other seamen. They try to regain contact with the mother ship, but fail. They run out of food and water, but land on an island where they are catching fish and filling their water containers, when they are attacked by a hostile band of natives who kill some of the seamen. After a long time at sea with very little water and food they are picked up by another whaling vessel, but are treated very badly by her moody and eccentric captain.
Shipwrecked again, and after various adventures, they meet up with some missionaries. Eventually contact is made again with the "Steadfast", and back they go to England, where Leonard Champion marries the daughter, and takes command of the ship on old Graybrook's retirement.
THE VOYAGE OF THE "STEADFAST"—THE YOUNG MISSIONARIES IN THE PACIFIC, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
CAPTAIN GRAYBROOK'S HOME.
A heavy gale was blowing, which shook the windows of the little drawing-room in which Mrs Graybrook and her daughter Hannah were seated at their work.
Their cottage was situated close to the sea on the north coast of Wales, so that from it, on a clear day, many a tall ship bound for Liverpool, or sailing from that port, could be seen through the telescope which stood ever ready pointed across the water.
A lamp burning on the table, for it was night, shed its light on the comely features and matronly figure of the elder lady, as she busily plied her needle, while it showed that those of Hannah, a fair and interesting-looking girl just growing into womanhood, were unusually pale. Every now and then she unconsciously let her work drop on her lap while, with her eyes turned towards the window and lips apart, she seemed to be listening for some sound which her mother's ear had not noticed.
A glance into the little room might have shown why both mother and daughter should feel anxious when tempests were raging and the sea was tossing with angry waves.
The mantel-piece was ornamented with some beautiful branches of coral, several large and rare shells, and two horns of the narwhal, or sea-unicorn, fixed against the wall, and above it was the picture of a ship under all sail, with boats hoisted up along her sides, and flags flying at her mastheads and peak. On the top of a bookcase stood the perfect model of a vessel; another part of the wall was adorned with Indian bows and spears and clubs, arranged in symmetrical order; while one side of the room was hung with pictures, in which boats in chase of the mighty monsters of the deep formed the chief subjects, or which represented scenes on the coasts of far-distant lands.
Hannah had more than once risen and gone to the window, across which— for the weather was still warm—the curtain had only partially been drawn.
Another fierce blast shook the whole house.
"Oh, mother, what a dreadful night it is!" she exclaimed, at length. "I fancied I heard the sound of a distant gun; it must come from some ship in distress. What can she do if embayed off our shore in this terrific gale?"
Mrs Graybrook looked up from her work.
"I was thinking, my child, how thankful we should be that the Steadfast has long ago been far away from this. Your father and Harry are enjoying, I hope, smooth seas and gentle breezes, and may such, I pray, follow them wherever they go."
"I trust that they are, mother; but still I cannot help feeling anxious on such a night as this, with the wind howling and raging round us, when I think in what condition a ship must be placed, exposed on the wild sea to its fury."
"Your father has often said that he cares little for the heaviest gale, provided he has plenty of sea-room; and a better-found ship and stauncher crew than his, he declares, does not sail out of the port of Liverpool."
"I know that he has great faith in the Steadfast's good qualities; but even the finest ship may meet with accidents; and oh, how many are the dangers she must have to run before she returns home!" said Hannah, with a sigh.
"Your father is a careful navigator, my dear, and he has vigilant officers. His first mate is a tried hand, and he considers Leonard Champion, his second mate, young as he is, an excellent seaman and fully capable of taking charge of a ship; he hopes, indeed, to get him the command of one when he returns, though he would be sorry to lose him."
"I know that, mother; and I am wrong to express my fears," answered Hannah. "Still I cannot help feeling for the poor seamen who may be battling with the tempest to-night; and that makes me more anxious, perhaps, about those who are far away, and of the dangers to which they may be exposed. Surely there was another gun!"
She again went to the window, and, throwing it open, looked out into the darkness. The fierce wind coming in made the curtains flutter, and almost blew out the lamp.
"I saw the flash of a gun, mother. It is in the direction of those dark rocks which lift their heads above the water!" exclaimed Hannah. "Ah! I heard the sound also. There is another flash! They must have come from some unfortunate ship. Perhaps she is already on the rocks. Can any boat venture out to her assistance in a storm like this? I will shut the window directly, mother," she added, looking round, and trying to catch the fluttering curtains.
Again she looked out. "I cannot be mistaken!" she exclaimed, the tone of her voice showing her anxiety. "There is another gun. The ship must be in fearful peril! Can nothing be done to help the poor people?"
Mrs Graybrook, convinced that Hannah was right in her conjecture, came to the window, and mother and daughter stood gazing out for some minutes, and trying to penetrate the thick gloom which hung over the wild, tempestuous sea raging below them.
A fiercer blast than before, which drove the rain and spray against their faces, compelled them to close the window; yet Hannah could not withdraw herself from it, for she still caught an occasional flash, and could distinguish the roar of the guns even amidst the howling of the wind.
"What help can we render to them?" she again asked.
"We may give them aid—all the aid which we have the power to give," said Mrs Graybrook, placing her work on the table. "We can pray for them as we pray for those who are far away."
"I never cease to pray for those dear ones, mother, morning and evening, and every hour of the day," said Hannah. "Oh, that they had learned to pray for themselves," she murmured; "to seek that aid in time of need which will never be withheld!"
Together the mother and daughter knelt, and offered up their prayers to the throne of grace, that help might be sent to those near at hand, while their petitions went up also for those loved ones at a distance. They knew that the all-seeing eye of the God of mercy could follow them, that His far-reaching hand could protect them, and that, feeble as were their petitions, He heard and would grant them if He saw fit.
They rose with hearts cheered and comforted.
"I should indeed be happier if Harry had known and accepted the truth," said Mrs Graybrook, continuing the conversation just before begun. "He is so light-hearted, and, enjoying health and strength, so confident in himself, that his mind has hitherto appeared incapable of attending to spiritual things; though, when I have spoken to him, he has respectfully listened with a grave countenance; but the subject has evidently not been to his taste. My grief is, also, that your father so admires his bold and daring spirit, that he encourages him to think more of the things of this world than of the future. Excellent as your father is, too, he has not had the same advantages of receiving religious instruction which we have possessed, and is therefore unable to impart it to Harry. This made me very unwilling that your brother should go to sea before he was a confirmed Christian; but your father was so determined to take him that I was compelled to consent."
Mrs Graybrook would not have spoken thus to Hannah of her father's want of religious principle, but that she knew her daughter was well aware of it, and mourned for it with her, while she had often joined with her in prayer that he might be brought to know the truth. Mrs Graybrook had far too much delicacy and sense of what is right, under other circumstances, to have spoken to her daughter in any way which might have appeared disrespectful of Captain Graybrook, for whom they both entertained the deepest affection. Her true and faithful love for her husband made her feel as she did; for, having learned the value of her own soul, she was anxious about his and that of her dear boy.
"I at first had hoped that Leonard Champion would have proved an advantageous companion to Harry," continued Mrs Graybrook. "But, if not inclined to laugh at religion, he is, I fear, ignorant of its vital truths or indifferent to them, and Harry therefore cannot be benefited through his means."
"You are right, mamma; Mr Champion cannot lead Harry to the fountain in which he does not see the need of being washed himself. I spoke to him earnestly on the subject, but without avail, though he accepted some books which I offered him, and promised to read them when he had time."
The two ladies had, since they settled in Wales, enjoyed the ministry of one of those gifted servants of God, to whom the honour has been given of winning souls to Christ by their preaching and private exhortations. He had been a frequent visitor at the cottage; and mother and daughter, having accepted the truth, had been built up in their faith, becoming earnest yet humble Christians.
This was after Harry went to school. During his short holidays, though his mother and sister had often earnestly and lovingly spoken to him, they had made no apparent impression on his mind, all his thoughts being set on going to sea. His mother had now deeply to regret that she herself, ignorant of the truth during his childhood's days, had been unable to instruct him while his young mind was ready to receive the religious knowledge she might have imparted.
How many a mother must feel as she did!
Captain Graybrook had been constantly at sea, and when he came home for a brief visit, though he remarked the change in his wife and daughter, and found that they were unwilling to engage in any of the frivolous amusements of society, he looked upon the opinions they expressed as mere passing fancies, and begged to be excused from listening to the preacher of whom they spoke so highly.
"Those sort of things are very good, my dear wife, for some people," he answered, carelessly; "but sailors have no time to attend to them; I, at all events, have not, for I have to see to the refitting of the ship; and you must acknowledge that I have been a good husband and father. I have done my duty; and what more can you want of me?"
"The best of human beings are sinful by nature, and have committed numberless sins, and require to be washed in the blood of Jesus to fit them to enter into the presence of a pure and holy God," answered Mrs Graybrook, gently.
"I dare say it is all true," said the captain, kissing his wife. "You are a good creature, and mean well; but I have not time to listen now, and must be off; so good-bye, Betty, good-bye!" and he hurried away.
Hannah had entertained hopes of inducing her father's young mate, Leonard Champion, to listen to the subject which occupied her thoughts. He had been a frequent visitor at the house while the ship was undergoing repairs in the dockyard, for he was an especial favourite of her father.
He was a young man of superior attainments, not having gone to sea till he had completed his education at school and had entered college. At that time, his father, who was a merchant, dying just as his firm, by unforeseen circumstances, had become bankrupt, Leonard was left destitute. He had always had a predilection for the sea, and Captain Graybrook, an old friend of his father, at once offered, in the most liberal way, to give him an outfit and to receive him on board his ship.
Leonard thankfully accepted the offer, and, devoting all his energies and talents to acquire a knowledge of the profession he had entered, soon became an excellent navigator and a first-rate seaman. Delighting in his new calling, generous and good-natured as he was cool and daring in danger, he won the confidence of his captain, and was beloved and willingly obeyed by the crew.
He had not seen the captain's daughter till the last time the ship returned home, and had not expected to find her so engaging and refined a girl. He was, in her sight, superior to any one she had ever met, and her affections were engaged before she was aware of the state of her own feelings. He did not conceal his, and, little versed in the ways of the world, while utterly free from deceit, he expressed his opinions with a freedom which many persons under the circumstances would not have done. Hannah, though admiring his many fine qualities, could not forget that he was destitute of the most important of all things—sound religious principle. Not denying the interest she felt in him, she distinctly told him that she would never engage herself to marry one who did not desire faithfully to serve the same God and Master whom she did.
Leonard did not clearly understand her meaning, as, indeed, no one still following the ways of the world can comprehend the spiritually minded.
In vain she spoke to him. Perhaps not till he had sailed did she discover how completely, in spite of her resolutions, she had given him her heart. All she could now do was to pray that the young sailor might be brought to a knowledge of the truth.
That evening, while the storm was raging, her mind had been far away on board the Steadfast, and her heart sickened as she remembered the dangers to which he might be exposed, and the hazardous pursuit in which he was engaged.
"Perhaps Mr Champion may give Harry some of the books to read which he took with him," observed Hannah. "I chose such as I thought most likely to interest him."
"I fear Harry is very little addicted to reading," answered Mrs Graybrook.
"Is there no one else on board likely to speak to Harry on religious subjects, mother? Are none of the other mates Christians?" asked Hannah, anxiously.
"I fear not," said Mrs Graybrook. "There is, however, old Tom Hayes, who has sailed for many years with your father, and has frequently been at our house. I have at times heard him let drop expressions which induced me to believe that he is a Christian man. Your father has spoken of him as a Methodist, and observed that, though he did not think much of his opinions, he was the most sober and steady man he ever had with him, and one of his best boat-steerers and harpooners. I remember being struck by the old man's calm and intelligent countenance and his gentle and unassuming manners, which true and simple religious faith could alone impart. When we were last on board the ship he expressed himself more openly to me than he had ever before done. I spoke to him about Harry, and he assured me that he would do his best to look after him and keep him out of danger. He was going to say more, when he was called away to attend to some duty, and I had no other opportunity of speaking to him."
"I remember the old sailor," said Hannah. "How I wish that I had thought of talking with him! But I am afraid that Harry will not be inclined to listen to anything which a person whom he will look upon as his inferior may say to him. Still the old man may be able to speak to him, and if he is, as you think, a true Christian, he will certainly endeavour to do so."
"After all, dear Hannah, while we rest assured that God will hear our petitions, we must remember that He knows best how to answer them," observed Mrs Graybrook. "Confiding in His love, let our hearts be comforted."
More than once the conversation of the mother and daughter had been interrupted by the loud uproar of the storm, and Jane, their maid-servant, who had been sitting by herself in the kitchen, came running in, exclaiming that she was afraid the whole house would be blown away.
"It has stood many a severer gale than this, Jane," answered her mistress. "But bring your work in here, as you are alarmed at being alone," she added, kindly. "We should be worse off if we were to run out into the garden."
The girl thankfully took advantage of Mrs Graybrook's permission to sit in the drawing-room; and her presence prevented the two ladies from speaking further on the subject which occupied their thoughts.
The usual time for their evening prayers arrived.
It seemed to Hannah, even while they were on their knees, that the gale blew with less fury than before. It was, indeed, one of those storms which occasionally, during the equinox, sweep along the coast, and, though brief, cause much damage to vessels caught near the shore, especially to such as are ill-found and ill-manned. So do the trials of life wreck those persons destitute of sound faith and religious principle, while those who are resting on Jesus are carried through them and preserved.
Next morning the wind had ceased, and the sun shone forth.
Hannah anxiously looked through the telescope in the direction she had seen the flashes of the guns. There lay a large ship on the rocks, but her masts were standing, and boats were passing to and fro from the shore. She was greatly relieved when she soon afterwards heard that, though the ship had received much damage, no lives had been lost.
"I was wrong last night in giving way to my faithless fears and running the risk of alarming you, my dear mother," she said, with a smile. "I feel my heart happier this morning, and believe that God will protect those we love, and that we shall yet see the Steadfast, with a full cargo, sailing back towards the Mersey, and, better still, that father and Harry" (she could not bring herself to utter the name of Leonard Champion aloud) "may have accepted the truth, and then—" and she looked upwards—"when we are called upon to part, we may know that we shall meet together to enjoy the glorious happiness which our gracious Saviour has prepared for all those who love Him."
WHALING IN THE PACIFIC.
The Steadfast, South Sea whaler, having doubled Cape Horn, was traversing the broad waters of the Pacific. Royals and studding-sails were set to catch the light breeze which sent her gliding majestically along over the calm ocean; her six whaleboats, with stem and stern alike, hung from the davits above her black sides. A tropical sun shone down on her deck, making the pitch hiss and bubble in the seams, and driving all on deck whose duty did not compel them to keep elsewhere, into such shade as the sails and bulwarks afforded.
Captain Graybrook, a fine-looking man, with an open, intelligent expression of countenance, stood aft, sextant in hand, prepared to take a meridional altitude. Near him was his second mate, Leonard Champion, with two boys, one of whom also held a sextant.
"You can now, Harry, take an observation as well as I can, and before long, if you pay attention, you will become a good navigator," observed the young mate.
"Thank you for teaching me, Mr Champion; that's just my wish," answered Harry.
"Where there's a will there's a way; and you, Mr Bass," said the mate, turning to the other boy, "ought to do as well as Harry by this time."
"Dickey is fonder of skylarking than shooting the stars," remarked Harry, laughing.
"Not fonder than you are, Harry," retorted Dickey Bass, who was the son of a former shipmate of Captain Graybrook, and brought by him to sea through regard for the boy's father. "I don't happen to understand sums as well as you do, and so I don't always get my day's work done as correctly as yours."
"Always! why, if we were to go by your reckoning, Dickey, we should have been in the middle of the forests of South America, or on the top of the Andes, before now. When did you ever make a right calculation?" asked Harry, who delighted in bantering Dickey, though they were really great friends.
"Why, for the last fortnight I don't suppose I have been more than eight or ten degrees out at the utmost."
Mr Champion and Harry laughed heartily.
"Rather a serious error, Mr Bass."
"I meant minutes," said Dickey, "or perhaps seconds; I always forget which is which."
At that moment Captain Graybrook lifted his instrument to his eye, and the mate and Harry followed his example.
"The sun has dipped; make it noon," said the captain; and the ship's bell was struck.
Having written off their observations and quickly made their calculations, the ship was found to be about seventeen degrees south of the line, off the coast of Peru.
Look-out men were sent aloft, for they were now approaching a part of the ocean where whales were in those days likely to be found. As they looked over the side, many polypi, medusae, and squid were observed floating on the surface; and occasionally a covey of flying-fish, rising from the water, darted rapidly over it, quickly again, as their brilliant wings dried, to sink down and become the prey of their enemies, the dolphin or bonito. A seaman had just hauled a bucket of water on deck. Within it was a gelatinous-looking mass. The mate and his young companions examined it.
"That is part of a squid," he observed, "the whale's food. Probably the remainder is down the monster's maw. We shall sight a whale before the day is over, I hope."
"I hope so too," said Harry. "I long to see one killed and brought alongside. We have had a dull time of it since we touched at Valparaiso. I thought we should have captured a dozen or more before this."
"You will have to learn patience at sea, my boy," observed the mate. "We have three years to remain out, and may consider ourselves fortunate if we get a full ship at the end of that time."
The sextants had been returned to their cases in the cabin, and Harry and his chum, Dickey Bass, finding it very hot, seated themselves in the shade by the side of a gun, of which the Steadfast carried eight, besides a good supply of muskets and cutlasses and other weapons; for, having to visit regions inhabited by fierce and savage tribes, she was well armed.
"I say, Harry, what was old Tom talking to you about in your watch last night, and what made you look so grave this morning? I could not tell what had come over you," said Dickey Bass.
"He asked me whether I was prepared to die. I thought it an odd question."
"I should think it was," said young Bass. "What did you say in return?"
"I told him that I had not thought about it, and that, as I enjoyed life, I had no intention of leaving it," answered Harry. "He then reminded me that I might fall overboard any day, or the ship might be lost with all hands, or the boat in which I happened to be might be capsized, or I might die of fever, or be cut off by savages, or that I might lose my life in a number of other ways. He asked me, if any of these disagreeable things were to happen, where I expected to go. I told him, of course, that I wished to go to heaven; and he then inquired what right I had to go there."
"I do not think he had any right to ask you any such questions," observed Harry's companion. "I should have told him to mind his own business. I do not like to be bothered by that sort of questions."
"I could not answer him in that way," replied Harry, "for he spoke very kindly. He is, besides, an old man, and has been for a number of years with my father, who thinks highly of him, for I have heard him say so. Besides, he has taken great pains to teach me seamanship, always tells me anything I ask him; and if it were not for him I should not know half as much as I do."
"Still, I do not see why he should try to frighten you about dying, or ask you where you expect to go if you do. It looks as if he doubted that you would go to heaven," said Dickey.
"He told me very distinctly that I had no claim whatever to go there, and that unless my sins were washed away, the Bible says that I should be unfit to go there; that heaven is a pure and holy place, and that all people are impure and unholy," said Harry, in a graver tone than usual.
"But I suppose he wants you to become religious, and read good books, and give up laughing and singing and being the capital jolly fellow you are now, Harry," interrupted Dickey Bass. "If I were you, I would not listen to him; neither your father nor Mr Champion ever speaks to us in that way. Just forget all he said, and drive dull care away."
"I have already forgotten, I am afraid, a great deal that he said," answered Harry; "but he seemed, at all events, very much in earnest, and I cannot help remembering some of the things. Besides, Mr Champion has lately spoken to me more seriously than he has ever done before; and only last Sunday he gave me a book to read, and told me that he thought it would do me good. As I found my sister Hannah's name in it, I suppose she asked him to give it to me, and that he had forgotten to do so till then."
"I saw you with one in your hand. Did you read it?" asked young Bass.
"It seemed very dry, and I fell asleep over it, so that I cannot say I know much about it," answered Harry.
"The best thing you could have done," remarked Dickey. "Whatever you do, Harry, don't turn Methodist. I cannot say that I admire old Tom, and do not want you to become like him. To my mind he is a dull, stiff old fellow, with a very good opinion of himself, and I have never felt inclined to be intimate with him."
"I did not at first; but he seemed so anxious to help me, and to put me up to all sorts of things, that I could not help liking him, though I own that I would rather he did not talk to me about religion. The next time he does so I shall try to get him to change the subject."
"Of course you must," said Dickey Bass. "It's all very well for parsons and ministers, but an old boat-steerer has no business to trouble one with such things. Why, I only yesterday heard him lecturing Rob Burton there, the merriest, happiest fellow in the ship;" and he pointed to a fine, active-looking young seaman at work on the other side of the deck. "I have a notion that he was talking to him about his soul and death, as if he was not likely to live as long as any one on board, and longer too than most of the old hands. Why should he put melancholy thoughts into his head, and take the pluck out of him?"
"I suppose he thought Rob Burton careless about religious matters, and wanted to get him to read his good books and tracts," observed Harry. "Old Tom means well, at all events."
"He may mean well, but for my part I don't like those well-meaning fellows," answered Dickey. "If I catch him lecturing you I will join in, and we will soon put a stop to his preaching."
The thoughtless lads talked on for some time in the same strain, till any good effect which the conversation Tom Hayes had held with Harry might have produced on him was completely eradicated.
They were interrupted by a startling cry from the masthead, so welcome to a whaler's ears, of "There she spouts!" and in a moment the crew, hitherto so lethargic, were aroused into action. Some flew to the falls, to lower a couple of boats, others sprang up the shrouds, to observe the position of the whale; and soon afterwards the boats, of which the first and second mates had the command, shoved off from the ship's side. Another cry came of "There again!" indicating that the whale had once more come to the surface, and was spouting. The monster was at no great distance. Mr Gibson, the first mate, took the lead, pulling the bow oar of his boat, that he might be ready to strike the harpoon into the animal as soon as it was reached.
Harry and his friend were in the rigging watching the proceedings.
Quitting his oar, the mate stood up, harpoon in hand; it flew from his grasp just in time to strike the monster, which was about to "sound," or dive. The line attached to the weapon led aft to a tub, in which it lay coiled at the bottom of the boat. The mate, who acted as boat-steerer, now came to his proper place in the stern, where he guided the boat by an oar passed through a ring called a grummet, while the headsman, who had before been steering, took his place in the bow, armed with several lances, ready to plunge into the body of the whale the instant it again appeared.
After some minutes, up came the monster, lying somewhat exhausted with its exertions to escape and the effects of the harpoon in its body. The boat pulling close up to it, the headsman thrust first one lance and then another into its body, near the fin, shouting as he did so, "Stern all." Instantly the boat backed away as fast as the crew could use their oars, only just in time to avoid the violent movements of the monster, which now reared its tail, lashing the water into foam, and, lifting its enormous head, threatened destruction to its assailants with its formidable jaws. Suddenly its movements ceased, and the boat-steerers, believing that its last struggles were over, and eager to secure their victim, urged their men to give way towards it.
The first mate's boat still took the lead, and approached with less caution than usual. The apparently vanquished monster, as it saw her, without a moment's warning whirled round its enormous tail, which, striking her, sent the boat flying into the air, scattering her crew on either side in the blood-stained water, when it rushed forward with open mouth to attack Mr Champion's boat. He narrowly avoided the fierce assault, and then boldly steered to the assistance of his shipmates, who were struggling for their lives. Once more the whale turned, dragging the boat after it, swimming directly through the midst of the men in the water.
The accident had been clearly seen from the ship. Several had been picked up. Mr Champion then steered towards the whale, which was in its death struggle a short distance off. Another boat had been lowered to go to his assistance, under the command of Tom Hayes.
In a short time, the first mate's boat having been righted, all three were seen returning.
"Any one hurt, Mr Gibson?" inquired the captain, as the whale was brought alongside.
"Sorry to say, sir, that Rob Burton has gone," was the answer. "Either the whale or the boat struck him, and he went down like a shot."
"Poor Rob Burton!" exclaimed several voices. "The gayest and best-hearted fellow aboard."
"Dickey, you said he was likely to live as long as any of us," remarked Harry, very much shocked. "I wonder whether he listened to what old Tom said to him?"
"It's not a subject I like to think about," answered Dickey. "I wish it had not happened."
"So do I. But our wishes cannot bring poor Burton to life again," observed Harry. "I cannot help thinking that old Tom must be right; and when he speaks to me I think I ought to listen to what he says."
"Now, Harry, don't let this thing make you turn Methodist!" exclaimed Bass, after a silence of some minutes. "It is very shocking, of course; but that's no reason why we should mope and grow serious, and fancy that the same is going to happen to us. I don't feel quite comfortable myself, I own; but we shall get over it in a few days, and all hands will be as merry as ever."
Such, indeed, was the case. Poor Burton's clothes were put up to auction and disposed of among the crew, and his name was seldom or never mentioned afterwards. Too often the same thing happens on board ship when a seaman is lost, much as his shipmates may mourn for him at the time.
Old Tom did not, however, fail to speak to Harry about Burton.
"I was talking to him on the state of his soul only just two or three days before he had to go and stand in the presence of his Maker, and give an account of the deeds done in the body," said the old man. "I asked him whether he knew that it was washed in the blood of the Saviour, or whether he had his sins still clinging to him. He did not know, poor lad, that his soul needed cleansing; and when I said that it was vile and foul, and loaded with sin, and that unless it was washed he could not enter heaven and stand before the all-righteous Judge, he asked me how that was to be done. So I told him the way God has appointed—the only way by which it could be done—through faith in the blood of the risen Saviour shed for us on Calvary. And I tell you, Harry, that it gives me great joy to think that his answer was, 'I do believe Jesus died for me. May God in His mercy help my unbelief.' I told him to pray, and that he might be sure God would answer his prayer. He said he would that very night; and next morning he told me that he had prayed, and that he felt happier than he had ever done before. I had not another word with him after that; but I only wish that you and every one in the ship were like Rob Burton. I know little more about him than what I have told you, but that is enough to give me comfort; and if I ever get home and can visit his mother, it will give her comfort too, for she is a Christian woman, and had taught him to pray, and had never ceased praying for him, he said. Of that he was sure."
"Then do you think he has gone to heaven?" asked Harry.
"Yes," answered old Tom; "for God has promised that He will receive all who trust in Jesus. Whatever are their sins, He will put them as far from Him as the east is from the west; that though they be red like scarlet, they shall become white as wool."
"I wish that I understood these things better than I do," said Harry, earnestly.
"You have your Bible, Harry; read that, with prayer for grace to understand it."
Harry said he would try and find time; and he actually took out a small Bible which his mother had put into his chest, and carried it in his pocket; but he did not like reading it when Dickey was looking on, and somehow or other never found the time he expected.
Dickey tried his best to do away with the impression old Tom had made on Harry's mind; and the thoughtless boys soon, like the rest of the crew, forgot the fate of poor Burton. All hands were, indeed, kept actively employed. Numerous whales appeared, several of which were captured, and night after night the crew were engaged in "cutting in" and "trying out"—that is, cutting the blubber off the body of the animal and boiling it in huge cauldrons on deck. The bright glare falling on the masts and rigging, and the sturdy frames of the sailors, as they stirred up the cauldrons, placed on tripods, with their forks, gave them the wildest and most savage appearance.
"I don't think my mother and sister would recognise the ship if they were to see us now," observed Harry to his companion, as they stood aft, ready to cast off the carcase of a whale which had been stripped of its blubber, and had an opportunity of observing the scene going on beyond them.
"They would think we were a set of spirits from the lower world busy over some diabolical work, I suspect," said Dickey.
The business was not exactly pleasant, but as there was no disagreeable smell, Harry did not mind it; and even Mr Champion, whom he looked upon as very refined, was so accustomed to the work that he took it as a matter of course.
After the oil was thus extracted, it was ladled into casks, which were stowed below.
ADVENTURE WITH SEA-LIONS.
The Steadfast had made so successful a commencement of her voyage that all hands hoped she would get full much sooner than many had expected, and be able to return home. The whales, however, having disappeared from the fishing-ground where she had been engaged, she was about to proceed to the western part of the Pacific, when a mass of rugged rocks was sighted out of the ocean.
"An awkward spot to run against on a dark night," observed Harry, as they approached them. "Hark! what is that strange roaring noise? I could fancy that a thousand lions or more were assembled together holding a concert."
"They are sea-lions, Master Harry," observed old Tom; "the whole rock is covered with them and their cubs. If we could manage to get hold of some of them, we should find their skins very useful."
Captain Graybrook was of this opinion, and as the wind was light and there was no dangerous current running, the ship was hove to, and he ordered two of the boats to be got ready to capture some of the sea-lions, the ordinary species of seal found in the southern seas. Mr Champion took command of one boat and old Tom of the other, and the boys got leave to accompany the second mate.
They pulled away towards the rocks. As a heavy surf broke on the rocks, rushing up some distance with great force and then back again, which would have dashed the boats to pieces, had they got within its influence, they were compelled to pull a considerable distance round before a spot was found on which a landing could be effected with any degree of safety. Even there, those who were to land had to watch for an opportunity, as the boat was sent forward on the crest of a breaker, to leap out and spring up the rocks, while the boats, with a couple of hands in each, were pulled back again out of danger.
No sooner had the party scrambled up the rocks than the seals, alarmed at their approach, made towards the water, rushing down impetuously, and working themselves along by means of their fins—their heads and manes giving them the appearance of lions. Their threatening aspect, and the loud roars they uttered, were enough to daunt any one not accustomed to encounter them.
"I wish that I had remained on board," cried Dickey. "See, here comes a fellow; he will knock us over to a certainty. What shall we do?"
The men, however, had brought heavy clubs, with which they struck right and left as the monsters, with glistening fangs, rushed down on them, snapping their jaws, powerful enough to bite off a limb in an instant. The position of the party was dangerous in the extreme as the monsters came rolling and sliding down the rocks. To avoid them, the men were compelled to climb over the bodies of those which had been stunned; but still more met them, and Harry would have been knocked over by a big seal, and probably carried into the sea, had not Mr Champion, close to whom he kept, struck the creature on the head and dragged Harry out of the way. Old Tom saved Dickey in the same way.
Though most of the seals which had not been killed had made their escape, a few remained on the higher ground, among which was an enormous male seal. The monster seemed determined to give battle to his assailants, and came down the rocks towards them shaking his mane and extending wide his jaws armed with sharp tusks. Old Tom, who boldly went forward to meet the creature, inflicted a tremendous blow with his club on its head, but without stopping its career. Wishing to secure it, he took a harpoon which one of the men, by his orders, had carried with a line attached to it, and plunged it into the animal, trying to make fast the line to a jutting point of rock. The seal, however, rendered only more furious from its wounds, rushed into the midst of the party, dragging the rope, which, as Mr Champion sprang forward to meet it, became entangled around his leg. Before any one could rescue him, he was carried away into the midst of the wild surf dashing up against the rocks.
A cry of horror and dismay rose from all the party as they saw the young mate buried beneath the waves. Old Tom and several of the men sprang forward in a vain attempt to seize him, and were nearly swept away.
The boats were at too great a distance to render assistance. The next instant Leonard Champion was seen struggling amid the curing crest of a breaker; but, alas! much too far off to be reached.
"Oh, he is gone! he is gone!" cried Harry, wringing his hands.
Little did he think of the agony his gentle sister would have suffered could she have witnessed the scene. Happily, those at home are not aware of the dangers to which their loved ones are exposed till they are over. When ending fatally there comes, it is true, the unavoidable sorrow; but even that does not equal the intense suffering of mind which is endured when the peril is witnessed and no help can be sent.
Again the young mate disappeared.
"There, there he is!" cried Harry, as he was seen struggling on the snowy summit of an enormous roller.
Onward he was borne. His shipmates, clasping each other's hands, formed a line, the strongest bravely dashing in towards him. He was already almost senseless; one outstretched hand was seized. Exerting all their strength, the men worked their way up the rock, and then, two of them clasping him in their arms, he was borne in triumph out of the power of the greedy waves. Harry threw himself down by his side overcome by his feelings.
"You are safe, Mr Champion!"
"Thank God for it!" answered the young man, pressing Harry's hand; but he could say no more.
The task of embarking was a hazardous one. The mate was first placed in his boat, when the seal-skins, which had been quickly stripped off, were thrown on board; and, thankful to escape from the treacherous rocks, the party returned to the ship.
Leonard Champion was for several days confined to his cabin. He thought much, and he was constantly reading. Harry recognised the books which had been his sister's. "You must find them very interesting, Mr Champion," he observed.
"I wish that I had begun reading them sooner, Harry," was the answer. "I feel that I have been rescued from the jaws of death through God's mercy; and how unprepared I was to die."
"But I hope you will not be exposed to the same danger again, Mr Champion."
"I pray not, for it was terrible—I can scarcely make you understand how terrible. I cannot help seeing that I should be indeed ungrateful if I did not acknowledge the loving mercy of God, who preserved my life, and endeavour from henceforth to serve Him faithfully, instead, as I have hitherto done, of rebelling against Him. Yet I am sure that we should accept the offers of God, and serve Him from love and gratitude, and not from fear of death; I do not mean simply the death of the body, but eternal death—the doom of all who die unreconciled, and therefore at enmity with God."
"Is that what Hannah's books say?" inquired Harry, in perfect sincerity.
"Yes, and much more. You would have found what I now say in the book I lent you," observed the mate.
"I have not yet read it, but I will try and do so," said Harry; "still, except on a Sunday, I have not much time, as you know, and the book appeared to me very dull."
"I am not surprised at that, for I thought it so myself, though I read it. But now, Harry, that I have had time for reflection, and feel how nearly I was lost, I see its value," said Mr Champion. "Let me ask you to read it, Harry, even although you do find it dull."
Harry promised that he would, and fully intended to read it.
Captain Graybrook observed the change which had come over his mate, but he forbore to ask him questions; he could scarcely suppose, however, that a peril to which seamen are so constantly exposed should have produced the change.
"I thought Mr Champion was as brave as any fellow in the ship," observed Dickey Bass to Harry. "It seems to me that he must have been in a terrible fright, being carried off by the seal, or he would not look so grave and down-hearted as he seems."
"I don't think it was fear, for I am very sure he is as brave as any man alive," answered Harry; but he made no other remark, for of late he had become less willing than formerly to talk to Bass on such a subject, suspecting as he did the real cause of the change which his young shipmate had observed in the second mate.
A NIGHT ADVENTURE.
The Steadfast now steered westward across the Pacific. Leonard Champion was indeed much changed. He no longer took pleasure in the light reading and frivolous conversation in which he had previously indulged. He knew that he was a sinner, and he believed that Jesus Christ died to save sinners; but he had not discovered that by simple faith in the all-sufficient atonement of the Saviour's precious blood shed on Calvary, his sins were already washed away, and that he might live rejoicing in the love of God, and go to Him as a child goes to an affectionate parent, with the certainty of obtaining all he asks for, if it is for his good.
Leonard, however, took every opportunity of talking to Harry. Harry listened respectfully; but he thought that the mate was ill and out of spirits, and he did not feel, therefore, that he need be much influenced by what was said.
Several weeks passed, and once more the cheering cry of "There she spouts!" was heard, and several whales were captured.
The ship was in sight of a rocky island. Three of the boats had already gone away in pursuit of a whale in an opposite direction from the island, the captain himself being in one of them, when another was seen spouting towards the land. The boat of which old Tom had charge was immediately lowered. Harry and Dickey, who had long been eager to go in chase of a whale, slipped down just as she was shoving off. The first mate, who remained in charge of the ship, hailed them to come back.
"The captain promised to let us go some day, and we could not have a better opportunity," shouted Bass.
The mate, understanding that the captain had given them leave, told them that they might go; and old Tom, who had been busy arranging his harpoons, was under the same impression.
The crew giving way, the boat was soon at a distance from the ship. Before she got up to the whale, the monster had sounded; but from the direction it had taken old Tom felt certain that it would rise again still nearer the island. The boat accordingly pulled on. He was not mistaken, but the whale was still some way off. Once more the men bent to their oars. The monster, unconscious of danger, was still above water. As the boat drew near, old Tom was standing up in the bow, harpoon in hand, ready to plunge it into the whale's side. Its flukes were just going up as, with unerring aim, he darted his weapon, which sunk deep into its side. With rapid strokes the boat was backed away, and old Tom returned aft to manage the line, now running rapidly out as the whale sounded. The second line was got ready and made fast to the first, that had almost run out before it began to slacken, as the whale returned to the surface. The crew were hauling it in when the monster appeared. They had just time to make it fast round the bollard, when the whale darted off, towing the boat at a rapid rate towards the island. It seemed in no way disposed to slacken its speed; but old Tom knew that if the harpoon held they would at length come up with it.
The ship had in the meantime been standing after the other boats, and was now almost hull down; still, as the island would mark their position, they had little fear of not being picked up after the other whales were captured.
The sun was by this time near the horizon, and the wind had increased considerably since they left the ship, but, as it blew off the shore, the sea was tolerably smooth.
At length the monster, growing weary, slackened its speed, and the line was hauled in. The boat had got nearly up to it when it again sounded, but only for a short time. On its return to the surface, old Tom was able to plunge several lances into its body, and then, the boat backing away from it, after it had struggled and lashed the water with its tail for a few minutes, it turned over on its side, and a shout proclaimed that the crew were victors. They now prepared to tow their prize towards the ship; but darkness had come on, and when they looked out for her she was nowhere to be seen. Still, as they knew the direction in which she was to be found, they hoped to get alongside before midnight, and bending lustily to their oars, pulled away. They had not gone far before they had to meet the wind, which had hitherto come off the shore, and was in their favour; and the sea rising rapidly, they made but slow way with the whale in tow. No sound was heard but the roaring of the surf on the rocky island and the breaking of the sea-caps, which ever and anon leaped on board. Harry and Dickey heartily wished themselves safe on board again, while old Tom, as he stood up steering with his oar, looked out anxiously ahead, in the hope of seeing a light from the ship. The sea-caps, however, came tumbling on board faster than ever.
"There is work for you, boys," he observed. "We must get rid of some of this water, or else we shall have more than enough."
The boys turned to and bailed with might and main; but their efforts were not sufficient, and one of the men was obliged to assist them.
"There is the light, lads!" cried old Tom; "but it's a long way off," he murmured.
Far away, just above the breaking seas ahead, could be seen the glare of a blue light; it seemed to come out of the water, and showed that the ship was indeed a long way off.
"We shall not get alongside with the whale to-night," observed old Tom.
"Neither with it nor without it," answered one of the men.
"It will be lucky if we get anywhere," said another.
The sea had now risen still more than at first, and dark heavy masses crested with foam came rolling on towards the boat.
It was proposed to hang on to the whale, and wait till the ship stood towards them. The boat was made fast under the lee of the monster's body, which served somewhat to break the force of the seas.
Again a pale blue light was seen, but it was evidently only the upper rays, showing that the ship was hull down. The captain might not dare to venture so near a rocky coast, off which unknown reefs might lie hid, even to save their lives.
In a short time the body of the whale scarcely afforded them shelter, and the seas, rolling over it, broke on board. The crew cried out that they should be swamped, and proposed pulling for the island and landing on the rocks.
"We shall have a chance of saving our lives, and it will be better than being swamped out here!" exclaimed the man who had first spoken.
"We shall have but a poor chance if we attempt to land on the rocks, I tell you that, lads," said old Tom. "I would rather keep hold of the whale."
Still the men declared that they would, at all events, rather chance it.
Just as they were speaking, the clouds to windward appeared to open, and a bright light darted from the sky. This decided old Tom, for he knew that it was the sign of a still further increase of wind.
"I hope we shall not have to run on the rocks," he said; "just, however, as we made fast to the whale, I observed an opening in the surf. It was a very narrow one, though. If we can find it we will attempt to run through, for there is sure to be a harbour inside, and we have no other hope of saving our lives that I can see."
The boat was accordingly cast off from the whale, and her head being kept to the seas, to prevent her from being swamped, the crew exerted all their strength to gain the land. Ahead appeared a long line of roaring, foaming breakers, with a rocky shore beyond, and the dim outline of the dark hills farther on. For an hour or more they pulled on, but no opening in the mass of foaming breakers could be discerned. They were beginning to despair, when old Tom said that he could see the place he was in search of, for he had remarked the peculiar shape of the hills at that spot. He accordingly steered in for the shore. Harry and Dickey, however, could see nothing but the threatening breakers.
"It's very awful!" observed Dickey to his companion. "I wish I was prepared to die. It's bad enough now, and if the boat once gets caught in those breakers it will be all over with us. Harry, can you say any prayers?"
"I am trying to do so," said Harry, who saw the danger as well as Dickey.
Old Tom was too much occupied to make any remark. He kept his eye steadily fixed on a dark patch of water which appeared in the white line of foam, and he steered towards it. The roaring sound of the surf as it dashed against the wild rocks grew louder and louder. Still old Tom urged the men to pull as hard as they could. Many of them thought, however, that they were only pulling to meet destruction the sooner.
"I see the passage now!" exclaimed Harry, as he looked up for a moment while bailing the water out.
"You are right, lad," said old Tom. "Steady, lads! there is One above who will protect us. We will do our best, and trust to Him."
The men gave way. They knew well that in a few minutes more they should be safe, or struggling helplessly among the foaming waters. The loud roar of the breakers sounded in their ears. They bent to their oars; the boys bailed as hard as they could. Old Tom kept his eye ahead. A huge wave lifted up the boat, and seemed about to heave her into the midst of the boiling surf. Onwards she was borne; now she was between two walls of white hissing foam, which flew in thick masses over her; but still she went on, and, gliding downwards with the rapidity of an arrow, in a few seconds she shot into smooth water, leaving the dark rocks and the roaring breakers astern. The wind blew fiercely, the thunder roared, and the lightning flashed vividly; but she was now safe within the shelter of a deep bay. By the glare of the lightning it could be seen that there were cliffs on either side. The crew pulled steadily up the centre till they reached a sandy beach at the farther end, where they landed, and hauled their boat up.
"Now, lads, let us return thanks to God for preserving us from the greatest danger I have ever been in, or any of you either, probably," said old Tom. "If we had not been guided into the passage when we were, it is my belief that the boat would in a few minutes have gone to the bottom, for the gale is blowing nearly twice as hard as it did when we cast off from the whale."
Though most of the men had refused to join with old Tom in prayer on board ship when in safety, no one now declined to do as he suggested; and, led by him, they knelt down on the sands, and offered up thanksgivings for their preservation from the danger in which they had been placed. Even Dickey Bass uttered a fervent "Amen," and Harry felt that God had indeed been merciful to him.
"Where should we have been now, Bass, if we had missed the passage?" he asked.
"I don't know," answered Dickey; "but I am very thankful that we are safe."
It was too dark to enable them to go in search of shelter, if shelter was to be found; so they stretched the boat's sail out from her side, and formed a low tent, beneath which they lay down to shelter themselves from the storm till the return of daylight.
ON THE DESERT ISLAND.
The storm raged furiously all night, the thunder roared, the lightning, darting forth from the dark sky, flashed ever and anon, in a zigzag course, from side to side of the cliffs around the bay, and the howling wind threatened frequently to tear off the sail and carry it away. Still the weary seamen slept, although Harry and young Bass did not for a long time close their eyes.
"I feel, Harry, that old Tom is right; and next time he speaks to me I will listen to him," said the latter. "He was as cool and collected from the beginning of the storm as if there had been no danger. If it had not been for him, I do not think we should have been where we are."
Harry agreed with his companion, and urged him not to forget his good resolutions should they ever again get on board the ship. What had become of her they could not tell, and they felt very anxious about her fate. She might have been cast on some of the numerous reefs which lay thereabouts, or have been driven far away from the island.
"At all events, the captain will probably suppose that the boat is lost, and not think it worth while to come and look for us," observed Dickey.
"I am very sure my father won't give us up, if he thinks there is a chance of finding us," answered Harry.
"But what if the ship is lost?" said Dickey, thoughtlessly.
"Oh! do not talk of anything so dreadful!" exclaimed Harry; "I could not bear to think that we are not again to see my father and Mr Champion and the rest. My father is a good seaman, and our ship is stout enough to weather out the worst gale that ever raged."
"I hope so," said Dickey, in a mournful voice; "but it blows a regular hurricane; and, oh! what a fearful crash of thunder that last was! See, see! The lightning seems to stir up the very water of the harbour; and oh! there is another peal! I cannot help feeling as if the sky itself was coming down upon us."
The last peal was succeeded by a loud rending and crashing sound, as if a number of trees had been torn up by their roots or the stout branches wrenched off from the stems.
"Lie down, boys, and try and get some sleep." It was old Tom who spoke. They were not aware that he was awake and overheard them. "God will take care of us, for we can do nothing more to take care of ourselves. We are safer here than we should be farther inland among the trees."
It was some time, however, before they followed his advice. At length there was a lull, and they both lay down. Scarcely had they placed their heads on the ground, than they were lost in forgetfulness, and took no more notice of the storm than the seamen who had slept through it all.
When morning dawned all hands awakened. The fury of the gale was over. The sun arose, and, bursting through the clouds, his rays soon dried their damp clothing.
The ground rose slightly from the head of the bay, and on the lower portion grew a grove of cocoa-nut trees loaded with fruit. One of the men, by means of a belt round his waist and the trunk, soon managed to climb to the top of one of them, when he threw down a number of nuts, which were eagerly seized by the rest. The outer husks were quickly torn off, and a nut was given to Harry, the eye being pierced. He declared that he had never tasted so delicious a draught of milk. The meat served the party for food, but did not satisfy their hunger, as they had eaten nothing since leaving the ship.
"This is better than nothing, but it won't keep body and soul together," said one of the men, in a grumbling tone.
"Lad, we should be thankful that God has sent us where we can find such wholesome food, instead of complaining that we have not better," said old Tom. "Maybe, too, there are shell-fish and crabs to be got, and perhaps other food besides; and see, there is a rill of fresh water. We should be thankful for that. We have an axe and our knives, and if we are obliged to live here we may build ourselves a hut, though we need not think about that, as I hope the ship has escaped and will come to look for us before long."
Still the men grumbled. They were all out of spirits, and had made up their minds that the ship was lost. They had begun to wander about, as sailors generally do under such circumstances, one in one direction and one in another, when Harry, who had gone to the boat, exclaimed, "See, here are some fishing-lines. Who put them there I do not know, but we shall not be in want of a dinner if we make use of them."
"This is a godsend," observed Dickey.
"Everything good is sent by God," said old Tom; and he called to the men to come and assist him in launching the boat.
A short search along the shore enabled them to find mussels and other shell-fish, which they hoped would serve for bait; and, shoving off, they went down towards the mouth of the harbour, where they quickly caught as many fine fish as they could eat. Returning to the beach, sticks were collected, and a tinder-box, which was in the tub with other articles always carried in a whale-boat, enabled them to light a fire.
An ample meal raised their spirits. They once more embarked and pulled down to the mouth of the harbour, in the hope of seeing the ship standing towards the island. The heavy surf which rolled in, however, made it impossible for them to get out. Old Tom and the two boys, therefore, landed and climbed to the summit of a high cliff overlooking the ocean. Hence they gazed round in every direction, but no ship was in sight. In the far distance they could discern here and there some dark rocks, over which the sea broke in masses of foam. Harry's heart sank within him as he thought that possibly the Steadfast might have been driven upon those fearful rocks, when, as he knew too well, she must speedily have gone to pieces without a chance of any one on board escaping. He scarcely liked to ask Tom Hayes what he thought, but he observed that the old man looked unusually grave as his eye turned in that direction.
"This is no place for us to build our hut on, though it is the best spot for a look-out," observed old Tom, as he surveyed the rough broken ground all around them. "We must take it by turns, however, to spend the day here, though it will be best to take up our quarters near where we first landed."
They waited for some time watching the dark, heaving sea, which still rolled and tumbled in huge billows before them; but not even a speck which might be the topsails of the Steadfast appeared above the horizon. At length they returned to the boat.
The men had, in the meantime, caught a large supply of fish, and, in better spirits than before, they pulled back to the head of the bay.
Old Tom advised that they should put up some shelter for the night; and while one of the men cooked the fish, the remainder cut down some young trees and a quantity of boughs, with which they formed a tolerably substantial arbour, while some dried leaves and smaller boughs supplied them with as good beds as they required.
"If we had a good stock of grog, and some bread and potatoes, we should be as happy as princes," observed one of the men.
"You are right, Ned," said another. "For my part, I do not care how long we stay."
"What if there should be savages on the island! Most of them are cannibals in these parts, I have heard say; and, as we have no arms to defend ourselves, we should look foolish," remarked a third.
"I have seen no signs of any natives, so I do not think we should make ourselves unhappy about them," said old Tom. "If there are any we must make friends with them, and it's more than likely that they will give us help and show us where we can obtain food."
Thus old Tom did his utmost to keep up the spirits of the men, and to prevent them from falling into despondency. Harry, however, could not help feeling sad as he thought of the possible loss of the ship. He eagerly set off the next morning to look out for her, and while two of the men who pulled the boat remained fishing below he and Dickey climbed the cliff. The gale had considerably abated, but the ocean still swelled and broke with the effects of the gale. They returned with an unsatisfactory report.
The men who had remained in the camp had, in the meantime, been looking out for traces of natives. None had been discovered. They had also begun to build a hut. As they had only one axe, this was a slow process. They had cut out a couple of rude spades with which to dig the holes for the foundation, and, as all hands worked hard, by the close of the day they had made some progress. The cocoa-nut fibre, twisted into rope, enabled them to bind the rafters together, and the long leaves of some palms, which grew farther inland, served for thatch. Old Tom encouraged them to proceed, though he had lost all hopes that the ship would return.
As had been agreed on, one man went down and remained on the look-out during the first part of the day, and a second took his place in the afternoon. Thus all were employed.
Harry took the afternoon of the second day. Climbing to the top of the hill, he gazed, as before, anxiously round the horizon. A sigh escaped him when no sail appeared. Sitting down, he remembered his Bible, which he had always carried since he formed the resolution of doing so. He took it out. From its sacred pages he drew that comfort which it always affords. Never before had he read it with so much satisfaction, for he prayed earnestly that his mind might be enlightened; and he now was enabled to see many of the important truths he had never before comprehended. He read and read on, page after page.
"I would rather have this than every book on board!" he exclaimed.
He was surprised when he heard a hail from below, and found that the boat had come for him.
Sunday came round, and old Tom urged his companions to make it a day of rest. Harry now produced his Bible, greatly to old Tom's delight. Morning and evening Tom had offered up a prayer, Harry and Bass and one or two of the seamen joining him, though others showed no inclination to do so.
Harry offered to read from his Bible, to which the men agreed; but though they sat quiet and listened, some did so with apparent indifference. He, however, selected such portions as he thought that they would best understand. By degrees they became interested. He was reading the fourteenth chapter of Matthew—the account of our Lord's feeding five thousand men, besides women and children; followed by that of Peter walking on the sea, when, through want of faith, he began to sink, and the Lord stretched forth His hand and saved him, saying, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
"So, lads," observed old Tom, "you see how Jesus Christ fed the multitudes when they were hungering, and saved Peter when in danger, though his faith was weak. We have been fed, you will all allow, when we thought we had reached a barren island where no food was to be found; and in the same way, though I fear our faith is weak, He will take care of us. Then it seems to me that we must give Him our hearts, just as Peter stretched out his hands to Christ for safety."
"Old Tom speaks the truth, it seems to me," observed one of the men to a companion, in an undertone. "If I thought that Jesus would hold out His hand as He did to Peter, I should not despair; but I am such a terrible bad fellow, that I am sure I could not keep straight by myself."
"Jesus is ready, not only to grasp the hand of every one who cries for help, but when once He has got the man's hand in His He does not let it go," said old Tom, who had overheard the remark.
When evening closed and the boat's crew lay down in their hut, several of them acknowledged that they had never spent so happy a Sunday in their lives.
IN AN OPEN BOAT.
A fortnight had elapsed, still the Steadfast did not return. The whole island had been explored. It was found not to be more than a couple of miles long, and scarcely half a mile in width, the greater portion consisting of black volcanic rocks thrown up by some mighty convulsion of nature. No other harbour was discovered; indeed, there was not a spot besides the bay they had entered on which a landing could be effected without danger. They probably were the first people who had entered the bay, for there were no signs of the island ever having been inhabited. There was but a very small portion of ground fit for cultivation; the only trees were those which clothed the side of the valley and the little cocoa-nut grove on the shore of the bay; while no other stream of water was discovered besides that near which they had formed their camp.
As the trees could not be perceived from the sea, Harry thought that, even if the island was marked on the chart, it was probably set down as a barren rock on which no one could land.
"My father, depend upon it, thought that our boat was swamped in attempting to regain the ship, or else that she was driven on the rocks, when he might well suppose that none of us could have escaped. He would otherwise, I am sure, have come back before this," he observed to old Tom.
"I hope that is the reason why he has not come back," was the answer; for old Tom had come to the conclusion that the ship, with all hands, had been lost, though he did not like to say so to Harry.
The men were beginning to get very impatient at their long detention on the island. Old Tom did his best to keep them employed; but it was difficult to find work for them. It was evident, too, that the cocoa-nuts would not last for ever; and when they had come to an end, what would they do for food? the men inquired. They might live on fish; but three or four of their hooks had already been lost, and in time they might be unable even to catch fish.
"One thing is clear, lads," observed Tom; "if we are to get away, we must carry water with us as well as food. Our small breaker will only hold enough for two or three days on short allowance, and, though we may carry some in the tubs, it will be difficult to keep that from being spilled. My advice is, that we set to work and scoop out a number of cocoa-nuts—they will hold a good supply—and we must try and smoke or salt some fish. I calculate that we can carry enough to last us three or four weeks, and in that time we may be able to reach a more fertile island than this is—one likely to be visited by whalers—if we are not so fortunate as to be picked up by a ship first."
The men were eager to be off, and set to work readily to prepare for the voyage. Harry would rather have remained, still believing that the ship would come back to look for them. Some time, however, was occupied in catching fish, and in drying and salting them, for it was necessary first to erect a building of stone for the former operation, and they had to collect the salt in the holes of the rock along the shore.
A lovely day, just a month after they landed, found them ready, with the cocoa-nut bottles and tubs full of water, and as many whole cocoa-nuts and as much dried and salt fish as they could stow away.
"Before we shove off, lads, let us return thanks to God for bringing us safely here and giving us food to eat, and then let us pray that He will take care of us in the voyage we are about to make," said old Tom. "I tell you that we shall meet with many dangers, from which He alone can preserve us."
The men agreed to old Tom's proposal; and then in good spirts they pulled down the harbour and glided out into the open ocean, now shining in the bright sun of the early morning. The surf, which broke on the rocks on either side in a gentle murmur, glittered brightly, presenting a very different appearance to the wild fury it exhibited when they took refuge within the bay. A light breeze springing up from the northward, the sail was hoisted, and the whale-boat stood to the south, away from the dark, forbidding-looking island. The small compass which is usually carried in a whale-boat enabled them to steer in a tolerably direct course.
"Now, lads," said old Tom, "we may reach land in about a fortnight; but it may be a month or six weeks before we fall in with an island where provisions are to be found. It will be well, therefore, to put ourselves on an allowance both of water and food. Remember that God helps those who help themselves, and if we take more than we require to keep up our strength, we cannot expect Him to send us a fresh supply."
Harry and Dickey were always ready to support him, and the men, without murmuring, agreed to do as he advised.
The crew having been divided into watches, old Tom taking charge of one and Harry of the other, and all other arrangements being made, old Tom lay down to rest, saying that he would keep the first night-watch.
They had a few candles for their lanterns, which had been carefully husbanded; these were kept to be used should any night prove particularly dark and cloudy, and the compass be required, for when the stars were shining they were sufficient to steer by.
For several days the boat sailed on over the tranquil ocean. Sometimes it fell calm, when the men took to their oars. The rest of the day they spent lying along the thwarts. Morning and evening, however, Tom offered up prayer, and Harry read some chapters in the Bible, to which most of the men listened attentively.
"What we should have done without your Bible, Mr Harry, I do not know," observed old Tom. "I believe it has mainly contributed to keep the men contented and happy; I only hope that they will remain in the same temper."
"I at all events will read the Bible to them," said Harry. Harry kept to his resolution. Dickey was one of the most attentive of the listeners.
"Harry," he said, one day, "I confess that I did not before know what was in the Bible when I used to sneer at old Tom for being religious, and was afraid that he would make you so. I wish that he would make me like himself or like you."
"God's Holy Spirit can alone make you, Mr Bass, what you ought to be," observed old Tom, who had been listening to the boys' conversation. "But you have to seek His grace, and to trust in Jesus, according to the teaching of His word; for we are there told that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. I never yet met an infidel or careless, bad fellow who really had read the Bible with prayer. It is only thus that we can benefit by it. Many complain that they have no faith, and that it is no fault of theirs—and yet they will not do the very thing that God tells us to do; so you see that it is not God's fault if a man does not believe, but the man's own fault. Do you read and pray earnestly and faithfully, and depend upon it God's Holy Spirit will do His part and help you."
"I will try, Tom, indeed I will," said Dickey; "and will you and Harry pray for me?"
"That we will, Mr Bass, because God has said that earnest, believing prayer availeth much; but you must pray for yourself—you must not trust to others praying instead of you. God will hear your prayers, though they may be very weak and imperfect, just as He heard the prayer of the poor publican who smote on his breast and said, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.'"
It cannot be said that all in the boat listened to Harry when he read the Bible, or to old Tom when he spoke, or followed their example.
While the weather remained fine and they had enough to eat, they kept up their spirits, and began to talk of what they would do when they got on shore. Two or three of them indeed declared that they had had enough knocking about at sea, and that if they should land on a pleasant island with good-natured natives, they would take up their quarters there and marry wives and live a life of ease.
"If you do so, lads, you will run the risk of becoming heathens like them, and forget God and all His benefits," observed old Tom. "Remember, if we do land safely, it will not be our own right arm or our own strength which will have preserved us, but His merciful kindness; and I tell you, you will be ungrateful fellows if you do as you propose."
"Old Tom is always preaching," muttered one of the men to whom he spoke. "I don't see why we have not a right to please ourselves."
Old Tom did not hear this remark, and he probably would not then have answered even if he had.
For ten days or so the voyage had continued without any change in the weather. The sun was very hot, and the fish, which they thought had been well salted and smoked, began to taste very strong. Harry and Dickey could only eat very small pieces at a time, with the help of some cocoa-nut and a sip of water between each mouthful. Next day a perfect calm came on, and the sun beat down with intense force on the boat. Although their provisions were covered up and kept as cool as possible, the fish grew worse and worse. Several of the men, when it was served out to them, threw it overboard with disgust, declaring that they could eat it no longer.
"Seeing we have nothing else to live upon, we should be thankful that we have got that, and not throw it from us," observed old Tom. "It's bad-tasted, I'll allow; but as long as we can manage to get it down it will help to support life, and we should try to eat it."
Harry and Bass did as he advised, and as yet they did not find their strength much diminished.
Most of the men, however, began to complain of pains and aches, and unwillingly got out their oars. Tom urged them to pull on, in the hope that they might in a day or two reach some island which Harry thought could not be far off.
Day after day they had gone on, ever appearing to be in the midst of the same circle where sky and sea met, without sighting land or a distant sail. At night, while one watch rowed the other slept.
Another morning came, but still the glass-like ocean showed no signs of a coming breeze. They had put in their oars, and were munching their share of cocoa-nut and such small pieces of the fish as they could still eat, when suddenly, at a little distance, the surface of the water was broken, and a covey of flying-fish darted through the air towards them. A dozen or more fell into the boat, and were eagerly seized and killed by the famishing crew.
"Let us thank God, who sent them to us," said Tom, as several of the men greedily began to bite at the fresh, tempting-looking morsels.
Half the number were cut up, and the remainder Tom advised should be reserved for dinner.
The food somewhat restored the men's spirits, and they pulled on for some hours without murmuring.
Another and another day passed by, and then a breeze sprang up, and the sail was hoisted, and they ran on before the wind. All felt that unless they should shortly reach land or be picked up by a ship their fate was certain. Their cocoa-nuts and water were nearly exhausted, and even old Tom could with difficulty manage to eat a small portion of fish. Still he appeared calm and happy, and did his best to encourage his companions; he sat at the steering oar for the greater part of the day and night, taking but little rest. When he lay down he charged those who were on the watch to keep a bright look-out for land, while he himself, when awake, had his eyes moving round the horizon in the hope of discovering it.
At length all the water was gone, and not a piece of cocoa-nut remained. One of the crew, who had long been complaining, had lain down in the bow, saying he should go to sleep. When it was his turn to keep watch, Jack Harding, one of the men, tried to arouse him. Jack lifted his arm, which fell down by his side.
"Bill has slipped his cable, I am afraid," said Jack, in a hollow voice.
Harry went forward to ascertain if such was the case. Bill was indeed dead.
"Lads," said old Tom, "I don't know which of us will go next, but this I know, that the case of those who are not trusting in Christ is a very terrible one. I won't say anything about poor Bill, but I speak to you as a dying man to dying men. The day of grace has not yet passed— to-morrow it may have gone by for some, if not for all those who are still unreconciled to God. I said this before to you when you were in health; God in His mercy has allowed you to suffer from starvation and sickness, that He might lead you to Himself."
"We dare say you speak the truth, Mr Hayes," answered one of the men; "but it's hard to believe that God, if He is as kind as you say, should allow us to suffer as we are doing."
"He allowed His faithful apostles of old, and many thousands of Christians since then, to suffer far more than we are doing; and yet they acknowledged to the last that He does all things well," answered old Tom. "I have just told you why He allows you to suffer; and remember what Saint Paul says, 'The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.'"
Tom's address served as the funeral sermon of poor Bill, who was shortly afterwards lifted overboard by his sorrowing companions.
SAVAGES AND MISSIONARIES.
It was again night. For the greater part of it old Tom sat at the helm, while a gentle breeze wafted them on. Once more the sun rose. It was Harry's watch. As he glanced round the horizon, he caught sight of a blue undulating line to the south-west. At first he thought that it was a bank of clouds, but at length he was convinced that it was land he saw.
"Land! land!" he cried out.
His shouts aroused all the sleepers.
"Land it is! there is no doubt about that!" said old Tom, taking his seat at the helm and steering towards it.
As they approached they saw it was an island of some extent, with hills covered with trees, but a coral reef intervened. A passage, however, was at length discovered. How eagerly the famished crew longed to get on shore to quench their burning thirst and satisfy their hunger!
The first object which met their sight, as they pulled into a small picturesque bay, was a stream of water, which came sparkling and foaming down the side of the hill. Not far off was a grove of cocoa-nut palms, near which were several other fruit-bearing trees. Without stopping to ascertain whether any natives, were in the neighbourhood, they pulled to the shore, and leaping out, rushed forward to quench their thirst at the nearest point of the stream which they could reach. Some cocoa-nuts were also quickly obtained, and sitting down, they soon emptied the contents of the shells of several.
"If we had fallen in with this island two or three days ago, poor Bill, maybe, would have been alive and merry now," observed one of the men.
"It might have been so, lads," said Tom; "but one thing I know, that we should be thankful for God's mercy in bringing us thus far in safety."
The strength of all the party was revived by the food and water. By Tom's advice they refilled the casks and cocoa-nut bottles. He then proposed that they should push off into the bay, and try and catch some fish. Two of the men replied that they had had food enough, and preferred remaining in the shade under the trees; the rest, however, agreed to accompany him. Some crabs and shell-fish, as before, served them as bait.
They had been fishing for some time with good success, and were contemplating returning to the shore to cook the fish and to rest for the night, when they caught sight among the trees, at some distance from the beach, of several savages, who had apparently been watching them. These were joined by others, who began flourishing their weapons and shouting. The two men who had been left on shore, on hearing their voices, started up, and, observing their menacing attitude, ran towards the beach. The crew of the boat, seeing the danger of their companions, pulled in as fast as they could bend to their oars, in the hope of rescuing them. The distance was considerable. Neither of the poor fellows could swim. They rushed into the water up to their necks. The natives came on yelling towards them. Long before the boat could get up to them they were dragged back, and in another instant dispatched by the clubs of the savages.
"It's too late, lads!" cried old Tom, who saw what had occurred; "we shall be treated as they have been if we let the savages get hold of us. We must make the best of our way out of the bay. It's a mercy that we have got the water and food."
There was indeed no time to be lost, for at that moment another party of savages were seen bringing several canoes down to the beach. Old Tom told Harry to take the helm, while he and the three remaining men pulled away out to sea. Happily, just as they got near the passage through the reef, a breeze sprang up, and they were able to hoist the sail. At that instant four canoes were seen paddling out of the bay. It still seemed doubtful whether they would escape. The breeze, however, freshened, and the whale-boat darting ahead, soon distanced her pursuers.