Courage, True Hearts: Sailing in Search of Fortune
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"Never fear, sir, we'll die like true-born Britons."
"But," cried Duncan, "there need be no dying about it. I myself can navigate the ship, if sextant and chronometer still are safe."
They crowded round this brave though youthful navigator and shook him by the hand, while tears of joy streamed down many a sea-browned weather-beaten cheek.
"Can you, sir? Oh, can you? Then take charge and we will obey."
Luckily the rudder and wheel were uninjured, and as soon as he had taken sights and found out where he was, he had a jib and new foresails set, the helm was put up, and slowly the Ocean's Pride began to sail for the nearest land.
This was one of the Azores. Very far away indeed, but still Duncan hoped to reach it ere long and in safety.
The young fellow's orders followed each other quickly enough, and were obeyed with great alacrity.
The spirit-room was locked, and an armed sentry placed over it. He was to bludgeon any man who should dare to approach it with intent.
Several of the worst cases of drunkards he put in irons.
Then all hands were told off to temporarily repair the ship.
The poop was mended and made water-tight, and the bulwarks roughly seen to. This occupied a whole day, and as soon as daylight succeeded darkness the busy crew were at work once more.
There were several spare spars on board, and the men now set about rigging a couple of jury-masts, which, though only carrying fore-and-aft sails, would greatly add to the good ship's speed.
But more than this had to be done, for she had shipped quite a deal of water, and the donkey-engine had to be repaired and rigged to get clear of it.
While work was going on cheerily enough a poor drink-demented wretch, who had escaped from below, rushed wildly up, and sprang with a shriek, that none who heard it ever forgot, right into the sea.
There was not a boat to lower, and small use would it have been anyhow, for those who looked fearfully over the bulwarks saw but a red circle on the waves, and rising bubbles. It was the poor man's blood and breath, for he had been torn down by a shark.
The other cases recovered, and begged of Duncan not to log them.
The young acting-commander promised he would not, and they returned to duty.
It was a long and a tedious voyage to the Azores, but every one was for the most part happy now, although still sad when they thought of the awful catastrophe which had caused such loss of life.
At the town where the Ocean's Pride at last lay at anchor, additional repairs were made, and in due time Duncan sailed with a fair wind for England's shore.
It was the month of July when the ship was once more lying alongside the quay, and hearing of her terrible adventures the people crowded down in hundreds, and would have crowded on board, too, had not Duncan given strict orders that no one should cross the gangway, except on business.
This did not prevent reporters from getting over the side, however, and although Duncan was very reticent, the whole town was soon ringing with his praise.
But the owners were still more delighted.The cargo was valued at fully five-and-twenty thousand pounds, and the young navigator had saved it all.
A meeting was held at which it was unanimously agreed to present Duncan with the very handsome sum of one thousand, and his brother, who had been but little less active than himself, with five hundred.
Duncan was indeed a happy young fellow now. But his good luck did not end here, for on the fourth day of the arrival of the Ocean's Pride, who should step on board but jolly Captain Talbot himself, and, neatly dressed in the uniform of a ship's apprentice, Frank walked alongside of him-on his port beam in fact.
That was a real happy meeting, as a Yankee would say.
Surely Frank never looked better nor more manly. He had lost all the looks of the "tender-foot", and was well coloured and hardy.
And Talbot himself was as usual bronzed and jolly. The honest grip that he gave Duncan's hand showed, too, that he was hearty and strong as ever. It was not a few fingers that this bold sailor presented to a friend, but the whole hand.
"And how are you, my brick of a boy? But I needn't ask when I look into those bright eyes of yours. Ay, and I've heard of your clever doings too. Do you see the papers?"
"I haven't much time just at present," replied Duncan, "nor has Conal here either."
"Ah, Conal, right glad to see you! But do you know that your brother is a hero? Why, all the newspapers from Land's End to John o' Groats are singing his praises!"
"It won't make a bit of difference to Duncan, sir," said Conal, somewhat proudly.
"But really, Captain Talbot" – this from Duncan himself-"I don't know what I should have done without Conal. But come into the saloon, sir, such as it is, for we were terribly knocked about."
"Yes, and it surprises me that you have got things so ship-shape again as you have. You've heard from your daddy?"
"Ay, and Florie too, and I'm going to run down for a spell as soon as I can get paid off."
"And I'll go with you, and Frank here as well. Won't you, lad?"
"Like a hundredweight of gunpowder, sir, with a spark put to it."
"And now, sir, sit down; I have half an hour to spare. Steward, bring the wine and biscuits. And how goes the project, Captain Talbot?"
"Getting on splendidly. I've formed a company, and nearly all the shares are sold, but really 'twixt you and me and the binnacle, boys, I've kept the most myself."
"Well," cried Conal laughing, "I and my brother are men of vast wealth now-ahem! – we shall have all that is left."
"No, you mustn't part with all your doubloons. Just half. The other shall be put in a bank as a kind of nest-egg, don't you see?"
"Very well," said Duncan, "we always did take your advice, and so we will now."
"That's right! Old Ben Talbot never gave a boy bad counsel yet."
"And the ship, sir?"
"Well, the ship's a barque, and a beauty she is. About eight hundred tons, and although not quite a clipper, she'll make up in strength what she'll lack in speed.
"A whaler she was," he continued, "but we have given her a rare cleaning. She's as sweet now as a nut. Double-skinned is she, and the bows all between the bends are solid teak, shod in front with iron. But you shall see her as soon as we haul out of dock."
"I'm taking two mates; both have passed and own certificates. You, Duncan, shall be acting third mate, and Conal I'll rate as auxiliary. You haven't neglected your studies, have you?"
"No, sir, and both myself and Conal mean to go in for our first exam, as soon as we get to London."
"Bravo! But I won't hinder you longer. Frank shall stay on with you a bit, and I expect you all to come and dine with me to-night at my hotel. Can you?"
"All but me," said Conal. This wasn't quite grammatical, but it was truth. "One of us must be ship-keeper."
"That's right. Never shirk your duty for anyone or anything. Do you remember the eulogy on Tom Bowling-when stark and stiff?"
And the pure and manly voice in which Talbot sang a verse of Dibdin's celebrated song, proved that, though this true sailor was over fifty, he was as hale and strong and hearty as many young fellows of twenty. Ay, and ten times more so, for at the present time thousands of lads ruin their health at schools-and not from study either.
Talbot was going, and Duncan was seeing him across the gangway.
"Oh, by the by," he said, still retaining his old friend's hand, "I'm a perfect fool."
"No, no, Duncan; there are other folks' opinions to be taken on that subject."
"But I was actually going to let you away without even asking the name of your ship."
"Say our ship, my lad."
"Well, our ship."
"And you'd never guess her name, but your dear wee tot of a sister christened her, and the barque's name is the Flora M'Vayne."
"Well, I am pleased."
"To-night, then; six o'clock to a tick."
And away went the jolly skipper.
CHAPTER III. – BOUND FOR SOUTHERN SEAS OF ICE
Frank and Duncan spent a very happy evening indeed with their friend Talbot.
Without the aid of wine either, which no one with youth on his side should require to make him gay. But I do not mind telling you that the old skipper himself had a drop of the "rosy" as he called it. And the "rosy" meant rum, aromatic, and of great age.
Well, there was quite a deal to talk about; they told each other their adventures, and they spoke also of their future prospects, and the cruise of the Flora M'Vayne.
"She will be furnished and fitted complete," the captain said. "We shall make sure enough of the sea elephants, but I'm going to tap a whale or two also, if I don't find elephants enough. And, bother me, Conal," he added, "I don't see any reason why you shouldn't write a book about our cruise."
It was long past ten before the merry little meeting broke up. This isn't late for land-lubbers, but with sailors it is different. "Early to bed when on shore" is their motto.
It was early in August-only the first week, in fact-when the boys and their captain found themselves back once more at Glenvoie. The colonel had expressed a wish to run down with them, but he had to defer it, owing to the surly way in which his liver asserted itself.
They found everything very much in the same state as when they left it, only Florie was now fourteen, and far more demure.
It is Burns who says:
And a true Highland welcome they had. There were no tears shed except some of joy, which trickled over the somewhat pale cheeks of Mrs. M'Vayne herself when she noted how manly her boys had grown.
Frank hadn't grown an inch. Nor did he want to. You do not require very tall or leggy men as sailors. But the young fellow's heart was in the right place, and he was even more full of genuine fun and humour than ever.
But if we talk about a Highland welcome, what shall I term that which poor Vike accorded to Duncan and Conal, and in a lesser degree to Frank. Lucky it was that the meeting took place out-of-doors.
Had it been inside, this splendid Newfoundland would undoubtedly have knocked down tables, and demolished crockery in his mad glee.
As it was, he contented himself with knocking first Duncan and then Conal down, and licking their faces and hair as they lay, helpless, on their backs.
Then, laughing down both sides, as it seemed, with white teeth flashing and hair afloat behind him, he set out for a circular spin by way of getting rid of his superfluous feelings. For the time being indeed he had really resolved himself into a kind of hairy hurricane or tornado. But he gradually became calmer, and when he entered the house at last, where dinner was already laid, he threw himself down by Duncan's side with a sort of sixty-pounder sigh, as much as to say:
"I'm the happiest dog in Scotland, for I thought I'd never, never see my master again. And now that I have got him I mean to stick to him."
And he kept to that determination too, for nowhere would he sleep that night except in the boys' room.
All the dear old rambles over moorland and mountain and through the dark depths of the forest, were resumed next day, and kept up for over a week. I do not mean to describe these happy days, for soon indeed must we sail far, far away to wilder scenes, and our adventures will be more exciting than any that ever our heroes had in the romantic Highlands.
Florie was still Frank's innocent little sweetheart. So he told her, at all events, as he made her a present of a lovely locket with his own portrait in it and a copy also of hers.
Not that Frank was proud of his phiz. Oh, no; for in fact no one would have called him a real beauty, nor say his features were altogether regular.
But he had eyes that sparkled with the radiance of health, and his face changed in expression with almost every sentence he uttered.
He would have made an excellent actor. He had been told so more than once, and his answer was: "Well, I shall turn an actor when all the seas run dry".
And now having bidden farewell to Glenvoie, our heroes had to lie at Dundee for a whole week finishing the fitting-out of the good ship Flora M'Vayne. It was really a tiresome time, for the constant arrivals of visitors to see the ship and the crew that were about to embark on so long and so perilous a voyage was incessant all day long.
Nobody, therefore, was sorry to hear the last cheer that arose from an assembled multitude, although it was a right kindly one, and though prayers and blessings followed the barque.
That same evening they were far away from the eastern coast, for this was a lee shore, and they were wise to have a good offing before making direct for the south.
The barque might have been called somewhat clumsy, but nevertheless she carried a splendid spread of canvas, and sailed remarkably close to the wind.
Captain Talbot had told Duncan that he had made the Flora M'Vayne as sweet as a nut, and certainly he had done so. No one to walk her decks could ever have guessed she had been a greasy, grimy blubber-hunter not so long ago.
Why, everything on deck looked as bright and as clean as a brand-new sovereign. The quarter-deck was as white as wheaten straw, the binnacle was an ornament, that would have looked excellently well in the best of drawing-rooms. The brass and hard-wood work were as bright as silver, every rope's end was coiled on deck, as if the barque had been an old-fashioned man-o'-war, and the men were all suitably dressed and tidy. The bo's'n was a most particular man, and, although some men chewed tobacco, to have expectorated anywhere on deck, would have been an offence for which a rope's-ending would be well merited.
The galley was of the newest type; so, too, was the donkey engine, and this would be used at sea when very far from land for the purpose of condensing water.
All told, the mustered crew were eight-and-thirty. The men forward had been picked by Talbot himself, and every one of them had been to the Arctic regions more than once.
They were therefore good ice-men, and neither frost nor cold was likely to have any terrors for them. Nor the great green waves of far southern lands, that somehow always sing in the frosty air as they sweep past a vessel's sides.
But there was something else on board which I should draw especial attention to, and this was nothing less than a huge balloon. It was not filled, of course, but the means to inflate it were all on board, and having reached the great Antarctic ice-wall or barrier, the captain meant to make an a?rial voyage of discovery, farther to the south than any traveller had ever been before.
There is nothing I love better than acts of daring and wild adventure, and Talbot was certainly to be commended on this score.
His balloon was certainly not anything like the size of Andr?e's, yet it was capable of rising and floating for an indefinite period with three men, and provisions for as many months.
A special house had been built for this great uninflated balloon between the fore and main masts, and on each side, bottom upwards, lay the whalers, or boats with bows at each end, and steered by an oar only. These were to be used in the fishery.
The ship's ballast was water-filled tanks, and tanks laden with coals. But Talbot hoped to return to Scottish or English shores with ballast of quite a different sort, and better paying-oil, to wit.
The Flora M'Vayne was to touch nowhere on her voyage out until she reached the Cape. That at least was the good skipper's intention, but circumstances alter cases, as will presently be seen.
They had fine weather all the way till far past the dreaded Bay of Biscay. On this occasion two boys in a dinghy might have crossed it. But it is not to be supposed that they could go on for a very long time without encountering what Jack calls dirty weather. And so when, in about the latitude of Lisbon, and to the east of the Azores, it came on to blow, no one was a bit surprised.
"We'll have a gale, mate," said the captain; "but though abeam, or rather on the bow, we have plenty of sea-room; and on the whole I sha'n't be sorry, for I really want to see how the Flora behaves."
The wind, even as he spoke, began to roar more wildly through the rigging, but in gusts or squalls, that at times rose for a few minutes to almost hurricane pitch.
Before the storm had come on many beautiful gulls had been screaming around the barque and diving for morsels of food that Frank was throwing to them, but now they disappeared. Back they flew to the rocks that frown over the waters of their sea-girt homes. Little dark chips of stormy petrels, however, continued to dash from wave-top to wave-top, and for once in a way, they brought tempest.
But the ship was now eased, for the lurid sun was setting, and a dark and moonless night must follow. The men were hardly down from aloft when the storm seemed to increase, but it blew more steadily, so she was kept away a point or two, and now went dancing over the heavy seas as if she imagined she was the best clipper ever built.
A little heavy-headed she proved, however, so that she shipped a good deal of water over the bows, otherwise the thumping, thudding, buffeting waves seemed to make not the slightest impression on her.
The chief cabin or dining-saloon was down below, there being no poop, but a flush-deck all along. Both Frank and Duncan were off duty, and, seated in this small but comfortable saloon, the former could not help remarking on the strange feeling and sound of each heavy wave that struck the ship abeam. She appeared to be hit by a huge, soft boxing-glove, about a thousand times as large as any we ever use.
Immediately after there was the whishing sound of water on the deck, but although the vessel was heeled over somewhat by every awful blow, she took no other notice.
"Batter away, old Neptune," the barque seemed to say; "it amuses you, and it doesn't hurt me in the slightest."
About two bells in the first watch, Talbot came below, and supper was ordered.
His face was radiant, but shining with wet. The steward, however, assisted him out of his oil-skins and sou'wester, then, having wiped his face with his pocket-handkerchief, he sat down.
"Well," said Duncan, "Frank and I are waiting to hear the verdict."
"Why, it is this," said the skipper. "The barque is a duck, and well deserves the name of Flora M'Vayne. I don't believe a hurricane could hurt her, and she'll chuck the small icebergs on one side of her as I should chuck a cricket-ball. And ain't I hungry just. Sit in, boys. It's all night in with you lads, isn't it?"
"Not quite," said Duncan. "I kept the last dog-watch, and don't go on again till four."
Viking got up and seated himself by his well-beloved master's side.
He licked Duncan's hand, as much as to say, "When you go on deck so shall I."
But his master seemed to divine his thoughts.
"No, my good dog," he said, "you must stay below to-night, else the seas would sweep you off, and what should I do then?"
After supper Frank got out his fiddle and played for fully half an hour, then he and Duncan, who both occupied the same state-room, retired.
As a sailor always sleeps most soundly when the wind blows high, and he is really "rock'd in the cradle of the deep", it is almost unnecessary to say that these lads dropped soundly off almost as soon as their heads touched the pillows.
Nor did they awake until eight bells at the end of the darksome middle watch, when Conal came down to call them.
"Ay, Duncan, and you'll need them too. Better lock Vike in your cabin."
"That is what I mean to do."
Poor Viking did not half like it though. There is no dog in the world makes a better sailor's companion when far away at sea than a Newfoundland, and I speak from experience. But such dogs do not appreciate danger sufficiently high, nor have they good enough sea-legs to face a storm and walk the deck of a heaving ship. Therefore they often get washed into the lee scuppers.
On the present occasion Vike made up his mind to be as naughty a dog as he could.
"I shall wake the skipper," he told Duncan, speaking through the key-hole as it were. "Wowff!" he barked. "Wowff! wowff! What do you think of that?"
Well, the sound could certainly be heard high over the roaring of the wind and the dash of angry waves.
The captain heard it in his dreams; but it takes more than the barking of a dog to awake a sailor born. So Talbot just hitched himself round, and went off to sleep on the other tack.
By breakfast time both wind and sea had gone down, and there was every expectation of fine weather once again.
"No damage done is there, mate?" said Talbot to Morgan.
"No, sir, nothing worth speaking about. Some of the coal tanks got a drop o' water in them, that's all."
"Well, that will make them last the longer. But, mind you, Morgan, I'm rather pleased than otherwise that we've had that blow."
"So am I."
"It just shows what the barque can do."
"That's it. If she is as good against the ice as she is against a sea-way, then, by my song, sir, she'll take us safely to the Antarctic, and just as safely back home again. Pass the sugar, sir."
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