Frank Nelson in the Forecastle. Or, The Sportman's Club Among the Whalersскачать книгу бесплатно
A BACKWOODSMAN'S IDEAS
"I DECLARE this is almost like coming into another world, isn't it?"
"Yes, and I, for one, am glad to get back. I like a good horse, and no one enjoys a few days' shooting and fishing better than I do; but when I get tired of the saddle and the woods, I like to see the blue water and feel the solid planks of a yacht's deck under my feet once more. We had a good time though, in spite of all our adventures and mishaps."
"We certainly did. I am like Perk, who, after he had been down into the Cave of the Winds, under Niagara Falls, said he would do it again for no money, but seeing that he had been down, he would not sell his experience at any price. I couldn't be hired to make that same trip to Fort Bolton again – being "snowed up" was the worst part of it to me – but since it is all over and we are safely out of it, I am glad we went."
This was a portion of the conversation carried on by our friends Archie, Fred and Eugene, as they sat in the main-cross-trees of the Stranger, swinging their feet in the air and looking out over the shipping anchored off North Point Dock, in the harbor of San Francisco. They had only just arrived that day, their trip across the mountains being happily ended. They had discarded the half-savage, half-civilized costumes they had worn during their sojourn in the wilderness and substituted pea-jackets for their hunting-shirts, light shoes for their high-top boots, and natty tarpaulins for their slouch hats. They looked as though they had just come out of some lady's band-box, and one and all declared that it was most refreshing to find themselves dressed up like white folks once more.
The first thing these three uneasy youngsters did after they had donned their "shore clothes," and put the suits they had worn in the mountains carefully away in their trunks for safe-keeping, was to run all over the vessel, looking into every locker and corner, just as they had done when they first saw her on the stocks at New Orleans, and the next to mount to the cross-trees to survey the harbor. Here they had sat for half an hour, enjoying the prospect spread out before them, and talking over their recent adventures and exploits. The other members of the Club, Walter, Frank Nelson, George Le Dell and the rest, were seated on the quarter-deck with Uncle Dick, talking to Dick Lewis and old Bob Kelly.
Dick and Bob were objects of great interest to the sailors who composed the Stranger's crew. They stared at everything with wide-open eyes, and were as much out of place on the schooner's deck as the jolly tars would have been in the mountains from which the backwoodsmen had just arrived.
The Club had had a varied and eventful experience during the comparatively short time that they had been absent from the Stranger, and even now the hearts of some of them would beat a trifle faster whenever they thought of what they had passed through.
Walter drew a long breath every time he recalled his experience in Potter's rancho; Fred and Eugene shivered and drew their collars up around their ears when they thought of the sight presented to their gaze on the day they set out from their camp under the cliffs, to show the Pike and his family the way to Fort Bolton, and imagined that they could see the air filled with driving snow, and could hear the roaring of the wind as it swept the prairie, just as they had seen it and heard it on that long-to-be-remembered afternoon. Archie grew excited and elated whenever he thought of the way he had captured the wild horse, and then exasperated when he remembered how he had lost him before he had had a chance to try even one race with his cousin. Frank shrugged his shoulders when any of his companions called him "Chinny Billy," as they often did, and thanked his lucky stars that he was well out of the predicament which the genuine Chinny Billy had so nearly got him into, when he denounced him as an impostor and spy in the presence of all the members of Potter's gang; and even Uncle Dick Gaylord, hardened as he was by a long life of adventure, did not like to recall the feelings of anxiety and suspense that he had experienced on more than one occasion, during the journey to Bolton and back. The two trappers were probably the only ones in the party for whom the last few months had no especial interest. Their lives were made up of just such scenes and incidents, and they never thought of them again, unless something happened to bring them vividly to their recollection.
The last night that the friends passed at Fort Bolton was given up to enjoyment. The colonel and major entertained Uncle Dick at their quarters, and the younger officers took charge of the boys. After supper it was noticed that some of the officers and their guests distributed themselves in little groups about the room, that the members of each group carried on a very earnest conversation in a low tone of voice, and that various little keepsakes were passed from one to the other, which each promised to preserve in remembrance of the giver. The gifts that passed between Frank and Lieutenant Gaylord were the most valuable of any. These two young fellows had been fast friends and almost constant companions ever since the night on which the lieutenant recaptured Dick Lewis after his flight from the guard house, and arrested Frank for assisting him to make his escape. Frank had something he knew the lieutenant wanted, and that was the splendid horse which Potter had given him. Frank could not take the animal around the world with him, and besides he was already the happy owner of a steed which was just as handsome and swift, and which held a much higher place in his affections. That was Roderick. It was Uncle Dick's intention to travel on horseback until the party reached a point from which they could continue their journey by stage or railroad, and then sell off their stock – their wagon, which would have been an almost useless encumbrance to them, now that the roads were blocked with snow, having been exchanged for pack mules – Frank would then have no further use for his horse, so he offered him to the lieutenant, who was glad to accept him.
The journey to San Francisco was made without the occurrence of any exciting or noteworthy incidents. Among them all they managed to shoot a few black-tails, and one grizzly bear, whose skin and claws were preserved by the old members of the Club as trophies. They found the snow fully as deep as they expected, the travelling difficult, and the weather extremely cold; but their progress was steady, although slow, until they reached the railroad, and then in a few hours they found themselves in an almost tropical climate.
When they reached the railroad, Dick and Old Bob would have taken leave of them, but the boys would not listen to it. They were determined that, if they could have their own way, the trappers should remain with them for a long time to come. They owed much to these two men, and as they could not repay them in any other way, they would take them around the world, introducing them to scenes and people of which they had never dreamed. Of course this idea originated with rattle-brained Eugene Gaylord, and Uncle Dick, who could not find it in his heart to refuse his nephews anything they asked for, consented to the arrangement, though not without a good deal of grumbling.
"They'll only be in the way, Eugene," said the old sailor. "They just fit the mountains and the prairie – they were made for them; but how will they look on the deck of the Stranger? There isn't room enough aboard our little craft for that giant, Louis."
"O, Uncle, there are two or three empty bunks in the forecastle, and they can sleep there as well as not," replied Eugene.
"But they will be so uneasy that they'll not enjoy themselves in the least," continued Uncle Dick. "They will be frightened to death when they find themselves out of sight of land, and the men will be playing tricks on them all the while."
"But the men mustn't play tricks on them. We won't let them; and besides it would be dangerous. As for being out of sight of land, that need not trouble them. They'll not be in half as much danger as they were while they were with Potter's gang. Then think of the fun we'll have, Uncle! Didn't you notice how they opened their eyes the other night when Bab was telling them of the elephants we expect to see in India?"
"Well, well! do as you please," said the old sailor. "If they are foolish enough to go, I shall have a fine time of it among you all; I can see that plainly." And then he turned away to hunt up Frank Nelson, to whom he always went when he had anything on his mind.
Eugene having gained his point went straight to Archie and Fred, who declared that it was the best thing they ever heard of. The matter was laid before the trappers with as little delay as possible, and the proposition almost took their breath away. They opened their mouths and eyes and looked wonderingly at each other, but said nothing. Archie thought that was enough for one day, and although his friends wanted an immediate answer, he succeeded in inducing them to retire and leave the trappers to themselves. He thought it best to give them leisure to turn the matter over in their minds (it seemed to be more than they could grasp at once) and go to them for an answer at some future time.
Dick and old Bob seemed to grow timid as they approached the confines of civilization, but they were coaxed on board the train, and when the party reached San Francisco, they were taken off to the Stranger. The matter of the voyage around the world had been brought for up discussion a few times, but Dick had found his tongue at last, and declared that it was not to be thought of. The boys knew better than to press the subject, and hoped that time would accomplish what arguments could never do. A few hours on board the Stranger in the harbor, where vessels were constantly coming and going, might increase their confidence, while it familiarized them in some slight degree with life on ship-board, and perhaps they could then be induced to change their minds. Archie had tried to persuade Dick to follow him and his companions to the cross-trees; but the trapper, after glancing down at his colossal proportions, and then up at the ratlines, which looked no larger than so many threads, declared that the ropes wouldn't bear his weight, and remained below.
"Now, this feels natural!" exclaimed Featherweight swinging back and forth on his dizzy perch with such apparent recklessness that Dick Lewis, who now and then looked up at him, fairly shook in his moccasins; "and I am ready for new adventures and new sights beyond the seas. Our fellows can say, what the books tell us comparatively few American travellers can say, and that is, we have seen the most of the wonders of our own country. I never expect to see anything grander than the Yo Semite Valley. I wonder how long it will be before Uncle Dick will hoist the signal for sailing?"
"Just as soon as the stores are aboard," said Eugene. "We may get off to-morrow."
"Will Dick and Bob go with us?"
"No," said Archie. "We might as well give that up. And since I have come to think of it, I don't want them to go unless they are perfectly willing to do so."
"Nor I," said Eugene. "If it frightens them so badly to travel on a railroad train, what would be their feelings when they found the schooner tossing about on such waves as we saw coming around the Horn? I shall urge them no more."
"They have been talking to Frank about it," continued Fred. "They always go to him and believe every word he says – that is, almost every word."
"Ah! yes; I was going to put that in," said Archie. "They don't like to believe that the world is round. They don't say so with their mouths, but they do with their eyes."
"And they don't know what to think about elephants as large as that house of Potter's, and lions and tigers, and snakes twenty feet long," said Fred.
"And a whale bothers them," chimed in Eugene; "and Dick laughed the other day when I told him about a flying-fish."
"What's going on down there?" asked Archie, as the sound of voices in animated conversation came up from the deck.
The boys looked below and saw that the group, which they had last seen scattered over the quarter-deck, were gathered about Dick Lewis, who appeared to be making them a speech. Now and then he illustrated his remarks by pointing to something he had placed at his feet; but the boys could not see what it was, for the Club were crowded about it and hid it from view. They were missing something, that was evident; but they did not intend to miss any more of it, and it was but the work of a few seconds to swing themselves out of the crosstrees on to the ratlines, and descend to the deck. They ran up to the group, and found that the object over which the trapper was holding forth was simply a mess-pan filled with water.
"Them stories you've been a tellin' seems wonderful to me an' ole Bob, who never heard the like afore," Dick was saying as the boys came up. "We don't conspute 'em, 'cause bein' unedicated men, we never had no book larnin', an' don't know nothing outside the mountains an' the prairy. Now, you tell me that thar's three times as much water on the 'arth as thar is ground; that you're goin' to start from Fr'isco an' sail clean around it in this yere little boat, an' that if me an' ole Bob'll go with you, we won't even know that we're sailing round the world. Won't we know when we come to the edge?"
"There isn't any edge to it," said Frank.
"Sho! Thar can't help bein' an edge if the world is round, can thar? This yere," said Dick, pointing to the pan of water, "is the sea; an' this yere," he continued, fumbling in the pockets of his hunting shirt, "is the 'arth."
As he spoke he drew out a piece of hard tack, which he had rudely shaped with his knife to represent his idea of the rotundity of the earth. The corners were cut off, making the biscuit nearly round, and there was a piece clipped out of the side of it, in shape something like a bottle with a very short neck and wide body, to represent the Golden Gate and the harbor of San Francisco. This miniature world Dick placed in the middle of the pan of water, and then straightened up and looked triumphantly at his audience. Eugene glanced at it, choked back a laugh and then rushed off to find the steward, while the trapper went on with his illustration.
"Now, thar's the 'arth," said he, placing his finger on the biscuit, "flat like a pan-cake, as anybody can see it is, that's ever been out on the prairy, an' round like you say it is. Here is the sea all around it, an' here's Fr'isco. Now, after you go out of the Golden Gate an' start to sail round the 'arth," said Dick, moving his long finger through the water around the biscuit, "can't you see the edge all the way round? I can understand that, which wasn't so very plain to me a few days ago, but now comes something I can't see into. You say the 'arth turns over onct every day, but that don't by no means stand to reason, 'cause jest see what would happen," – he went on, placing his finger under the biscuit and raising one edge of it out of the water. "If it turned over, one side of it would keep gettin' higher an' higher all the time, an' finally the houses, an' trees, an' mountains, an' folks would get to slidin' an' slidin', an' when they come to the edge, they'd all slip off into the water; an' when the 'arth turned cl'ar over" – here he flopped the biscuit up side down in the pan – "whar would we all be?"
None of his auditors had attempted to interrupt the trapper, and the reason was because there was not one among them who could trust himself to speak, not even Uncle Dick. Believing from their silence that he had got the better of all of them, the trapper said he was more firmly convinced than he had ever been before, that all the learning in the world was not to be found in books, and was about to throw the contents of his mess-pan over the side, when Eugene came elbowing his way into the group, carrying an apple in one hand and a small magnet in the other.
"Now, Dick," said he, "let me talk a minute. You haven't quite got the idea. In the first place, that piece of hard tack doesn't represent the shape of the earth, but this apple does, pretty nearly. In the next place, the globe doesn't revolve through water, for the water forms part of the earth and turns with it."
"Sho!" exclaimed the trapper. "It would all spill out."
"Hold on a minute, and I'll show you that it can't spill out. The world revolves through the air. Don't you fellows criticise now," continued Eugene, turning to his companions. "If, when I get through, you want to explain that the earth really revolves through space, and that the air goes with it, except such portions as are left behind and form the trade-winds, you are welcome to do it; but it is quite beyond me."
Eugene handed the magnet to Archie to hold until he was ready to use it, and with the point of his knife rudely traced upon the apple the shape of the continents and the principal oceans. This done, he went on with his explanation, which was simply a repetition of what every boy learns when he first begins the study of geography. He described the motions of the earth as well as he could, and used the magnet to illustrate the attraction of gravitation. Dick listened attentively, and when Eugene finished, took the apple from his hand and looked at it with a great deal of interest. He turned it over several times, and appeared to be meditating upon something.
"They're goin' to sail round the 'arth this way," said he, moving his finger slowly around the circumference of the apple, and talking more to himself than to the boys standing about, "an' when they get around here" – he stopped and thought a moment, holding the end of his finger under the apple – "when they get around here, they'll be – Human natur'!" he cried suddenly, as if frightened at the discovery he had made. "When you get around here, on the under side of the 'arth, you'll be walkin' with your heads downwards, won't you? Bob can do as he likes, but I won't go. Mebbe that little red hoss-shoe aint strong enough to hold the boat fast to the 'arth – don't look as if it was – an' some dark night she'll get to fallin' an' fallin' – Whew! I'm as near that place now as I want to be, an' I'm off fur the mountains to-morrow, bright an' 'arly."
Dick turned away, fairly trembling with excitement, and the boys scattered as if some one had suddenly sent a charge of bird-shot among them.
THE trappers were badly frightened, there could be no doubt about that, and it was a spectacle the Club had never expected to witness. That these two men, who had time and again faced death in almost every shape in which he presents himself on shore, who had lived in the very midst of danger from their youth up, and who sought and delighted in perilous exploits, should be so nearly overcome with terror by hearing of things with which every schoolboy is familiar, was surprising; and there was something so ludicrous in the manner in which they exhibited their alarm, that the boys could scarcely restrain their laughter until they could get out of sight. Old Bob glared wildly about him, seemingly on the point of jumping overboard and swimming ashore, and Dick Lewis leaned against the rail, drawing his breath in quick gasps and looking altogether as if he did not yet fairly understand the startling discovery he had made. Uncle Dick Gaylord took one glance at him and then went to the stern and looked over into the water, while the boys dived down into the cabin and threw themselves into chairs, or leaned up in corners, holding their handkerchiefs over their mouths – all except Archie, who never could control himself when he wanted to laugh. He ran into his state-room, shut the door and buried his head in the pillows. The funny part of it was, that Dick should suppose, that those who attempted the reckless task of sailing around the world, should be obliged to take a magnet with them, in order to keep themselves and their vessel from falling off when they reached the "under side of the earth."
At the end of five minutes Archie made an attempt to come out into the cabin, but he was still bubbling over with laughter, and the sight of him created a fresh explosion, and set Archie himself to going again at such a rate that he was obliged to go back. It is hard to tell how long it would have been before the boys could have controlled themselves sufficiently to talk the matter over, had it not been that a commotion which suddenly arose on deck, drew their attention to other affairs.
"Fore rigging, there," exclaimed Uncle Dick. "What do you see?"
"A man overboard, sir," replied the voice of the boatswain's mate. "He jumped off that whaler, sir."скачать книгу бесплатно
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