Frank Nelson in the Forecastle. Or, The Sportman's Club Among the Whalersскачать книгу бесплатно
"Ship ahoy!" roared Uncle Dick.
"Ay, ay, sir!" shouted the captain of the whaler.
"What ship is that?" asked Uncle Dick.
The answer was given in a loud tone of voice, but the words were indistinct. The captain talked as if he had a mouthful of something. The only part of the reply that the Stranger's crew understood was that the ship was seventeen months out of Nantucket, and that she had nine hundred barrels of oil in the hold.
"What does he say is the name of his ship, Mr. Baldwin?" asked Uncle Dick.
"I understood him to say Eli Coon, sir," said the officer.
"That sounds wonderfully like Tycoon, doesn't it?" whispered George.
"And what does he call himself, Mr. Baldwin?" continued Uncle Dick.
"Captain Hank Wilson, were the words I caught, sir."
"What schooner is that?" shouted the captain of the whaler.
"The Stranger, Captain Richard Gaylord, just out of Honolulu," answered Uncle Dick; and the words were so plain and distinct that the master of the whaler could have heard them if he had been twice as far away.
"I'll send a boat aboard of you."
"Very good, sir," replied Uncle Dick. "There is something strange about this, Mr. Baldwin," he added. "That is the Tycoon if I ever saw her, but that isn't the scoundrel who commanded her while she was in the harbor of San Francisco. Stand by, now, and if any of our men come off in his boat we'll see that they don't go back."
There was no confusion on board the Stranger – there never was, for the discipline was too perfect for that – but everybody was highly excited. And the excitement was increased when the second mate went forward with the order, which he gave in a low voice: "All hands stand by, and be ready to jump when you hear the word." The sailors knew what that meant, and while some pushed back their sleeves, others laid handspikes where they could find them again at a moment's warning; and having thus prepared for any emergency, they moved to the side in a body, and awaited the coming of the whaler's boat with no little impatience. She came in sight at length, rounding the stern of the ship. Presently one of the men whispered something, which was passed along from one to another, until it reached the ears of the boys in the waist:
"I see Lucas in that boat, and Barton too!"
"But where is Frank?" said Archie, anxiously. "If he is aboard that ship now is his time to jump overboard and swim out to us."
"Look at Dick Lewis," whispered Bab, suddenly.
The boys with one accord turned their eyes toward the trapper. He stood on the forecastle with his hands on the rail, over which he was leaning as far as he could without losing his balance, and his eyes were fastened upon the approaching boat with a gaze such as a hawk might bestow upon the prey it was about to seize. As the boat approached nearer and veered round to come alongside, Dick gradually drew back out of sight and walked toward the stern to meet her.
"If that is the captain of the Tycoon standing in the stern of that boat," said Archie, "he will be a well-thumped man before he gets fairly on deck, unless Uncle Dick interferes in time."
"It isn't he," said Eugene.
"I was mistaken. But he's a hard-looking customer all the same."
The boat came nearer with every stroke of its crew, but the boys could not see any one in it whom they recognised. The backs of the oarsmen were turned toward them, and the captain kept his tarpaulin drawn low over his forehead, while the wind had turned the collar of his shirt up about his ears, so that his face was most effectually concealed.
With a few strokes more the boat was alongside, and the red-shirted captain's head appeared above the Stranger's rail. Then Dick began to bestir himself. With a bound like a tiger he sprang forward and grasped the captain by the shoulders.
"Avast there, Lewis!" roared Uncle Dick. "What are you about? If you attempt any violence I'll throw you over to the whales!"
"No, I reckon not," replied the trapper. "This feller can't fool ole Dick Lewis, no matter what sort o' clothes he's got onto him!"
As he said this he dragged the captain bodily over the rail, and lifting him in his arms as he would an infant, carried him toward the quarter-deck.
"GO on deck now, and let me give you fair warning that if you don't behave yourselves you'll go overboard before you can think twice!"
It was the mate of the Tycoon who spoke, and who gave this order to Frank and the three sailors in the forecastle, after he had released them from their irons. The officer did not look much as he did the last time Frank saw him. He wore a handkerchief about his head and over his left eye, but it did not wholly conceal his face, which was badly swollen and discolored. He was in a fair way to remember his meeting with the trapper for some time to come.
During the hour that Frank was confined in the forecastle his mind was exceedingly busy. His companions in trouble civilly answered all the questions he asked them, but did not seem inclined to talk, so Frank had opportunity to think over his situation and try to determine upon some course of action. The first thing he did was to congratulate himself on the fact that none of his companions were with him on the Tycoon. Had Walter, Bab, Archie or any of the rest gone ashore with him when he went after his rifle, they would now have been in the same predicament as himself; and according to Frank's way of thinking that would have been a calamity indeed. He expected to suffer – his mind was fully made up to that, – but he was strong and healthy and better able to endure hardship than any of the young friends he had left on board the Stranger. He had no fears for Dick Lewis. The trapper was as tough as a pine knot – nothing seemed to make any impression on him – and if he could only be induced to keep his temper under control, and pay no attention to the blows and insults he was sure to receive, he would get on well enough. Still he thought more of him than he did of Lucas and Barton, who were sleeping soundly in their bunk. These two were old sailors and could stand anything. They were not likely to have as easy times as they had had on board the Stranger, but they were accustomed to hard work and hard treatment, and when safe off the Tycoon they would have another story to help while away the lonely hours of the mid watch.
Thus it will be seen that Frank was disposed to make the best of his misfortunes, and to look on the bright side of things. But there was one fact that troubled him not a little, and that was, his connection with the Club was severed. He did not expect to see any of its members again, not even Archie, for years to come. He would be released from the Tycoon some day – just as soon as he could gain the ear of some American consul for a moment – but he would not know which way to turn to find the Stranger, and so would have nothing left him but to make the best of his way back to Lawrence. That would be a great disappointment to him. He had anticipated much pleasure from his visit to foreign countries, and it was hard to abandon the voyage, just as his expectations were about to be realized, and go back to the monotonous, hum-drum routine of village life. But as there was no help for it, it was useless to repine, Frank told himself. He would do his duty as well as he could while he remained on board the Tycoon, but he was under no obligations to stay with her any longer than he was compelled to do so; and the first time she dropped anchor in port there would be one of her crew missing, unless the officers took the precaution to deprive him of his liberty.
While Frank was meditating in this way the mate came into the forecastle, and after taking off his irons, ordered him on deck. Ascending the ladder he found a small crew engaged in setting things to rights. The third mate, who met him as he came up, put him to work with the rest, and for the next hour Frank was kept so busy that he did not have time to see much of his surroundings. He took a look around now and then for Dick Lewis, and wondered what sort of work the clumsy trapper would make in doing sailor's duty.
"Was you looking for your pardner, sir?" asked a seaman who was busy at his side. (The "sir" came out almost involuntarily, as if the man instinctively felt that Frank was in some way entitled to that show of respect.)
"Yes; I was looking for that tall, broad-shouldered man in buckskin who came aboard with me."
"Well, sir, he's gone!"
"I don't know, for he can't be found alow nor aloft. He must have jumped overboard."
"O, I hope not!" said Frank anxiously.
"If he has, it is all right, sir, because he'd a done it sooner or later. I'll not stay aboard here much longer, unless there's a great change for the better. Things couldn't be worse."
"Don't do anything desperate," said Frank. "It won't pay. But what made this man of whom we were speaking jump overboard?"
"I don't know, sir. I was busy when he came up. The first thing I knew there was a rumpus; the cap'n and two of the mates were laid out as flat as slap-jacks, and the man hasn't been seen since."
"Were we far from shore?"
"Only about three or four miles."
"O, then it is all right. Dick is safe. He can swim double that distance."
"Well, I can't; but I wish I could have gone with him. I've seen two men go overboard since I've been on this craft, and if I was with 'em now among the sharks, my troubles would all be over."
Here was direct confirmation of the story the deserter had told on board the Stranger. Frank drew a long breath, and from that moment a settled determination took possession of him.
The work was all done at last, the watches told off and one of them ordered below. The one to which Frank belonged remained on deck to handle the ship, which was making long boards to gain an offing. Two or three times every hour they were called upon to trim the sails as the ship changed her course and stood off on another tack, and the rest of the time the crew lounged about the windlass. But there was none of that story-telling in which the crew of the Stranger engaged on such occasions, to make the time hang less heavily on their hands. The men sat sullen and silent, and as they were no company for Frank, he strolled aft to make an inspection of the craft which was likely to be his home for long weeks and perhaps months to come. She was different from other ships he had seen only in the number of boats she carried at her davits, and in her try-works, which were fitted up amidships. These were built of masonry, contained three large kettles, and were so constructed that a body of water could be kept under the furnace to prevent the fire from burning the deck.
Having seen all he cared to see, Frank went forward again, and leaning over the windlass thought of the friends he was fast leaving behind him and of the trapper. He hoped from the bottom of his heart that Dick had jumped overboard. If such was the case he had saved himself many an hour of suffering, and had placed himself in no danger. It was but a short distance to the shore for such a swimmer as he knew the trapper to be, and besides there were vessels constantly passing in and out of the harbor, so that on a calm night like that he had only to call for help to get it. The trapper had learned enough from the three men in the forecastle, if he could only remember it, to put Uncle Dick Gaylord on the track of the Tycoon, and perhaps matters might not turn out so badly after all. If the Stranger followed the Tycoon to Japan, his release would certainly be effected; but how would he fare in the meantime? He wished that some discontented boy who had read yellow-covered novels until he had become thoroughly disgusted with home and all its surroundings, and sighed for the wild, free, romantic life of a sailor, could be in his place just then.
A short time before Frank's watch on deck was ended, he heard a rustling in one of the bunks below, and looking into the forecastle saw that the boatswain's mate, having come to his senses, was sitting up and staring about him in great bewilderment. The old-sea dog did not know where he was, but he quickly became aware that he was aboard some craft that was in motion, and catching up his cap he sprang out of his bunk and ran up the ladder. At the top he found Frank, whom he recognised at once.
"Where are we, cap'n?" he exclaimed; "and how long have we been under way?"
The sailors belonging to the Stranger's crew were pretty well acquainted with the history of their captain and his passengers. They conceived a great respect for Frank when they learned that he had been all through the late war, and that he had, by his own unaided efforts, worked his way from the forecastle to the quarter-deck, and falling into Uncle Dick's habit, they invariably addressed him by his old naval title, and were as careful to salute him whenever they passed him as they were to salute their commander.
Before Frank had time to reply, the boatswain's mate had glanced about the deck of the whaler, and some faint suspicions seemed to creep into his mind. "This ain't the Stranger, cap'n!" said he.
"Who are you talking to?" demanded the first mate, who just then came forward.
"I was speaking to Cap'n Nelson, sir," was the reply.
"Who is he? Where is he?" asked the mate, roughly.
"There he stands, sir."
"Well, you just drop all that," said the officer, who was plainly very much surprised, "and hereafter bear in mind that there is only one captain aboard this ship and only one first mate. Get on deck, here. You belong to this watch!"
"Ay, ay, sir," replied Lucas. "Now here's a lubberly go, cap'n," he added in a low tone, as the mate went aft out of earshot.
"Be careful," said Frank, quickly. "Remember the mate's order and drop that title and all others when you speak to me. Just recollect that I occupy a lower position aboard this craft than you do, for you are an able seaman and I am not."
"But what craft is this and what's happened us?" asked the boatswain's mate, earnestly – "shanghaied?"
"Yes, and this ship is the Tycoon."
"I knew it," said the old sailor, striking his open palm with his clenched hand. "Serves me right."
"I don't know how you came here. Perhaps you can tell."
"I took a drink, sir," said Lucas, hanging his head.
"Ah! yes; and you didn't get it out of the scuttle-butt either, did you? Pure water would not have robbed you of your senses."
Then Frank went on to tell of his meeting with the bogus captain and the manner in which he and the trapper had been enticed on board the whaler. The old sailor was greatly distressed to know that it was through him that Frank had been brought into trouble. He offered to make amends by jumping overboard, and seemed to be hurt because Frank would not consent to it. While he was trying to comfort the mate the watch was called and Frank and the rest ordered below.
Thus far things seemed to be working as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Frank had heard a few hard words from the officers, but he had seen no blows struck. This, however, was only the calm that preceded the storm. The next morning the captain made his appearance on deck, just as the crew were ordered to turn to, and then the trouble began. Frank recognised him at once, for he wore the same clothes he had on when he passed the Stranger in the whale-boat. He proved to be quite as brutal as he looked, and a constitutional grumbler. He found fault with everything. Nothing could be done to suit him. He swore at the officers, and they in turn swore at the men, and struck right and left with whatever came first to their hands – that is, the first and second mates did. The third mate, whom Frank had heard addressed as Mr. Gale, took no part in the swearing and striking. He did not speak to the men as if they were dogs, but his orders were just as emphatic, just as readily understood and quite as promptly obeyed. Frank took a liking to the man at once. Like himself, he seemed very much out of place on board the Tycoon.
The captain was anxious to get his small crew into shape for work before he reached the fishing-grounds, and almost the first thing he did was to order out a "dummy whale," which was a spar towed over the stern. Then the boats' crews were selected. There proved to be enough to man two boats, leaving a sufficient number of the crew on board to act as ship-keepers. Frank and Lucas were assigned to the captain's boat, the former being seated at the bow oar. This was a position of responsibility, as Frank very soon learned. A whale when struck by a harpoon sometimes starts to run; and in such a case it is the duty of the bow oar to seize the line, draw the boat up alongside the whale, and hold it there while the captain uses his lance.
Everything being in readiness, the boats were lowered, and for the next three hours were man?uvred about the spar, until it seemed to Frank that the inside of his hands was all in a blaze. To make matters worse, the captain swore at him for his awkwardness, and took him to task for answering "Very good, sir!" in response to an order, when he should have said "Ay, ay, sir!" An officer in the navy is required to answer "Very good, sir," when receiving a command from a superior, to show that he understands it; but Frank was not in the navy now, and neither was he an officer. He was a foremast hand on board a whaler, occupying a position a good deal lower than the captain's dog, he began to think.
The boats were finally ordered back to the ship, and after they had been hoisted at the davits, the falls laid down in Flemish coil on deck, and the spar hauled aboard, Frank heard the order passed —
"Send that gentleman in the black suit aft here."
Frank knew in a moment that he was the one designated. He claimed to be a gentleman and he wore a suit of black clothes – he was the only one on board who did – so he promptly answered to the summons. "Here, sir," said he.
When he reached the quarter-deck he removed his hat and waited for the captain to speak to him.
"So you know your name, do you?" exclaimed the skipper, gruffly.
"My name is Nelson, sir."
"But it suits me to call you Gentleman Black."
"Very – ay, ay, sir," replied Frank, who knew that he was expected to say something.
"Shoulder that handspike," continued the captain, pointing out the implement, "and march up and down the deck like a soger as you are. Carry it until you learn not to say 'very good' to me. What business is it of yours whether my orders are very good or very bad? I'll soon take them airs out of you."
Frank picked up the handspike, and placing it on his shoulder, began walking up and down the deck like a sentry on his beat. A landsman would have seen no significance in this punishment, but the sailors did, and the boatswain's mate and the coxswain (the latter had recovered his senses and gone to work with the rest) were highly indignant. A seaman regards it as an insult to be called a soldier. It implies that he is a "skulker" – that he shirks his duty.
This was the second time that Frank had been punished on board ship. His first offence, as we know, was committed while he was in the navy, on board the receiving ship. He spilled some water on deck, and was obliged to wipe it up and carry a swab about the vessel until he saw some one else doing the same thing. He might have carried that swab all day, had not Archie taken pity on him and effected his release. His jolly little cousin was not at hand to help him now. Frank was glad that he was far away, and in no danger of ever being placed in a situation like his own.
Frank found that even a handspike grows heavy after a while, and when he had carried it four long hours, he would have been glad to put it down and rest; but his release did not come until his watch was called at twelve o'clock that night. From noon until midnight he paced the deck without a moment's pause, a bite to eat or a drop to drink. He was tired and sleepy, but was obliged to remain on deck four hours longer, or until the watch to which he belonged was ordered below. It was pretty hard, Frank told himself, and provoking, too, to find somebody ready to make sport of him, as one of the sailors in his watch did when he went forward. It was the "black sheep" of the crew – the same one who pointed out the trapper's supposed hiding-place in the bow-boat. His name was Gardener, but some one had christened him Calamity, and that was what he was generally called. Some of the crew had warned Lucas and Barton to be very careful what they said in this man's presence. He was the captain's pet. He was never punished like the rest, and the reason probably was because he made it his business to keep the officers posted in everything that was said and done in the forecastle.
"Well, Gentleman Black," said Calamity, as Frank approached the windlass around which the watch were gathered, "how do you like the taste you have had of the Tycoon's discipline? You can't come soldiering aboard here with your airs and your graces – "скачать книгу бесплатно
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