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CHAPTER XV CAPTURED BY “LIBERTY”
When Arthur and Frank came on deck in answer to Kenneth’s summons, the wind nearly took their heads off—it blew in their ears and deafened them. They found it hard to breathe against it, and its force nearly took them off their pins.

“What’s the trouble, old ma——”

Frank stopped in the middle of the word as he caught sight of the black bulk of the schooner, slowly bearing down upon them. Scarcely twenty feet of worried and wind-swept water separated the two vessels.

Nearer and nearer she came, until, to the excited eyes of the crew, it seemed as if the big boat would swallow the smaller one whole.

The mate went forward, a big clasp knife in hand, to cut the cable, if that extreme move became necessary.

CHESAPEAKE BAY.

Kenneth had shouted to the captain of the schooner at the outset, and all hands were trying everything to stop her backward progress. There was no time to raise sails and beat out of the danger, and it certainly looked as if the “Gazelle” would be crushed like an egg-shell, or else cut adrift to run the very probable chances of being dashed against the spiles of the piers.

It was a strange situation. In the harbor, between two populous cities, Norfolk and Portsmouth; in the midst of a large fleet of seaworthy boats, humming with life, one great bully of a vessel was slowly closing down on a smaller one. Tens of thousands of people almost within call, yet none could stir hand or foot to help. Nor could the crew of either craft do aught to prevent imminent peril.

The “Gazelle” tugged at her moorings, as if she realized the danger, and longed eagerly to be free.

The crew of the schooner hung over the rail aft, watching the narrowing strip of water.

The suspense was tremendous, and each boy showed the effects of it according to his temperament. Kenneth stood with tightly-shut fists and clinched jaws, but otherwise showed no signs of the anxiety he felt; Frank could not keep still, but twitched, rose, and sat down again a hundred times, while the rain ran down the locks of long black hair over his face unheeded; Arthur, who was forward, ready to cut the cables if necessary, was possessed with the desire to do something; he found it hard to wait, and appealed to Kenneth many times to know if he should sever the anchor line.

The movement of the large ship was so gradual that it seemed as if the moment of contact would never arrive. If the end would only come quickly, or if they could do something to end the suspense! Anything would be a relief. They watched with staring eyes the slow approach of the larger vessel—so slow that the movement was scarcely perceptible.

Suddenly, Frank spoke in the startled tone of one who wakes from a nightmare.

“She isn’t moving! The anchor must have caught at last.” The three tried to measure the distance between the boats to see if Frank’s assertion was really true.

“You are right, old man,” Kenneth said at last. “Luck is with us again.”

It was a mighty narrow escape—the space between the two boats could almost be covered by an active jumper.

Later in the day, the schooner which had threatened to crush the yacht was the means by which she was saved from another danger.

It was growing dark when the captain of the schooner hailed the “Gazelle,” and told Kenneth that he wanted to shift his anchorage. The wind was still blowing a gale, and the waves slapped viciously at everything that withstood them.

The “Gazelle” was holding fast to the bottom with two anchors, but when the boys tried to raise the largest, it stuck, and could not be moved, so the end of the cable was buoyed and let go. Immediately the yacht began to drag the anchor that remained, as if it were but a heavy stone, and then drifted swiftly toward the bulkheads of the wharves. Again the possibility of a smash-up confronted them.

“On board the schooner!” Kenneth shouted against the wind in the direction of the larger craft. But the wind carried the words back to him mockingly. Again he shouted: “We’re dragging anchor. Throw us a line; throw us a line!”

It seemed ages before any one appeared; then the face of the captain showed itself. He immediately grasped the situation, and in the nick of time threw a long line to them. Arthur caught it and made it fast, while the captain did likewise on the schooner. Once more the “Gazelle” was saved; she swung on the end of the long rope like the cork on a fish line.

For a week the storm continued; so for many days the captain and crew of the yacht had nothing to do but go sightseeing, to write letters, and play games. Whenever the weather permitted, “His Nibs” was brought alongside, and one or two of the boys went ashore.

On one side of the narrow harbor was Norfolk, one of the big and growing cities of the South. Her docks were filled with ocean-going and coast-wise craft, steamers, and sailing vessels of every rig. Situated on a fine harbor, a point from which railroads radiated, within easy reach of the coal fields and iron mines, and but a short distance from the great ship-building yards at Newport News, it prospered exceedingly. There was little about it that suggested the Southern city, except the multitude of colored people that roamed the streets. Across the stream-like harbor lay Portsmouth, a much smaller place, on a lower scale of development. In its Navy Yard many of the ships that did such good service during the war with Spain were fitted out. Then its shops were kept going day and night; the workmen swarmed like bees in and out of the buildings; and the place resounded with the loud gong-like ring of blows on cavernous boilers, and the sharp tap-tap of the riveters. It was quite different when the boys visited it; many of the shops were closed, and the marines, clad from head to foot in rubber, who paced to and fro in front of the old stone buildings had little to do, for there were few frolicsome jackies to make trouble for them.

Kenneth, Arthur, and Frank visited the shipping, the oyster markets, where hundreds of the trim oyster sloops and schooners were unladen weekly, the Navy Yard; St. Paul’s, the old stone church, built in 1739, which still bore high in its tower the round shot fired into it during the War of 1812, and last, but far from least, the watermelon fleet.

“How’s business?” they inquired interestedly.

“Rotten,” was the reply, and the truth of it was evident in the piles of discarded fruit about.

Great, luscious melons were selling at $3.50 per hundred, and buyers were hard to find at that. Whether the boys went singly or by twos, they always returned laden to their utmost capacity with the great green fruit.

The tenth day after their arrival at Norfolk, Kenneth got up early and in a voice fit to wake the dead, roared: “Up all hands, break yourselves out of your bunks there. This is the day we ‘move de boat’; up all hands.”

The other two got up yawning and stretching, to find the sun streaming warmly through the lights. Breakfast was cooked and eaten, dishes washed and put away, decks scrubbed, brass rubbed, and rigging examined. The bugler aboard the U.S.S. “Texas,” anchored but a short distance off, was just blowing reveille when the boys began to heave on the anchor cable. But it was long after the shrill boatswain’s call to mess had sounded aboard the “Texas” before the “Gazelle’s” crew gave up the task of hauling aboard the anchor. The boys hauled and tugged, till it seemed as if the bow of the “Gazelle” would be pulled down to keep company with the anchor, but not an inch would it budge. It was provoking that when wind and tide favored, and pleasant weather promised, they should be held to land. Kenneth stood with frowning brows looking along the straight cable, while the perspiration stood in beads on his face—gazing as if he would pierce the green-brown flood with his glance, and see what held the mud-hook fast. Arthur and Frank stood by silent and hot—for the sun beat down fiercely; all three were dry of suggestions, for everything had been tried.

“Oh, let’s try once more; then if the pesky thing won’t come up we’ll cut adrift and leave it.” Kenneth was at the end of his patience.

Once more the windlass was set going, and with the aid of three pairs of strong young arms the heavy manila line was tautened until the yacht’s bow was pulled a foot or more below the normal water line; but not an inch would the old anchor budge. But just as the boys were on the point of giving up in desperation, the rollers from a passing tug tossed the yacht and gave an extra heavy pull on the line; then suddenly the yawl regained her level and inch by inch the refractory anchor was yanked up. A great water-soaked log clinging to one of the flukes revealed the cause of the trouble when it reached the surface.

Free at last from the grasp of the land, the “Gazelle” threaded her way past trim, converted yacht-gunboats (which looked little like the venomous terriers of war they were), the grim “Texas,” whose peaceful white coating of paint belied her destructive, death-dealing power, and past the battered “Reina Mercedes,” which, in spite of every effort of her former owner, was destined to become a useful member of Uncle Sam’s Navy. Indeed, yachts, steamers, steamboats, and sailing craft of every description, were passed by the “Gazelle” on her way to the open bay, the famous Hampton Roads. Many hands were waved in salute to the little craft and her sturdy crew, and not less numerous were the toots of the whistles which greeted them, for the fame of their trip had spread until the little white yawl was almost as well known to the shipping population as the members of the white squadron.

When the sun of August 22d sent its last rays over the beautiful Hampton Roads, the “Gazelle” had rounded Old Point Comfort and left the picturesque old Fortress Monroe astern.

Long after sundown, the “Gazelle” wended her way up the broad Chesapeake Bay, one of a thousand craft that sped over its smooth waters. Soon, the moon rose in perfect splendor, and as the boys sat in the cockpit, spellbound by the beauty of the scene, they saw a great Baltimore clipper, square rigged, every sail spread, come sailing down the broad path of moonlight; leaning a trifle to the strength of the breeze, every sail rounded out and bathed in silvery light, her keen prow turning the phosphorescent waves like a ploughshare; she made one of the finest pictures mortal man ever beheld—a sight that made the boys’ sailor-blood stir within them, and they stood spellbound until the great ship swept majestically by, silent, except for the splash of the waves as she spurned them aside, or for the creak of a block under the strain of swelling canvas.

Till long after midnight, the yacht held her course—sailing by the light of the moon; then she dropped anchor in one of the innumerable indentations that mark the coast line of the bay.

It was late the next morning when the three young mariners rubbed their eyes open, but they might as well have turned in again, for hardly a breath of wind was stirring, and the swift tide was running out—down stream.

For three days the wind failed them, then a breeze sprang up that made the resisting tide of no avail.

The “Gazelle” sailed along past sandy beaches and rocky points, past fascinating marshy nooks, and bluff headlands, at what seemed a good round gait until a slim, rakish-looking craft went by so quickly that the yacht might just as well have been anchored, so great was the contrast in speed.

“Well, I’ll be switched,” was Kenneth’s surprised ejaculation. Never had he seen his boat left behind so quickly before. “Bet she’s got a gasoline engine stowed aft there somewhere.”

“No, the ‘Gazelle’ is foul with weeds and things.”

“We’ll have to lay her up and scrape her then,” was Kenneth’s determined reply. He could not have his craft beaten like that, without a protest.

The cause of all this dissatisfaction flew by like the shadow of a swiftly moving cloud. Her masts were raked sharply aft, and her two enormous leg-o’-mutton sails were out of all proportion to her beam, the boys thought. The hull was built of several—five or six—large logs hollowed out and cleverly joined with peculiarly shaped wooden pegs that held the connecting logs closely together. It was a new sort of craft to Ransom, and his respect for the Chesapeake Bay fisherman increased as he realized the careful seamanship required to keep a “Bugeye” right-side up. Past the mouth of the Potomac River, which led directly to the national capital, sailed the three boys, though they longed with all their might for a sight of Washington, and it took all their resolution to keep headed up the bay. Old Annapolis, the seat of the Naval Academy, and the place where so many naval heroes have been educated, was left without a visit; but each boy promised himself that he would return and see everything some time. The names Dewey, Sampson, Schley, Evans, Philip, Hobson, and a host of others were on everybody’s tongue at that time, and yet the three young mariners (so pressed for time were they) could not visit the place where these great men were educated.

BEAUFORT, NORTH CAROLINA.
POPLAR TREES BENT OVER BY THE WIND.

A “BUGEYE.”
“FLEW BY LIKE THE SHADOW OF A SWIFTLY MOVING CLOUD.”

Just before reaching Chesapeake City, the yacht was beached, and when the tide receded, the boys found barnacles and sea moss to the thickness of three-fourths of an inch or more on its bottom. The planking beneath, however, was as sound as could be, and showed not a sign of the many terrific strains to which it had been subjected.

At Chesapeake City the yacht entered the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Haul Over Canal, as it is generally called.

Kenneth was told that he would have to pay eleven dollars for the privilege of passing through the lock and for the hire of five mules to tow the yawl through.

“But I don’t want a tow through,” he protested.

“But yer got ter.” The driver was very emphatic. “The law says yer got ter take a tow troo.”

“The ‘Gazelle’ is light; one mule would be enough, and you have five.”

“Yer gotter have five. But we’ll snake yer troo quick.” This last was said with the air of one who is conferring a great favor.

“The first time I ever drove five-in-hand,” said Arthur, laughing, as the driver whipped up and the yacht began tearing through the water. It was a pleasant ride through that short canal. The mules kept on at a steady trot, and the trees, with an occasional house, went flying past. At six o’clock, the lock opening into the Delaware River at Delaware City was reached; but as the tide was wrong the “Gazelle” did not float into the historic stream till several hours later.

The river was full of moving craft when the “Gazelle” swung into the stream. Great ocean-going steamers, disreputable looking tramp steamships, trim schooners of every size, and here and there a yacht. A scene full of animation and color—of busy boats and busy people—very different from the easy-going life which the boys had just left on the Southern water courses.

Towns with factories whose smoking chimneys told of active work, dotted the river bank every mile or two, and between were fields of flourishing crops—not a foot of ground was wasted.

Head winds delayed the little craft much, and the smoky haze that hung over the great city of Philadelphia was not sighted until the fourth day after leaving Delaware City.

“We’re just in time. Look!” Frank pointed through the rainlike fog that greeted the young voyagers on their first visit to the City of Brotherly Love.

“What—Say, that’s fine!”

It was an ejaculation that the sight before them extracted involuntarily. Anchored in two long lines, lay a great fleet of Uncle Sam’s dogs of war. Painted white, they looked like great ghosts of ships through the fog; all was gray except where the beautiful red, white and blue showed dimly through, or where the red, yellow and blue signal flags on the flagship made spots of color in the general dulness. In and about darted the man-o’-war launches like the restless, ever-moving insects which one sees on placid pools in summer.

It was Philadelphia’s tribute to the victorious hosts in the war with Spain, and the boys came in just the nick of time to take in all the goings on—the parades of soldiers and sailors and the still more interesting, ever restless procession of the multitude of people from every direction.

Everything was open, from the United States Mint, Independence Hall, where Congress first met, to Cramp’s shipyard and the University of Pennsylvania buildings. During the three days our mariners lay off the city, they saw it all. Kenneth would have been at Cramp’s shipyard to this day if Arthur had not pulled him off by main force. The great enclosure from which so many of America’s famous ships have been launched had a strong fascination for him, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he could tear himself away.

Under way once more, the “Gazelle” soon reached Bordentown, where she entered the Delaware and Raritan Canal. Surprised and delighted at the small canal fee, Kenneth paid the $2.80 and, with a long line, he and Arthur began to tow to Trenton (six miles). As luck would have it, Kenneth and his friends met the owner of the steam-yacht “Cora” at Trenton, who was also going through the canal.

The story of the trip thus far, and the plans for the remainder of the journey so interested the “Cora’s” master, that he wanted to hear more of it and offered to tow the “Gazelle” through for the sake of the society of her captain and crew. The boys thought this more than a fair exchange and “accepted with pleasure.” The “Gazelle” seemed to feel the importance of her position, and strutted behind the graceful “Cora” as though she were merely following the larger and more fashionable vessel, and was not submitting to anything so undignified as towing.

“The old boat will get so stuck up with her five-mule team and now her steam-yacht tow, that she’ll outgrow her headsails.”

“Wait till she strikes the Erie Canal, when her fall cometh. It’s lucky if we get even one horse to tow her then.”

Along the broad canal the two yachts went at a pace that the boys thought too fast, for little opportunity was given to them to see the many interesting things that they passed so quickly.

At New Brunswick, the end of the canal, the “Gazelle’s” crew bid their kind friends good-by, and, hoisting sail, went on alone. As they drew nearer and nearer the Metropolis—the city which they had heard about all their lives, but had never seen, and which, next to their own homes, was the place of all others that they desired to reach—their nerves tingled with excitement, and the good round pace which the “Gazelle” was making, seemed all too slow.

When darkness fell they were but seven miles below New Brunswick, on the Raritan River, anchored in a spot that seemed absolutely remote from civilization, above all far from a great city, so quiet was it. Undisturbed by sight of any one, the three youngsters made the night hideous with their jubilant songs, bawled at the top of their voices. Well might they be joyful, for surely the thing accomplished more than justified their exultation.

In a thirty-foot boat they had braved the treacherous Gulf and the savage Atlantic, travelled dangerous waters without a pilot; mere boys who had never seen salt water before this cruise, with barely enough money to pay the narrowest expenses and buy the cheapest possible food; and now they were within a day’s sail of New York, sound and well, with a boat under them that was as fit as when she had slipped into the fresh waters of far-off Lake Michigan.

“Hip! Hip! Hurrah!” they shouted over the placid waters of the Raritan River; and well they might.

Next day Kenneth steered his craft past Perth Amboy into the Arthur Kills back of Staten Island, and that evening saw them anchored off Elizabethport. Pretty much the same sort of feeling that rouses a child on Christmas morning at daybreak, brought Kenneth, Arthur, and Frank on deck before the sun had fairly started his day’s work. It was September 7th, and the red and black sweaters with the word “Gazelle” embroidered on the breast were found very comfortable in the chill morning air. A haze hung over everything, and the boats that were moving slipped about as if on tiptoe, fearful lest the sleeping millions be wakened too soon.

As the “Gazelle” rounded Bergen Point, Jersey City, and sailed into the Upper New York Bay, boats seemed to spring out of the very water, ferryboats, sailboats, tugs; never had the boys seen so many craft in motion before.

A haze still hung over the water, and objects only two hundred yards off could be seen but dimly.

“There’s the Statue of Liberty,” Arthur cried excitedly.

Sure enough, the great statue stood before them—her torch held on high, the heavy vapor wreathed about her like beautiful, filmy drapery.

Putting helm to starboard, the “Gazelle” turned to go inside Bedloe’s Island.

“Look, can’t you see a tall building over there?”

All the boys looked for the jagged sky line which they had seen pictured so often, and soon became so intent that they forgot to watch where they were going.

With a sudden bump and a sickening jar, the “Gazelle” stopped short. She was hard and fast on the cruel rocks.



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