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Chapter 22
The Waters rise.—The Boys try Force.—Attach on Pat.—He is overpowered.—My Name’s Wade.—An Irish Howl.—Solomon immovable.—The Ancient Mariner at his Post.—The Boys fly.—Flight of Solomon.—“Drefful Times.”—Captain Corbet sings his Death Song.—A Rhapsody on the Antelope.—The rising Waters.—The doomed Schooner.—The rolling Seas.—The Antelope sinking.—The Form of Corbet slowly disappearing beneath the raging Seas.

THE waters continued to rise in the hold of the Antelope, and inch by inch the doomed schooner settled slowly down into the depths beneath. On the deck stood those four who still held aloof from the boat, and seemed to be animated by some insane or unintelligible motive. By the side of the schooner floated the boat, in which were Bruce, Arthur, Tom, Phil, and Bart. They were all standing up, and holding the Antelope’s rail, and shouting, bawling, yelling, entreating, threatening, and using every possible means to save their unfortunate companions.

Suddenly Bart drew his knife.

“Boys!” said he, “we’ll have to drag them off. Bruce and Arthur, come along. Tom and Phil, you mind the boat.”

With these words he jumped on board the Antelope, with his open knife in his hand. Bruce and Arthur leaped on board after him.

The sight of Bart, with his open knife, thus bounding on board the Antelope, astonished the other boys, who began to think that Bart, like the others, had also lost his senses; but they did as he said—Tom and Phil holding the boat to the side of the Antelope, and watching, while Bruce and Arthur followed Bart.

Bart first rushed to Pat.

“We’re not going to stand this. You’re ruining us all. If you don’t go aboard the boat, we’ll throw you overboard, and you’ll be glad to do it then. Bruce and Arthur, catch hold, and pitch Pat overboard if he don’t go to the boat.”

Speaking these words with breathless rapidity, Bart cut the rope with which Pat had bound himself, giving long slashes up and down. Bruce and Arthur seized him at the same moment, and as soon as the rope was severed, dragged him to where the boat was, ordering him on board, and threatening to throw him into the water if he refused. Pat was powerless. A few words of remonstrance were offered, but he was sternly silenced. He was thus overpowered, and so, yielding to necessity, he got on board the boat. There he seated himself in the stern, and, bowing his head, began a long, low, wailing Irish “keen,” which is a species of lamentation in the presence of death.

This scene appeared to produce some effect upon Wade. It roused him from his lethargy. It seemed as though this man was a mere machine; and though in ordinary circumstances he was able of going through certain routine duties, in any extraordinary case he was utterly helpless, and his dull and inert nature became hopelessly imbecile. But now an idea of his situation seemed at last to have penetrated to his brain, and accordingly, rising to his feet, he went to the boat. Then he slowly and solemnly passed over the Antelope’s side, and took his seat near Pat. He looked at the others with a dull stare, and then turning to Pat, he remarked, in a low, confidential tone, “My name’s Wade, an my ole ‘oman’s name’s Gipson; an you’ll not find many o’ that name in this country. No, sir.”

After which he heaved a sigh, and relapsed into himself. As to Pat, he took no notice of this confidence imparted to him, but went on with his Irish lamentation.

“Ow—O-o-o-o-ow—to only think—this bit ov a boat sure—an in the wide an impty say—an me a bindin meself to the only safety; for the ship-wracked sayman must always bind himsilf to a mast. And, O-o-o-b-o-o-o-w, but it was a bitter, crool thing, so it was, to tear a poor boy from his solitary rifuge—an dhrive him here into a bit ov a boat—to sail over the impty say—an from the last rifuge—where safety was, an O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ow! but it’s the croolty ov it that braks me heart!”

The summary treatment with which the boys had disposed of Pat, was not to be applied to Solomon, or to Captain Corbet. They tried to coax these, and persuade them.

Solomon, however, was obdurate.

“My ’vice to you, boys, an you, in tiklar, mas’r Bart,” said he, “is to clar out ob dis yer sinkin schooner, ef yer don want to git a duckin ob de wustest sort. She’s a goin down—you’d betta believe—dat’s so.”

“O, come, come, Solomon; we can’t wait. You’re making us all risk our lives,” said Bart, imploringly, coaxing him as he would coax an insane man. “Come along; don’t keep us here. The schooner’ll sink and drag the boat down, if we don’t keep farther away.”

“Darsn’t,” said Solomon. “Couldn’t, darsn’t—no how.”

“O, come.”

“Darsn’t—fraid ob dat ar ole woman, wid de broomstick, de tongs, de fence-pole, an de red-hot gridiron. Tell you what, it stings—it does, dreadful—it does so—”

“O, come. She shall never trouble you. Never.”

“Who’s to go skewrity for dat ar statement? Nobody can skewer her. No. Better be drown-ded, dan walloped to def with hay-forks. Nobody can skewer dat ar ole woman, dough; gracious sakes, she knows how to skewer me ebery time she lay hand on a pitchfork or a meat-skewer. Yah, yah, yah!”

At this ill-timed levity Bart and the others turned away in despair and disgust.

They hurried aft.

There stood the venerable Corbet. As they drew near he gave a start, and a smile came over his reverend countenance.

“Wal, boys,” said he, in a tone of kindly welcome, “how d’ye do? Pleased to see you.”

He spoke precisely as if he was receiving a call from some favorite guests. The tone pained the boys, and distressed them greatly.

“Captain,” said Bruce, hurriedly, “the Antelope’s sinking. A moment more and you’ll be lost. Come with us in the boat. Come.”

And, laying his hand on the captain’s arm, he sought to drag him away.

But the captain quietly though firmly, disengaged himself.

“Excuse me, young sir,” said the venerable navigator, very politely; “but I’m captain of this here craft; an, being sich, I ain’t got no call to leave her till the last man. You git to your boat, an I’ll retire when the time comes.”

The captain spoke with dignity. He announced a principle which involves the highest duty of every commander of a ship, and the boys knew it. His dignity overawed them.

“But come now, captain,” said Bart, “there isn’t a moment to lose.”

“I ain’t, a goin ever to hev it written on my tume,” said the captain, in a calm voice, “that me—Captain Corbet—ever desarted his post, or forgot his umble dooty as commander of a vessel. No, the Antelope’ll see that, her captain’s jist as much principle an honor as any of them swell navigators that sail in clipper ships over the boosom of the briny deep.”

At this moment there was a long-drawn, bubbling, gurgling sound, that came up from the hold of the Antelope, and startled the boys exceedingly.

“Come, come, captain,” cried Bruce. “She’s sinking now. There isn’t a moment to spare.”

“Wal, boys, you jist hurry off into that thar boat, an don’t mind me. I know my dooty. You can’t expect me to leave this here deck till the last man. It don’t signify argufyin. Hurry off.”

At this moment there was another sound; something between a gasp and a gurgle. It seemed like the death-rattle of the Antelope.

“She’s going down, boys!” cried Bart. Involuntarily they retreated towards the boat. But here they paused yet again, for there was a brief respite, and the Antelope was yet afloat.

“Won’t you come, captain?” cried Bart.

“O, all right,” said Captain Corbet, waving his hand; “all right. You jest get aboard the boat. Don’t you mind me. Remember, I’m the captain, an I’ve got to be the last man.”

This seemed to the boys like a promise to follow them.

“Come along, boys,” said Bart. “He’ll get into the boat if we do. He wants to be last.”

Saying this, the three boys clambered over the Antelope’s side, and it was with a feeling of relief that they found themselves once more in the boat.

“Now, captain,” cried Bruce, “hurry up. Come, Solomon. Captain, make Solomon come on board, and then you’ll be the last man.”

Captain Corbet smiled, and made no reply. As for Solomon, he merely muttered something about “dat ar ole woman” and “gridiron.”

The Antelope was low in the water. The deck was near the level of the sea. Instinctively, Tom, who was holding the rail, pushed away, and the boat moved off a little distance. Yet they could not leave those two infatuated men to their fate, though the instinct of self-preservation made them thus move away slightly.

“Captain! Solomon! Captain! Solomon! Make haste! O, make haste!” Such were the cries that now came from those in the boat.

Captain Corbet smiled as before, and nodded, and said,—

“O, it’s all right; all right. Don’t mind me. I’m all right. I know what I’m about.”

At this the Antelope gave a very unpleasant roll, and settled heavily on one side; then her bows sank down, and a big wave rolled over it.

“She’s sinking!” cried Tom, in a voice of horror. The other boys were silent. They seemed petrified.

But the Antelope struggled up, and gradually righted herself. Her deck was nearer the level of the sea than ever. This last incident, however, had been sufficient to shake the nerves of one of those two on board. As she settled on one side, Solomon sprang back, and, as the wave rolled over her bows, he gave one jump over the side and into the sea. He sank under, but a moment afterwards his woolly head emerged, and he struck out for the boat. There a dozen arms were outstretched to save him, and he was finally hauled in.

“Drefful times dese,” said he, as his teeth chattered, either from terror or from cold. “Drefful times. Didn’t ’gage in dis yer vessel to go swim-min about de Atlantic Oceum. Queer way to serve as cook—dis yer way. An dar ain’t a dry stitch ob clothin about—dat’s so; an what ebber I’se a goin to do beats me. S’pose I’se got to set here an shibber de next tree weeks. Catch me ebber a ’barkin aboard sieh a schooner as dis yer. Any ways, I ain’t goin to sail in dis yer Antelope agin. Cotch me at it—dat’s all.”

But the boys heard nothing of this.

All their attention was now taken up with Captain Corbet.

He stood at the stern at his usual post, holding the tiller with both hands. He looked at the boys. “Boys,” said he, “I’m the last aboard.”

“O, Captain Corbet! Come, come. Make haste!” they cried.

He shook his venerable head.

“This here,” said he, “boys, air the act an the doin of Fate. I did hope that the Antelope an me’d grow old, an finally die together, though not on the briny deep. It hev allus ben a favorite idee to me, that the lives of both of us, me and the Antelope, was kine o’ intermingled, an that as we’d ben lovely an pleasant in our lives, in death we’d be not divided. For the Antelope an me’s knowed each other long, an lived, an ben happy together, in fair weather an foul. The Antelope’s allus ben faithful and terew. She’s had all my confidences. She’s alius been gentle an kind, and you’ll never, never find a better friend than the old Antelope. Many’s the time she’s bore me through sleet an snow. Many’s the time she’s borne me through fog an rain. Many’s the time she’s bore me past rocks an reefs. So long as I stuck to old Fundy, so long the Antelope was safe an sound. I used to boast as to how I could navigate old Fundy. I was wrong. ’Twan’t me; it was the Antelope that navigated; for I never had a sexton aboard, nor a quadruped, nor a spy-glass, nor any of them newfangled gimcracks, savin an except a real old-fashioned, apostolic compass, as is mentioned by Paul in the Acts. And why? Why, cos the Antelope was allus able to feel her own way through rain an fog, an frost an snow—past shoals, an flats, an reefs, an was alius faithful. But, in a evil hour, I took her out of her native waters. I led her afar over the deep blue sea, up to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There our woes began. But even there the Antelope was terew an tender. But it was too much. We come back. She had never ben thar before. She lost her way. Then she found it. We got to Sable Island an Chester. Then we put out agin. An then agin she lost her way. It was my fault, not hern. She lost her way in this fog, an she went aground. She couldn’t help it. In Fundy she never ran aground, ’cept when nessary; an it was me that brought her to this. An now what hev I got to do? I’ve got this to do—that if I’ve led my Antelope to ruin, I won’t survive her. No. We’ve been lovely an pleasant in our lives, an in death we ain’t goin to be divided.”

The boys did not hear one half of this, but interrupted the speaker constantly with their entreaties that he would save himself. Captain Corbet, however, was too much taken up with his own thoughts to notice what they said. He was like one who soliloquizes.

“O, captain!” cried Bart, with a final effort; “think of your wife—think of your, your, a—baby—”

“My babby!” said Captain Corbet. “My babby! Ah, young sir, when you mention my babby, you don’t know that you tetch a cord in this parentual heart that throbs responsive. That thar is the strongest emotion that inspires this aged breast; but, young sir, dooty air powerfuller than love, an even that pe-recious infant has less claims on me at this moment than my Antelope. For my Antelope has ben the friend that’s ben faithful in thousand perls; that’s ben my refuge an my solace in times of persecution. Yes, young sirs, in the days when a bold an violent woman disturbed my peace, by dash-in a pail full of cold water over my head—at such times the Antelope hav took me to her heart; an can I ever cease to be affectionate an kind to thee, who’s ben so terewly kind to me—my Antelope? No, no; young sirs. Go, an tell my beloved one—my offspring—my inspired babby—that his parent, the aged Corbet, died a marchure’s death; died like a hero, a standin’ at his post; which post was the rudder-post of the Antelope. Tell him that; an tell him, tew, that, though dooty bound the feyther to the Antelope, yet still that feyther’s last thoughts was of his belessed babe.”

At this point the Antelope gave another lurch, and rolled far over. Captain Corbet stopped abruptly, and stiffened his sinews, and clutched the tiller with a tighter grasp. The boys looked on with horror in their faces and in their hearts.

It was a moment of awful expectation.

They had cried, and bawled, and yelled till they were hoarse. They had prayed and entreated Captain Corbet to save himself. All in vain.

But now the time for entreaty had passed.

Suddenly the Antelope rolled back, and then her bows sank. A huge wave rolled over her, followed by others, which foamed from bow to stern. Then all the sea settled itself over the sinking schooner.

The Antelope was going down!

The hull disappeared!

The rail sank under water!

But Captain Corbet stood at his post, erect, rigid, his hands clasping the tiller. Beneath him the Antelope sank down into the sea. Around him the waters rolled.

They rolled about his knees; about his thighs; about his waist. His venerable hair fluttered in the breeze; his eyes were fixed, with a rapt and abstracted air, on vacancy.

The boys looked on in horror. Instinctively they pushed the boat back out of the reach of the waters that ingulfed the Antelope, so as to avoid being carried down into that vortex.

The waters rolled about the form of the aged navigator, and so he descended with his beloved Antelope, till they were above his waist.

The boys could no longer cry to him. They were petrified with horror. They sat, with white faces, awaiting the end.


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