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Chapter 24
Rowing ashore.—Nearer they come.—The Fog dispels.—Strangely familiar.—A Man advances towards them.—Wild Shouts from Bart and Tom.—Wilder Shouts from the other Boys.—Confused Rejoicings.—A hearty Welcome.—Explanations.—The receding Tide.—A Visit to the Antelope.—Mournful Remembrances.—The Speech of Captain Corbet.

THE sight of land a cry of joy burst forth from all in the boat, and Bart and Torn bent to their oars with all their force. As they drew nearer, they saw, to their intense delight, that this strange land was no wilderness, no desolate shore, but an inhabited place, with cultivated fields, and pasture land, and groves. One by one, new features in the landscape revealed themselves. There was a long beach, with a grand sweep that curved itself away on either side, till it joined steep or precipitous shores. Behind this were fields, all green with verdure, and a scattered settlement, whose white houses, of simple, yet neat construction, looked most invitingly to these shipwrecked wanderers. At one end of the winding beach rose the fabric of a large ship in process of construction.

Nearer they came, and yet nearer. The tide was high on the beach, and the waters almost touched the green fields that fringed the shore with alder bushes. Here a boat was drawn up, and beyond this stood a neat farm-house. On a fence nets were hanging, showing that the occupant of this house united the two callings of farmer and fisher. Beyond the settlement, the land rose into high hills, which were covered with forest trees, and from these had been wafted that aromatic breeze which had first made known to them the neighborhood of land.

All this time the breeze had been slightly increasing, and the fog had been steadily diminishing. Now the shores appeared in fuller outline. Looking back over their course, they could see the masts of the Antelope, where they projected above the water. They could see that they had drifted into a bay, and the Antelope had sunk into its shallowest part.

There was something in this scene which appeared to them strangely and most unaccountably familiar. All had the same feeling, yet not one of them expressed it. Each imagined that it was his own fancy; and so disturbed had their minds been for the past few days, that they felt unwilling now to indulge this fancy. Yet every moment the fancy grew stronger, and brought fresh wonder with it. In this way they rowed along, and every moment brought the boat nearer and nearer to the shore.

At length they saw a man come forth from the house before them, and advance towards the beach. His face was turned towards them; he was staring at them most intently. As the boat advanced, he advanced; and thus the two parties approached. Every moment revealed more and more of the opposite party to each.

Bart and Tom were rowing, and thus had their backs turned to the shore and their faces towards the sea outside. Here the fog was fast dispelling, and as it fled, there opened up mile after mile of the coast, and the sea horizon. There, on that horizon, there came forth out of the fog to their eyes a solitary object, that appeared to float upon the sea. It revealed itself more and more; and first, magnified and distorted by the mist, it seemed like a lofty table land of cloud, then like a giant rock, but at length resolved itself into a wooded island with precipitous sides. There it lay full before them.

As it thus revealed itself, Tom uttered a wild shout. Bart instantly uttered another.

“Boys! Boys! Look! Look! Hurrah! Hur-ra-a-a-a-a-a-ah! Hurra-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ah!”

But at that very instant there arose a wild outcry—a clamor worse than theirs—from all the others in the boat. Solomon gave a yell, Captain Corbet started up, and ceased to stroke his legs Bruce, Arthur, Phil, and Pat, with one wild cry, started erect to their feet, regardless of the swaying and rocking of the boat. And “Hurrah!” they cried. “Hurra-a-a-a-a-a-a-ah!! Hurra-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ah!”

“Scott’s Bay! Ile Haute!” cried Tom and Bart.

“Scott’s Bay! Benny Grigg!” cried all the others.

“Scott’s—Grigg.”

“Benny-Haute.”

“Ile-Bay.”

“Benny-Bay.”

“Ile-Grigg.”

“Scott’s Haute.”

Such was the medley of cries that arose from all, shouting and yelling at once. While all the time there stood on the shore the man that had come down to meet them; who first had started and stared with amazement,—and who then, recognizing them all, and seeing the masts of the sunken schooner beyond, understood the whole situation, and rejoiced over it accordingly—showing his joy, indeed, in a less noisy and demonstrative manner than theirs, but in a way which was thoroughly characteristic.

For Benny suddenly turned, and started off to the house on a full run. Then he disappeared.

The boat drew nearer, Benny appeared once more.

The boat touched the beach.

At that very instant Benny touched the beach also, and, plunging into the water, began shaking hands with every one of them, in the most violent and vehement manner.

“Come along! Come along! Come right up! Come along! Don’t mind the boat. I’ll see to that. Come along to the house. Blowed if I ever see the likes o’ this in all my born days! Come along!”

Such was the welcome of Benny Grigg.

And in this way Benny dragged them all up to his house. Here he gave them another welcome, characterized by a lavish hospitality, and a warmhearted friendliness that was truly delightful to his guests; in all of which he was seconded by Mrs. Benny. The table that was spread before them was loaded down with everything that the house could furnish, and the shipwrecked guests ate with an appetite such as is only known to those who have labored hard and fasted long.

After which Benny questioned them all closely, and made them tell him how it was that they had come here. Great was his astonishment, but greater still his amusement. Though it had so nearly been a tragedy, to hear it seemed like a comedy. There is but one step between the sublime and the ridiculous—the terrible and the grotesque—tragedy and comedy. Benny chose to regard it all from the lighter point of view, and accordingly he laughed with unrestrained hilarity, and made merry with exceeding mirth.

But after the story was all told, he grew more serious, and, producing a well-worn chart, he explained to them his theory as to their wanderings. He pointed out to them the probable place where the Antelope had struck, described the character of the tides and currents, and showed how it was that, with such a wind, and under such circumstances, they, very naturally, had drifted into this particular part of the Bay of Fundy. Benny’s explanation was indeed so very lucid, and so satisfactory, that they all expressed their regrets at not having known this before, in which case they would have been saved from much anxiety.

When they arrived at Scott’s Bay it was high tide, but by the time that they had finished their story and the conversation that had been caused by it, the tide was far down on the ebb. On going forth they could see that the deck of the Antelope had been uncovered by the retreating waters. In two or three hours more the tide would be at the lowest ebb, and they could see that it would be possible for them to visit the sunken schooner. It lay about a mile away from the beach, between which and her there extended long mud flats, which could easily be traversed at low water.

They waited till the tide was low, and then they all walked down to her.

There she lay—the Antelope—the vessel that had carried them so far, through strange seas, amid so many dangers and perils—the vessel associated with so many memories. They climbed on board. They saw that her hold was still full of water; for, though the crevices were numerous, and wide enough to let in the sea, they could not let it out with sufficient rapidity to keep pace with the fall of the tide. Still, the water streamed out in small jets, or trickled out, drop by drop, in a hundred places, affording them a very impressive sight of the true condition of the Antelope, and of the danger against which they had struggled so long and so laboriously.

“If the water’d ony get out of her,” said Captain Corbet, in a melancholy voice, “she might float ashore.”

“Yes,” said Benny, “she might float, perhaps, as far as the shore, but no farther. ’Tain’t no manner of uthly use a tryin to repair that thar craft, cos she’s ben an gone an got done for. She’s wore out, the wustest kind. That thar vessel ain’t wuth a tryin to repair her. It’s a mussy she held out so long, an didn’t go to pieces all of a suddent, some-whars in the middle of the sea.”

To this Captain Corbet made no reply. He felt keenly the truth of the remark, and could see that the Antelope was indeed beyond the reach of human aid.

The boys all climbed on board of the beloved, though battered old craft, to take a last look and a last farewell. It was with unconcealed sadness that they looked around. They could not go down into the cabin, or the hold, for the water was there; yet the deck was enough to remind them of that eventful past which they had experienced here. This was the schooner that had borne them on their cruise around Minas Bay; which had taken them around the Bay of Fundy when Tom was lost; which had afterwards taken them to the Bay de Chaleur. This was the schooner for whose appearance they had so watched and waited on board the water-logged Petrel, and which had lately borne them over so many miles of watery sea, through so many leagues of fog. And this was the end.

Captain Corbet it was that first broke the solemn silence.

“It air gone,” he said; “the derream hev bust! The berright derream of fortin, of wealth, an of perosperity. Gone, tew, air the ole Antelope—companion of my toils, my feelins, an my fame. Boys, you hev ben the confidants of my feelins towards this here Antelope, an knows how I loved her, yea, even as the apple of my aged eye! I stood here, not long sence, by yon rudder, fixed firm an solemn; resolved to perish with her; ready to sink into the deep blue sea. From that fate I was spared; yet still my feelins air the same; the heart’s the same—‘twill ne’er grow cold. An now I feel to mourn. I feel that I am indeed a growin old. The days of my navigatin air brought to an end. Henceforth the briny deep will be traversed by the aged Corbet no more forever. From this time I retire from the heavin biller, an take refooge in my own vine an fig tree. My navigatin arter this’ll be, with my belessed babby in my arms, up an down the room. The only storms that await me now, an the only squalls, air to be of a sterictly domestic characture. Weak human natur, boys, might be tempted to repine, an to indulge in vain lamintations over this here; but the time hev passed. I’ve made my lamintation, an that’s enough. I’ll lament no more. Peace to her ashes. Let her lie, an may no rude hand go a disturbin of the beloved Antelope in her last restin-place. Let her lie buried here beneath the ocean. Let the billowy main sound her requem, an chant her foon’ral dirge. An now, farwell! an may you be happy! Good by, Antelope—ole friend—an receive, as your last legacy an benediction, the belessin of the mournful Corbet!”

He ceased. Silence followed, and in that silence they all retired from the Antelope, and returned to the shore.


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