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CHAPTER 6
Bruce and Bart on board the deserted Ship.—New Discoveries.—The Cook’s Galley.—A sumptuous Repast.—Observations.—A Return baffled.—Back again.—The Antelope.—The Ripple in the Water.—Speculations.—The Sail to the Ship.—Puzzle about the lost Ones.—Nearer and nearer.—Unexpected and astounding Welcome!

THE state of mind and body in which Bruce and Bart found themselves was of such a kind that the discovery of a well-stocked pantry and store-room gave them more delight than they had known for a very long time. They themselves were ravenously hungry; for the appetite which had been quickened by their long fast had been sharpened by exercise, and they also could not forget that their friends on board the Antelope were depending upon this expedition as much as themselves. Under such circumstances they looked around upon the well stocked shelves, and as, one after another, they recognized well-known and favorite articles of food, tears of joy started to their eyes.

Tea, and coffee, and sugar, and butter, and potted meats, and hams, and pickles, and many other delicacies of a similar kind, showed that their predecessors had not been indifferent to the pleasures of the table. In taking leave they seemed to have been very modest in their requirements, since they had taken away but little. As they continued their researches, they found other articles which increased their delight. There were a barrel of apples, boxes of raisins, drums of figs, bags of nuts, bottles of raspberry vinegar and of lemon sirup, a demijohn full of lime juice, and a delicious Cheshire cheese. Leaving the pantry and going into another store-room, they saw numerous barrels, some of which contained beef, and others pork. Opening another door, they looked in, and saw a chamber lined with tin and filled with pilot bread.

“I say, Bruce,” said Bart, “let’s postpone any further searches now, and get breakfast.”

“All right. What shall we have?”

“Well, I feel strongly inclined for some tea, broiled bacon, toasted biscuit, and Welsh rarebit.”

“Why don’t you add a few other things?” said Bruce, with a laugh. “How can we cook anything?”

“Why, in the cook’s galley.”

“But there isn’t any fuel.”

“Why, there’s a lot of coal in that front storeroom, and fagots of wood. Didn’t you see them?”

“I didn’t notice.”

“Well, I did, and I’m going to make a fire.”

“Have you any matches?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you make the fire, and I’ll set the table.”

“O, no; don’t set the table here. Let’s eat on the quarter-deck. It’s rather close in here.”

“Very well; I’ll gather the dishes and eatables.” Bart now went about his task. Going into the store-room, he found the fuel, and carrying a supply to the cook’s galley, he succeeded in a few minutes in producing a roaring fire. Then he filled the kettle, and before long the water began to boil.

By that time Bruce was ready with his part of the business. The teapot was brought forward, and the tea set to draw. Then a few slices of very superior ham were placed over the coals and broiled. While Bruce attended to this, Bart soaked some pilot biscuit in water till they were quite soft, after which he fried them in butter on the stove. He then proceeded to try his hand at a Welsh rarebit. He cut up some thin slices of cheese, added butter, and then allowed it all to liquefy over the fire. Having accomplished this, the two adventurers conveyed their things to the quarter-deck, and sat down to breakfast.

Even had they been less hungry they would have enjoyed that breakfast. True, they had no milk in their tea, but they had long since grown accustomed, on board the Antelope, to dispense with that. The tea was of a very superior quality, the fried biscuit was most savory, the broiled ham was a great success, and the Welsh rarebit was pronounced delicious.

Already they had turned occasional glances over the water, and had seen the Antelope, lying apparently three or four miles away, in the same place where they had left her. Now, after they had satisfied their appetites, they began to look at her more closely, and to discuss the time of their return. They felt anxious to go back as soon as possible, but decided that they might as well postpone it until they were thoroughly rested.

It was evident to the boys that the ship which they had boarded had been deserted very hastily, and they thought that her company must have boarded some other ship. In this way only could they account for the numerous things which had been left behind. Among these was a very good spy-glass. Bruce had seen this while preparing breakfast, and had brought it on deck with the other things. As they now sat on the deck after breakfast, they amused themselves for some time with looking at the Antelope. They could see several figures on the deck, but could not distinguish one from another. They tried to tell by watching their movements who each one might be. A solitary figure, that stood motionless at the stern, they were certain was Captain Corbet, while another figure, which indulged in rather eccentric movements, seemed to be Solomon. The rest could not be guessed at.

They had already found out the name of the ship. They saw it in many places, on a row of buckets that hung in front of the cabin, on the captain’s gig, on the cook’s galley; they saw it engraved on a brass plate on the cabin door, on the capstan, and on the spy-glass; and this name, which they thus saw in so many places, was,—
PETREL, LIVERPOOL.

In discussing her fate, they concluded that she had loaded with timber at Quebec, had encountered a severe gale in the gulf and sprung a leak, and that another ship had hove in sight, to which the captain and crew of the Petrel had fled in their boats, without taking anything off their ship. They must have deserted her under the impression that she was going down.

Thus they accounted for the present situation.

They decided to leave at eleven o’clock for the Antelope, and return with the schooner as soon as possible. Nearly an hour still remained, and they thought it would be a good idea to prepare the Petrel for the reception of visitors, so as to afford as cheerful an impression as possible. This could be effected by making the cabin more “shipshape.” It seemed to have been entered by rolling seas, for the furniture was lying confusedly about, and there was some dampness in the air. The bedding also was all wet. They devoted themselves now to this. They opened the skylight, so as to secure ventilation, and the stern-ports. Then they brought all the bedding out, and spread it over the quarter-deck, where the hot sun and dry wind might do their work. Then they swept out the cabin, and arranged the furniture as neatly as possible. At the end of this a great change was produced, and the cabin of the Petrel assumed an appearance not only of comfort, but almost of comparative luxury.

At length eleven o’clock came, and they began to prepare for their return to the Antelope. These preparations consisted simply in filling a bag with pilot bread, and putting this on board the boat; to which they added a ham, with some tea, sugar, and butter. They then embarked, and, pushing off, began to row.

But scarcely had they rowed a dozen strokes when they became sensible of a breeze. It was a gentle breeze, and it was blowing against them. Bart, who was rowing, at once stopped, and Bruce at the same moment uttered a cry which made him look round. It was a joyous sight that they saw—a sight which assured them that they would be spared the long effort of pulling back again, for there, away over the water, they saw the Antelope spreading her white wings to catch the gentle breeze. If that breeze continued, it would bring her up to them in an hour, and though light, it promised to be steady enough.

“I wonder if it’s going to last,” asked Bart thoughtfully.

“O, I think so.”

“Perhaps it may be as well not to pull any farther just yet.”

“Certainly not. This breeze’ll bring the Antelope here faster than we can row towards her, and we will not be gaining enough time to pay for our trouble.”

“But the wind might stop, and in that case it Would be a pity to lose the time.”

“O, it can’t be of much consequence. If the wind does die away, we can start off. We can watch the Antelope all the time.”

“Well,” said Bart, “if you’re agreed, I am, I’m sure; and besides,” he added, “I should like to do a little more to make the Petrel more presentable, and in better order for receiving our visitors.”

“Capital,” said Bruce. “I didn’t think of that. Yes, that will be far better than wasting time in unnecessary rowing.”

“My idea,” said Bart, “is to set the table in the cabin, and cook a sumptuous breakfast to receive the starving Antelopers.”

“Hurrah!” cried Bruce, with enthusiasm; “that’s just the thing.”

“The cabin’s a little damp, but not so bad as it was, and by the time they get here, it’ll be dry enough. They won’t be particular. We’ll set the table regularly, bring out the best china, and cook some ham, trot out some of those potted meats, and have both tea and coffee.”

“And Welsh rarebit.”

“Well, yes, if we have time; but the fact is, I wasn’t altogether satisfied with my last effort, and we can try it again some other time.”

This new project was a most fascinating one to both the boys, who returned to the Petrel, and hauled up their boat on the other side, so that it could not be seen from the Antelope. This was merely to heighten the surprise which they intended to give. They then went to work to prepare the repast with which they wished to welcome their friends; and their only fear now was that the Antelope would reach them before they were ready. Fortunately, this was not the case. The breeze lasted, but it was light, and the progress of the Antelope, though steady, was slow, so that the two boys were able to complete their preparations.

Meanwhile, the time on board the Antelope had passed very slowly. The boys had felt full of hope about the result of the expedition of Bart and Bruce, but they were all ravenously hungry, and hope could not take the place of bread and butter. As the time passed they all felt more and more impatient, and after they had settled for themselves that the boat had reached the ship, they began to look for its return.

But from these thoughts they were all roused by a sudden cry of joy. It burst forth from Captain Corbet. Every one started and turned to see what had happened. They saw an exhilarating sight, which at once roused them from their gloom. There at the stern stood their venerable friend, a smile of exultation on his aged face, tears of joy in his mild eyes, one hand waving his hat in the air, and the other pointing over the water.

“It’s come! It’s come! Hooray!”

This was what he said, and as he said it the boys looked, and saw all over the water a gentle ripple. Then they knew it all. The long-wished-for wind had at last come, and they were freed from their long and irksome imprisonment. In an instant they all rushed to hoist the sails. As they hoisted them they felt the gentle air on their faces, and they saw the sails swelling at its touch. Soon all sail was hoisted, and Captain Corbet, with an exultant smile, stood once more at the helm, and the Antelope began to move through the waters.

“I knowed it,” said he, “I knowed it all along, and I said it, I did. That thar wind was bound to come. I felt it in my bones; yea, down to my butes. I saw how down in the mouth you all felt, and didn’t like to make you too san-goo-wine, but I knowed it, I did, I knowed it, all the same; and here, it has come at last, sure enough.”

The progress of the Antelope was slow, but it was progress, and that was enough. All the boys stood watching the ship, which they were gradually approaching. Solomon stood watching with the rest. Once he suggested the subject of dinner; but though before the wind came they had all been so hungry, they seemed now to have lost their appetites. The excitement of suspense was too strong, and none of them felt able to eat until they had reached the ship, and joined their friends again. And so they moved slowly over the water.

They soon perceived that the ship was not half so far away as they had supposed, and then they discovered, not long after, the truth of her situation. They could see this better than Bart and Bruce had been able to do, for they had been sitting low down in a boat, while these were standing on the deck, or the taffrail of the schooner, and thus could make out the true character of the stranger more easily.

As they came within sight, and learned this, they began to look eagerly about for signs of life. That the ship was waterlogged they could see, but whether there was any one aboard or not they could not see. What had become of the boat? Where were Bruce and Bart? They could see no signs of any boat whatever. But signs of life at length did appear in the shape of smoke from the cook’s galley. Arthur, who was examining the ship through the glass, was the first to detect this, and it was not long before all the boys could see it with the naked eye. Smoke of itself would have indicated human life; but smoke from the cook’s galley indicated something more, and was eloquently suggestive of those joys of the table to which they had too long been strangers. It served to assure them that their difficulties were approaching an end, and that smoke from the cook’s galley was of itself enough to drive away the last vestige of despondency.

But, in the mean while, what had become of Bruce and Bart? That was the question which every one asked himself, without being able to answer. Where was the boat? They could not see it anywhere. Could the boys have gone on board the ship? They must have done so. The water had been too calm to admit of the probability of any evil happening to them. They must have boarded the ship.

But where were Bruce and Bart now?

No one could tell.

The Antelope drew steadily nearer, and all on board watched with indescribable eagerness the strange ship. Now they could see her disordered rigging, her yards bare of sails, her open hatchway. They could see bedding lying on the quarter-deck, and the open skylight. All these things indicated life on board; yet of that life there was no other sign. Where was the captain? Where were the crew? Where was the cook, who kept up such a roaring fire? It was all a puzzle. Above all. where were Bruce and Bart? Who could tell?

Nearer and nearer.

Every moment brought them closer, but disclosed no living being.

Solomon crept up slowly to Arthur, and gently touched his arm.

Arthur started, and turned.

“Hallo, Solomon! what’s the matter with you?”

“Mas’r Atta, I donno bout dis yer craft,” said Solomon, in a tremulous voice, with his eyes rolling wildly.

“Why, what’s the matter?” asked Arthur, in surprise.

“Donno; dar’s somethin drefful curous bout dis yer craft,—beats all eber I see,—floatin under water; full ub water, an not sinkin; fire a burnin like de old boy in de cook’s galley, an not a livin man aboard. I don’t like it. Tell you what, now, I don’t like it.”

“Pooh! nonsense,” said Arthur. “Don’t be absurd, Solomon. You’ll take your turn in that cook’s galley, perhaps, before sundown, and make acquaintance with the cook of the ship.”

Solomon shuddered and shook his head.

They were now within a stone’s throw of the ship.

Suddenly Captain Corbet, put both hands to his mouth, holding the tiller between his legs, and shouted, in a loud voice,—

“Ship, ahoy!”

Then came an answer.

At last!

And what an answer!

Out of the cabin bounded two well-known forms. They rushed out dancing, and capering, and flinging their hats in the air. They shouted, and yelled, and hurrahed. They ran up to the quarter-deck, and repeated these actions there. Those on board the Antelope were so astounded that they looked on in dumb bewilderment.

“Haul up alongside!” cried Bruce. “Fetch her round! I’m captain of this craft, and Bart is mate; I’m steward, and he’s cook; I’m boatswain, and he’s the crew. Hurrah! Haul up alongside, and heave us a line, my hearties.”

It was some time before Captain Corbet could recover sufficiently from his bewilderment to be capable of doing anything. Half mechanically he managed to bring the Antelope around, and man-. aged it just in time to cause her to move gently up alongside. Wade, who had all along been perfectly stolid, then proceeded to secure the schooner to the ship in the most matter-of-fact way in the world, just as if he had been securing her to the wharf in Grand Pr茅. But long before he had taken the first turn in the rope, the boys had bounded on board the Petrel, and proceeded to overwhelm Bruce and Bart with countless questions.


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