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CHAPTER 8
Solomon in his Glory.—The Breakfast a splendid Success.—Out of Starvation and into the Land of Plenty.—Removal of Lodgings.—The Question of Salvage.—An important Debate.—To go or not to go.—Dropping Anchor.—The final Departure.—Corbet bids a fond Farewell.—Alone in the Water-logged Ship.

IT was late on the following morning when they awoke. The effect of fatigue and excitement, together with perfect peace of mind, all conspired to make their sleep sound and refreshing. Solomon alone was up early; but it was nine o’clock before they sat down to the sumptuous breakfast which he had prepared in the cabin of the Petrel.

Solomon had found himself in command of a very well appointed larder, and he showed no inclination to spare it. He seemed to be endeavoring to make amends for his enforced idleness of the past few days by extraordinary activity and fruitfulness of invention in the culinary department. There was no lack of anything which the ship could supply; nay? there was even more than any of the boys had expected, for, to the amazement of all, they saw on the table before them several dishes of hot rolls; for Solomon had discovered among the ship’s stores some barrels of flour, and had at once made a raid upon these. He laid before them coffee, tea, hot rolls, delicious fish-balls, broiled ham, stewed tomatoes, baked potatoes, with a variety of potted meats, prepared in manifold ways by his skilful hand.

The breakfast was a splendid success. It made all of them more delighted than ever with their situation. In fact, about that situation there was now an air of luxury; and the first determination of all of them was to move, bag and baggage, on board the Petrel, and live there. Solomon assured them that before the next evening all the bedding would be so dry that the most delicate invalid might sleep upon any one of the mattresses without fear. The boys, therefore, made their decision at once. They determined to take up their lodgings on board the Petrel, and proceeded to select state-rooms. As there was some difference in these apartments, they decided that the fairest way would be to draw lots. Captain Corbet positively refused to leave the Antelope, and so did Wade; so the boys had it all to themselves. Pat and Phil drew the best room (the captain’s); Bart and Tom drew the next best, which was apparently the mate’s; while Bruce and Arthur had the choice of any one out of the four remaining ones. All, however, were sufficiently comfortable to satisfy the most exacting, and none of the party had any cause to find fault with the result. Then followed the removal of their simple baggage, after which the boys began to “fix up” their respective state-rooms with as much care and labor as though they proposed spending the rest of the summer on board.

These preparations did not take up much time; and before long they were all out on deck inspecting the bedding, and examining how far the various mattresses were prepared for being restored to their places. But it was decided to leave all these for the day, until Solomon should be ready to make the beds.

It was a beautiful day. The sky was without a cloud, blue and glorious. The sun shone down warmly and brilliantly. There was a gentle breeze, which tossed up the water into wavelets without making much motion, a breeze which was sufficient for the tranquil movement of some pleasure yacht, and not strong enough to excite any fear. There was a freshness in the atmosphere which was most exhilarating. The air was clear and transparent. Wide around lay the waste of waters, upon which not a single sail was visible.

Solomon cleared away the table, and then relapsed into the galley. The boys gathered into a little group upon the quarter-deck. To them thus assembled appeared the form of the venerable Corbet, a smile on his lips, a glance of benignity in his eyes.

“It’s all about this here salvage,” he began, somewhat abruptly. “You see, boys, I’ve ben a thinkin an a dreamin, asleep an awake, all night long, an my pinion is more an more that we hadn’t ort, none of us, to lose this present blessed chance, if we can possibly make anythin out of it. I’ve ben a cal’latin the valoo of this here ship an cargo. Now, this here ship must have cost at least fifteen thousand pounds. Of course she ain’t wuth that much now, an I can’t tell what she is wuth till I know what damage she’s received. At any rate, she’s wuth a good deal. As for her cargo, why, that’s jest as good as the day it was put inside of her. Timber ain’t like grain or cotton; it don’t spile. Here, then, we have a couple of thousand tons or so of fust-rate white pine timber, wuth lots of money, and we have this ship, wuth thousands of pounds. Why, boys, at the smallest cal’lation, the proceeds of the sale of this here ship and cargo would amount to over a thousand pounds apiece for every one of us, includin Solomon.

“’Tain’t myself I’m a thinkin on,” resumed the captain, after a pause, in a tone of mild melancholy, and with a pensive sigh; “’tain’t myself at all. I’m old, sere, an yaller. I don’t want money; I got enough for all my needs and pupposes. But it’s the babby, dear boys, the babby. That thar infant is the true cause of my present wanderin life. He drives me to the ocean wave when I might be toastin my shins in front of my own stove. I want to airn somethin to leave to him when I’m dead an gone. I got the house an the farm; but I want somethin more for the infant. All my cares are for him. I don’t want to leave him to the cold world, to sturruggle an to sturrive. I want to give him a eddication, to make a man of him an a scholyer, a joy to his parient, and an honor to his country.

“Wal, now’s the chance. Here we have it thrown into our very hands. We’ve got it, an all we’ve got to do is to make use of it. Here’s this here ship an cargo. If we can only get her into some port, it’ll be wuth over a thousand pounds apiece to every one of us, Solomon included. Each one of you boys’ll have enough, dear knows, to keep you in pocket-money all your born days, or to buy you a fine schewner all to yourself. Solomon’ll have enough to raise him far above the humble attitood of a ship’s cook; an I will have enough to raise the babby above want, an rair him to be a gentleman an a scholyer.”

Partly from the idea of getting plenty of pocket-money, partly to help old Solomon, partly to assist the respected Corbet in acquiring the means of giving an “eddication” to the “babby,” but more than all because they were moved by his earnestness, the boys universally chimed in with his wishes, and urged him most enthusiastically to do all that he could to save the ship. Captain Corbet listened with his usual mildness, and then suggested that perhaps there might be some sails stowed away on board; upon which he at once went off to search for himself.

His search, however, was not successful. One sail was found, but it was quite inadequate to the needs of the ship. It really seemed to be, as the captain asserted, that the Petrel had encountered violent gales, in which her sails had been lost, and all her spare ones made use of only to be lost in turn. Certain it was that, though of other things there was no lack, of sails there was a total want; and the discovery of this reduced Captain Corbet once more to his former meditative mood.

While Captain Corbet thus meditated, the boys talked over the situation. If sails were wanted, it seemed to them that the best thing that could be done would be for some one to go and get them. There was wind enough. The Magdalen Islands were not far away, and no doubt a sufficient supply could be obtained there. Some one might remain on board the Petrel. The question then arose, Who should go and who should stay? As to that there was no doubt. Every one of the boys determined to stick to the Petrel at all hazards, and thus Captain Corbet himself could go in the Antelope.

It was with words to this effect that Bart broke in upon the musings of Captain Corbet.

The captain listened to his remarks, and, though he was evidently struck by them, still there arose in his mind certain scruples, which under the circumstances were very natural.

“O, no! no, no!” said he; “railly, now, you mustn’t try to persuade me.”

“Why not?”

“O, it would never do!”

“Do? Yes, it would.”

“O, I couldn’t bring myself to leave youns! Who could tell what might happen!”

“Nonsense! Are we babies? Can’t we take care of ourselves? Of course we can! We’ve been in far worse situations than this. Think of what we’ve all gone through at different times! Think in particular of Tom and Phil, what they’ve gone through! Are we the fellows that could meet with any harm if you were to leave us?”

“Yes, you air; it’s jest that,” said Captain Corbet. “You’ve all got a natral-born, innate talent for gettin into difficulties. You don’t caitch me lettin you go out of my sight.”

“Nonsense!” said Bart. “See here, now, captain. There isn’t and there can’t be the slightest danger. It’s all safe. We’ll be as safe here as if we were on an island. This ship? can never sink. Why, I know all about these timber ships. My father owned one that got waterlogged just like this, in the middle of winter, in the Atlantic, and in the course of several tremendous gales she was blown over, to Europe. Mind you, she couldn’t sink. She got into Liverpool, and was broken up there, and her cargo was sold for the benefit of the underwriters. Captain Beyea, who commanded her, told me all about it. Of course at this season of the year we’re all right, for there’s no likelihood of any storms; and besides, you’ll only be gone a few days.”

Captain Corbet did not answer for some time.

“O, boys,” he said, at length, in a hesitating way, “if you only could! If I only dar’d!”

“If we only could?” said Bruce. “Why, captain, you don’t seem to know us! You think that we’re a parcel of helpless children.”

“I only wish,” said Tom, “that I may never have anything worse to do than to stay in a place like this—a floating palace, where we feed on the fat of the land. When I think of Ilee Haute, I consider this a sort of Paradise.”

“I think I have known worse places,” said Phil. “I could tell you of a burning forest, in comparison with which every other situation isn’t worth being mentioned. Why, boys, this is going to be a sort of picnic—a pleasure party.”

“Captain,” said Arthur, “we are all settled here now. Each of us has his state-room. We’ve got plenty of provisions. We’ve made up our minds to spend a couple of weeks here at least. So you may as well knock under. While we’re aboard, it will be much better for you to go off, and try to get some sails, than to wander up and down, moping, day after day, with the Antelope alongside doing nothing.”

“Sure, an it’s meself,” said Pat, “that would be willing to sail off in the Antelope single-handed, if Captain Corbet is afraid, only I’ll want one man to give a hand in navigatin, so I will.”

“O, two could easily sail the Antelope,” said Bruce.

“And what shall Solomon do?” asked Arthur.

“Do?” said Bart. “Why, he’ll stay with us. What could we do without Solomon? We need him here more than anywhere else. Without him our life here would become flat and insipid. I could do the cooking once; but as a general thing, I should beg to be excused. Without Solomon we should not be able to eat.”

‘“Yes, yes,” said Captain Corbet, meditatively. “Thar’s no trouble about me an Wade navigatin the Antelope. We don’t want Solomon. He’ll be best here with youns. If I could only leave you—”

“But that’s already settled,” said Bart, decisively. “You are going to leave us.”

“Wal,” said Captain Corbet, “here we air, some-whar nigh onto fifty mile north of the Magdalen Islands. I steered doo north; an I don’t think we’ve made much of a muve since the calm began. Now, my idee is, that if we were to drop anchor here, this here craft would stay till I come back, an I know I could find her easy.”

“drop anchor? Of course,” said Bart. “I didn’t think of that. In fact, this was my only trouble—the possibility of drifting from this place. But if we were to drop anchor, why, of course it stands to reason that we shouldn’t move from this place; and so, of course, you could find us again, as you say, without any difficulty.”

“Her anchors air all right,” said Captain Corbet. “I’ve seen em. There’s sixty fathom of chain if there’s an inch.”

“Well, come now. We’d better drop anchor at once,” said Bart.

“You tempt me, boys,” said Captain Corbet, with evident emotion. “You tempt me awful. I feel as though I hadn’t ought to go; but you’ve got a kind of a sort of a way of puttin things that makes it seem all so safe, an pleasant, an easy like that I’ve half a mind to resk it, an go off at all hazards. For there’s so much at stake! My babby! He pulls even now at my paternal heart-strings! His voice, even now, is a soundin in my aged ear! ‘Father,’ he seems to say, ‘go off, an hurry up with them thar sails.’ An then,” continued the captain, after a pause, everything seems favorable. The breeze is fair; the sea is calm; the sky is blue; an I’ll only be gone a couple of days at the farthest. ’Tain’t likely there’ll be another calm. The wind is fair for the Magdalen Islands. There’s provisions enough aboard here for months: An, as you say, there railly ain’t any danger.

“You’re quite right, Bart. This here ship can never sink. Her timber cargo’ll keep her afloat till dumesday, an, what’s more, it’ll hold her together. An I’ve so much at stake! The babby! His fortune may now be made. It needs only one bold stroke, an all is done. Then we have the ship for our own, an the cargo, an we’ll sell em both, an divide the proceeds. It’ll be more’n a thousand pounds apiece, an the babby’ll be independent. He can receive a college eddication; he can grow up to be a gentleman an a scholyer; an he’ll live to bless the memory of the aged parient who now doos violence to his own conscience for the sake of the footor interests of his offspring. Yes, yes, it must be done. An, boys, I rayther guess, on the whole, that p’aps I’d best go, as you say.”

The decision of the captain thus announced was received with acclamation by the boys, and these marks of approval served to drive away the last vestige of hesitation from Captain Corbet’s mind.

“Wal,” said he, “if we’re goin to do it, we’d best do it as soon as possible. So, fust an foremost, we’d best let go the anchor.”

Calling Wade, the captain then went forward, followed by all the boys.

The anchor was let go.

Rattle, rattle, rattle went chain and windlass, and at length the anchor stopped.

“That’ll hold, I guess,” said the captain, “Now you’re hard an fast. Now I’ll know where to find you. You’re no longer aboard a ship. You’re on a fixed and immovable spot,—an island of the sea,—an here you’ll stay patient and quiet till I come back.”

These remarks the boys heard with the utmost placidity, and accepted them as absolute fact.. They had flung themselves headlong into this somewhat dangerous project, and were now more eager than ever for its successful completion.

After letting go the anchor, the next thing was to prepare the Antelope for her trip.

“We’re out of provisions, boys, over there,” said the captain, “as you may, perhaps, be aware, an we’ll have to make a re-qui-sition on you. We don’t want much; none o’ yer potted meats an chicken-fixins; none o’ yer luxoories an sweetmeats. All we want is a modest supply of good honest biscuit, with a little pork, a ham or two, an a pinch of sugar, an a drawin o’ tea. Wade an me, we don’t go in for scientific cookery; we only want somethin to chaw at odd times.”

They now proceeded to transfer to the Antelope a sufficient supply of food. All the boys lent a hand. A dozen hams, a barrel of pork, a barrel of beef, and six barrels of ship bread were put on board the schooner, in spite of the remonstrances of the captain, who assured them that they only wanted a tenth part of all these stores. But the boys would not be balked in their hospitable intentions.

At length the stores were all on board the Antelope, and nothing more remained to be done. The last moment had come. Captain Corbet was deeply affected, and seemed inclined to change his mind, after all, and stay. But the boys were eager in urging him off. So the good captain allowed himself to be persuaded against his better reason, and he and Wade got on board the Antelope, and the lines were cast off.

The sails of the schooner were hoisted, and the breeze filled them, moving the schooner slowly away.

Captain Corbet stood at the stern of the Antelope, holding the tiller. His face was turned towards the boys, who stood in a group on the quarter-deck of the Petrel. He seemed melancholy and miserable.

“Boys,” said he, in a tremulous voice, “dear boys, take care of yourselves.”

“All right,” cried Bart, cheerily.

The Antelope moved farther off.

Captain Corbet stood looking at the ship, and his face had an expression of despair. At times he called out to them; but the Antelope moved farther and farther off every minute, and at length his voice could no longer be heard.

It was evening when the Antelope left. In about an hour she was lost to view.

The boys were alone on the ship.


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