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CHAPTER 11
The water-logged Ship.—Alone upon the Waters.—Jolly under creditable Circumstances.—Old Solomon’s queer Fancies.—He dreads his Persecutor.—He prefers the Life of Crusoe.—Follow my Leader.—Swimming in deep Waters.—An important Meeting.—Debates.—Parties formed.—Molassesites and Sugarites.—Desperate Struggle of Phil, and melancholy Result.

THE night after Captain Corbet left was spent by the boys without any incident of an unusual character. At first when they felt them-sleves thus cut off from all chance of leaving the vessel, there came over every one a singular sense of loneliness, together with an exhilarating feeling of independence. Their situation seemed to them like that of shipwrecked mariners on a desert island, and they all found the part of Robinson Crusoe a very pleasant one, under the circumstances. Their lodgings were excellent, their provisions varied and abundant; they had a cook who was master of his art; and they looked for the return of the Antelope within twenty-four hours.

Captain Corbet had laid stress upon this; and the only conditions upon which he consented to tear himself away from them had been, that he would not go farther than the Magdalen Islands. For he had fully counted on obtaining there what he needed, and had not made any calculations with reference to a failure.

That first evening, then, the boys were in high spirits, and interchanged many jocular remarks about their situation. Solomon expressed more than usual gratification, and seemed to have a serene self-satisfaction, which was extraordinary in him. As the shades of night descended he began to illuminate the cabin. He had found some oil, and had filled the lamp which hung immediately under the skylight. It was a large one, with four argand burners, and threw a brilliant lustre over the scene. Beneath this bright glow the boys sat at the evening repast, spread by the hands of Solomon, where they found the usual variety of dishes, and also not a few of quite a novel and original character. To play the part of Robinson Crusoe under such circumstances as these was not at all unpleasant.

Among all the boys, then, there prevailed a spirit of joyousness, and old Solomon’s mood was certainly not out of accord with that of his young companions. For Bart found him alone in his solitary galley, rubbing his thighs in front of a roasting fire, and chuckling audibly to himself.

“Tell ye what, Massa Bart,” was his exclamation as he looked up at his smiling visitor, “dis yer am high ole times, an no mistake; dis yer ole nigger habn’t felt so happy an habn’t had sich a strornary feelin of skewrity, ebber since he was your age. Let dat dar Ant’lope keep way’s long ebber she kin. I don want to see her again. I want to take up my bode in dis yer galley, and bid farewell to ebery feah, an wipe my weepin eyes.”

“Well, that’s a curious fancy too,” said Bart, in some surprise. “You don’t mean to say that you’d like to live here.”

“Would so; dat dar’s jest wat I mean, an it’s wat’d zactly suit dis yer ole man, an no mistake now—would so.”

“Well,” said Bart, sympathetically, “it’s not a bad place just now, as long as the weather’s fine, though how it might be in case of a blow, I confess I have my suspicions.”

“O, you nebber mind de blow. Dar’s blows dat are a heap wuss dan de wind. How would you like blows on yer head, an backbone, an ribs, from a broomstick, or a shobbel, or a stick ob cord-wood, or a red-hot iron poker? Dem’s blows as is blows, mind I tell you! Tell you what, when you come to git blows, like dat ar, you’ll begin to hab a realizin sense ob what blows is possible for to be.”

“Why, Solomon, how very feelingly you speak!”

“Feelinly! Ony wait till you’ve felt ober your head an shoulders what she’s giben me.”

“She? Who?”

Solomon gave a groan.

“You know her. You—saw her at Loch—Lomond.”

“What, your wife! O, I understand;” and a light began to dawn upon Bart.

Solomon shuddered. The remembrance was too much for him.

“Dis yer’s de fust time I’ve felt real safe for ebber so long; and here I am real safe. She can’t git at me here no how. She can’t imagine where I am no how.”

“Pooh! nonsense, Solomon! Haven’t you been safe enough ever since you left St. John?”

“No, sah! Safe! Why, dar’s not a moment ob de day dat I don’t fancy dat ar woman’s arter me—on my back. I knows it. Tell you what, she’s a comin to fetch me. I knows it. I feel it in my bones, and dat ar’s a feelin dat’s wuss dan de rheumatics. ’Tis so!”

“But what a rdiculous fancy!” said Bart. “Do you really mean to say that you believe she will come after you?”

“Do so. No doubt bout dat ar, Mas’r Bart. She’s a comin jest as shuah’s you’re born. An I habn’t felt real safe’ till now. Here I’m all right.”

“But suppose she does come?”

“Wal, s’pposin.”

“What can she do to you?”

“Do! Lots ob tings. She can come and lib whar I lib, an hamma away all day an all night on my ole head wid broomsticks an pokers.”

“But what makes you let her?”

“Let her? Wat can I do bout it?”

“Why, the law’ll protect you.”

“Be law sakes, chile! Don’t you know de law can’t ’tect husbands agin wives? It’ll only ’tect wives agin husbands. My pinion is, dat de law’s clean in fabor ob de women, an de men hain’t got no chance—not a mite.”

At this new view of the law Bart was somewhat nonplussed.

“O, well,” said he, “I don’t believe she’ll ever trouble you again. You’ll go back to the academy, and Dr. Porter’ll take care of you.”

Solomon shook his head.

“Tell you what,” said he; “fifty millium Docta Porta’s couldn’t do anythin agin dat ar woman if she come to fetch me. De ’cadmy ain’t no place for me. Don’t think you’ll eber catch me back dar. Ise boun to be a rober; an I’ll sail de sea, so as to prebent her from eber a gittin on my track.”

“O, nonsense!” said Bart. “You’ll come with us, and it’ll be all right.”

Solomon shook his head, and relapsed into silence.

And now it became time to prepare for bed. Solomon had already arranged the state-rooms and made the beds. Thanks to their assiduous care, the rooms and the bedding were all quite dry and very inviting.

It was a beautiful night. There was a gentle breeze, which made a slight ripple on the water, but there was not enough to raise a sea. There was a slight motion on the ship, as she slowly rose and fell to the long and gentle undulations; but the motion was scarcely perceptible, and certainly did not interfere in the slightest degree with the comfort of those on board. It was about ten o’clock when they retired for the night. They went to the different rooms which had fallen to their lot. The excitement of the day and of the evening, the long fatigues, together with the exhaustion arising from former privations, all conspired to make their sleep this night very profound as well as very refreshing. Solomon sat till midnight toasting his shins in front of the galley fire, and meditating about the strange vicissitudes of life which had brought across his path that being whom he so justly feared. But Solomon’s thoughts gradually became intermingled with the confused fancies of the land of Nod; and at length awaking with a start, he rubbed his sleepy eyes, and carried his aged frame somewhere “for’ard.” None of the party awoke until late on the following day. Then, on opening their eyes, their nostrils were greeted with savory odors that were wafted from the cabin, which served to show them that Solomon, at least, had not overslept himself, but that he was up and doing, and that he had prepared everything that might be needed to fortify them for the cares and trials of a new day. For the savory odors that were wafted to their nostrils were multifarious, and among them each boy, before he had made up his mind to rise, and while he was still enjoying that luxurious doze that follows the awakening from sleep, could have enumerated, had he felt inclined, the strong, rich aroma of coffee, the pungent odor of broiled ham, the gentler steam of distilling tea, the appetizing atmosphere shed forth from hot rolls, together with a confused medley of others equally attractive, though less definable. .

A rush upon deck to breathe the glorious air, and to look upon the scene around, followed. The view was most enlivening. Far and wide around them extended the deep blue water, whereon not a sail was visible. Overhead hung the azure vault of heaven, with not a cloud in all its wide expanse. The wind was light, and blew at intervals, nor had it increased since the night before. They took their morning bath on deck in the cool, refreshing salt water, dipped out fresh from the sea. Pat improved on this, for he undressed himself again, and plunged into the sea, where he swam about, and called on the others to follow. His example was infectious, and soon the whole party were floundering and gamboling in the water, like a shoal of porpoises, beside the ship.

The bath was a most refreshing one, and added to the zest with which they attacked their breakfast. When, at length, this repast was finished, they once more came forth to the deck like giants refreshed, and began to make plans for passing the time. For their active young natures, filled to overflowing with animal spirits, some lively exercise was needed. This they found in an exploring tour among the rigging. Bart went first, and then the others. Each one tried to venture farther than the others. Thus it soon became a game—the well-known one often played at sea in fine weather called “follow my leader.”

Bart’s training in a seaport town gave him an advantage over the others, even though some of them were stronger, and others more active than he. But he had all through his boyhood been familiar with ships, and had ventured time and again to every part. There was no height so dizzy but that he had sought it out and familiarized himself with it. Bart, therefore, on the present occasion easily surpassed the others in feats of daring, and ventured where none of the others could follow. Singularly enough, it was Phil who came nearest to him. His light, lithe, slender, yet sinewy frame made him as nimble as a kitten in the rigging, and if he had only had Bart’s practice and familiarity, he would have decidedly surpassed him. Phil came near enough to Bart to elicit the admiration and the applause of all. Next to Phil came Pat, who was very sinewy and active. Bruce and Arthur were about equal, while Tom, who, though very strong, was somewhat slow and a little awkward, lingered in the rear. This exciting sport served to occupy several of the hours of that summer morning.

But at length they had exhausted the utmost resources of even so fascinating a game as “follow my leader,” and they once more came down to the common level of every-day life, when they proceeded to debate the great question what next to do. A swim about the ship served to settle this question until dinner time, after which the important subject of dinner remained under discussion long enough to consume a few more hours.

After dinner none of them felt very much inclined to take any active exertion, and they distributed themselves about in various ways. At length Bart suggested a regatta, which was at once adopted. Not having books to read, or anything else in particular to attend to, it was not surprising that they should take with much excitement to a sport which, though perhaps decidedly childish, is yet not without its attractions to the unoccupied mind. The plan was for each boy to make a boat, put it over the side, and see which one of the little fleet would beat. These boats were at first made of paper. But paper was soon found inadequate, and wood was resorted to. These wooden boats were long and sharp, and sailed with a speed which excited the warmest interest. At length Bart proposed a new kind.

Finding a piece of iron hoop, he broke it into short fragments, and sticking this underneath a wooden boat, so that it might act as ballast, keel, and rudder all in one, he produced a little vessel that would sail with the wind abeam, and carry an astonishing amount of canvas. Soon a fleet of these little vessels was formed, and the regatta went on with fresh excitement.

At length a bright thought struck Phil, which, on being suggested to the other boys, at once caused all interest in the regatta to be eclipsed by the stronger attraction of this new idea.

It was nothing less than to make candy.

About this there was a double attraction, for, first, the candy was of value in itself, and secondly, the process of cooking it would, afford an occupation at once charming and exciting.

There was sugar on board, both brown and white, and also molasses. The choice among these was the subject of a prolonged debate; but at length, on being put to the vote, it was found that the Molassesites were, in a triumphant majority. Upon this the White Sugarites and the Brown Sugarites waved their objections, and the vote became a unanimous one.

Another debate took place upon the appointment of a cook, which was terminated by a resolve to ballot for one. The result of the balloting was the unanimous election of Phil to that important and responsible post. This was nothing more than was right, and it was a handsome tribute to Phil for being the originator of the whole scheme. Phil, on being informed of his election, responded in a neat speech, which was greeted with loud applause.

A motion was then made that a deputation be sent to Solomon, requesting him to vacate the cook’s galley for a few hours, so that the new purpose of the assembly might be carried into successful accomplishment. This motion was carried, and the deputation was chosen by ballot. The deputies were Bart, chairman, Bruce, Arthur, Tom, and Pat.

Upon the departure of these on their mission, the whole assemblage consisted of Phil. Though alone, he contrived to represent the assemblage with as much dignity as possible, for he laid himself down flat on the deck, and distributed his arms and legs in all directions, so that he might occupy as much space as possible.

The deputation at length returned, and announced to the assembly that their mission had been successful, and that Solomon had kindly consented to give up to them the cook’s galley for the required time and purpose.

Upon this the assembly moved, seconded, and carried unanimously a resolution that the report of the deputation be adopted.

Upon this an adjournment took place sine die, and the meeting retired to the scene of labor.

About a gallon of molasses was procured. This was poured into an iron pot, and Phil stationed himself at his post in the galley. The fire was supplied with fresh fuel, and soon the liquid began to boil. Phil stirred away like a good fellow, and the liquid began to froth up. Phil tried to keep it down, so that it might not boil over. For some time there was a desperate struggle between Phil and the molasses. The boys stood crowding around, watching that struggle with intense interest and keen excitement. None of them offered to make a suggestion, for it was felt that any offer of advice would be derogatory to the dignity of Phil’s office.

So the struggle went on.

It grew fiercer and fiercer every moment.

Now the molasses rose up in wrath and fury, and seemed about to rush forth from its iron prison.

Now Phil, summoning all his energy, dealt a series of destructive blows at his furious enemy, and laid him low for a time.

So went the struggle. Now the molasses gained, now Phil.

But all the time the molasses was increasing in fury.

The boys stood about. They formed themselves into two parties, one embracing the cause of the molasses, the other that of Phil. Cheer after cheer arose as one or the other saw its cause in the ascendant.

Phil grew weaker and fainter.

At length he tried to make a flank attack, and tore open the stove doors so as to lessen the draught.

The movement failed.

Scarce had he torn open the doors than the molasses, rising in its wrath, rushed forth, streamed over, and poured out in resistless strength, driving Phil himself back from the clouds of hot steam that arose.

Phil fled vanquished from the galley.

The molasses had conquered!

Wild cheers arose from the Molassesites.

At length, when the smoke and steam had subsided, Phil ventured back. There was a boiling, foaming mass still in the pot; but on lifting it off the stove, and allowing it to subside for a moment, it was found that not more than a quart was left.

“Sure, an here’s some lovely flavorin I found,” said Pat, “in the pantry. It’ll make a good flavorin to the candy, so it will.”

He held forth a small vial to Phil, which was labelled,—

Extract of Lemon.

Phil thought it would be an improvement, and so poured the whole contents of the vial into the boiling molasses.

His task was soon over, and the candy was taken off, and poured into dishes to cool. There was only a little, but it was hoped that this might suffice for the present.

At length they ventured to taste it. But the first taste excited one universal cry of execration. The taste was of rancid oil, and not by any means the smooth, sweet, delicious lemon-flavored molasses candy for which they had waited so long. In bitter disappointment and vexation, Phil seized the vial which Pat had handed him. He smelt it; he poured some of the last drops out on his hand, and touched it.

“Boys,” said he, with a rueful look, “the steward of the Petrel must have taken a lemon bottle to keep his hair-oil in.”

And all the boys retired from the cook’s galley with a mournful smile.


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