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CHAPTER 22
Bailey’s Den.—The Fire.—The blazing Beacon.—Shell Fish.—Bailey begins his Narrative.—Astonishing Disclosure.—Mutual Explanations. —The Story of Bailey.—The Crank Ship.—Springing aleak.—The mutinous Crew.—A Storm.—Taking to the Boats.—The Captain sticks to his Ship.—Driving before the Wind.—Cast ashore.—How to kindle a Fire.—Plans for the Future.—The Evening Repast.—The insatiable Appetite of a half starved Man.—Asleep in Bailey’s Den.

AT length Bailey’s hunger seemed somewhat appeased. “I’m a thinkin,” said he, “as how we’d better take these here victuals to some place where it’ll be more under cover, and handy for us about tea time. If you like, I’ll take them to my den.”

“But can’t we roll it farther up? This barrel’s too heavy to take any distance.”

“Well, I don’ know but what you’re more’n half right. I didn’t think of the bar’l. Leastways, we can put it further up, out of the reach of any surf, and cover it with the sail.”

“We can take with us as much as we may be likely to want,” said Arthur.

“Wal,” said the man, “there ain’t no fear of anybody stealin the things here; and as the wind ain’t likely to turn yet a while, I don’t s’pose there’ll be any danger of surf.”

After a few further precautions, so as to secure the boat and the contents from any possible harm, Bailey set off to show the boys his “den.” They walked along the beach for about half a mile, and then stopped at a place where a high rock jutted out. Behind this there was a recess about twenty feet above the beach, formed by a fissure in the rock. A huge mass overhead shut it in, and formed a sort of roof; while the lower portion had been filled up by crumbled fragments. Over this rough floor Bailey had spread spruce brush, ferns, and mosses, so that it was soft enough to lie down on. The whole recess was about eight feet deep, six feet wide, and six feet high. Immediately outside a fire was burning, and from this came the smoke which had first attracted their attention.

“I keep that there burnin,” said Bailey, “night and day, an I’ve kept it a burnin for the last fortnight. There’s drift-wood enough along the beach here, though every day I have to go further away to get it. Wal, there’s wood enough on the island, if it comes to that, only ‘tain’t easy gittin it up in the woods.”

The boys looked around with deep interest, and with varied feelings. They saw outside, by the fire, heaps of shells, which seemed to have been burned.

“Thar,” said Bailey, “them’s all I’ve had to eat, every bite, since I landed here. They do to keep body and soul together, but they ain’t much account. I’d give a bushel any day for one good biscuit. What I’ve jest eat seems to have made a man of me.”

The boys were silent for some time, and at length Arthur asked,—

“How did you happen to get here?”

“Wal, I’ll tell you all about it,” said Bailey.

“I’ll begin at the beginnin. Wal, you see, about five weeks ago I shipped aboard the Petrel, at Quebec—”

“The what?” cried Arthur and Tom, in the greatest wonder and excitement.

“The ship Petrel,” said Bailey. “Why, what of her?”

“The Petrel!” cried Arthur. “What, the ship Petrel, of Liverpool-?”

“That there’s the identical craft.”

“And—and—and,” stammered Tom, in his excitement, “was—was her captain’s name Henry Hall? and—and was she loaded with timber?”

“And didn’t she get water-logged?” said Arthur.

“Yes, and didn’t the captain and crew all leave her?”

Bailey stared at the boys with astonishment fully equal to their own.

“You seem to know all about her,” said he, slowly; “and how you larned all that beats me.”

“Why, that’s the very ship that we got wrecked on, too,” said Arthur.

“Yes,” said Tom; “we were sailing about, and found her adrift, and all as comfortable as possible.”

“We tried to be salvors,” said Arthur; “and we were left on board to take care of her while our captain went off in the schooner for help.”

“And he anchored her, and the anchor didn’t hold,” said Tom.

“And we drifted all about the gulf,” continued Arthur, “and were out in the most horrible gales that ever were, till finally we got ashore here.” The boys poured out this information in the most rapid manner possible upon the astounded Bailey, who now seemed fairly struck dumb.

“You—in the Petrel!” he exclaimed, at length, in slow and perplexed tones. “You—you adrift in that water-logged craft! and thrown by that there ship here on Anticosti!”

“Yes,” said Arthur, briskly, “that’s just it.” Bailey raised his hand slowly to his head, and scratched it solemnly, raising his eyes at the same time, and fixing them upon empty space.

“These here two young coves in the Petrel! and hev ashore on Anticosti!” he murmured.

“Yes, yes,” said Arthur; “and now tell us all about how you got here.”

Bailey started, and looked at each of them silently and solemnly; then he looked away, as before.

“Wal,” said he, at last, “this here—doos—beat—my—grandmother! Wal, I’ll tell my story, an then I’ll listen to yourn, an we’ll compare notes, an in that way we’ll grad’ly get the hang of it; for jest now, as things is, I’m dumfounded.

“Wal,” continued Bailey, after a pause, “I’ll start afresh. I shipped then, as I was a sayin, as able seaman, aboard the Petrel. She was loaded down deep with timber, an badly loaded, too, for as she lay in the stream at Quebec, she had a list ever so far over.

“I don’t think I was overly sober when I was took on board, an I don’t think any of the other men was overly sober, neither; at any rate, the first thing I knows, I finds myself thirty mile below Quebec, aboard the Petrel, that had a list to one side that would almost let a man foot it up her masts.

“The first thing we all does, we all begins to kick up a dust. The mate he swears we ain’t goin to sail the ship. Crank? Why, crank ain’t the word! Wal, the captain he tells us we’re gettin up mutiny, and warns us. And we tells him to look at the ship.

“Wal, things goes on somehow, and we gets down the river further, we grumblin all the way and the mate a swearin. One night she drifts nigh to the shore and touches. We gets her off somehow; but she got a bad sprain, and begins to leak.

“Wal, we all growls and grumbles, and won’t touch the pumps; and the captain he threatens, and the mate he rows and swears, and the captain he vows, leak or no leak, he’ll put that there ship across the Atlantic. At last things grows worse, and the mate one day puts a couple of us in the bilboes.

“Wal, that only makes things worse; and by that time we was in the gulf, and rough weather comes on, and none of us would touch a line. So the captain he knocks under, and lets the men go, and promises us a glass of grog all round if we’ll bear a hand at the pumps. But we insists on putting the deck-load overboard first. The captain wouldn’t do it, though, for ever so long; till at last the wind blew a gale, and the cranky vessel plunged under so, and strained and twisted so, that at last he was glad enough to do it of his own accord. So we all goes to work in the midst of that there gale, and puts every stick over. They wasn’t much—only deals, and easy handled. It was timber below, and if it had been timber on deck, we couldn’t have done it nohow.

“Wal, that gale went on, and another followed, and we all pumped away for dear life, but didn’t do much. It had got to be a little too late; and what with the first touch on the rocks, and the straining and twisting afterwards, the leak got to be a little the biggest I ever did see.

“So it went from bad to worse. We all worked at last like the old boy. No need then for the captain to encourage us. We worked for dear life without bein told. But the leak gained steadily, and the storm increased. At last every rag of sail was blown off, and the ship was water-logged, and we all had to take refuge in the riggin. We saw what was comin in time to get the boats up out of harm’s way, for the water was rollin over the deck so that you couldn’t tell which was the ship and which was the sea. We were for puttin off and abandonin of her; but the captain he swore she never could sink, bein timber-laden, and said the storm would soon blow over, and we’d put into Miramichi. So we hung on as long as we could.

“At last the vessel strained so that we all was sure and certain that she was goin to pieces; so we determined to save ourselves; so we got down the long-boat, and managed, one by one, to get into her as she floated to leeward, and then begged the captain and mate to follow. The mate seemed half inclined, but the captain was obstinate. He swore he would stick to the ship, and save her yet. He begged us to come back, and told us she would float till doomsday. But we swore she was break-in up, and told him she couldn’t hang together one day more.

“The worst of it was, all this time we didn’t know where we was. There was fog and heavy-gales, and the captain hadn’t taken no reckonin for weeks. We wanted to git off the wreck before she got onto the rocks. As for the captain and mate, they had the cutter, and a couple of the men staid behind to take off the cutter, and the captain and mate, too, if they should come to their senses, leastways the mate. And what became of them four I hain’t no idee.

“Wal, then we dropped off, and went away in the long-boat. We hadn’t no idee where we was, and couldn’t tell the pints of the compass. We thought the best thing would be to run before the wind, since we didn’t know any better way, and we knew we was somewhere in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and would fetch up at last somewheres. So we let her run, and kept a sharp lookout, or tried to, though ’twan’t no use at night, for what with the darkness and the fog, the nights was that dark you couldn’t see the nose before your face. Well, that’s all. The only thing more that I know is this—that one night I was sound asleep, and was waked up by a tremenjous yell, and found myself in the water. The boat had been thrown on rocks or surf, and had capsized. I struggled, and at last found bottom, and rushed blindly along, I couldn’t see where, till I got to dry ground. And it was this here beach; and afterwards, as I found out how the wind was blowin, and put this an that together, I concluded that this was Anticosti, and now I know it.”

So ended Bailey’s narrative. A long conversation followed. The boys were anxious to know why he felt so sure that it was Anticosti, and Bailey described his theory of the position of the Petrel at the time he left her, and the course which the boat must have taken in such a wind. He also felt sure, from the character of the coast and the country, that it was this place, and no other. Then the boys gave a minute account of their own adventures. Bailey was most struck by the captain’s paper found in the bottle.

“Wal,” said he, “he stood it as long as he could; but I dar say, arter we cleared out, he begun to feel a little shaky. And that thar ship did shake herself up in a way that beat everythin I ever see in all my born days. I was as sure that she was breakin up as I was of my own name. So the captain he thought, no doubt, that it wan’t wuth while to die for the sake of an old timber ship, or p’raps the mate and the sailors pressed him, and so off he goes; or p’raps some passing vessel hove in sight, and took him off. But only think of you youngsters happenin on board, and goin through the same identical fortin that I went through, and then us meetin this way in Anticosti! It doos—beat—my—grandmother! It—doos—railly.”

The question now arose what was best to be done. Of course the fact that this was Anticosti changed the whole state of things.

“You see if this was railly Newfoundland,” said Bailey, “we might sail east, and event’ly git to some settlement; but if we try that now, we’ll have to go all along past the worst coast in the world, and then we’d get to East Pint; and what then? Why, the gulf. So we’ve got to turn about, and go back in the other direction.”

“What? West?”...

“Yes, away west, or sou’-west. I’ve heard tell of some settlement at West Pint, the other end of the island; but I hain’t no idee whether it’s kep up yet or not. At any rate, there’s Gasp茅. ‘Tain’t far off. We can crawl along the shore, and then cut across to Gasp茅, and get help.”

“But we’ll go back first to where we left the boys.”

“Course, that’s the first thing; and then your vyge ends, and we’ve got to arrange a fresh one.”

“Well, can we start to-day?” asked Tom.

“To-day? No, sir! Look at me! Why, I’d give anythin to git away from this here place! Think of me here for two long weeks, livin on shell fish, pacin up and down the beach, and keepin my signal-fire a burnin all the time, and feelin myself every day gradooly growin ravin mad! Think what I’ve ben an suffered here! Yet I wouldn’t leave to-day, ’cos it’s goin to blow harder, and that there cockle-shell don’t do to beat against a wind like this.”

“But can’t we row?”

“You hain’t got no oars.”

“There are those in the boat.”

“Them things! Them’s poles, or paddles; do to push the boat a little way through smooth water, but not with the wind this way. No; we’ve got to wait.”

Arthur and Tom both felt the force of this, and urged the point no longer.

“I don’t see,” said Arthur, “how you managed to light a fire.”

“O, with my jackknife and a bit of flint,” said Bailey. “No trouble to get flint hereabouts. I got some cotton wool out of the paddin of my collar, and some dry moss, and coaxed some sparks into a blaze. O, you give me a knife, and I’ll draw fire out of any stone anywhars. The night I was drove ashore, I crept somewhar under the cliff, and staid there till mornin, and in the mornin the first thing I doos is to kindle a fire. I found the drift-wood, and this seemed to be the best place. Sea shells isn’t the best fare in the world, and sick am I of all sorts and kinds of shell fish; but glad was I when I lit on them that first day, when I walked about nearly starved. If it hadn’t ben for them thar shells it would ha’ ben all over with me. That’s so. And this here den wasn’t a bad place, considerin. In fact, I ben a lucky man in some things, seein that this is Anticosti, and fust and foremost, that I got off with my life; for every one of the rest was drownded, and I’ve never seen even a splinter of the boat since.”

The recollection of this gloomy event reduced Bailey for a time to silence.

The afternoon passed away. The wind increased. The sea grew rougher, and every hour served to increase the impossibility of a return that day. But the boys had already resigned themselves to this, and therefore awaited the evening, and looked forward to the night with calmness and in patience.

At sunset the evening repast was spread out, and Bailey showed his usual ravenous appetite.

“’Pears to me, boys,” said he, apologetically, “jest as if I couldn’t ever git enough to eat again. You’ll have to make allowances for a man as has been starvin for three weeks.”

After tea they made their preparations for the night. First they went to see that the boat was safe, and to make doubly sure, they hauled her farther up the beach. Then they collected a quantity of drift-wood, with which they replenished their fire.

“Thar,” said Bailey, “if so be as any vessel does pass by, they’ll be sure to see this here light, and they’ll know precious well as how some unfortunate coves is shipwrecked here, and is a signalin for help. But, misfortunately, I ben a lookin for-ard every night for help, and it never would come.”

“It was your signal that drew us in,” said Arthur. “It was a success by day, at any rate.”

They talked and meditated for another hour or so, and watched the blazing flames till they were tired.

Then they all spread themselves out in Bailey’s “den,” and fell asleep.


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