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CHAPTER 24
Out on the Headland.—The doomed Ship.—The Struggle with the Waters.—The ravening Waves.—All over.—The last of the Petrel.—An Interruption at Dinner.—Startling Sight.—The strange, yet familiar Sail.—A grand and joyous Reunion.—Away from the Isle of Desolation.—The Antelope once more.—Over the Sea to Miramichi.—Farewell.—Captain Corbet moralizes, and Sermonizes.

BUT on the headland the boys stood watching. Bruce was sad and preoccupied. The others gazed uneasily upon the rough water. Could Arthur and Tom ever sail the boat through such a sea? That was the question which occurred to every one, and every one felt in his own heart that it was impossible. The prospect was not pleasant. They could only hope that the boys had gained the shore, and were waiting there till the wind might blow over. With this hope they tried to encourage Bruce, who showed more depression than the rest, and blamed himself several times for not insisting on going in Arthur’s place.

At length they went back to the place where the Petrel lay. On reaching it they found that a marked change had taken place. Thus far, though low in the water, she had always preserved a certain symmetry of outline; and to those who might stand on her deck in fine weather and smooth water she seemed quite uninjured. But now her decks appeared to be burst open; she seemed broken in two. Bow and stern were low under water, while amidships she was above it. The mainmast inclined forward, and the foremast sloped back so far that they almost touched. Where she had parted asunder the planks of the decks had also started, and as the waves rolled over her, every new assault increased the ruin.

“She’s hogged,” said Bart.

“She’s worse than hogged,” said Bruce; “she’s completely broken in two.”

“She’s fallen upon some ridge of rock,” said Phil, “and the weight of her cargo has done it.”

“Deed thin, an the waves have had somethin to do with that same,” said Pat; “and glad am I that we’re all out of her, so I am; and lucky it was for us that she didn’t go ashore on that same reef, the night of the starrum.”

The boys looked on in silence. The work of destruction went on slowly, but surely, before their very eyes. Each wave did something towards hastening the catastrophe. That the Petrel was doomed was now beyond the possibility of doubt.

Rocks were beneath her, and never-ending billows rolled over her, making her their prey.

At length the fore part of the ship rolled over, with the deck towards them, severing itself completely from the other half. The decks gaped wide, and opened; the sides started: the foremast came down with a crash, and the pitiless waves, rolling on incessantly, flung themselves one after the other upon the wreck. The two parts were soon completely severed, the fore part breaking up first, the other half resisting more obstinately; while the sea was covered with sticks of timber that were torn out from her and flung away upon the face of the waters.

At length the ruin of the fore part was completed, and that part of the ship, all torn asunder, with all that part of the cargo, was dissipated and scattered over the water and along the beach. The other half still clung together, and though sorely bruised and shaken, seemed to put forth an obstinate resistance. At every touch of the waves it rolled over only to struggle back; it rose up, but was flung down again upon the rocks; it seemed to be writhing in agony. At length the mainmast went down with a crash, followed not long after by the mizzenmast. Then the fragment of the ship suddenly split, and the entire quarterdeck was raised up. Here the waves flung themselves, tearing it away from the hull. But before the quarter-deck was altogether severed, the rest of the ship gave way, and parted in all directions. One by one the huge timber logs were detached from her cargo; the separation of the parts of the ship, and the dissolution of her compact cargo, gave a greater surface to the action of the waves, which now roared, and foamed, and boiled, and seethed, and flung themselves in fury over every portion of the disordered, swaying, yielding mass. Fragment after fragment was wrenched away; bit by bit the strong hull crumbled at the stroke of the mighty billows. The fragments were strewn afar over the sea, and along the beach; and the boys saw the mizzen-top, where they had found refuge on that eventful night, drifting away towards the headland. At length all was over; and in place of the Petrel there remained nothing but a vast mass of fragments, strewing the rocky shore, and floating over the sea for many a mile.

All this, however, was the work of hours. The boys watched it all as though they were held to the spot by a species of fascination. There seemed to be a spell upon them. They could not tear themselves away. But at last there was nothing left; nothing but floating fragments; or timbers flung by the waves on the shore, with which the waves seemed to play, as they hurled them forward and drew them back; while of the Petrel herself there was no sign—no coherent mass, however battered and beaten, which might serve to be pointed out as the representative of the ship that once bore them all. Of that ship there was nothing left; she was dissolved; she was scattered afar; she was no more. Such was the end of the Petrel.

Hours had passed while the boys were watching there. At length they started back to their camp. They walked on in silence. There was a certain sadness over all. This sadness arose in part from the scene which they had just witnessed, and in part out of their anxiety about Arthur and Tom, which now had grown to be serious, since they had seen with their own eyes the power of the waves. When the strong ship had yielded, what chance had that frail boat? And Arthur and Tom knew very little about navigation. Where were they now?

With these sad and anxious thoughts, they made their way back, and found Solomon in a state of great excitement because they had kept dinner waiting. They found that it was past three o’clock, and were amazed that it was so late.

Dinner was now served, accompanied by lamentations long and loud from Solomon, who protested against such neglect and indifference as they had shown, whereby everything had become spoiled from waiting.

“Now dis yer dinna, chilen, am no common dinna,” said he. “I ben makin rangements to hab a rail fust-chop, stylish dinna, and hab cocted a new dish ob succotash. I took some potted corn an biled it wid the beans, an if dat don’t make succotash, I don’ know what do—dat’s all; an dat ar succotash, wid de ham, and oysta chowda, an coffee, an game pie, an tomato, had ought to make a men-jous good dinna; ought so.”

The boys said nothing. They were hungry, and they were also sad. For both reasons they felt disinclined to speak. They were anxious about Arthur and Tom; they also felt mournful about the sad fate of the Petrel; they also had dismal forebodings about their own future; but at the same time they were most undeniably hungry, ravenously hungry, in fact; and Bruce, who was most sad and most anxious, was the hungriest of the crowd.

So they all sat down to dinner, and, first of all, they devoted themselves to Solomon’s succotash. This was a compound of potted corn and dried beans; and though the real original succotash is a dish compounded from green corn and green beans, yet this was no bad substitute; and they all felt, in spite of their sadness, that it was an idea whose originality did infinite credit to the culinary genius of Solomon.

Now they had about come to the end of the succotash, and were looking about, like Alexander, for more worlds to conquer, or, in other words, for more dishes to devour, and were languidly awaiting the next course which Solomon might bring, when suddenly a wild cry from Pat roused them all from languor to the greatest excitement.

“Whoroo! Thunder and turf!” cried Pat; and he sprang to his feet as he spoke. “Be the powers! but it’s fairly dead I am with joy this day. O, look! O, look! look, boys! jools! see’ out there! They’re a comin for us’ so they are! We’re saved! We’re saved! Hooray! Hooray! O, look! It’s a schooner; she’s comin for us; she’s goin to take us out o’ this; and O! but it’s the bright clever boys that Arthur and Tom are to come back so soon, and with a schooner like that same.”

Long before Pat had finished his Irish howl, and while he was yet howling, the others had sprung to their feet, and were looking out to sea.

And there, rounding the headland, and bearing down towards them, they saw a beautiful schooner, graceful as a pleasure yacht, with all her snow-white sails spread wide in spite of the fresh breeze that was blowing, as though hurrying towards them to seek and to save. Never had they seen a more beautiful craft; but its own proper beauty was now increased a hundred fold by the thought that their safety, their rescue, their deliverance, was the purpose that guided her here, and that she was coming to restore them to home, to friends, and to all the joys of life.

Three cheers!

Yes, and three more!

Yes, and three times three, and nine times nine, and cheers without end! They cheered. They shouted. They danced. They hugged one another for very joy.

Solomon joined in the general jubilation. He did this by standing apart and bursting into tears.

“Don’t mind me,” he muttered. “’Clar, I can’t help it, nohow. De tears will come, but dey’s all tears ob j’y. It’s ben a drefful tryin time to me all along, chilen, dis yer time, for I allus ben a feelin an a thinkin as how dat I had some han in a bringin ob you to dese yer stremities; but I held out, I bore up, all for your sakes; but now all am ober; an O, de precious sakes! dar’s a ole man hereabouts, chil’en, dat’s like to bust wid j’y! Don’t mind me. All right! Hooray! All safe at last!—an de chilen snatched from the jaws ob roonatium! O, do go way now, or else dis yer nigga’ll bust!”

And at this Solomon really did burst—into tears.

The glorious schooner! the beautiful schooner! the schooner with the swan-like form and the snow-white sails! She plunged through the waters, the waves foamed about her bows, as she hurried on towards them. Arthur and Tom were there; they knew it, or else how should that schooner come so straight towards them? No more fears now, no more anxieties. Arthur and Tom were both safe, and the deep joy of that little company arose more from the assurance of this than even from the prospect of their own rescue.

The schooner came near. She rounded to; she dropped her anchor. A boat was lowered. Three figures appeared in the boat—one rowing with vigorous strokes, two smaller ones in the stern. The boat came nearer. In the stern they saw the two, and recognized them as they came nearer. They had felt sure at the first, but now they saw with their own eyes Arthur and Tom; and O, with what joy, with what jubilation, with what shouts, what cries, what leaps of joy! Arthur and Tom waved their hands, they stretched out their arms, they called out incoherent words, and it was with incoherent words that those on the shore responded.

The boat grounded. The boys ashore rushed into the water to seize Arthur and Tom in their arms. Then the man who had rowed the boat stood up and looked at them. They saw him. They knew him. Captain Ferguson! Tears were in his eyes, and he tried to hide them, but couldn’t. Captain Tobias Ferguson, bold sailor, strong, brave man, broke down on this occasion, and cried like a child.

Then he went about shaking hands and talking wildly. He grabbed old Solomon’s hand, and shook it most warmly. He asked anxiously about his health. Solomon was still sobbing and crying with utter joy. Neither of them knew what he was doing. Both felt the same emotions, yet the emotions of each arose from the same cause, and that was, anxiety about these boys, whom they loved, for whom they had feared so much, and suffered so much, and over whose safety they now rejoiced with such deep joy.

Captain Ferguson did not say much, but made them all get into the boat and go aboard the Fawn. He did not look at their camp, nor did they feel any regret at leaving the work which had caused them so much toil. Solomon only stipulated that he should take away the provisions—the barrels of biscuit, the potted meats, the hams, and whatever else had been accumulated there on that desolate shore. Nor was there any reason for longer delay, for the associations of the place were by no means of a kind which they chose to dwell upon; so the Fawn turned her back upon Anticosti, and stood out to sea.

As they passed the headland Bruce pointed out to Arthur and Tom the broken fragments of the Petrel, which still lined the rocky shore. But the eye of Captain Ferguson was turned elsewhere. He was on the lookout for the Antelope.

“We’ve got to go back after her,” said he. “If we wait for her, she won’t be here till to-morrow morning, and we can run down to where she is in less than an hour.”

As he said these words the Fawn passed outside the headland, and there, far away to the east, heading out to sea in one of her tacks, was the Antelope. There she was, her very venerable self at last, the schooner for which they had so often searched the water, for whose appearance they had so longed and hoped, and which never came through all those weary and despairing days. Now, when she was not needed, and, in fact, was not particularly wanted, she made herself visible.

The wind, which was against the Antelope, was fair for the Fawn, and in a short time the two schooners were within hail. Captain Corbet then made the best of his way on board the Fawn.

He had already seen the boys, and guessed all. When he stood before them the boys were all shocked at his appearance. Venerable he had always been, but now he looked ten years older than when they last had seen him. He was also very much agitated, trembled violently, and, going around, he shook hands with every one in silence. Then he turned away his head and wept. The boys all felt deeply touched at seeing this exhibition of feeling on his part, and even Captain Ferguson looked at him with less severity.

“Well,” said he, “I do believe he’s shed a good many tears about you, and if he did bring you into a scrape, he’s suffered enough for it, I say.”

After this his treatment of the venerable navigator was far more generous than it had hitherto been.

“I ain’t got much time to spare,” said he, “captain, but I’m bound to see these boys in a place of safety. So I propose to sail to Miramichi, and you hurry along as fast as your old tub can get through the water. I understand you’re all going straight back to the Bay of Fundy, and I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to do that much safe enough; so I’ll deliver up the boys to your care in Mirami-chi. I think I can make them comfortable enough till then aboard the Fawn.”

Captain Corbet had nothing to say against this decision, but meekly returned to the Antelope, and prepared to follow the Fawn to the destination mentioned. As for the boys, they were delighted, and felt only too glad at being able to have a short cruise on board such a vessel as the Fawn.

On the following day the Fawn reached her destination, but the Antelope did not turn up until a day later. The boys now went back to their old quarters, and Captain Ferguson bade them all good by. Bailey accompanied him, having been engaged by him as one of his crew.

“Wal, boys,” said Captain Corbet, after Ferguson had taken his departure, “we’ve lived, an we hev suffered, an hev mootooly ben called on to undergo triboolations that ain’t often met with in this mortual spere. This uthly life is one of strange vycissitoods, an the seafarin life has fre-kent ups an downs. I don’t think I ever, in all my born days, was called upon to endoor more pewer mentual tortoor than in this week that’s past an gone. The wust of it all was the thought that it was my fault, and mine only. So now, boys, look at me, and take a warnin. Bewar, above all, of avarice. Think of me, with my plans for sudden wealth. Terrew, I might say that it was keer for the babby that animated this excited boosom; I might plead the affection of a absint feyther a yearnin over his offsprin; but I forbar. I pint to my unworthy self, and say, Bewar! Don’t ever allow yer young minds to grow delooded about the vain and glitterin toys of wealth and fortin! See what it’s cost us. We derreamed of a great ship, and cargo, and thousands upon thousands of pounds to divide among us; and what did we railly git? Salvage! farewell, good by to you forever. Out of all our derreams we hev gained nothin but the Petrel’s boat, which ain’t so dreadful bad a boat nuther, but contrariwise, and’ll be useful enough yet, maybe; an if we’d quietly taken that thar boat, and ben content, we’d a ben spard all this trouble, which shows that a small possibility’s bet-ter’n a big impossibility. Them’s my sentiments; and among the lessons which I hope to live to inculcate in the mind of my babby, the most important shall be the story of the ship that we PICKED UP ADRIFT.”

The End


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