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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Treasure of the 'San Philipo' » Chapter IX AN ADDITION TO THE CREW
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BY daybreak on the following morning the gale had moderated, and, the wind being dead aft, the mainsail and mizzen had been stowed and the square sail set.

We had passed Ushant light during the night and were now well into the Bay.

When I came on deck there was nothing to be seen save an unbroken waste of water; although the waves were not so high nor so steep, they were of great distance from crest to crest, as, with unfailing regularity, they rolled into the Bay from the vast Atlantic.

After breakfast I went into my cabin to see how the rescued man was progressing. He was asleep, but while I was engaged in taking some articles from a drawer he awoke with a sudden start and sat up in his bunk.

"Where am I?" he asked.

"On board the yacht 'Fortuna.'"

"How did I get here? Ah! I remember."

"How do you feel this morning?" I inquired politely. "Is there anything you require?"

"I should like something to drink, for my throat is like a limekiln. What's this?" he added, placing his hand over his bandaged face. "Have I had a cut?"

"Yes, a slight one," I replied. "Take it easy, and I'll send Johnston in with your breakfast."

I went out, and, having told our steward to take the stranger a good meal, I rejoined the pater and informed him that the man was awake.

"What are we going to do with him?" I asked.

"Put him aboard the first homeward-bound vessel we speak to, or else land him at Gib. Poor fellow, he's had a narrow squeak, but I cannot for the life of me understand why foolhardy fellows persist in taking, single-handed, risks in small yachts. When we had the 'Spray,' keeping in sight of land was good enough for me, and then only with a sharp eye on the barometer. Where he came from and where he was making for seems a mystery, but I suppose we shall know before long."

"How far have we come?" I asked, as I saw my father examine the indicator of the log.

"A hundred and fifty-six miles in twenty-three hours."

"And how far before we sight land?"

"Roughly, it is three hundred miles to Cape Finisterre, and then we shall be practically in sight of land right round the coast of Portugal and Spain till we reach Gib."

"And where's Uncle Herbert? I haven't seen him this morning."

"But haven't you heard him? It's his watch below, and most likely he's sound asleep and snoring. But look, here's a sight for you."

Rapidly bearing down towards us was a huge liner, her graceful hull glistening in the sunlight as she thrashed her way through the water. As she drew nearer we could see her decks crowded with passengers, who were regarding, doubtless with considerable curiosity, our little strangely rigged craft as she ploughed her way over the rollers.

We dipped our ensign, and in reply the liner's flag was slowly lowered and as slowly rehoisted, and twenty minutes later she was a mere speck on the horizon.

Soon afterwards the rescued yachtsman appeared' on deck, assisted by Johnston, and, making his way towards us, warmly thanked my father for saving his life. "You certainly were in a bit of a pickle," remarked my pater, offering him a deck-chair and producing his cigar-case. "Let's hear all about it, for, with pardonable curiosity, I am eager to learn the facts of the case."

"With pleasure, Mr. Trevena. You see, I obtained your name from the steward, and have gathered some particulars about the 'Fortuna.' But to proceed to the story of my adventures. My name is Arthur Conolly, by profession I am a doctor of medicine, by choice I would be a yachtsman, for the sea always had a strong attraction for me. When at home I live in Dublin—or 'dear dirty Dublin,' as my compatriots fondly term it—but on every suitable opportunity I cruise around the British Isles in my three-tonner 'Sea Shell,' or rather, I should say, I cruised, for my snug little craft is unfortunately at the bottom of the sea.

"On Monday last I left Wexford Harbour, intending to fetch Falmouth and thence by easy stages round the Solent, where I have invariably spent the months of July and August during the past seven years. The 'Sea Shell' is, or was, a modern type of boat, with spoon bow and short counter, and a short keel. She had a watertight cockpit, and was in every way fitted for single-handed work, except for one thing: she would not lie hove-to without constant attention, a fault which the older type of straight-stemmed boats never possessed; and that defect was the cause of my misfortune.

"All went well till I had reeled off a hundred and sixty miles by the log and had sighted the Wolf on my port bow. The glass had been very irregular during the last twelve hours, but just before nightfall it came on to blow hard from the north-west. Knowing I was in the vicinity of the dangerous Scilly Islands, I bore up to the south'ard, intending to give them a wide berth before heading up Channel, but about two in the morning the squalls were so frequent and violent that I threw out a sea-anchor.

"Daylight showed that I was within five miles of St. Agnes, and the wind having veered to the north'ard I knew that I was comparatively safe and was in no danger of being cast ashore, though the shift of wind had knocked up a nasty cross-sea.

"However, for six hours the 'Sea Shell' rode to the sea-anchor, but about noon, while I was down below having something to eat, the yacht's motion became so erratic, and such heavy seas tumbled on her decks, that I knew something had gone wrong.

"Upon going on deck, I found, to my horror, that the riding-rope of the sea-anchor had chafed through, and consequently, the anchor being lost, the yacht was aimlessly tossing in the crested seas. Only one thing remained to be done: to show the merest spread of canvas and try and gain the shelter of the land. I managed, although I was frequently up to my waist in water, to hoist the reefed foresail, and, the yacht's head having been paid off, I thereupon began to set the close-reefed mainsail. Hardly had I hoisted the throat than an extra strong squall struck the boat, and in a moment the mainsail had burst right along the dentre-cloths. Nevertheless I set the storm-jib, and by dint of careful nursing I managed to keep a small amount of way on, though every time the 'Sea Shell' rose on the crest of a wave she was nearly knocked on her beam ends by the force of the wind.

"Then I tried to lay her to, but she yawed to such an extent that that manoeuvre was impossible, so I had to let her go, handling her as gently as I could for fear of carrying away the gear.

"This went on for several hours, and though the watertight cockpit was continually getting full of water, it drained out without a drop getting below. After a time, however, I realized that the 'Sea Shell' was not so buoyant as she had been, and that she plunged sluggishly into the crests of the waves, and on looking down the hatch I found that the cabin floor was awash, and the yacht was slowly, yet none the less surely, foundering.

"Then, for the first time, I realized the absolute danger of my position. During the terrible buffeting she had received, the 'Sea Shell' had opened a seam, and the cabin being panelled, it was impossible to caulk the leak from the inside, even had the yacht been capable of being hove-to for a sufficient time to effect the repairs.

"Under these circumstances I was helpless. At one time I thought seriously of cutting away the mast and gear, and riding to the wreckage as to a sea-anchor, but the almost certainty of having more planks stove in by the mast before I could get it clear made me abandon that plan. So I set to work at the pump, hoping that I might keep down the leak until, perhaps, some passing vessel might sight me, or even—vain hope—that, even though there was no sign of the coast, I might gain the lee of the land before the little craft sank under me."

"It seemed hours, though in reality it must have been less than an hour, before I was compelled through sheer exhaustion to desist, and upon looking round, hoping against hope to see a friendly sail, I found that your yacht was close to windward of me, and the rest you know."

"Don't you think you tempted Providence once too often?" asked my father. "After all, long single-handed cruises may be considered smart in their way, but are they worth the risk?"

"No more risky than ballooning, mountaineering, or, if it comes to that, playing football or cycling."

"No man could be keener on sailing than I am, but I would think twice ere I made a long cruise in a craft like yours. I certainly admire your pluck, but at the same time I think you ran a needless risk."

"A man can only die once."

"That, if I may be allowed to say so, is a foolish expression, and one that one hears from unthinking individuals after they have safely passed through danger. I will explain what I mean. You are still a young man, I believe?

"Thirty years of age."

"Then, taking a moderate estimate, you are good for another thirty years."

"From a medical point of view, I should say yes."

"Then, had you gone down with your yacht it necessarily follows that you would have, through your own rashness, thrown away thirty years of a pleasurable existence. I, for instance, am fifteen years older than you are, but I still call myself young for all that; and I can assure you that, unless a man realizes that he must make the very best of life, his mission on earth is wasted. How many instances are there of people living in hope of having a 'good time' at some future period of their existence who fail to appreciate their present position, and so waste their lives in a miserable longing for the unattainable. Now, Mr. Conolly, I hope you will excuse my lecturing you, but from the nature of your remark I found it impossible to let the opportunity pass; but we will now change the subject."

For some time my father and the doctor talked about a variety of topics, and I could see that Mr. Conolly grew deeply interested when the nature of our cruise was told him.

"I have just mentioned to my son," said the pater, "that I propose transferring you to a homeward-bound ship or else landing you at Gib. Naturally we could not beat back fifty miles or so against half a gale to set you ashore at Falmouth, so you must be our guest, willing or unwilling, for the next few days."

"I am deeply obliged to you," replied the doctor; "but pardon me if I make a suggestion that may not meet with your approval. Like most Irishmen, I am a man actuated by sudden impulses. My proposition is this: You have no medical man on board, and you are bound for the tropics. I am a fully qualified doctor and could be handy to you in more ways than one. Why not allow me to fill the post of medical officer? As a matter of fact, I have been promised a berth in a big steamship company in a year's time, so that the cruise would help pass the time in a most pleasant and instructive manner. I would ask no remuneration, save my rations and clothing, for, as you know, all I possess at the present moment is the clothes I wore when I was hauled on board. Now, Mr. Trevena, what do you think of my proposal?"

"Rather sudden, isn't it?" replied my father, laughing. "Well, well; I must see what my brother has to say about it first, though personally I think it an admirable arrangement."

So saying, the pater went below to arouse his sleeping brother; but apparently they soon came to an understanding, for within five minutes he returned on deck.

"Herbert is delighted at the suggestion. He always was a livery subject in hot weather," said my father. "So you can consider yourself one of the officers of the 'Fortuna.' I think you had better stick to the cabin you slept in last night, and Reggie will have to make the best of it."

"I don't mind, father," I exclaimed.

"It wouldn't matter if you did," returned the pater dryly. "But there is one condition I must make, Mr. Conolly."

"And that is——?"

"On board this yacht we all, officers and men, mean to be as comfortable as we possibly can, so there is one topic of conversation, and one only, that I must ask you to avoid. As you are of Hibernian birth I am afraid you will find it difficult to do so."

"Then what is it?" said the doctor, with a slight trace of anxiety on his features.

"Politics," replied my father, with a chuckle.


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