THE two supple dusky forms went whirling so fast, there was no grasping them to part them. But presently the negro seized the Hindoo by the throat; the Hindoo just pricked him in the arm with his knife, and the next moment his own head was driven against the side of the cabin with a stunning crack, and there he was, pinned, and wriggling, and bluish with fright, whereas the other swart face close against his was dark-grey with rage, and its two fireballs of eyes rolled fearfully, as none but African eyes can roll.
Fullalove pacified him by voice and touch; he withdrew his iron grasp with sullen and lingering reluctance, and glared like a disappointed mastiff: The cabin was now full, and Sharpe was for putting both the blacks in irons. No splitter of hairs was he. But Fullalove suggested there might be a moral distinction between things that looked equally dark to the eye.
“Well, then, speak quick, both of you,” said Sharpe, “or I’ll lay ye both by the heels. Ye black scoundrels, what business have you in the captain’s cabin, kicking up the devil’s delight?”
Thus threatened, Vespasian panted out his tale; he had discovered this nigger, as he persisted in calling the Hindoo, eternally prowling about the good captain’s door, and asking stupid questions: he had watched him, and, on the surgeon coming out with the good news that the captain was better, in had crawled “this yar abominable egotisk.” And he raised a ponderous fist to point the polysyllables: with this aid the sarcasm would doubtless have been crushing; but Fullalove hung on the sable orator’s arm, and told him drily to try and speak without gesticulating. “The darned old cuss,” said Vespasian, with a pathetic sigh at not being let hit him. He resumed and told how he had followed the Hindoo stealthily, and found him with a knife uplifted over the captain — a tremor ran through all present — robbing him. At this a loud murmur filled the room; a very ugly one, the sort of snarl with which dogs fly at dogs’ throats with their teeth, and men fly at men’s throats with a cord.
“Be quiet,” said Sharpe imperiously. “I’ll have no lynching in a vessel I command. Now then, you, sir, how do you know he was robbing the captain?”
“How do I know! Yah! yah! Cap’n, if you please you tell dis unskeptical gemman whether you don’t miss a lilly book out of your bosom!”
During this extraordinary scene, Dodd had been looking from one speaker to another in great surprise and some confusion; but at the negro’s direct appeal, his hand went to his breast and clutched it with a feeble but heartrending cry.
“Oh, him not gone far. Yah! yah!” and Vespasian stooped, and took up an oilskin packet off the floor, and laid it on the bed. “Dis child seen him in dat ar niggar’s hand, and heard him go whack on de floor.”
Dodd hurried the packet into his bosom, then turned all gratitude to his sable friend: “Now God bless you! God bless you! Give me your honest hand! You don’t know what you have done for me and mine.”
And, sick as he was, he wrung Vespasian’s hand with convulsive strength, and would not part with it. Vespasian patted him soothingly all over, and whimpered out: “Nebber you mind, cap’n! You bery good man: this child bery fond of you a long time ago. You bery good man, outrageous good man! dam good man! I propose your health: invalesee directly!”
While Dodd was speaking, the others were silent out of respect; but now Sharpe broke in, and, with the national desire to hear both sides, called on Ramgolam for his version. The Hindoo was now standing with his arms crossed on his breast, looking all the martyr, meek and dignified. He inquired of Sharpe, in very broken English, whether he spoke Hindostanee.
“Not I: nor don’t act it neither,” said Sharpe.
At this confession Ramgolam looked down on him with pity and mild contempt.
Mr. Tickell was put forward as interpreter.
Ramgolam (in Hindostanee). He whom Destiny, too strong for mortals, now oppresses with iron hand and feeds with the bread of affliction ——
Mr. Tickell (translating). He who by bad luck has got into trouble ——
Ramgolam. Has long observed the virtues that embellish the commander of this ship resembling a mountain, and desired to imitate them ——
Tickell. Saw what a good man the captain is, and wanted to be like him ——
Vespasian. The darned old cuss.
Ramgolam. Seeing him often convey his hand to his bosom, I ascribed his unparalleled excellence to the possession of some sovereign talisman. (Tickell managed to translate this sentence all but the word talisman, which he rendered — with all a translator’s caution —“article.”) Finding him about to depart to the regions of the blessed, where such auxiliaries are not needed, and being eager to emulate his perfections here below, I came softly to the place where he lay ——
Tickell. When I saw him going to slip his cable, I wanted to be as good a fellow as he is, so I crept alongside ——
Ramgolam. And gently, and without force, made myself proprietor of the amulet and inheritor of a good man’s qualities ——
Tickell. And quietly boned the article, and the captain’s virtues. I don’t know what the beggar means.
Ramgolam. Then a traitor with a dark skin, but darker soul ——
Tickell. Then another black-hearted nigger ——
Ramgolam. Came furiously and misappropriated the charm thus piously obtained ——
Tickell. Ran in and stole it from me.
Ramgolam. And bereft me of the excellences I was inheriting: and —
Here Sharpe interrupted the dialogue by putting the misappropriator of other men’s virtues in irons, and the surgeon insisted on the cabin being cleared. But Dodd would not part with the three friends yet; he begged them to watch him, and see nobody else came to take his children’s fortune.
“I’ll sink or swim with it; but oh! I doubt we shall have no luck while it is aboard me. I never had a pirate alongside before, in all these years. What is this? — here’s something in it now — something hard — something heavy: and — why, it’s a bullet!”
On this announcement, an eager inspection took place: and, sure enough, a bullet had passed through Dodd’s coat and waistcoat, &c., and through the oilskin and the leather pocketbook, and just dented the “Hard Cash;” no more.
There was a shower of comments and congratulations.
The effect of this discovery on the sick man’s spirits was remarkable. “I was a villain to belie it,” said he. “It is my wife’s and my children’s, and it has saved my life for them.”
He kissed it and placed it in his bosom, and soon after sunk into a peaceful slumber. The excitement had not the ill effect the surgeon feared: it somewhat exhausted him, and he slept long; but on awakening, was pronounced out of danger. To tell the truth, the tide had turned in his favour overnight, and it was to convey the good news on deck the surgeon had left him.
While Dodd was recovering, the Agra was beating westward with light but contrary winds, and a good month elapsed without any incident affecting the Hard Cash, whose singular adventures I have to record. In this dearth, please put up with a little characteristic trifle, which did happen one moonlight night. Mr. Fullalove lay coiled below decks in deep abstraction meditating a patent; and being in shadow and silent, he saw Vespasian in the moonlight creeping on all fours like a guilty thing into the bedroom of Colonel Kenealy, then fast asleep. A horrible suspicion thrilled through Fullalove: a suspicion he waited grimly to verify.
The transatlantic Mixture, Fullalove, was not merely an inventor, a philanthrope, a warrior, a preacher, a hunter, a swimmer, a fiddler, a sharp fellow, a good fellow, a Puritan, and a Bohemian; he was also a Theorist: and his Theory, which dub we
THE AFRICAN THEORY,
had two branches. 1. That the races of men started equal; but accident upon accident had walked some tribes up a ladder of civilisation, and kicked others down it, and left others, standing at the foot.
2. That the good work of centuries could be done, at a pinch, in a few generations, by artificial condensation of the favourable circumstances. For instance, secure this worker in Ebony 150 years’ life, and he would sign a penal bond to produce Negroes of the fourth descent equal in mind to the best contemporary white. “You can breed Brains,” said he, “under any skin, as inevitably as Fat. It takes time and the right crosses; but so does Fat — or rather it did; for Fat is an institution now.” And here our Republican must have a slap at thrones. “Compare,” said he, “the opportunities of these distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies with their acts. Their seats have been high, but their minds low, I swan. They have been breeders for ages, and known the two rudiments of the science; have crossed and crossed for grenadiers, racehorses, poultry, and prize-bullocks; and bred in and in for fools; but which of them has ever aspired to breed a Newton, a Pascal, a Shakespeare, a Solon, a Raphael? Yet all these were results to be obtained by the right crosses, as surely as a swift horse or a circular sow. Now fancy breeding shorthorns when you might breed long heads.” So Vespasian was to engender Young Africa; he was to be first elevated morally and intellectually as high as he would go, and then set to breed; his partner, of course, to be elected by Fullalove, and educated as high as she would consent to without an illicit connection with the Experimentalist. He would be down on their Pickaninnies before the parents could transfer the remnant of their own weaknesses to them, polysyllables included, and would polish these ebony chips; and at the next cross reckoned to rear a genius, by which time, as near as he could calculate, he the Theorist would be in his dotage: and all the better; make a curious contrast in favour of Young Africa.
Vespasian could not hit a barn door sitting — with a rifle! it was purely with a view to his moral improvement mind you, that Fullalove invited him into the mizentop to fight the pirate. The Patient came gingerly and shivered there with fear. But five minutes elapsing, and he not killed, that weakness gave way to a jocund recklessness; and he kept them all gay with his quaint remarks, of which I must record but one. When they crossed the stern of the pirate, the distance was so small that the faces of that motley crew were plainly visible. Now, Vespasian was a merciless critic of coloured skins. “Wal,” said he, turning up his nose sky-high, “dis child never seen such a mixallaneous biling ‘o darkies as this yar; why darned ef there ain’t every colour in the rainbow, from the ace of spades, down to the fine dissolving views.” This amazing description, coupled with his look of affront and disgust, made the white men roar; for men fighting for their lives have a greater tendency to laugh than one would think possible. Fullalove was proud of the critic, and for a while lost sight of the pirate in his theory; which also may seem strange. But your true theorist is a man apart: he can withdraw into himself under difficulties. What said one of the breed two thousand years ago?
“Media inter praelia semper
Sideribus coelique plagis Superisque vacavi.”
Oh, the great African heart!” said Fullalove after the battle. “By my side he fears no danger. Of all men, negroes are the most capable of friendship; their affection is a mine: and we have only worked it with the lash; and that is a ridiculous mining tool, I rather think.”
When Vespasian came out so strong versus Ramgolam, Fullalove was even more triumphant: for after all it is not so much the heart as the intelligence of the negro we albiculi affect to doubt.
“Oh, the great African intellect!” said Fullalove publicly, taking the bull by the horns.
“I know,” said Mrs. Beresford maliciously; “it is down in the maps as the great African Desert.”
To balance his many excellences Vespasian had an infirmity. This was an ungovernable itch for brushing whites. If he was talking with one of that always admired, and now beloved, race, and saw a speck of dirt on him, he would brush him unobtrusively, but effectually, in full dialogue: he would steal behind a knot of whites and brush whoever needed it, however little. Fullalove remonstrated, but in vain; on this one point Instinct would not yield to Reason. He could not keep his hands off a dusty white. He would have died of the Miller of Dee. But the worst was he did not stop at clothes; he loathed ill-blacked shoes. Woe to all foot-leather that did not shine; his own skin furnished a perilous standard of comparison. He was eternally blacking boots en amateur. Fullalove got in a rage at this, and insisted on his letting his fellow-creatures’ leather alone. Vespasian pleaded hard, especially for leave to black Colonel Kenealy. “The cunnell,” said he pathetically, “is such a tarnation fine gentleman spoilt for want of a lilly bit of blacking.” Fullalove replied that the colonel had got a servant whose mission it was to black his shoes. This simply amused Vespasian. “A servant?” said he. “Yah! yah! What is the use of white servants? They are not biddable. Massa Fullalove, sar, Goramighty he reared all white men to kick up a dust, white servants inspecially, and the darkies to brush ’em; and likewise additionally to make their boots she a lilly bit.” He concluded with a dark hint that the colonel’s white servant’s own shoes, though better blacked than his master’s, were anything but mirrors, and that this child had his eye on them.
The black desperado emerged on tiptoe from Kenealy’s cabin, just as Macbeth does from the murdered Duncan’s chamber: only with a pair of boots in his hand instead of a pair of daggers; got into the moonlight, and finding himself uninterrupted, assumed the whistle of innocence, and polished them to the nine, chuckling audibly.
Fullalove watched him with an eye like a rattlesnake, but kept quiet. He saw interference would only demoralise him worse: for it is more ignoble to black boots clandestinely, than bravely; men ditto.
He relieved his heart with idioms. “Darn the critter, he’s fixed my flint eternally. Now I cave. I swan to man. I may just hang up my fiddle; for this darkie’s too hard a row to hoe.”
It was but a momentary dejection. The Mixture was (inter alia) a Theorist and an Anglo–Saxon; two indomitables. He concluded to temporise with the Brush, and breed it out.
“I’m bound to cross the obsequious cuss with the catawamptiousest gal in Guinea, and one that never saw a blacking bottle, not even in a dream.” Majora canamus.
Being now about a hundred miles south of the Mauritius, in fine weather with a light breeze, Dodd’s marine barometer began to fall steadily; and by the afternoon the declension had become so remarkable, that he felt uneasy, and, somewhat to the surprise of the crew — for there was now scarce a breath of air — furled his slight sails, treble reefed his topsails, had his top-gallant and royal yards and gaff topsail bent on deck, got his flying jib-boom in, &c., and made the ship snug.
Kenealy asked him what was the matter?
“Barometer going down; moon at the full; and Jonah aboard,” was the reply, uttered doggedly.
Kenealy assured him it was a beautiful evening, precursor of a fine day. “See how red the sunset is.
‘Evening red and morning grey
Are the sure signs of a fine day.’”
Dodd looked, and shook his head. The sun was red, but the wrong red: an angry red: and, as he dipped into the wave, discharged a lurid coppery hue that rushed in a moment like an embodied menace over the entire heavens. The wind ceased altogether: and in the middle of an unnatural and suspicious calm the glass went down, down, down.
The moon rose, and instantly all eyes were bent on her with suspicion; for in this latitude the hurricanes generally come at the full moon. She was tolerably clear, however; but a light scud sailing across her disc showed there was wind in the upper regions.
Dodd trusted to science; barred the lee-ports, and had the dead lights put into the stem cabin and secured: then turned in for an hour’s sleep.
Science proved a prophet. Just at seven bells, in one moment like a thunderbolt from the sky, a heavy squall struck the ship. Under a less careful captain her lee-ports would have been open, and she might have gone to the bottom like a bullet
“Let go the main sheet!” roared Sharpe hastily to a hand he had placed there on purpose. He let go, and there was the sail flapping like thunder, and the sheet lashing everything in the most dangerous way. Dodd was on deck in a moment “Helm hard up! Hands shorten sail!”
(Pipe.) “All hands furl sail, ahoy!”
Up tumbled the crew, went cheerily to work, and by three bells in the middle watch had hauled up what was left of the shivered mainsail, and hove the ship to under close-reefed main topsail and storm stay-sails; and so the voyage was suspended.
A heavy sea got up under a scourging wind, that rose and rose, till the Agra, under the pressure of that single sail treble reefed, heeled over so as to dip her lee channels. This went on till the waves rolled so high, and the squalls were so bitter, that sheets of water were actually torn off their crests and launched incessantly on deck, not only drenching Dodd and his officers, which they did not mind, but threatening to flood the ship.
Dodd battened down the hatches and stopped that game.
Then came a danger no skill could avert: the ship lurched so violently now, as not merely to clip, but bury, her lower deck port-pendents: and so a good deal of water found ingress through the windage. Then Dodd set a gang to the pumps: for, he said, “We can hardly hope to weather this out without shipping a sea: and I won’t have water coming in upon water.”
And now the wind, raging and roaring like discharges of artillery, and not like wind as known in our seas, seemed to have put out all the lights of heaven. The sky was inky black, and quite close to their heads: and the wind still increasing, the vessel came down to her extreme bearings, and it was plain she would soon be on her beam ends. Sharpe and Dodd met, and holding on by the life-lines, applied their speaking trumpets tight to each other’s ears; and even then they had to bawl.
“She can’t carry a rag much longer.”
“No, sir; not half an hour.”
“Can we furl that main taupsle?”
Sharpe shook his head. “The first moment we start a sheet, the sail will whip the mast out of her.”
“You are right Well, then, I’ll cut it away.”
“Ay, twelve: no more. Send them to my cabin.”
Sharpe’s difficulty was to keep the men back, so eager were the fine fellows to risk their lives. However, he brought twelve to the cabin, headed by Mr. Grey, who had a right, as captain of the watch, to go with them; on which right he insisted, in spite of Dodd’s earnest request that he would forego it. When Dodd saw his resolution, he dropped the friend and resumed the captain; and spoke to them through a trumpet; the first time he had ever used one in a cabin, or seen one used.
“Mr. Grey and men, going aloft to save the mainmast by cutting the sail away.”
“Ay, ay, sir!”
“Service of danger, great danger!”
“But great dangers can be made smaller by working the right way. Attend! Lay out all on the yard, and take your time from one man at the lee yard-arm: don’t know who that will be; but one of the smartest men in the ship. Order to him is: hold his knife hand well up; rest to see! and then in knives altogether: mind and cut from you, and below the reef band; and then I hope to see all come down alive.”
Mr. Grey and his twelve men left the cabin: and hey! for the main top. The men let the officer lead them as far as Jacob’s ladder, and then hurrah for the lee yard-arm! That was where all wanted to be, and but one could be. Grey was as anxious as the rest; but officers of his rank seldom go aloft, and soon fall out of their catlike habits. He had done about six ratlines, when, instead of going hand over head, he spread his arms to seize a shroud on each side of him: by this he weakened his leverage, and the wind just then came fiercer, caught him, and flattened him against the rigging as tight as if Nature had caught up a mountain for a hammer and nailed him with a cedar; he was spread-eagled. The men accepted him at once as a new patent ratline with a fine resisting power: they went up him, and bounded three ordinary ratlines at a go off all his promontories, especially his shoulders and his head, receiving his compliments in the shape of hearty curses. They gained the top and lay out on the yard with their hair flying like streamers: and who got the place of honour but Thompson, the jolly fore-topman who couldn’t stand smoked pea-soup. So strong and so weak are men.
Thompson raised his knife high; there was a pause: then in went all their knives, and away went the sail into the night of the storm, and soon seemed a sheet of writing-paper, and more likely to hit the sky than the sea. The men came down, picked their officer off the rigging, had a dram in the captain’s cabin, and saw him enter their names in the log-book for good service, and in the purser’s for extra grog on Sundays from there to Gravesend.
The ship was relieved; and all looked well till the chronometer, their only guide now, announced sunset: when the wind, incredible as it may appear, increased, and one frightful squall dipped the muzzles of the lee carronades in the water.
Then was heard the first cry of distress: an appalling sound; the wail of brave men. And they had borne it all so bravely, so cheerfully, till now. But now they knew something must go, or else the ship; the suspense was awful, but very short. Crack! crash! the fore and main topmast both gone short off by the caps; and the ship recovered slowly, hesitatingly, tremblingly.
Relieving her from one danger, this subjected her to another and a terrible one. The heavy spars that had fallen, unable to break loose from the rigging, pounded the ship so savagely as to threaten to stave in her side. Add to this that, with labouring so long and severely, some of the ship’s seams began now to open and shut and discharge the oakum, which is terrible to the bravest seamen. Yet neither this stout captain nor his crew shirked any danger men had ever grappled with since men were. Dodd ordered them to cut away the wreck to leeward; it was done: then to windward; this, the more ticklish operation, was also done smartly: the wreck passed under the ship’s quarter, and she drifted clear of it They breathed again.
At eight bells in the first watch it began to thunder and lighten furiously; but the thunder, though close, was quite inaudible in the tremendous uproar of the wind and sea. It blew a hurricane: there were no more squalls now; but one continuous tornado, which in its passage through that great gaunt skeleton, the ship’s rigging and bare poles, howled and yelled and roared so terrifically, as would have silenced a salvo of artillery fired alongside. The overwhelming sea ran in dark watery mountains crested with devilish fire. The inky blackness added supernatural horror; the wrath of the Almighty seemed upon them; and His hand to drop the black sky down on them for their funeral pall. Surely Noah from his ark saw nothing more terrible.
What is that? Close on the lee bow: chose: the flash of a gun, another; another; another. A ship in distress firing minute-guns in their ears; yet no sound: human thunder silenced, as God’s thunder was silenced, by the uproar of His greater creatures in their mad rage. The Agra fired two minute-guns to let the other poor ship know she had a companion in her helplessness and her distress, and probably a companion in her fate. Even this companionship added its mite of danger: for both ships were mere playthings of the elements; they might be tossed together; and then, what would be their fate? Two eggs clashed together in a great boiling caldron, and all the life spilt out.
Yet did each flash shoot a ray of humanity and sympathy into the thick black supernatural horror.
And now came calamity upon calamity. A tremendous sea broke the tiller at the rudder-head, and not only was the ship in danger of falling off and shipping the sea, but the rudder hammered her awfully, and bade fair to stave in her counter, which is another word for Destruction. Thus death came at them with two hands open at once.
These vessels always carry a spare tiller: they tried to ship it; but the difficulty was prodigious. No light but the miserable deck-lantern — one glowworm in Egypt supernaturally darkened — the Agra never on an even keel, and heeling over like a seesaw more than a ship; and then every time they did place the tiller, and get the strain on with their luff tackles, the awful sea gave it a blow and knocked it away like a hair.
At last they hit it off, or thought they had, for the ponderous thumps of the rudder ceased entirely. However, the ship did not obey this new tiller like the old one: her head fell off in an unlucky moment when seven waves were rolling in one, and, on coming to the windward again, she shipped a sea. It came in over her bow transversely; broke as high as the mainstay, and hid and buried the whole ship before the mast; carried away the waist bulwarks on both sides, filled the launch, and drowned the live stock which were in it; swept four water-butts and three men away into the sea, like corks and straws; and sent tons of water down the forescuttle and main hatchway, which was partly opened, not to stifle the crew, and flooded the gun-deck ankle-deep.
Dodd, who was in his cabin, sent the whole crew to the pumps, except the men at the wheel, and prepared for the worst.
In men so brave as he was, when Hope dies Fear dies. His chief care now was to separate the fate of those he loved from his own. He took a bottle, inserted the fatal money in it with a few words of love to his wife, and of direction to any stranger that should fall in with it; secured the cork with melted sealing-wax, tied oilskin over it and melted wax on that; applied a preparation to the glass to close the pores; and to protect it against other accidents, and attract attention, fastened a black painted bladder to it by a stout tarred twine, and painted “Agra, lost at sea,” in white on the bladder. He had logged each main incident of the storm with that curt business-like accuracy which reads so cold and small a record of these great and terrible tragedies. He now made a final entry a little more in character with the situation:
“About eight bells in the morning watch shipped a heavy sea forward. The rudder being now damaged, and the ship hardly manageable, brought the log and case on check, expecting to founder shortly. Sun and moon hidden this two days, and no observation possible; but by calculation of wind and current, we should be about fifty miles to the southward of the Mauritius. God’s will be done.”
He got on deck with the bottle in his pocket and the bladder peeping out: put the log and its case down on deck, and by means of the life-lines crawled along on his knees, and with great difficulty, to the wheel. Finding the men could hardly hold on, and dreading another sea, Dodd, with his own hands, lashed them to the helm.
While thus employed, he felt the ship give a slight roll, a very slight roll to windward. His experienced eye lightened with hope, he cast his eager glance to leeward. There it is a sailor looks for the first spark of hope. Ay, thereaway was a little gleam of light. He patted the helmsman on the shoulder and pointed to it; for now neither could one man speak for the wind, nor another hear. The sailor nodded joyfully.
Presently the continuous tornado broke into squalls.
Hope grew brighter.
But, unfortunately, in one furious squall the ship broke round off, so as to present her quarter to the sea at an unlucky moment: for it came seven deep again, a roaring mountain, and hurled itself over her stern and quarter. The mighty mass struck her stem frame with the weight of a hundred thousand tons of water, and drove her forward as a boy launches his toy-boat on a pond; and though she made so little resistance, stove in the dead lights and the port frames, burst through the cabin bulkheads, and washed out all the furniture, and Colonel Kenealy in his nightgown with a table in his arms borne on water three feet deep, and carried him under the poop awning away to the lee quarter-deck scuppers, and flooded the lower deck. Above, it swept the quarter-deck clean of everything except the shrieking helmsmen; washed Dodd away like a cork, and would have carried him overboard if he had not brought up against the mainmast and grasped it like grim death, half drowned, half stunned, sorely bruised, and gasping like a porpoise ashore.
He held on by the mast in water and foam, panting. He rolled his despairing eyes around; the bulwarks fore and aft were all in ruins, with wide chasms, as between the battlements of some decayed castle; and through the gaps he saw the sea yawning wide for him. He dare not move: no man was safe a moment unless lashed to mast or helm. He held on, expecting death. But presently it struck him he could see much farther than before. He looked up: it was clearing overhead, and the uproar abating visibly. And now the wind did not decline as after a gale: extraordinary to the last, it blew itself out.
Sharpe came on deck, and crawled on all fours to his captain, and helped him to a life-line. He held on by it, and gave his orders. The wind was blown out, but the sea was as dangerous as ever. The ship began to roll to windward. If that was not stopped, her fate was sealed. Dodd had the main trysail set and then the fore trysail, before he would yield to go below, though drenched, and sore, and hungry, and worn out. Those sails steadied the ship; the sea began to go down by degrees; the celestial part of nature was more generous: away flew every cloud, out came the heavenly sky bluer and lovelier than ever they had seen it; the sun flamed in its centre. Nature, after three days’ eclipse, was so lovely, it seemed a new heavens and a new earth. If there was an infidel on board who did not believe in God, now his soul felt Him, in spite of the poor little head. As for Dodd, who was naturally pious, he raised his eyes towards that lovely sky in heartfelt, though silent, gratitude to its Maker for saving the ship and cargo and her people’s lives, not forgetting the private treasure he was carrying home to his dear wife and children.
With this thought, he naturally looked down, but missed the bladder that had lately protruded from his pocket He clapped his hand to his pocket all in a flutter. The bottle was gone. In a fever of alarm and anxiety, but with good hopes of finding it, he searched the deck; he looked in every cranny, behind every coil of rope the sea had not carried away.
The sea, acting on the buoyant bladder attached, had clearly torn the bottle out of his pocket, when it washed him against the mast. His treasure then must have been driven much farther; and how far? Who could tell?
It flashed on the poor man with fearful distinctness that it must either have been picked up by somebody in the ship ere now, or else carried out to sea.
Strict inquiry was made amongst the men.
No one had seen it
The fruit of his toil and prudence, the treasure Love, not Avarice, had twined with his heartstrings, was gone. In its defence he had defeated two pirates, each his superior in force; and now conquered the elements at their maddest. And in the very moment of that great victory — It was gone.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54