Chapter 139145698

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter Url
Full Date1889-12-21
Page Number10
Word Count3448
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleMiles Dunlop's Mistake
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CiuriER XL


" The ship hangs hovering on the verge ol death."—Faicoxbil

The "Two Brothers" was a topsail schooner of 110 tons harden. She was deeply laden, for the harvest ronnd Port Albert was jost in coarse ot being shipped to Melbourne as qaickly as possible. Mackenzie had told

Donlop that hie cargo would consist of produce, and Miles, seeing in hiB mind's eye hay and corn smelling of the freeb earth and burning sun, thought it would be no hardship to spend a day or two with such a freight in close proximity. When, however, he went down to the wharf with his.jtraveliing bag, prepared to embark, he found the rest of the produce also being shipped, and was not beat pleased to find it consisted of a deck cargo of pigs. Grant wonldhave had htm change his mind at the eleventhbour and retnra to his hospitable roof, bnt Miles felt that almost anything was pre*

ferable to another two days at Seaview Cottage. Therefore he heartily1 thanked his friend tor his kindness, stepped aboard with a grateful heart, and proceeded to take possession of the remarkably small quarters placed at LIb disposal.

"Well, skipper," he said, laughing, "it's deuced lucky I'm only 5ft. 9in. If 1 were fitt. I'd have to sleep with my feet outof the port-bole."

"Kb, na,"said the ola Scotchman, solemnly;"dinna fash yereelf. I would na bae ta'en ye an' ye were aae lang."

"Thanks be to my inches then. When do yon think we'll reach Mel bourne!"

"If the wind holds—an' I see unreason why it should na—on Monday night."

•• ^Aua— Well, the factoftiie jnatterie, Iwimt togetaebore at Porleea..j

to gftghme there !"

tbeiiflV&w! Vitaiefl'the .Swv'y-CTt ixiirB rtip

thxoughibe water. The crew consisted oltwo men and a boy, whose dnttec

appeared multifarious and interchangeable, all except those of the boy, who acted the part of cook and steward in his own small person. Everything was rough, of course, exceedingly rough, but Miles was not inclined to grumble at that, and when the wind increased, and blew steadily and strongly from the east, he whistled cheerily to himself as he paced the length of the narrow deck, and thought of Tom's welcome letter and Helen's still more welcome postscript. If it should be true—if it should only be true—and he saw no reason to doubt the fact—then at least he had a fair field—and—and—well, spite of everything, he would win her if he could, and bsving come to this comfortable resolution, biB tune rose so cheerily above the shrieking of the wind in the rigging and the swish of the water along the side, that the skipper, who was taking a epell at the wheel,

felt impelled to remonstrate.

" llech, sirs, hanua we enough o' wind that ye maun needs whustle that

gate ?"

"Do you really think it will have any effect, skipper? liao I'll whistle all

the more. I'm very anxious to reach Porteea."

" I'm thinkin 'tis a bonnie lassie maun hae baud o' your tow ropes, but I tellit ye an' we get ony mair wind it '11 be the waur for us. They pigs now —I dinua want the puir beastiea washed overboard."

" D the pigs !" said Dunlop, preparing to turn in for the night. " We'll j

be in on Monday night then, at the latest."

"At the verra latest Ou ay the laes has baud o' the tow ropes," and with those words ringing in his ears, Dunlop went to sleep, and dreamt that he had retired to rest on Mrs. Grant's pantry shelf among the breakfast cups, where the space was so limited, he dared not turn for fear of smashing something, and he spent an uncomfortable night, endeavouring to accom modate himself to the milk jug, and yet leave enough room tor the sugar

basin and teapot

Next morning, Christmas Day, he was up betimes, and found that the wind bad moderated, and was now-blowing a gentle breeze still from the east. The sun was shining brightly, and every wavelet caught and reflected back bis rays. Blue sea and blue sky were all around them, and just astern towered the grim headland of Wilson's Promontory, looking dark and for bidding in the morning sunlight.

" A flue day, Skipper," he said, as the small boy kindly pumped the sea water over him. " A glorious day."

" H'tn," grunted Mackenzie. " It might be waur. We'll hae mair wind, j though ; the glass is fa'in'. I dinna like the look o' things. We'll hae mair na a capl'u' o' wind the night, I'm thinkin'."

" So it blow from the right quarter, I don't care," said Dunlop, rubbing his

face with a rough towel.

" Weel, weel," and the cautious skipper shook his bead, "we shall see." j But as the day advanced the wind dropped till it was almost a calm, and so slowly the little schooner moved through the water that Miles, gazing up at her expanse of canvas, snow-white against the blue sky, paced her decks impatiently, wished himself on shore, and more than once called the skipper's attention to the fact that his whistling bad had no effect what ever, but the old Scotchman only bade him " Bide a wee," and declared it was " A gude thing to hae the Sawbatb in peace," it it did blow a gale on the


Towards evenine the wind gathered more to the south than ea6t, and blew strongly, 60 much so that the skipper took in his top s'les, and even then the little ship pitched aud tossed more than was pleasant, and Miles found bis narrow bed more uncomfortable than ever. He consoled himself, how ever, with the reflection that it was the laBt night, and—well, if all went as be hoped it would, he never expected to find himself aboard a small schooner again. In the morning the wind had not abated, but increased in fury, having veered to the west of south during the night, Still Dunlop felt comfortable, and consoled himself for a bad breakfast and worse midday meal by the reflection that evening would see him at Portsea. When, how ever, be mentioned to the 6kipper Mackenzie at once shook his bead, and explained that at the present rate of progress they were not likely to be off the Heads till near midnight Then Dunlop, more disappointed than he cared to own, gloomily withdrew, and banging over the bulwarka,watched the green seas, which every moment threatened to engulf tbemr He watched the moon rise, a full round moon, which, however, failed to disperse the gathering clouds, and only occasionally shed her gleams 011 the angry sea. 'The light on Cape Schanck seemed to him remarkably close, but he con

cluded tb&t the master probably underatood bis own business beBt, and ' going below tor an overcoat, for he felt it would be impossible to sleep in his narrow quarters through such a din, prepared to stop -ou deck till the storm should have passed away.

But as the night advanced things grew worse instead of better. Orders of which even a landsman could not fail to sep the import were shouted in the skipper's stentorian tones—the crew rushed about obeying frantically

ibe m&ius'ie blew away with a loud report—the broken ropes lashe f them selves like whips against the mast, and Miles making his way to where the binnacle light shone out in the darkness, found himself close beside some one whose arm heygraaped, and asked anxiously,

" What the dickens is the meaning of this? I9 anything wrong?"

"Wrong?" said the skipper's voice in tones of deepest despair, " wrang? We're rnnnin' ashore, man. God Bave us all."

" Bat—but—Ijy God it is impossible. Can't anything be done?"

" Na, na, the rudder head and the mainViee gone, an' we'll be ashore in

a few minutes."

It seemed to Miles incredible. Not five minutes before he had not even dreamt of danger, and now here was the skipper informing him that they were being hurried to (Mr destruction on an iron-bouud coast, without any possible hope of escape. The boats—they would not live a moment in such a sea, and hope of help from the shore seemed out of' the question. Never theless, he asked doubtfully,

"Couldn't we make our plight known on shore ?"

"There'snaebody to see,"said tbe old man sorrowfully. "But we can bnt try. Whaur are they rockets, Charlie? On ay in tbe cabin locker, ma lad, quick now."

Two or three bright rockets whizzed ont on to the stormy night, and

Dunlop asked again,

" Where are we ? I teemed to see the coast quite plainly just now when the

moon came out of the cloud."

"Ou ay, it's close handy. We're just aff London-bridge as they ca' it."

So near and yet so far. It was the bitter irony of fate, Miles felt, as he peered out into the surrounding darkness, that had wrecked him on Portsea back beacb. He had hoped to be there on Monday nighty and behold bis hopes were being fulfilled to the very letter. When morning came, he and all with him would bave gone for ever. Would theyonog Naims when next tbey picnicked on that beach think of who lay beneath those white breakers. Would Dearlie give one kindly thought to the man who had thought so much other? He remembered Tom's letter—*

"She cried like anything."

" My darling," be thought, "will she cry when she knows lam dead?" And be slipped bis hand into his breast pocket, and felt lying there tbe soft silken handkerchief she had tied round bis head neatly three weeks ago now, and which he had kept, foolishly be sometimes thought, for tbe sake of the gentle hands that had given it him. Then he strained his eyes put landward again.

" Skipper!" he shouted—" skipper, I see a light"

And as Dearlie's fire momentarily increased and grew greater—a glowing spot on the anrronnding darkness, a glad, hopeful cry burst from tbe little crew. The skipper alone was despairing.

"Theycanna help," he Wdd, still clinging to tbe Bpokca of tbewheeL "The lifeboat canna win through the lttpon sic a night"

*' Bnt tbe rocket —"

"At Nepean, five miles awa'i Na, nay, my lads," he aald, raising his voice, and trying to make himself heard above the howling of tbe storm, •' there's na hope o' help. Prepare to meet your Maker, Look there,"

The tnoon came out from beneath tbe send of flying cloud, and Miles saw looming close ahead the dark ontlines olaJau&B cliff, which towered above tbeimOne mompnthe saw it quite dearly, and .then, almost before he had realised tbeir Imminent danger, the little ebip strack with a sickening shock that flung hiin down on his face, heeled over, hod the waves broke cle&noverher, t'• .....j

of 'self:preserve* j

tion heing.etrong within him, he gattaeredhlmself together and scrambled^ up (he electing deck till he reachtd the bulwarks, where he clung, with

every sea breaking over bin. The foremast had gone by the board Tj the deck cargo of pigs, breaking loose from their pens, weresquealinta !* screaming and climbing one on top of the other in their frantic endeavon

to save themselves from drowning. At first -rS

cling on, expecting death every momen^ The ttMse Aroni^iS ittriiM ' The creaking of timber*, the grinding of the wreckage againkt the ahih^ side, the howiingot the wind and the roaring of $he'ngbMfc ^e^nSis^f the terrified drowning animals fot'sid, AH combined 'to^te^hVflin aa deafened and confused him. Then, as the death he expecteddid not com, he began to iook around him and wonder wbatliad become of his com panions. Soon the two men and the boy joined him—drencbed, dripping* braised, and hopeless, but still-alive, and he shouteduntemciQusly to know wtere the skipper was. None could teii, and Miles half-envied the old man that death had come to him so quickly and quietly, Thelite on shore gleamed and glowed, and seemed to mock them'with its bright hopeful, ness, promising help where no faejp wm possible."'

brightly out for a moment, and Dunlop, looking round himf aaw

jammed by a grating against the main hatchway. He seemi^l dead br m sensible, but Miles calling the men's attention to his plighf^fieof iliem named Thomson, scrambled over with him, and the two of themeucceeded in freeing the old man and bringing him bade-with them.

bim to the bulwarks. Miles drew out his pocket-flask,and fi>i^i-«me whisky between his cold lips. It was bard work, clinging on ford^life, with the water washing over them every second, and when at lasjijthe skipper recovered consciousness he saw he was terribly hurt, and evidently so iil that spite of the lashing round him he could hardly hold himself up, and Miles managed with infinite difficulty to support his head. '

"Ye're gude, sir; verra gude and kind," said the old man, "butI bae made ma last v'yage, I'm thinking."

" No, no; cleer up. We can hold on now till the rockets come from Nepean."

" No, na; she'll part amidships afore mornin', and they cannot bit us |n


"Couldn't we send up another rocket, or a bine light, or-something," asked Miles; but a great wave had passed over them, and the skipper was

insensible again.

"There'ssome blue lights in the cabin locker, I know," said one of the men. " l'U-try for 'em if 1 get a chance."

But the chance did not seem to come. The storm grew worse and worse as the night advanced. The seas broke over them every minute, and to leave their rentage point even for a moment seemed like conrtinc certain death. The pigs were all quiet lor'ard now—washed overboard most pro. bably, but the wrecked spars were still grinding against the side. Miles felt that the skipper was still breathing, but he doubted if he were conscious^ and put his face down to try and catch the old man's words.

" Ma God," he was muttering—" Ma God, Thou hast been verra gude to an auld man—verra kind an' thoughtfu'; but, Lord, if ma time is come I am prepBrit, tor Lotd, Lord, I hae dune Thy will, an' I shall na greet if this be th&end. Ma fife was aye a bit lonesome, Lord, sin'Thou'e ta'en the gude wiie an' the bairns, an' Lord, Lord, I'm we'aryfu', L —"

"Man, man," said Miles, " we will save you yet."

" Na, na, I'm deein', man, I canna haud out lang. Maybe the Lord will gie ye yonr lives, but I'm deein', an' I dinna greet -—"

Miles gave him his last drop of whisky, but lie grew feebler and feebler. His life was ebbing fast, and each wave, as it passed over them, left him leas able to bear up againBt the next, lie wandered in his talk, and spoke fondly to wife and children long since dead.

"'Tis a bonny lad, gude wife," he said—"a bonny lad, an' it's a prood man 1 am the day. Ay, bnt hand him np, haud him up; he's stretchin* oot his wee ban's to bis daddy."

Then perhaps the sounds of the sea all around him brought into hie mind a snatch of an old shanty, and be murmured—

"Oh. it's hnme, dearie, hame; it's hame I long to be '?—"

" Wbaur am I!" he asked suddenly. "Ah,"as he remembered, "Mr. Danlop, ye're main gude to an auld man. Hae ye hame, or wife, or bairn ashore ?" ' ? ! '

" No, none."

"Ah, weel, 'tis lonesome—and I eare na—how soon I gae. Fare ye wed —but it may be we shall meet again to-night."

Miles felt he was going fast, bat he could do nothing more than merely cramped and aching as he was in every limb—support him till the end. He

was a very dead weight now, and at last, bending over him in the darkness, ' he felt hie face icy cold, and called to the mau on the other side that he thought the skipper must be dead.

"Dead,"said the other—"dead. Well, it can't make much diflVrence. We're all in the same boat. Oh, yes, he's dead, sure enough. Poor old chap."

Mites was very weary now ; almost spent; and each wave he thought would wash him overboard. Still he cluug on, hoping against hope, no willing to resign the faint chance that still remained. There were three fires burning on the beach now, bright large fires, and the despairing men clinging to the wreck, cold, weary, and well nigh worn out, could even distinguish the dark figures that piled on fresh fuel. There were men fully aware oi their peril, men eager, anxious to help them; and yet how faraway they were. How cruel it Beemed that they should thus perish wiobinsigbt of succour; The creaking and grinding of the timbers grew more terrible every moment, and at length the little schooner parted amidships, the fore part sank hack into deep water, and the after part, to. which they dnn& seemed to be slowly breakiog-np.

All Dunlop's life seemed to pass before bim as « dream. He saw himself a boy again once more, at school with Graut, playing football and cricket, and toiling through Caesar. He was a young man in the bey-day of yonth, well-to-do and good-looking, and the world looked to him wonderfully fair as bis life stretched out before him. Again, he saw himself a disappointed man—a heartbroken man, thinking bitterly that the world held nothing good for such as he, And yet again, there came to him the touch of Dearlie'aaoft hand, the thought of her tears, and the desire and instinct of life rose strong

within him.

" My God," he prayed, " I muBt five—I muBt live—I cannot die. Ob! God help me."

"Thomson," be eaid, as the fact forced itself upon liia dulled senses, "she's breaking np fast."

" Yes," said the man heavily, *' she can't last till morning."

" But—God I—is there no way ? Can't we make a flare ? They might help us lrom the shore if they knew where we were."

" I'll have-a try for the blue lights," said the man, preparing to. let go his bold and make for the cabin. "May as well be drowned one way as


A moment or two later he returned.

" Here's the blue lights," he Baid, " Now we'll see."

Brightly burned the light, sending ont its gbaBtly glare over the raging waters, and a minuta-or two afterwards the despairing men saw. that their signal hod been seen and understood, for a rocket sped up from the shore and shot into the dark eky. A moment of breathless suspense, and then a groan burst from their lips as it fell abort. They horned another bine light, and another and another rocket sped on its way in vain.. Then thgre was a pause. Those on shore evidently despaired of reaching them, end Miles, aa be felt the frail deck quiver and tremble beneath his feet, knew that nop moment might be their lash

"Another light!" he urged, as the waves swept over them, "Another fight! If they see it they'll try again."

Another rocket, leaving a trail of sparks behind it, and this time it went beyond the vessel, the thin line fell between Miles and Thompson, end the latter caught it and made fast.

Eagerlythey drew in the fine, the rope, the hawser, end as the cradle reached them e cheer went up,

"Now, now," cried Miles, "the boy first; the. hoy, He'sbalf dead


" As, the cradle-returned to them Thompson suggested that Dnnlop should

go next,

"A matter of a few minutes 'II see ns ali sate," he said, "end yoenint accoatomed-to this work; You go next"


" We'll send him after you, in case—hot Ifhlnkhe's deed. Nor«

•in* .

6o Miles let go bis hold, got into the cradle, Shut his eyes as he felt himself swung out over the boiling sea, and then after what seemed to him an' interminable interval, telt himself caught by strong hands and drawn op on to dry laud. . :

He was dizzyand dazed, and the bright firelight dazzled him, but some' kindly hand forced brandy upon him. Then, as his senses Came back to him, he heard a clear boy's voice he knew right well say—

" Why, if it ain't Mr. Dunlop J Dearlie, Dearlie, Dearlie 1 We've saved

Mr, Dunlop."