Chapter 19006293

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter TitleADRIFT
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19006293
Full Date1892-02-06
Page Number5
Corrections0
Word Count2299
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleThe Boys' Yacht
article text

MERCURY JUNIOR.

THE BOYS' YACHT.

[In Seven Csiri'sns.]

CHAPTER IV.

AD1UFT.

During the evening after the yacht-race Hal and Non were entertained very hospitably by the Neptune Club, and were made much of as the victors of the day. It was late when they made their way down the club landing to their own dory. Both strutted a little, it is to be feared, even in the

dark.

The night was black as jet. A fine drizzle was falling softly. Lights flickered feebly from the yachts in the harbour.

" Jump in !" said Hal. " I'll shove her off. You

row this time. That's the Kitticiüink."

Hal unfastened the painter, leaped lightly after his friend, and gave the dory a push.

The wind, as usual, had changed. Tho tide was running out. Tinkle ! tinkle ! From ship to ship the bells sounded faintly, as if muffled in the mist

Each bell Btruck six times.

" Eleven o'clock !" said Hal, with a sense of importance in recognizing the sailor's method of computing time. " Hurry up ! Why don't you

row ?"

" I can't find any oars," answered Non, groping

from one Bide to the other.

The two boys searched the boat. There were no oars. They were afloat with nothing to propel

their boat.

The dory began to drift slowly away from the landing. The boys did not realize at first what the situation meant. They were too inexperienced to gness that oars, though laid ever so carefully on the solid thwarts, might be " borrowed" by some unscrupulous prowler about the harbour.

" What shall we do ?" asked Non, unconcernedly. It seemed bo easy to get ashore in some way.

" Holler, I guess," said Hal, after some leisurely

thought.

He illustrated his suggestion by a loud call Non joined in with a treble cry ; but the air was thick, and they had already drifted a good distance.

The sound f ¿11 back deadened.

" Yell !" commanded Captain Hal. This time

a lond shriek was the result.

" Stop your noise !" answered a voice from a boat not far away.

" But we're drifting out !" shrieked Hal.

" You can't fool mo ! Go to bed !" came back the sneering answer.

" But we've lost our oars ! We're adrift !"

" You've lost your head!" called a sleepy Bailor The cries of the boys smote fainter and fainter upon the waters of Marblehead Harbour. They stopped for very fright.

" We are going out to sea !" sobbed Non.

" Why, we can't go out to sea !" expostulated

Hal.

But Non was right. The tide had dragged the unmanageable dory beyond the headland.

There are few experiences more terrible than being adrift in an open boat in an open sea. Now and then the newspapers record the picking up of an emaciated fisherman by a passing vessel barely in time to save his life-sometimes too late ; and always there is told a sad story of pain and priva- tion, either by the rescued mariner, or by the mute signs of his suffering.

But if one must be cast adrift, there is nothing better than a Swampscott dory for such such pur- pose. Our two boys were in Buch a boat i it waa thirteen feet long, and had a flat bottom, from which its sides flared outward. The dory waB one ' of the beBt of its kind. Phin had chosen it.

In a very high sea, to the experienced sailor, the dory is almost as safe as any craft afloat. A dory, as the saying runs, " can sail in a dewdrop or in a Nor'eaeter." But a dory without oars !

Fear had cowed the boys, and they crouched side by side on the grating at the bottom. Hal held Non by the hand, while Non rested one arm on Hal's shoulder. At first neither spoke. It seemed hours to them since they had floated off, yet it was scarcely ten minutes.

" Let's give one more yell !" urged Hal. " I gness we can fetch 'em this time. They must hear

us!"

" I can't !" sobbed Non. " It's too terrible !"

The boy put his head on the seat and shut his teeth tightly to stifle his tears. He was ashamed of himself ¡ but many a man in no worse position has yielded more weakly to his fears.

" I'll try now," Non spoke, after a few more brave gulps. They stood up in the dory, two helpless waifs, clinging to each other, and shouted and hallooed until a rough swell toppled them over. Then they sank, exhausted and terrified, upon the dory's bottom, and clasped each other for comfort

and warmth.

It seems strange that no one on board the Kittiewink had heaid their aries. Skipper Scrod was expecting them, but being tired with his day's work, had gone below, and there fallen into a doze. The wind carried the agonizing shouts in the opposite direction ; the denseness of the atmosphere deadened the sound, and perhaps fright had changed the tones of the familiar voices. Phin slept on and and heard no shrieks.

Trot was on the lookout. He heard the voieeB and yelped loudly. But he had barked all the evening without occasion, and now barked in vain when good cause had come for his excitement.

Meanwhile Hal and Non shivered in the dory, which was still moving rapidly seaward.

"Idon't suppose it's any use to holler any more," said Hal. Then, after a little hesitation, he went on. " Say Non, old fellow, do you think we are going to die ? It's cold enough, and dark enough, too."

Non did not trust himself to answer. He thought oE his home, of his father and brothers. He could not speak just then. The boys were hushed with tho solemnity of their danger. What good could talking do ?

Already they had drifted beyond Marblehead Point. The tide took the light dory between Cat Island and the Beacon in a straight course for Tinker's Ledge. The wind breezed up westerly, and pushed seaward upon the flaring side of the boat as if it were bent upon its destructipn.

With the wind the mist disappeared. The sky cleared, and the stars shone mockingly. The steady white light from the receding Point glittered like an eye that had no pity. Ab the boys strained their eyes toward the impenetrable horizon, they caught the twin lights of Baker's Island.

" That's Baker's !" said Hal, authoritatively. He was pleased to recognize a friend.

"There's a vessel!" cried Non, looking eagerly in the opposite direction. " Phin says they carry a red lantern at night. See ! Perhaps they'll pick us

np."

But the red light laughed at them with its even, ruddy glow. Can Egg Rock light pick np a cast-

away ? v

To one at sea for the first time on a clear night,

?off this shore bristling with light-houses, the sight I

is as exciting as it is dreamy. Had the boys been safe on some stout boat, they would have yielded to the romance of the situation. As it was, the excitement and the novelty of the position for the moment blinded them to its peril.

"One, two, three, four, five-there it shines again ! I wonder where that light íb. Now it's

out. Look quick !"

Non had discovered the heautiful Eastern Point light, whose ruby lantern flashed sympathetically

upon them.

But Boon the diversion of discovery ceased. The boys snuggled closer together. The experience was damp and monotonous, and it began to grow dreadful. The clung, clunie ! of the waves under- neath the flat dory-a pleasant sound on a bright day, with oars in hand-terrified them now.

" Say Non !" Hal resolutely interrupted his own gloomy thoughts. " I guess papa is asleep now. Your father is in bed, too, unless he's called out ; and ray mother-I'm glad she doesn't know. Say ! Do you think God knows ?"

Non bowed his head reverently. '. Perhaps this is a punishment," he ventured to say. " Perhaps wo oughtn' to have gone racing. I know my father

wouldn't have liked it."

| Hal thought of his mother with a heavy heart. I He couldn't hear to speak of her. But a bright

thought occurred to him.

" It couldn't have been very wrong, because we saved so many lives."

" That's so, as it turned out," said Non. " But we didn't know we were g^ing to do that. I say, Hal, do you think it would be wrong to pray ?"

" No you pray first !" said Hal. " No, you. You're Captain."

Hal began, falteringly, a simple prayer, but broke down. " You go on, Non," he said ; " I

can't."

Non was much moved.

" I can't think what to say. I never thought of saying any prayers in a place-like this."

Nevertheless, Non began, and uttered a heartfelt little supplication for rescue.

"That wasn't much of a prayer," he said, apologetically. " But I guess it will do as well as any. I've done lot's better praying-inside. Wliat's

that ?"

He seized Hal by the arm and dragged him around. They peered into the darknesB, which was broken by a huge shadow ¡ what it was their untrained vision could not at first make out.

Suddenly the dim outline of sails took shape* looming straight over thera. A red light flashed very near. The big vessel was making ^directly for the dory, howling along on the starboard tack, unconscious of the cockle-shell before her.

[ So silently had she approached that the fact

seemed a mysterious answer to their broken prayers. The boys trembled in a kind of awe. At first their throats could make no sound ; but the creaking of canvas, the slatting of spars, the clanking of chains, the swish of the parted waters brought them to their senses.

" Halloo ! Ship ahoy !" they shrieked. " Halloo ! Ahoy, there !"

" What's that ?" came a gruff voice, quite clear upon the night air.

" Hold on ! Stop ! Take us in 1 We're adrift '.

Hold ou !"

Then came the moment of anxiety and expecta- tion. Would the vessel paBS by ? There was a stamping of feet on board the big schooner, a confusion of orders, and the vessel shot into the wind. She had just missed Bending the dory to

the bottom.

The jibs flapped briskly in the breeze as she came up, and a figure leaning far over the rail

cried out :

" What's that ? Who's there ?" " Two boys," answered Hal.

" We've drifted !" said Non, appealingly. " From where ?" " Marblehead !"

" Why don't you hurry up and row there" " We haven't any oars. Do come for us !" " What's the matter ?"

The deep voice of a new-comer on deck was

heard.

" Two young fellows adrift there in something. 3ot no oars," answered one of the men. " We come very near running 'em down."

" Throw that starb'rd dory overboard ! What are you about there ? Jump in, two of you ! Shoot her up in the wind !"

The Captain lost not time in giving and executing these delightful orders. Two men jumped quickly.

In experienced hands the dory found the other deftly. The boys were easily transferred into a very fishy boat, which Btruck them as the sweetest craft they had even seen.

A dozen willing hands lowered the tackle and hoisted their dory on deck. The Captain himself, distinguished by no gold braid, but by a very crumpled white linen shirt, helped the boys out. The first observation which was made by any one

came from one of the sailors.

" What shall we do with this dory ? It's a good

'un."

" Let her tow till morning," answered the master, cuitly.

Hal said nothing. He felt too much confused to speak. The Captain and men surrounded the strange lads on the raised deck aft. A lantern was flashed before them. Everybody rushed to in- spect the new catch.

" You're pretty young to be foolin' with the Atlantic ocean," said one gray fisherman, shaking his head solemnly. " Wher' d' ye belong ?"

" Marblehad," said Non, quickly.

"Do you think you can get us back there before breakfast ?" asked Hal, looking from one to the

other.

What a queer, yet good-hearted lot of men they were ! They reminded him of the two friends that Phin had brought on board for the race. The crew of the fishermen looked at one another.

" Git back ?" Baid one, meditatively.

" Let's tell 'em," said another gravely. " They

ought to know."

'* I should like to get back before mother and father find out," Hal went on. " My mother is dreadfully afraid of yacht'ug. She will die if she

hears.

The fishermen looked at one another for the second time, but not one spoke.

" You don't understand, perhaps," quavered Hal, "You see, we've got to get back. If you knew my mother, you would see it's as I say. She's worse about yachting than anybody you ever saw. She

and I-you see-"

Hal's voice trembled and broke.

" My lads," interrupted the Captain, laying one hand on each boy's arm, "you see you can't get back to-day, nor yet ter-morrow nor the next day. We're bonnd fur the Grand Banks for a three months' trip !"

{To be continued.)