Chapter 19006805

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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter TitlePHINEAS AND THE CAPTAIN.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19006805
Full Date1892-02-20
Page Number5
Corrections0
Word Count2877
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.

CHAPTER VI.

PHINEAB AND THE CAPTAIN.

Imagine a tidal river, thirty feet wide at ita month, emptying into the Atlantic. Imagine this river almost shallow enough at its outlet at low tide to swamp a rowboat, and deep enough when the tide is full to float a three-master. Imagine the waters rushing one way or the other at a whirl- pool rate at the mouth of this river as the tido comes or goes. It has often taken a sail boat in a fair wind two hours to run fifty feet in the face of

this tide. '

Imagine a long stone pier reaching oufcin to the tumultuous ocean, and besides it a tide-rip with

white broakers gleaming like tigers* teeth. |

In stormy weatherthese are impassable by one who does not ride them at the right moment, or who is ignorant of the channel.

Here, too, are foam-tossed ledges, some of them above the high-water mark, some below ; some marked by a black buoy, some not marked at all ;

but all dreaded alike by the mariner. |

Add to all this an easterly wind and angry sea, and you have Pennylunk Harbor as it waa on the morning that Phin Sciod found his lost Captain

aud his mate Non.

The Kittiewink was off Cape Porpoise, scudding before the wind, trying with all her might to make shore, Bomewere, in some way, and more quickly

than she had ever done before.

" Taint no use to make for anywhere but Penny- lunk. The tide's a-goin'. We can fetch Penny- lunk, an' jog a bit until it comes, an' run in an telegraph to your folks."

So said Phinea8, hopefully. He was quite as impatient to land as the boys were. He took in the lay of the wind, and at the same time gave what might be called a hysterical laugh.

He was almost besides himself for joy. Non was not so exuberant, for he was still sea-sick ; but Hal performed what he thought was a sailor's hornpipe upon the cockpit floor, and immediately

asked to take the wheel.

" Not yet, sonny," answered the cautious sailing master " " This is a purty stiff bit o' wind, and Pennylunk is a harbour to steer clear on, unless you've been there, as I've been with many a bar'l of herring."

" But how soon can we send off the telegram ?"

Hal's anxiety to relieve his mother's distress had begun to take definite and urgent shapes. He was a considerate boy, but the continual round of excitement had, for a time, taken his mind off Sweet Fern and the dear ones there.

But while his parents had been worrying, Hal had been growing much better in health. Doctor Parkhurst was right. The change worked wonders in the few weeks. Hal was not strong, but he was now likely to become so.

The yachting season had only begun. What would it not do for him by the end of summer ?

But a new thought had troubled his mind ; it had even suggested itself to the skipper. Non, too, had secretly shared it, and without regret. After all that happened, would Mrs. Maycot allow Hal to set foot on the Kittiewink again, if he once safely

set foot on shore ?

Hal thought of this possibility Badly. This might be his last sail. He made up his mind to enjoy it to the fullest extent while it lasted.

The Kittietoink had now skirted the shore until the long pier at Pennylunk waa well in sight. The summer cottages and hotels were so near that people walking on the shore could be seen, and women distinguished from men.

A high sea waa running. The waves curled and snapped at the bar of the river. When the tide is low, as it waa at the moment when the Kittiewink approached it, the water breaks with a roar along the whole outlet which goes by the name of a

harbor.

The rocks stood out in bare relief off the shore, and the white capB played over the dark, green

reefs.

In windy weather the summer visitors like to walk the length of their pier. Some fish for cunners at its end in the deep rock bottom, but even that sport gives way to interest, and often to asxiety, when a Btrange sail make3 for the narrow chnnnel under the stone breastwork. Many a native fisherman, with frantic gestures, warns the stranger who attempts the impossible entrance at

low tide.

One suoh mariner was greatly relieved when the Kittiewink presently stood off from the harbor and " began to jog ;" that is, carried her jib to wind- ward and her helm up.

" Why don't you run right in ?" asked Hal, impatiently. " We can't wait here. I must tele- graph right away."

" We've got to jog about here a couple of hours, until the tido'll serve us. There ain't five feet of water there now," Baid Phineaa, serenely.

He resolutely kept the Kittiewink on her course until she came to breakers ahead, and then brought her about to jog on the other tack. Hal stood beside him and impatiently made fast the jib sheets at the skipper's orders.

The hoy was nervous and irritable. His wonder- ful escape had not so much sobered as exhausted him. Though he had gained so much in bodily health, his_ nerves _ had undergone a long strain. This condition took its lowest form on thia occasion, and made him unreasonable, ungrateful and frettul at the very moment when he might have been expected to be humble, gentle, and patient.

It occurred t.> him suddenly that where he ought to command he was made to obey. He felt what he considered the indignity of hie position. The title of Captain, so dear to him, was an open

mockery

He felt angry that Phin, the uneducated Phin, Phin the gardener, whom his father could buy out a hundred times, and who had always treated him so respectfully at home, that Phineas Scrod should lora it over him in this peremptory way just because they were in a boat-and his boat, too !

A desporate idea took possession of Hal's brain. Phineas and he were alone on deck. Black Tarr, Non and Trot, were below, preparing dinner.

But the Kittiewink was in a dangerous position. On the one side were the shore and the impassable channel ; on the other, reefs over which the choppy sea was continually breaking. Phin had made np his mind not to risk the boys again. So ho answered, firmly :

" No, Hal. You can't take the wheel now. Wait till she's safe in at the wharf. Then ye can play

with it."

It was no easy jogging, for the wind blew almost as heavily as it did on the day of the race. It was increasing with the tide.

Phin Scrod was exercising his best caution and seamanship ; but if -the wind were rising, Hal's temper had done more-it had risen.

" Look here, Phin !" Hal spoke hotly. " Whose

boat is this ?"

Phin turned quizzically. He had fonnd it not an easy task to manage the boys and the boat, too. He allowed some time to pass before he ventured an answer to this easy question. Hal watched him sullenly, and broke out again :

" But I want to get in ! I want to telegraph mother right away ! Do yon hear ? Right away !"

In the boy's mind his design seemed praiseworthy, and his mutiny appeared to him to be filial devotion. Hal steadied himself by the companionway. False pride and duty, lawlessness and obedience, were ?confounded in his heart.

" But it's my boat, not his !" kept running through his mind. " I'm Captain ; I will do as I please ! He's keeping mother in agony."

He began to disregard the tide, the harbour and the wind. He had now lashed himself blindly to the point of believing that Phin was simply delay- ing the boat in order to exercise his authority. Should his father's gardener treat him like a baby ?

Such preposterous questions as this flitted through his mind like bats through a dark cave.

The Bailing-muBter finally answered the lad's first question, slowly : a '

" It aint your boat. It's ' your dad's an' he put me here as skipper to look arter it an' you, an' I'll do it, even if I have to go tojDavy Jones's locker for it. I've got into one scrape j ye don't ketch

me in another."

This reasonable reply stung Hal.

'* We'll see if it isn't my hoat !" he shouted.

He sprang to the wheel, with quick motion wrenched it from the unprepared skipper, and with one turn spung the Kittiewinh around.

Phineas, with a violent exclamation, jumped for the wheel and the jib-sheet in one bound. But it was too late. The wind astern caught the long boom, and swung the main-sail from ona side of the boat

to the|other.

In nautical terms the sail jibed, and did so with a

shock that shook the whole bsat.

There was a splash, and a sound of splintering wood. The main boom broke in two' in the middle. In an instant the gaff above, unable to stand the strain upon it snapped. The main-sail slapped here and there in the gale, an utter wreck.

Hal was aghast at the result of his mad impulse. No worse accident could have happened to the

Kittiewinh.

^¡Phineas said not a word. He made a dash at the anchor to let it out. As he sprang forward, the flying main-sail thrust upon him like an enemy, and the broken boom felled him to the deck.

By this time the two below had rushed above. The little dog came barking after them. The splintered boora tore here and there, and threatened to knock every occupant of the disabled boat over-

board.

The skipper's order came distinctly above, the

dreadful confusion :

" Pay out that road for your life !"

By this time Black Tarr was working forward of the mast. The bow of the Kittiewinh heaved up and down. At every dip, Scrod was half-buried in the waves, and his mate was drenched in the spray.

Hal and Non crouched in the cockpit in shivering terror. They did not know what to expect.

" Does she hold ?" yelled Sprod to his mate, indicating the anchor.

" Aye ! Aye !"

There was a sundden wrench, as if some huge monster had grasped the Kittiewinh from beneath ; then a trembling and an upward leap.

"Heaven save us !" cried Scrod; "she snapped like a pipe-stem. Down with that helm there !"

Neither of the boys had the strength to obey. Hal stared at the scene vacantly. Non could only grasp the spokes for support.

Black Tarr made a leap for the cockpit. The slatting boom struck him down. He rolled over, and fell heavily in the cockpit.

It occurred to Hal, in a vague way, that the man was dead ; but Tarr shook himself like a water spaniel, grasped the wheel, and hauled in on the fluttering jib-sheet.

Scrod now let the throat and peak halyards go as bejt he could. The main-sail fell as if reluctantly.

Before them were the reefs. If they could gather headway with the jib, and escape these, they might beach the boat on the sandy shore. The Kittiewinh, aB if ashamed of her previous perform- ance, now answered nobly to her rudder.

Phineas Scrod had managed to get safely to the stern. He had made the main-sheet fast, so that the boom at that end could not knock about.

He now busied himself with untying the painter that held the dory. He had not yet spoken to the boys. But there was an angry look, more terrible than scolding, about his mouth.

l'he KUtiewink now bade fair to make the course of the river. If there were only water enough, and she could weather the tide-rip, 8he might perhaps

be saved.

Crowds by this time surged on the shore. '*Hal gazed stupidly at the land, coming rapidly nearer,

and then at Phin'a mate at the wheel

He iaw that the boat was staggering towards the sandy side of the river's mouth opposite the pier. He felt aB if he were watching a panorama in the Town Hall at Sweet Fern. He heard Trot whine with a dull idea that it would interrupt the per

formance.

Nevertheless he expected to be drowned. He felt that it would be the righteous consequence of his crazy deed.

The events of the summer's yachting danced be- fore his eyes in startling vividness. What a failure it had all been 1 The thought of hie parents' suffer- ing filled his head.

Then, there was his friend. If they were lost, Non's death would be upon his head. The burden was mora than he gould bear.

Mechanically he pushed Trot away from him, and the dog fell yelping into the flooded cockpit. Non stooped and picked him np, and both looked at Hal reproachfully.

Hal staggered to his feet. He had but one impulse-to throw himself overboard. Perhaps in some strange way, his life might expiate his fault -might save the rest.

Phin waa watching their course steadily. It was exceedingly doubtful if a thirteen-foot dory could stand the tide-rip. He was seeking to decide-and the decision must be made instantly-whether to stick to the boat, and trust it to be cast high on shore, with a chance of rescue by the people on the beach, or forsake the Kittiewink at the last moment, and make for the mouth of the river in the dory, trusting to heaven to take -them saefely through

the breakers at the bar.

Scrod misunderstood Hal's movement. He thought the boy meant to get into the dory.

" I don't know but you're right this time," he shouted. " Ketch hold o' this painter while I get 'em in ! Look sharp !"

Hal obeyed promptly. A new idea shot through his head, AS desperate as those which had gone be- fore it. He would help them all in, then shove off the dory and perish with the ship. That was a fit sacrifice ! In his excitement, he remembered that all captains do that.

Hal waa almost elated at the thought of enacting this tragedy ; and the worst of the matter was that the delirious boy was very much in earnest.

His heart grew big at this plan. He felt that the country would applaud his thrilling heroism, and that his parents would be quite reconciled to so glorious a death.

There was no time to he lost. The Kittiewink was already dangerously near the shore. Non threw Trot into the dory and followed ns best he could. Phin's mate got in, and grasped the oars, to bo ready when they shoven off.

" Jump in !" yelled Scrod to Hal, who was hold- ing the dory's bow, so that it should not be shattered by the Kittiewink.

" You first-I'll sit in tha bow !"

There was- something in Hal's wild eyeB that

Pbineas did not trust.

" Hurry up there ! Haint you done enough for one day ? Git in, or I'll heave you !"

Phin took Hal firmly by the arm. At the touch Hal sprang back.

" Let mo alone ! I'll stay here to the death !"

There was almost no time at all. The roar of the

breakers were upon them. If the little dory should be caught in these, who could escape ?

, With a hot, and hotter words, Phin grasped his Captain. All the suppleness, agility and strength of the old fisherman's youth returned at this supreme moment. He twined his arms about the slender lad, lifted him, in spite of the unsteady rocking of the boat, and threw him into the dory.

Hal fell upon a thwart that gave, way oppor- tunely, and sank betwesn Non and the sailor at the

bottom of the boat.

Hal had also fallen upon Trot, who howled at the top of his lungs with fright and pain.

In the confusion of this scene Phineas had for- gotten that Hal held the painter that bound the dory te the Kittiewink. It was too late for the gallant skipper to follow. The dory, impelled by the Bhook and a wave, was too far for a leap.

The opportunity of rescue had passed for Phineas

Scrod.

" Keep off !" he cried." Keep off for your lives !" His old dory rílate saw that it was úseles to try to say the skipper. All ho could do was to back water with all his might.

There was a crnnching and grating, a cry of horror from the shore, a splash of water and the Kittiewink, with Phineas on board, waa rolled over by the breakers and hidden by a cloud of impene- trable spray.

(To be continued.)