Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

engines shakin' out a few more rey'lushuns just as fast as it seemed the bulkhead was shored strong enough to stand the push o' the sea.

“Mornin' found her still goin', but what a sight she was! My first good look at what was left o' her give me the same kind o' a shock I got the first time I had a peep at my mug in a glass after havin' small-pox in Singapore. She wasn't a ship at all, any more'n my face was a face. She was just a mess, that's all, an' clinkin' an' clankin' an' wheezin' and sneezin' an' yawin' all over the sea. An' the sea was empty all the way roun', wi' no ship in sight to pass us a tow-line or pick us up if she chucked in her hand an' went down.

“We had our hands so full keepin' her afloat an' under weigh, that it wasn't till four in the afternoon -more'n sixteen hours after we rammed the Hun cru'ser—that we found time to bury our dead. It was like gettin' a turribl' load off your chest when we dropped 'em over in their hammocks wi' a fire-bar stitched in alongside 'em to take 'em down. Nothin' is so depressin' to a sailor as bein' shipmates wi' a mate that ain't a mate no longer. Even the ol' Firebran' 'peared to ride easier an' more b'oyant after the buryin' was over, as if she knowed the worst o' her sorrer was left behind.

“Luck took a turn against us again just after dark, for the wind shifted six or seven points an' started blowin' strong from dead ahead. We had to alter course some to ease off the bang o' the seas a bit, an' fin'ly the speed had to be slowed even slower'n before to keep the bulkhead from being driv' in. But she weathered it, by Gawd she did, an' next mornin' the goin' was easier. We made the Tyne at noon. It was just a heap o' ol' scrap-iron so far as the eye could see, that they let into the Middle Dock the next day, but it was scrap-iron that had come all the way from Jutland under its own steam, an' wi' no help from no one save what was left o' the lads as once manned a 'stroyer called the Firebran'.

“It hadn't taken long to reduce her from a 'stroyer to scrap-iron, an' it didn't seem like it took much longer -time goes fast on home leave—to turn that scrap-iron back into a 'stroyer again. The ol' Firebran's got many a good kick in her yet, so they say, an' I'd ask for nothin' better'n to be finishin' the war in her."

I thanked Melton for his yarn, bade him good night, and was about to start picking my way to my cabin to turn in, when I sensed rather than saw that there was something further that he wanted to say, perhaps some final tribute to his officers and mates of the Firebrand, I thought. There was a shuffling of sea-booted feet on the steel deck, a nervous pulling off and on of woolen mittens, and it was out.

"I just wanted to say, sir,” he said, "that I likes the Yankee Jackies very much; 'specially their candy an' chewin' gum. I was just wonderin' if that last stick you give me was all —

I emptied both pockets before I renewed my thanks to Melton and bade him a final good night. There are strange ingredients entering into the composition of the cement that is binding Britain and America together, and if there is any objection to chewing gum it certainly cannot be on the ground that it lacks adhesiveness.

THE WHALE

[From "The Pilot," BY JAMES FENIMORE COOPER]

T:

HE boat had been suffered to ride in the edge of the surf, since the appearance of the sun; and the

eyes of her crew were kept anxiously fixed on the cliffs, though in vain, to discover the signal that was to call them to the place of landing. After looking at his watch for the twentieth time, and as often casting glances of uneasy dissatisfaction toward the shore, the lieutenant exclaimed:

"A charming prospect, this, Master Coffin, but rather too much poetry in it for your taste; I believe you relish no land that is of a harder consistency than mud !"

"I was born on the waters, sir," returned the cockswain, from his snug abode, where he was bestowed with his usual economy of room, "and it's according to all things for a man to love his native soil. I'll not deny, Captain Barnstable, but I would rather drop my anchor on a bottom that won't broom a keel, though, at the same time, I harbor no great malice against dry land.”

“I shall never forgive it, myself, if any accident has befallen Griffith in this excursion,” rejoined the lieutenant; "his pilot may be a better man on the water than on terra firma, Long Tom."

The cockswain turned his solemn visage, with an extraordinary meaning, toward his commander, before he replied:

“For as long a time as I have followed the waters, sir, and that has been ever since I've drawn my rations, seeing that I was born while the boat was crossing Nantucket shoals, I've never known a pilot come off in greater need, than the one we fell in with, when we made that stretch or two on the land, in the dog-watch of yesterday.”

“Ay! the fellow has played his part like a man; the occasion was great, and it seems that he was quite equal to his work.”

“The frigate's people tell me, sir, that he handled the ship like a top," continued the cockswain; "but she is a ship that is a nateral inimy of the bottom !"

“Can you say as much for this boat, Master Coffin ?" cried Barnstable; “keep her out of the surf, or you'll have us rolling in upon the beach, presently, like an empty water-cask; you must remember that we cannot all wade, like yourself, in two-fathom water."

The cockswain cast a cool glance at the crests of foam that were breaking over the tops of the billows, within a few yards of where their boat was riding, and called aloud to his men:

“Pull a stroke or two; away with her into dark water."

The drop of the oars resembled the movements of a nice machine, and the light boat skimmed along the water like a duck, that approaches to the very brink of some imminent danger, and then avoids it, at the most critical moment, apparently without an effort. While this necessary movement was making, Barnstable arose, and surveyed the cliffs with keen eyes, and then, turning once more in disappointment from his search, he said:

"Pull more from the land, and let her run down at an easy stroke to the schooner. Keep a lookout at the cliffs, boys; it is possible that they are stowed in some of the holes in the rocks, for it's no daylight business they are on."

The order was promptly obeyed, and they had glided along for nearly a mile in this manner, in the most profound silence, when suddenly the stillness was broken by a heavy rush of air, and a dash of the water, seemingly at no great distance from them.

"By Heaven, Tom," cried Barnstable, starting, "there is the blow of a whale !"

“Ay, ay, sir," returned the cockswain, with undisturbed composure; "here is his spout not half a mile to seaward; the easterly gale has driven the creatur to leeward, and he begins to find himself in shoal water. He's been sleeping, while he should have been working to windward !"

“The fellow takes it coolly, too: he's in no hurry to get an offing !"

"I rather conclude, sir," said the cockswain, rolling over his tobacco in his mouth, very composedly, while his little sunken eyes began to twinkle with pleasure at the sight, "the gentleman has lost his reckoning, and don't know which way to head to take himself back into blue water.'

'Tis a fin-back!” exclaimed the lieutenant; "he will soon make headway, and be off.”

“No, sir, 'tis a right whale," answered Tom; "I saw his spout; he threw up a pair of as pretty rainbows as a Christian would wish to look at. He's a raal oil-butt, that fellow !”

Barnstable laughed, turned himself away from the tempting sight, and tried to look at the cliffs; and then unconsciously bent his longing eyes again on the sluggish

« ForrigeFortsæt »