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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCharley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 3. Dick's Prayer
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Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 3. Dick's Prayer Post by :teachmaster Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :818

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Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 3. Dick's Prayer

Chapter Three. Dick's Prayer

Night had come and passed away since the gallant _Laurel had sunk. The sea had much gone down, and Dick, no longer compelled to hold on for his life, was able to open the basket and give Charley, who was crying out for his breakfast, some food.

"Where de ship?" inquired Charley, in his imperfect English and little innocent fashion. "Where we got to? Why not give me hot tea? Why give me wet biscuit?"

"Don't ask questions, Charley," answered Dick. "If I have a fancy for taking a cruise on this here raft, you should be content--you know I have charge of you; and if I didn't think it the best thing to be done, I wouldn't have brought you here."

"All right," said Charley. "More biscuit, please. Now I sing song to you, Dick," and the little chap struck up the stave of a ditty which Dick had taught him, evidently feeling in no way alarmed at the fearful position in which he was placed.

"I think, Charley, you should say your prayers," said Dick, who had taught the boy those he had himself learned in his childhood. "Ask God to take care of you, Charley; for I am sure if He does not no one else will, either here or anywhere else. He hears your prayers as well as big people's, so don't be afraid of asking Him for what you want; and just now I have a notion we want Him to send a ship this way to pick us up."

Charley turned round, and kneeling up in his basket, lifted his small hands towards the blue sky, and asked the kind Father he believed dwelt there to take care of him and Dick, and send a ship to pick them up.

Dick gazed affectionately at the child as he prayed.

"That's done me good," he said to himself. "I am sure He who lives up there will do what that innocent little cherub asks. What He would say if a rough wild chap like me was to pray, is a different matter; and yet I mind that mother used to tell me He will hear any one who is sorry for what they have done amiss, and trust to His Son who died for sinners. But it's a hard matter to mind all the bad things a man like me has done, and I hope He ain't so over particular with respect to poor sailors."

Dick at length, mustering courage, knelt by the side of the child, the calm sea allowing him to do so without the danger of falling off. His prayer might not have been, as he expressed it, very ship-shape; the chief expression in it was, "Lord be merciful to me a sinner, and take care of little Charley here and me, if such a one as I am is worth looking after."

At length Dick resumed his seat by the side of his charge. The sun came down with intense heat, but he managed, by turning the raft round with his paddle, and lifting the lid of the basket, to shelter Charley from its burning rays. The child sat up and looked about him, prattling away frequently in a lingo Dick could not understand: sometimes also he spoke a little English, which he seemed to have known before he came on board the _Laurel_, but since then he had picked up a good many words. Dick now tried to amuse him and himself by teaching him more, and as the child learned rapidly whatever he heard, he already could sing--

"Cease, rude Boreas, blustering railer,
List ye landsmen all to me."


"One night it blew a hurricane,
The sea was mountains rolling,
When Barney Buntline turned his quid,
And cried to Billy Bowlin--"

right through without a mistake.

"Oh, look dere, dere! what dat rum fis?" he suddenly exclaimed, pointing to a short distance from the raft.

Dick looked, and saw what a sailor dreads more than any human foe--the black triangular fin of a huge shark which was noiselessly gliding by, just beneath the surface, and turning its wicked eye towards Charley and himself. A blow from the monster's tail or nose might easily upset the raft, when they to a certainty would become its prey. Dick grasped his pole to do battle, should the creature come nearer, and he at once began beating the water on every side and shouting at the top of his voice. The shark, an arrant coward by nature, kept at a distance, but his dark fin could still be seen as he circled round and round the raft, waiting, Dick feared, for an opportunity to rush in and make an attack.

"He shall pay for it with one of his eyes, if he does," said Dick to himself.

"What for make all that noise?" asked Charley.

"Why do you sing out 'youngster' sometimes?" inquired Dick. "Because you have a fancy for it, I've a notion, and so I have a fancy just now to shout away. I mus'n't frighten the little chap," he muttered to himself. "It won't do to tell him what Jack Shark is looking after."

Thus Dick sat on till he thought by the position of the sun that it must be noon, when he gave Charley his dinner and cup of water--he himself eating but sparingly, for fear of diminishing his scanty store and depriving the child of food.

"I can hold out much longer than he can," he said to himself, "and I must not let him get into bad case."

Every now and then Dick stood up and gazed around the horizon, anxiously looking out for the signs of a breeze which might bring up some ship. The sun was again sinking beneath the ocean, which continued glass-like as before. At length night crept over the world of waters, and the brilliant stars shone down from the dark sky, each one reflected clearly in the mirror-like deep.

"What all those pretty things up dere?" asked Charley, waking suddenly from his first sleep; "get me some to play wid, Dick."

"Just what I can't do, boy," answered Dick. "All those are stars far away in the sky, and I have heard say they are worlds; but how they stop up is more than I can tell, except God keeps them there."

"God do many things we can't," said Charley. "But if I ask Him, would He give me some to play wid?"

"No, Charley, He gives us what we want and what is good for us, but He chooses to keep those stars where they are, for He knows that if He sent one of them down they would only do us harm. Now, Charley, don't be asking more questions; just lie down and go to sleep again," and Dick shut down the lid of the basket.

Charley's questions, however, had set his mind at work, and as he gazed up in the sky he thought more than he had ever done before of those wondrous lights which he had always seen there, and yet had troubled himself so little about. And then he was led to think of the God who made them and governs their courses, and many things he had heard in his boyhood came back to his mind.

"Mother used to say He is a kind and loving God, and go I am sure He will take care of this little chap, and me, too, for his sake."

Dick at length felt very sleepy. He had been afraid to shut his eyes, for fear of the shark, but he could no longer prevent the drowsiness creeping over him: he lashed himself therefore to the raft, to escape the risk of falling off it, and placing his head on the basket, closed his weary eyelids.

The bright beams of the great red sun rising above the horizon as they fell on his eyes awoke him, and on looking round he caught sight of the fin of the shark gliding by a few feet off. The monster's eye was turned up towards him with a wicked leer, and he believed that in another instant the savage creature would have made a grab at the raft. His pole was brought into requisition, and the rapid blows he gave with it on the water soon made the monster keep at a respectful distance. He would not shout out, for fear of waking Charley.

The boy slept on for a couple of hours longer, and when he at length awoke, seemed none the worse for what he had gone through. Dick had cut up some little bits of meat and biscuit, that he might not have to wait for breakfast after he awoke. He had on the previous day carefully dried his clothes and bedding, and given him such food as he required-- the child, indeed, could not have had a better nurse.

Dick calculated that the store of provisions he had stowed away in the basket and his own pockets would last a week, and he hoped before the termination of that time to be picked up. He, in reality, in consequence of anxiety, suffered more than the child: had he been alone, he probably would not have felt so much.

The day passed away as before. Occasionally sea-birds flew overhead, and huge fish were seen swimming by, or breaking the calm surface as they poked up their noses or leaped into the air.

"Oh, Dick, Dick, what dat?" suddenly exclaimed Charley. As he spoke, a dozen flying-fish, their wings glittering in the bright sun, leaped on to the raft, some tumbling into the child's basket.

Dick quickly secured them, for though unwilling to feed the little boy with raw fish, they would, he knew, afford him an ample meal or two. Charley, however, begged to have some to play with, and was much surprised to find their beautiful wings quickly become dry, and that in a few seconds they were dead.

Dick enjoyed a better supper than he had had since the hurricane began, and he always afterwards declared that those fish had kept his body and soul, when he would otherwise have been starved--although those he reserved for a meal on the following day required a keen appetite to munch up.

Day after day Dick and his charge floated on the calm ocean. He was becoming weaker than he had ever before been in his life, and yet he would take but a few drops of water from the beaker, and would not eat a particle of the food more than was necessary to keep the life in him, so fearful was he of not having enough for Charley. Yet Dick had not been distinguished among his shipmates for any especial good qualities, except that he was looked upon as a good-natured, kind-hearted, jovial fellow, and brave as the bravest; yet so were many of the _Laurel's gallant crew, now sleeping their last sleep beneath the ocean.

The faithful fellow now often found himself dropping off to sleep when he wished to be awake--and afraid that on one of these occasions Charley might get out of his basket and tumble overboard, to make such an accident impossible, he tied him down by the legs in such a way as to allow the child to sit up when inclined, and look about him.

Poor Dick, who was getting very weak, was lying down asleep with his head on the edge of the basket, when he heard Charley's voice sing out--

"See, see--what dat?"

Dick opened his eyes, and casting them in the direction the child pointed, caught sight of a large vessel under all sail running down before the wind, which she brought up with her.

"A ship, Charley, a ship!" cried Dick. "And we must do what we can to make her see us, or she may be passing by, and we shall be no better off than we are now."

He instantly took off his shirt, which he fastened by its sleeves to the pole. Holding it aloft as the ship drew near, with all his strength he waved it to and fro, shouting out in his anxiety, and not aware how low and hollow his voice sounded. Charley shouted too, with his childish treble, though their united voices could not have reached by a long way as far as the ship was from them. It seemed to Dick that she would pass at some distance: his heart sank. Presently his eye brightened.

"She has altered her course; she is standing this way," he cried out. "Charley, we shall be picked up!"

"Then I thank God--He hear my prayer. I ask ship come--ship do come," said Charley.

"You are right, boy--you are right!" cried Dick. "And I was forgetting all about that prayer of yours."

The tall ship glided rapidly over the ocean, the surface of which was now rippled with miniature wavelets as the freshening breeze swept across it.

"To my eye, she is a foreign ship of war," observed Dick. "But a friend in need is a friend indeed, and we may be thankful to be taken on board by her or any other craft. Even if a 'Mounseer' had offered to pick us up, I would not have refused."

The ship approaching was hove-to, a boat being lowered from her, which, with rapid strokes, pulled towards the raft.

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