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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDick Sands, The Boy Captain - Part 1 - Chapter 2. The Apprentice
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Dick Sands, The Boy Captain - Part 1 - Chapter 2. The Apprentice Post by :novedresources Category :Long Stories Author :Jules Verne Date :May 2012 Read :2522

Click below to download : Dick Sands, The Boy Captain - Part 1 - Chapter 2. The Apprentice (Format : PDF)

Dick Sands, The Boy Captain - Part 1 - Chapter 2. The Apprentice


There was no poop upon the "Pilgrim's" deck, so that Mrs. Weldon had no alternative than to acquiesce in the captain's proposal that she should occupy his own modest cabin.

Accordingly, here she was installed with Jack and old Nan; and here she took all her meals, in company with the captain and Cousin Benedict.

For Cousin Benedict tolerably comfortable sleeping accommodation had been contrived close at hand, while Captain Hull himself retired to the crew's quarter, occupying the cabin which properly belonged to the chief mate, but as already indicated, the services of a second officer were quite dispensed with.

All the crew were civil and attentive to the wife of their employer, a master to whom they were faithfully attached. They were all natives of the coast of California, brave and experienced seamen, and united by tastes and habits in a common bond of sympathy. Few as they were in number, their work was never shirked, not simply from the sense of duty, but because they were directly interested in the profits of their undertaking; the success of their labours always told to their own advantage. The present expedition was the fourth that they had taken together; and, as it turned out to be the first in which they had failed to meet with success, it may be imagined that they were full of resentment against the mutinous whalemen who had been the cause of so serious a diminution of their ordinary gains.

The only one on board who was not an American was a man who had been temporarily engaged as cook. His name was Negoro; he was a Portuguese by birth, but spoke English with perfect fluency. The previous cook had deserted the ship at Auckland, and when Negoro, who was out of employment, applied for the place, Captain Hull, only too glad to avoid detention, engaged him at once without inquiry into his antecedents. There was not the slightest fault to be found with the way in which the cook performed his duties, but there was something in his manner, or perhaps, rather in the expression of his countenance, which excited the Captain's misgivings, and made him regret that he had not taken more pains to investigate the character of one with whom he was now brought into such close contact

Negoro looked about forty years of age. Although he had the appearance of being slightly built, he was muscular; he was of middle height, and seemed to have a robust constitution; his hair was dark, his complexion somewhat swarthy. His manner was taciturn, and although, from occasional remarks that he dropped, it was evident that he had received some education, he was very reserved on the subjects both of his family and of his past life. No one knew where he had come from, and he admitted no one to his confidence as to where he was going, except that he made no secret of his intention to land at Valparaiso. His freedom from sea-sickness demonstrated that this could hardly be his first voyage, but on the other hand his complete ignorance of seamen's phraseology made it certain that he had never been accustomed to his present occupation. He kept himself aloof as much as possible from the rest of the crew, during the day rarely leaving the great cast-iron stove, which was out of proportion to the measurement of the cramped little kitchen; and at night, as soon as the fire was extinguished, took the earliest opportunity of retiring to his berth and going to sleep.

It has been already stated that the crew of the "Pilgrim" consisted of five seamen and an apprentice. This apprentice was Dick Sands.

Dick was fifteen years old; he was a foundling, his unknown parents having abandoned him at his birth, and he had been brought up in a public charitable institution. He had been called Dick, after the benevolent passer-by who had discovered him when he was but an infant a few hours old, and he had received the surname of Sands as a memorial of the spot where he had been exposed, Sandy Hook, a point at the mouth of the Hudson, where it forms an entrance to the harbour of New York.

As Dick was so young it was most likely he would yet grow a little taller, but it did not seem probable that he would ever exceed middle height, he looked too stoutly and strongly built to grow much. His complexion was dark, but his beaming blue eyes attested, with scarcely room for doubt, his Anglo-Saxon origin, and his countenance betokened energy and intelligence. The profession that he had adopted seemed to have equipped him betimes for fighting the battle of life.

Misquoted often as Virgil's are the words

"Audaces fortuna juvat!"

but the true reading is

"Audentes fortuna juvat!"

and, slight as the difference may seem, it is very significant. It is upon the confident rather than the rash, the daring rather than the bold, that Fortune sheds her smiles; the bold man often acts without thinking, whilst the daring always thinks before he acts.

And Dick Sands was truly courageous; he was one of the daring. At fifteen years old, an age at which few boys have laid aside the frivolities of childhood, he had acquired the stability of a man, and the most casual observer could scarcely fail to be attracted by his bright, yet thoughtful countenance. At an early period of his life he had realized all the difficulties of his position, and had made a resolution, from which nothing tempted him to flinch, that he would carve out for himself an honourable and independent career. Lithe and agile in his movements, he was an adept in every kind of athletic exercise; and so marvellous was his success in everything he undertook, that he might almost be supposed to be one of those gifted mortals who have two right hands and two left feet.

Until he was four years old the little orphan had found a home in one of those institutions in America where forsaken children are sure of an asylum, and he was subsequently sent to an industrial school supported by charitable aid, where he learnt reading, writing, and arithmetic. From the days of infancy he had never deviated from the expression of his wish to be a sailor, and accordingly, as soon as he was eight, he was placed as cabin-boy on board one of the ships that navigate the Southern Seas. The officers all took a peculiar interest in him, and he received, in consequence, a thoroughly good grounding in the duties and discipline of a seaman's life. There was no room to doubt that he must ultimately rise to eminence in his profession, for when a child from the very first has been trained in the knowledge that he must gain his bread by the sweat of his brow, it is comparatively rare that he lacks the will to do so.

Whilst he was still acting as cabin-boy on one of those trading-vessels, Dick attracted the notice of Captain Hull, who took a fancy to the lad and introduced him to his employer. Mr. Weldon at once took a lively interest in Dick's welfare, and had his education continued in San Francisco, taking care that he was instructed in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, to which his own family belonged.

Throughout his studies Dick Sands' favourite subjects were always those which had a reference to his future profession; he mastered the details of the geography of the world; he applied himself diligently to such branches of mathematics as were necessary for the science of navigation; whilst for recreation in his hours of leisure, he would greedily devour every book of adventure in travel that came in his way. Nor did he omit duly to combine the practical with the theoretical; and when he was bound apprentice on board the "Pilgrim," a vessel not only belonging to his benefactor, but under the command of his kind friend Captain Hull, he congratulated himself most heartily, and felt that the experience he should gain in the southern whale-fisheries could hardly fail to be of service to him in after-life. A first-rate sailor ought to be a first-rate fisherman too.

It was a matter of the greatest pleasure to Dick Sands when he heard to his surprise that Mrs. Weldon was about to become a passenger on board the "Pilgrim." His devotion to the family of his benefactor was large and genuine. For several years Mrs. Weldon had acted towards him little short of a mother's part, and for Jack, although he never forgot the difference in their position, he entertained well-nigh a brother's affection. His friends had the satisfaction of being assured that they had sown the seeds of kindness on a generous soil, for there was no room to doubt that the heart of the orphan boy was overflowing with sincere gratitude. Should the occasion arise, ought he not, he asked, to be ready to sacrifice everything in behalf of those to whom he was indebted not only for his start in life, but for the knowledge of all that was right and holy?

Confiding in the good principles of her protégé, Mrs. Weldon had no hesitation in entrusting her little son to his especial charge. During the frequent periods of leisure, when the sea was fair, and the sails required no shifting, the apprentice was never weary of amusing Jack by making him familiar with the practice of a sailor's craft; he made him scramble up the shrouds, perch upon the yards, and slip down the back-stays; and the mother had no alarm; her assurance of Dick Sands' ability and watchfulness to protect her boy was so complete that she could only rejoice in an occupation for him that seemed more than anything to restore the colour he had lost in his recent illness.

Time passed on without incident; and had it not been for the constant prevalence of an adverse wind, neither passengers nor crew could have found the least cause of complaint. The pertinacity, however, with which the wind kept to the east could not do otherwise than make Captain Hull somewhat concerned; it absolutely prevented him from getting his ship into her proper course, and he could not altogether suppress his misgiving that the calms near the Tropic of Capricorn, and the equatorial current driving him on westwards, would entail a delay that might be serious.

It was principally on Mrs. Weldon's account that the Captain began to feel uneasiness, and he made up his mind that if he could hail a vessel proceeding to America he should advise his passengers to embark on her; unfortunately, however, he felt that they were still in a latitude far too much to the south to make it likely that they should sight a steamer going to Panama; and at that date, communication between Australia and the New World was much less frequent than it has since become.

Still, nothing occurred to interrupt the general monotony of the voyage until the 2nd of February, the date at which our narrative commences.

It was about nine o'clock in the morning of that day that Dick and little Jack had perched themselves together on the top-mast-yards. The weather was very clear, and they could see the horizon right round except the section behind them, hidden by the brigantine-sail on the main-mast. Below them, the bowsprit seemed to lie along the water with its stay-sails attached like three unequal wings; from the lads' feet to the deck was the smooth surface of the fore-mast; and above their heads nothing but the small top-sail and the top-mast. The schooner was running on the larboard tack as close to the wind as possible.

Dick Sand was pointing out to Jack how well the ship was ballasted, and was trying to explain how it was impossible for her to capsize, however much she heeled to starboard, when suddenly the little fellow cried out,-

"I can see something in the water!"

"Where? what?" exclaimed Dick, clambering to his feet upon the yard.

"There!" said the child, directing attention to the portion of the sea-surface that was visible between the stay-sails.

Dick fixed his gaze intently for a moment, and then shouted out lustily,-

"Look out in front, to starboard! There is something afloat. To windward, look out!"

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