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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFacing The World - Chapter 12. A Storm
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Facing The World - Chapter 12. A Storm Post by :AesopHD Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2998

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Facing The World - Chapter 12. A Storm


Captain Hill must have observed Harry and Mr. Stubbs, but walked by them without notice, and attended to his duties, giving his orders in a sharp quick tone. He was an experienced seaman, and thoroughly fitted for the post of chief, when not under the influence of liquor.

"I am glad to see that the captain is sober," said Stubbs, in a low voice.

"So am I," answered Harry.

One change, all noticed in Captain Hill. He became silent, reserved, morose. His orders were given in a quick, peremptory tone, and he seemed to cherish a grudge against all on board. Some captains add much to the pleasure of the passengers by their social and cheery manners, but whenever Captain Hill appeared, a wet blanket seemed to fall on the spirits of passengers and crew, and they conversed in an undertone, as if under restraint.

Between the captain and the mate there was a great difference. Mr. Holdfast had a bluff, hearty way with him, which made him popular with all on board. As an officer, he was strict, and expected his orders to be executed promptly, but in private he was affable and agreeable. The sailors felt instinctively that he was their friend, and regarded him with attachment, while they respected his seamanship. If a vote had been taken, there was not one but would have preferred him as captain to Captain Hill.

Thus far--I am speaking of a time when the Nantucket was three months out--there had been no serious storm. Rough weather there had been, and wet, disagreeable weather, but the staunch ship had easily overcome all the perils of the sea, and, with the exception of Montgomery Clinton, no one had been seriously alarmed. But one afternoon a cloud appeared in the hitherto clear sky, which would have attracted no attention from a landsman. Mr. Holdfast observed it, however, and, quietly calling the captain, directed his attention to it.

"I think we are going to have a bad storm, Captain Hill," he said. "That's a weather breeder."

The captain watched the cloud for a moment, and then answered, quietly: "I think you are right, Mr. Holdfast. You may give your orders accordingly."

The sails were reefed, and the vessel was prepared for the warfare with the elements which awaited it.

The little cloud increased portentiously in size. All at once a strong wind sprang up, the sea roughened, and the billows grew white with fury, while the good ship, stanch as she was, creaked and groaned and was tossed as if it were a toy boat on the wrathful ocean.

The passengers were all seriously alarmed. They had never before realized what a storm at sea was. Even a man of courage may well be daunted by the terrific power of the sea when it is roused to such an exhibition.

"Harry," said the professor, "this is terrible."

"Yes, indeed," answered the boy, gravely.

It became so rough and difficult to stand on deck, on account of the vessel being tossed about like a cockleshell, that Harry felt constrained to go below.

As he passed the cabin of Montgomery Clinton, he heard a faint voice call his name.

Entering, he saw the dude stretched out in his berth, with an expression of helpless terror in his weak face.

"Oh! Mr. Vane," he said; "do you think we are going to the bottom?"

"I hope not, Mr. Clinton. Our officers are skillful men. They will do all they can for us."

It was a terrible night. None of the passengers ventured upon deck. Indeed, such was the motion that it would have been dangerous, as even the sailors found it difficult to keep their footing. Harry was pale and quiet, unlike his friend from Brooklyn, whose moans were heard mingled with the noise of the tempest.

It was about three o'clock in the morning when those below heard, with terror, a fearful crash, and a trampling of feet above. One of the masts had fallen before the fury of the storm, and the shock made the good ship careen to a dangerous extent. What happened, however, was not understood below.

"I wonder what has happened," said the professor, nervously. "I think I will go up and see."

He got out of his berth, but only to be pitched helpless to the other end of the cabin.

"This is terrible!" he said, as he picked himself up.

"I will try my luck, professor," said Harry.

He scrambled out of his berth, and, with great difficulty, made his way upstairs.

One glance told him what had occurred. The crippled ship was laboring through the sea. It seemed like a very unequal combat, and Harry might be excused for deciding that the ship was doomed. All about the sea wore its fiercest aspect. Harry returned cautiously to his cabin.

"Well?" said the professor.

"One of the masts is gone," answered the boy. "The ship is having a hard time."

"Is there danger?" asked the professor, anxiously.

"I am afraid so," said Harry, gravely.

At length the night wore away. The violence of the storm seemed to have abated, for, after a time, the motion diminished. More enterprising than the rest of the passengers, Harry resolved to go on deck.

"Won't you come with me, Mr. Clinton?" he asked.

"I--I couldn't, 'pon my honor. I'm as weak as a rag. I don't think I could get out of my berth, really, now."

"I'll go with you, my young friend," said Mr. Stubbs.

Harry and his Yankee friend set foot cautiously on deck. The prospect was not reassuring. The ship rolled heavily, and from the creaking it seemed that the timbers of the hull were strained. The sailors looked fagged out, and there was a set, stern look on the face of the captain, whom, nevertheless, Mr. Stubbs ventured to accost.

"What's the prospect, captain?" he asked.

"You'd better make your will," said the captain, grimly.

"That's cheerful," commented Stubbs, turning to Harry.

"Yes, sir," answered Harry, soberly.

"Don't tell our foppish friend below, or he'll rend our ears with his howls. But you, my young friend, it's rather rough on you. How old are you?"


"And I'm rising fifty. Even if I am taken away, I've a good thirty years the advantage of you. I've had a good time, on the whole, and enjoyed myself as well as the average. Still, I don't quite like going to the bottom in the Nantucket. I was looking forward to at least twenty years or so more of life."

"We must submit to the will of God," said Harry.

"You are quite right, my boy! It is easy to see that you have been well trained. Mr. Holdfast"--for they had reached the place where the mate was standing--"shall we outlive the storm?"

"It is hard to say, Mr. Stubbs. It depends on the stanchness of the ship. We'll do all we can."

Ten minutes later there was a sinister answer to the inquiry of Mr. Stubbs. A sailor, who had been sent down into the hold, came with the information that the ship had sprung a leak.

Then commenced the weary work at the pumps. The sailors were already worn out with fighting the storm under the direction of the captain and mate, and it seemed almost more than flesh and blood could stand to undertake the additional labor.

Harry and Mr. Stubbs had a hurried conference.

"Can't we help at this work, Mr. Stubbs?" asked Harry. "The poor men look utterly exhausted."

"Well thought of, my boy! I am with you. I will speak to the captain."

But Mr. Holdfast, the mate, chanced to be nearer, and to him Mr. Stubbs put the question:

"Can't I help at the pumps?"

"And I, too, Mr. Holdfast," put in Harry.

"I accept your offer with thanks. The men are very tired."

So Harry and Mr. Stubbs helped at this necessary work, and when the professor and the Melbourne merchant heard of it they, too, volunteered. But Marmaduke Timmins, the valetudinarian, and Montgomery Clinton felt quite inadequate to the task.

Harry found his work tiresome and fatiguing, but he had the comfort of feeling that he was relieving the exhausted sailors, and doing something to save his own life and the lives of his companions.

He caught sight of poor Jack, looking ready to drop.

"Jack, you must be very tired," he said, in a tone of deep sympathy.

"If I stood still I should drop on the deck fast asleep," said Jack.

"Can't you lie down for an hour? I am taking your place."

Mr. Holdfast coming up at this moment, Harry suggested this to him, and the mate said kindly:

"Jack, my lad, go below and catch a little nap. I will call you when I want you."

So Jack, much relieved, went below, and, without a thought of the danger, so fatigued was he, fell asleep the moment he got into his bunk, and was not called up for four hours.

After a while they reduced the flow of water, but ascertained that the ship was badly strained, and by no means safe. It was not till the next day, however, that an important decision was reached.

All were called on deck.

"It is my duty to tell you," said Captain Hill, "that the ship is so damaged by the recent storm that it is liable to sink at any time. Those who choose to run the risk may remain, however. I propose, with such as choose to join me, to take to the boats. I will give you fifteen minutes to decide."

Excitement and dismay were painted on the faces of all. The ship might be insecure, but to launch out upon the great ocean in a frail boat seemed to involve still greater danger.

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