Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHomeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 17
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 17 Post by :kiranb Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :1201

Click below to download : Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 17 (Format : PDF)

Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 17

Chapter XVII

I boarded the king's ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flam'd amazement.

TEMPEST.


If Captain Truck distrusted the situation of his own ship when he saw that the mate had changed her course, he liked it still less after he was on board, and had an opportunity to form a more correct judgment. The current had set the vessel not only to the southward, but in-shore, and the send of the ground-swell was gradually, but inevitably, heaving her in towards the land. At this point the coast was more broken than at the spot where the Dane had been wrecked, some signs of trees appearing, and rocks running off in irregular reefs into the sea. More to the south, these rocks were seen without the ship, while directly astern they were not half a mile distant. Still the wind was favourable, though light and baffling, and Mr. Leach had got up every stitch of canvas that circumstances would at all allow; the lead, too, had been tried, and the bottom was found to be a hard sand mixed with rocks, and the depth of the water such as to admit of anchoring. It was a sign that Captain Truck did not absolutely despair after ascertaining all these facts, that he caused Mr. Saunders to be summoned; for as yet, none of those who had been in the boats had breakfasted.

"Step this way, Mr. Steward," said the captain; "and report the state of the coppers. You were rummaging, as usual, among the lockers of yonder unhappy Dane, and I desire to know what discoveries you have made! You will please to recollect, that on all public expeditions of this nature, there must be no peculation or private journal kept. Did you see any stock-fish?"

"Sir, I should deem this ship disgraced by the admission into her pantry of such an article, sir. We have tongues and sounds in plenty, Captain Truck, and no gentleman that has such diet, need ambition a stock-fish!"

"I am not quite of your way of thinking; but the earth is not made of stock-fish. Did you happen to fall in with any butter?"

"Some, sir, that is scarcely fit to slush a mast with, and I do think, one of the most atrocious cheeses, sir, it was ever my bad fortune to meet with. I do not wonder the Africans left the wreck."

"You followed their example, of course, Mr. Saunders, and left the cheese."

"I followed my own judgment, sir, for I would not stay in a ship with such a cheese, Captain Truck, sir, even to have the honour of serving under so great a commander as yourself. I think it no wonder that vessel was wrecked! Even the sharks would abandon her. The very thoughts of her impurities, sir, make me feel unsettled in the stomach."

The captain nodded his head in approbation of this sentiment, called for a coal, and then ordered breakfast. The meal was silent, thoughtful, and even sad; every one was thinking of the poor Danes and their sad fate, while they who had been on the plain had the additional subject of the murdered man for their contemplation.

"Is it possible to do nothing to redeem these poor people, father, from captivity?" Eve at length demanded.

"I have been thinking of this, my child; but I see no other method than to acquaint their government of their situation."

"Might we not contribute something from our own means to that effect? Money, I fancy, is the chief thing necessary."

The gentlemen looked at each other in approbation, though a reluctance to be the first to speak kept most of them silent.

"If a hundred pounds, Miss Effingham, will be useful," Sir George Templemore said, after the pause had continued an awkward minute, laying a banknote of that amount on the table, "and you will honour us by becoming the keeper of the redemption money, I have great pleasure in making the offer."

This was handsomely said, and as Captain Truck afterwards declared, handsomely done too, though it was a little abrupt, and caused Eve to hesitate and redden.

"I shall accept your gift, sir," she said; "and with your permission will transfer it to Mr. Effingham, who will better know what use to put it to, in order to effect our benevolent purpose. I think I can answer for as much more from himself."

"You may, with certainty, my dear--and twice as much, if necessary. John, this is a proper occasion for your interference."

"Put me down at what you please," said John Effingham, whose charities in a pecuniary sense were as unlimited, as in feeling they were apparently restrained. "One hundred or one thousand, to rescue that poor crew!"

"I believe, sir, we must all follow so good an example," Mr. Sharp observed; "and I sincerely hope that this scheme will not prove useless. I think it may be effected by means of some of the public agents at Mogadore."

Mr. Dodge raised many objections, for it really exceeded his means to give so largely, and his character was formed in a school too envious and jealous to confess an inferiority on a point even as worthless as that of money. Indeed, he had so long been accustomed to maintain that "one man was as good as another," in opposition to his senses, that, like most of those who belong to this impracticable school, he had tacitly admitted in his own mind, the general and vulgar ascendency of mere wealth; and, quite as a matter of course, he was averse to confessing his own inferiority on a point that he had made to be all in all, while loudest in declaiming against any inferiority whatever. He walked out of the cabin, therefore, with strong heart-burnings and jealousies, because others had presumed to give that which it was not really in his power to bestow.

On the other hand, both Mademoiselle Viefville and Mr. Monday manifested the superiority of the opinions in which they had been trained. The first quietly handed a Napoleon to Mr. Effingham, who took it with as much attention and politeness as he received any of the larger contributions; while the latter produced a five-pound note, with a hearty good-will that redeemed the sin of many a glass of punch in the eyes of his companions.

Eve did not dare to look towards Paul Blunt, while this collection was making; but she felt regret that he did not join in it. He was silent and thoughtful, and even seemed pained, and she wondered if it were possible that one, who certainly lived in a style to prove that his income was large, could be so thoughtless as to have deprived himself of the means of doing that which he so evidently desired to do. But most of the company was too well-bred to permit the matter to become the subject of conversation, and they soon rose from table in a body. The mind of Eve, however, was greatly relieved when her father told her that the young man had put a hundred sovereigns in gold into his hands as soon as possible, and that he had seconded this offering with another, of embarking for Mogadore in person, should they get into the Cape de Verds, or the Canaries, with a view of carrying out the charitable plan with the least delay.

"He is a noble-hearted young man," said the pleased father, as he communicated this fact to his daughter and cousin; "and I shall not object to the plan."

"If he offer to quit this ship one minute sooner than is necessary, he does, indeed, deserve a statue of gold," said John Effingham; "for it has all that can attract a young man like him, and all too that can awaken his jealousy."

"Cousin Jack!" exclaimed Eve reproachfully, quite thrown off her guard by the abruptness and plainness of this language.

The quiet smile of Mr. Effingham proved that he understood both, but he made no remark. Eve instantly recovered her spirits, and angry at herself for the girlish exclamation that had escaped her, she turned on her assailant. "I do not know that I ought to be seen in an aside with Mr. John Effingham," she said, "even when it is sanctioned with the presence of my own father."

"And may I ask why so much sudden reserve, my offended beauty?"

"Merely that the report is already active, concerning the delicate relation in which we stand towards each other."

John Effingham looked surprised, but he suppressed his curiosity from a long habit of affecting an indifference he did not always feel. The father was less dignified, for he quietly demanded an explanation.

"It would seem," returned Eve, assuming a solemnity suited to a matter of interest, "that our secret is discovered. While we were indulging our curiosity about this unfortunate ship, Mr. Dodge was gratifying the laudable industry of the Active Inquirer, by prying into our state-rooms."

"This meanness is impossible!" exclaimed Mr. Effingham.

"Nay," said John, "no meanness is impossible to a demagogue,--a pretender to things of which he has even no just conception,--a man who lives to envy and traduce; in a word, a _quasi gentleman. Let us hear what Eve has to say."

"My information is from Ann Sidley, who saw him in the act. Now the kind letter you wrote my father, cousin Jack, just before we left London, and which you wrote because you would not trust that honest tongue of yours to speak the feelings of that honest heart, is the subject of my daily study; not on account of its promises, you will believe me, but on account of the strong affection it displays to a girl who is not worthy of one half you feel and do for her."

"Pshaw!"

"Well, let it then be pshaw! I had read that letter this very morning, and carelessly left it on my table. This letter Mr. Dodge, in his undying desire to lay everything before the public, as becomes his high vocation, and as in duty bound, has read; and misconstruing some of the phrases, as will sometimes happen to a zealous circulator of news, he has drawn the conclusion that I am to be made a happy woman as soon as we reach America, by being converted from Miss Eve Effingham into Mrs. John Effingham."

"Impossible! No man can be such a fool, or quite so great a miscreant!"

"I should rather think, my child," added the milder father, "that injustice has been done Mr. Dodge. No person, in the least approximating to the station of a gentleman, could even think of an act so base as this you mention."

"Oh! if this be all your objection to the tale," observed the cousin, "I am ready to swear to its truth. But Eve has caught a little of Captain Truck's spirit, of mystifying, and is determined to make a character by a bold stroke in the beginning. She is clever, and in time may rise to be a quiz."

"Thank you for the compliment, cousin Jack, which, however, I am forced to disclaim, as I never was more serious in my life. That the letter was read, Nanny, who is truth itself, affirms she saw. That Mr. Dodge has since been industriously circulating the report of my great good fortune, she has heard from the mate, who had it from the highest source of information direct, and that such a man would be likely to come to such a conclusion, you have only to recall the terms of the letter yourself, to believe."

"There is nothing in my letter to justify any notion so silly."

"An Active Inquirer might make discoveries you little dream of, dear cousin Jack. You speak of its being time to cease roving, of settling yourself at last, of never parting, and, prodigal as you are, of making Eve the future mistress of your fortune. Now to all this, recreant, confess, or I shall never again put faith in man."

John Effingham made no answer, but the father warmly expressed his indignation, that any man of the smallest pretensions to be admitted among gentlemen, should be guilty of an act so base.

"We can hardly tolerate his presence. John, and it is almost a matter of conscience to send him to Coventry."

"If you entertain such notions of decorum, your wisest way, Edward, will be to return to the place whence you have come; for, trust me, you will find scores of such gentlemen where you are going!"

"I shall not allow you to persuade me I know my own country so little. Conduct like this will stamp a man with disgrace in America as well as elsewhere."

"Conduct like this would, but it will no longer. The pell-mell that rages has brought honourable men into a sad minority, and even Mr. Dodge will tell you the majority must rule. Were he to publish my letter, a large portion of his readers would fancy he was merely asserting the liberty of the press. Heavens save us! You have been dreaming abroad, Ned Effingham, while your country has retrograded, in all that is respectable and good, a century in a dozen years!"

As this was the usual language of John Effingham, neither of his listeners thought much of it, though Mr. Effingham more decidedly expressed an intention to cut off even the slight communication with the offender, he had permitted himself to keep up, since they had been on board.

"Think better of it, dear father," said Eve; "for such a man is scarcely worthy of even your resentment. He is too much your inferior in principles, manners, character, station, and everything else, to render him of so much account; and then, were we to clear up this masquerade into which the chances of a ship have thrown us, we might have our scruples concerning others, as well as concerning this wolf in sheep's clothing."

"Say rather an ass, shaved and painted to resemble a zebra," muttered John. "The fellow has no property as respectable as the basest virtue of a wolf."

"He has at least rapacity."

"And can howl in a pack. This much, then, I will concede to you: but I agree with Eve, we must either punish him affirmatively, by pulling his ears, or treat him with contempt, which is always negative or silent. I wish he had entered the state-room of that fine young fellow, Paul Blunt, who is of an age and a spirit to give him a lesson that might make a paragraph for his Active Inquirer, if not a scissors' extract of himself."

Eve knew that the offender had been there too, but she had too much prudence to betray him.

"This will only so much the more oblige him," she said, laughingly; "for Mr. Blunt, in speaking of the editor of the Active Inquirer, said that he had the failing to believe that this earth, and all it contained, was created merely to furnish materials for newspaper paragraphs."

The gentlemen laughed with the amused Eve, and Mr. Effingham remarked, that "there did seem to be men so perfectly selfish, so much devoted to their own interests, and so little sensible of the rights and feelings of others, as to manifest a desire to render the press superior to all other power; not," he concluded, "in the way of argument, or as an agent of reason, but as a master, coarse, corrupt, tyrannical and vile; the instrument of selfishness, instead of the right, and when not employed as the promoter of personal interests, to be employed as the tool of personal passions."

"Your father will become a convert to my opinions. Miss Effingham," said John, "and he will not be home a twelve-month before he will make the discovery that the government is a press-ocracy, and its ministers, self-chosen and usurpers, composed of those who have the least at stake, even as to character."

Mr. Effingham shook his head in dissent, but the conversation changed in consequence of a stir in the ship. The air from the land had freshened, and even the heavy canvas on which the Montauk was now compelled principally to rely, had been asleep, as mariners term it, or had blown out from the mast, where it stood inflated and steady, a proof at sea, where the water is always in motion, that the breeze is getting to be fresh. Aided by this power, the ship had overcome the united action of the heavy ground-swell and of the current, and was stealing out from under the land, when the air murmured for an instant, as if about to blow still fresher, and then all the sails flapped. The wind had passed away like a bird, and a dark line to sea-ward, denoted the approach of the breeze from the ocean. The stir in the vessel was occasioned by the preparations to meet this change.

The new wind brought little with it beyond the general danger of blowing on shore. The breeze was light, and not more than sufficient to force the vessel through the water, in her present condition, a mile and a half in the hour, and this too in a line nearly parallel with the coast. Captain Truck saw therefore at a glance, that he should be compelled to anchor. Previously, however, to doing this, he had a long talk with his mates, and a boat was lowered.

The lead was cast, and the bottom was found to be still good, though a hard sand, which is not the best holding ground.

"A heavy sea would cause the ship to drag," Captain Truck remarked, "should it come on to blow, and the lines of dark rocks astern of them would make chips of the Pennsylvania in an hour, were that great ship to lie on it."

He entered the boat, and pulled along the reefs to examine an inlet that Mr. Leach reported to have been seen, before he got the ship's head to the northward. Could an entrance be found at this point, the vessel might possibly be carried within the reef, and a favourite scheme of the captain's could be put in force, one to which he now attached the highest importance. A mile brought the boat up to the inlet, where Mr. Truck found the following appearances: The general formation of the coast in sight was that of a slight curvature, within which the ship had so far drifted as to be materially inside a line drawn from headland to headland. There was, consequently, little hope of urging a vessel, crippled like the Montauk, against wind, sea and current, out again into the ocean. For about a league abreast of the ship the coast was rocky, though low, the rocks running off from the shore quite a mile in places, and every where fully half that distance. The formation was irregular, but it had the general character of a reef, the position of which was marked by breakers, as well as by the black heads of rocks that here and there showed themselves above the water. The inlet was narrow, crooked, and so far environed by rocks as to render it questionable whether there was a passage at all, though the smoothness of the water had raised hopes to that effect in Mr. Leach.

As soon as captain Truck arrived at the mouth of this passage, he felt so much encouraged by the appearance of things that he gave the concerted signal for the ship to veer round and to stand to the southward. This was losing ground in the way of offing, but tack the Montauk could not with so little wind, and the captain saw by the drift she had made since he left her, that promptitude was necessary. The ship might anchor off the inlet, as well as anywhere else, if reduced to anchoring outside at all, and then there was always the chance of entering.

As soon as the ship's head was again to the southward, and Captain Truck felt certain that she was lying along the reef at a reasonably safe distance, and in as good a direction as he could hope for, he commenced his examination. Like a discreet seaman he pulled off from the rocks to a suitable distance, for should an obstacle occur outside, he well knew any depth of water further in would be useless. The day was so fine, and in the absence of rivers, the ocean so limpid in that low latitude, that it was easy to see the bottom at a considerable depth. But to this sense, of course, the captain did not trust, for he kept the lead going constantly, although all eyes were also employed in searching for rocks.

The first cast of the lead was in five fathoms, and these soundings were held nearly up to the inlet, where the lead struck a rock in three fathoms and a half. At this point, then, a more careful examination was made, but three and a half was the shallowest cast. As the Montauk drew nearly a fathom less than this, the cautious old master proceeded closer in. Directly in the mouth of the inlet was a large flat rock, that rose nearly to the surface of the sea, and which, when the tide was low, was probably bare. This rock Captain Truck at first believed would defeat his hopes of success, which by this time were strong; but a closer examination showed him that on one side of it was a narrow passage, just wide enough to admit a ship.

From this spot the channel became crooked, but it was sufficiently marked by the ripple on the reef; and after a careful investigation, he found it was possible to carry three fathoms quite within the reef, where a large space existed that was gradually filling up with sand, but which was nearly all covered with water when the tide was in, as was now the case, and which had channels, as usual, between the banks. Following one of these channels a quarter of a mile, he found a basin of four fathoms of water, large enough to take a ship in, and, fortunately, it was in close proximity to a portion of the reef that was always bare, when a heavy sea was not beating over it. Here he dropped a buoy, for he had come provided with several fragments of spars for this purpose; and, on his return, the channel was similarly marked off, at all the critical points. On the flat rock, in the inlet, one of the men was left, standing up to his waist in-the water, it being certain that the tide was failing.

The boat now returned to the ship, which it met at the distance of half a mile from the inlet. The current setting southwardly, her progress had been more rapid than when heading north, and her drift had been less towards the land. Still there was so little wind, so steady a ground-swell, and it was possible to carry so little after-sail, that great doubts were entertained of being able to weather the rocks sufficiently to turn into the inlet. Twenty times in the next half hour was the order to let go the anchor, on the point of being given, as the wind baffled, and as often was it countermanded, to take advantage of its reviving. These were feverish moments, for the ship was now so near the reef as to render her situation very insecure in the event of the wind's rising, or of a sea's getting up, the sand of the bottom being too hard to make good holding-ground. Still, as there was a possibility, in the present state of the weather, of kedging the ship off a mile into the offing, if necessary, Captain Truck stood on with a boldness he might not otherwise have felt. The anchor hung suspended by a single turn of the stopper, ready to drop at a signal, and Mr. Truck stood between the knight-heads, watching the slow progress of the vessel, and accurately noticing every foot of leeward set she made, as compared with the rocks.

All this time the poor fellow stood in the water, awaiting the arrival of his friends, who, in their turn, were anxiously watching his features, as they gradually grew more distinct.

"I see his eyes," cried the captain cheerily; "take a drag at the bowlines, and let her head up as much as she will, Mr. Leach, and never mind those sham topsails Take them in at once, sir; they do us, now, more harm than good."

The clewline blocks rattled, and the top-gallant sails, which were made to do the duty of top-sails, but which would hardly spread to the lower yards, so as to set on a wind, came rapidly in. Five minutes of intense doubt followed, when the captain gave the animating order to--"Man the main-clew garnets, boys, and stand by to make a run of it!"

This was understood to be a sign that the ship was far enough to windward, and the command to "in mainsail," which soon succeeded, was received with a shout.

"Hard up with the helm, and stand by to lay the fore-yard square," cried Captain Truck, rubbing his hands. "Look that both bowers are clear for a run; and you, Toast, bring me the brightest coal in the galley."

The movements of the Montauk were necessarily slow; but she obeyed her helm, and fell off until her bows pointed in towards the sailor in the water. This fine fellow, the moment he saw the ship approaching, waded to the verge of the rock, where it went off perpendicularly to the bottom, and waved to them to come on without fear.

"Come within ten feet of me," he shouted. "There is nothing to spare on the other side."

As the captain was prepared for this, the ship was steered accordingly, and as she hove slowly past on the rising and falling water, a rope was thrown to the man, who was hauled on board.

"Port!" cried the captain, as soon as the rock was passed; "port your helm, sir, and stand for the first buoy."

In this manner the Montauk drove slowly but steadily on, until she had reached the basin, where one anchor was let go almost as soon as she entered. The chain was paid out until the vessel was forced over to some distance, and then the other bower was dropped. The foresail was hauled up and handed, and chain was given the ship, which was pronounced to be securely moored.

"Now," cried the captain, all his anxiety ceasing with the responsibility, "I expect to be made a member of the New York Philosophical Society at least, which is learned company for a man who has never been at college, for discovering a port on the coast of Africa, which harbour, ladies and gentlemen, without too much vanity, I hope to be permitted to call Port Truck. If Mr. Dodge, however should think this too anti-republican, we will compromise the matter by calling it Port Truck and Dodge; or the town that no doubt will sooner or later arise on its banks, may be called Dodgeborough, and I will keep the harbour to myself."

"Should Mr. Dodge consent to this arrangement, he will render himself liable to the charge of aristocracy," said Mr. Sharp; for as all felt relieved by finding themselves in a place of security, so all felt disposed to join in the pleasantry. "I dare say his modesty would prevent his consenting to the plan."

"Why, gentlemen," returned the subject of these remarks, "I do not know that we are to refuse honours that are fairly imposed on us by the popular voice; and the practice of naming towns and counties after distinguished citizens, is by no means uncommon with us. A few of my own neighbours have been disposed to honour me in this way already, and my paper is issued from a hamlet that certainly does bear my own unworthy name. So you perceive there will be no novelty in the appellation."

"I would have made oath to it," cried the captain, "from your well-established humility. Is the place as large as London?"

"It can boast of little more than my own office, a tavern, a store, and a blacksmith's shop, captain, as yet; but Rome was not built in a day."

"Your neighbours, sir, must be people of extraordinary discernment; but the name?"

"That is not absolutely decided. At first it was called Dodgetown, but this did not last long, being thought vulgar and common-place. Six or eight weeks afterwards, we--"

"We, Mr. Dodge!"

"I mean the people, sir,--I am so much accustomed to connect myself with the people, that whatever they do, I think I had a hand in."

"And very properly, sir," observed John Effingham, "as probably without you, there would have been no people at all."

"What may be the population of Dodgetown, sir?" asked the persevering captain, on this hint.

"At the census of January, it was seventeen; but by the census of March, there were eighteen. I have made a calculation that shows, if we go on at this rate, or by arithmetical progression, it will be a hundred in about ten years, which will be a very respectable population for a country place. I beg pardon, sir, the people six or eight weeks afterwards, altered the name to Dodgeborough; but a new family coming in that summer, a party was got up to change it to Dodge-ville, a name that was immensely popular, as ville means city in Latin; but it must be owned the people like change, or rotation in names, as well as in office, and they called the place Butterfield Hollow, for a whole month, after the new inhabitant, whose name is Butterfield. He moved away in the fall; and so, after trying Belindy, (_Anglice Belinda,) Nineveh, Grand Cairo, and Pumpkin Valley, they made me the offer to restore the ancient name, provided some _addendum more noble and proper could be found than town, or ville, or borough; it is not yet determined what it shall be, but I believe we shall finally settle down in Dodgeople, or Dodgeopolis."

"For the season; and a very good name it will prove for a short cruise, I make no question. The Butterfield Hollow _was a little like rotation in office, in truth, sir."

"I didn't like it, captain, so I gave Squire Butterfield to understand, privately; for as he had a majority with him, I didn't approve of speaking too strongly on the subject. As soon as I got him out of the tavern, however, the current set the other way."

"You fairly uncorked him!"

"That I did, and no one ever heard of him, or of his hollow, after his retreat. There are a few discontented and arrogant innovators, who affect to call the place by its old name of Morton; but these are the mere vassals of a man who once owned the patent, and who has now been dead these forty years. We are not the people to keep his old musty name, or to honour dry bones."

"Served him right, sir, and like men of spirit! If he wants a place called after himself, let him live, like other people. A dead man has no occasion for a name, and there should be a law passed, that when a man slips his cables, he should bequeath his name to some honest fellow who has a worse one. It might be well to compel all great men in particular, to leave their renown to those who cannot get any for themselves."

"I will venture to suggest an improvement on the name, if Mr. Dodge will permit me," said Mr. Sharp, who had been an amused listener to the short dialogue. "Dodgeople is a little short, and may be offensive by its _brusquerie_. By inserting a single letter, it will become Dodge-people; or, there is the alternative of Dodge-adrianople, which will be a truly sonorous and republican title. Adrian was an emperor, and even Mr. Dodge might not disdain the conjunction."

By this time, the editor of the Active Inquirer began to be extremely elevated--for this was assailing him on his weakest side--and he laughed and rubbed his hands as if he thought the joke particularly pleasant. This person had also a peculiarity of judgment that was singularly in opposition to all his open professions, a peculiarity, however, that belongs rather to his class than to the individual member of it. Ultra as a democrat and an American, Mr. Dodge had a sneaking predilection in favour of foreign opinions. Although practice had made him intimately acquainted with all the frauds, deceptions, and vileness of the ordinary arts of paragraph-making, he never failed to believe religiously in the veracity, judgment, good faith, honesty and talents of anything that was imported in the form of types. He had been weekly, for years, accusing his nearest brother of the craft, of lying, and he could not be altogether ignorant of his own propensity in the same way; but, notwithstanding all this experience in the secrets of the trade, whatever reached him from a European journal, he implicitely swallowed whole. One, who knew little of the man, might have supposed he feigned credulity to answer his own purposes; but this would be doing injustice to his faith, which was perfect, being based on that provincial admiration, and provincial ignorance, that caused the countryman, who went to London for the first time, to express his astonishment at finding the king a man. As was due to his colonial origin, his secret awe and reverence for an Englishman was in proportion to his protestations of love for the people, and his deference for rank was graduated on a scale suited to the heart-burning and jealousies he entertained for all whom he felt to be his superiors. Indeed, one was the cause of the other; for they who really are indifferent to their own social position, are usually equally indifferent to that of others, so long as they are not made to feel the difference by direct assumptions of superiority.

When Mr. Sharp, whom even Mr. Dodge had discovered to be a gentleman,--and an English gentleman of course,--entered into the trifling of the moment, therefore, so far from detecting the mystification, the latter was disposed to believe himself a subject of interest with this person, against whose exclusiveness and haughty reserve, notwithstanding, he had been making side-hits ever since the ship had sailed. But the avidity with which the Americans of Mr. Dodge's temperament are apt to swallow the crumbs of flattery that fall from the Englishman's table, is matter of history, and the editor himself was never so happy as when he could lay hold of a paragraph to republish, in which a few words of comfort were doled out by the condescending mother to the never-dying faith of the daughter. So far, therefore, from taking umbrage at what had been said, he continued the subject long after the captain had gone to his duty, and with so much perseverance that Paul Blunt, as soon as Mr. Sharp escaped, took an occasion to compliment that gentleman on his growing intimacy with the refined and single-minded champion of the people. The other admitted his indiscretion; and if the affair had no other consequences, it afforded these two fine young men a moment's merriment, at a time when anxiety had been fast getting the ascendency over their more cheerful feelings. When they endeavoured to make Miss Effingham share in the amusement, however, that young lady heard them with gravity; for the meanness of the act discovered by Nanny Sidley, had indisposed her to treat the subject of their comments with the familiarity of even ridicule. Perceiving this, though unable to account for it, the gentlemen changed the discourse, and soon became sufficiently grave by Contemplating their own condition.

The situation of the Montauk was now certainly one to excite uneasiness in those who were little acquainted with the sea, as well as in those who were. It was very much like that for which Miss Effingham's nurse had pined, having many rocks and sands in sight, with the land at no great distance. In order that the reader may understand it more clearly, we shall describe it with greater minuteness.

To the westward of the ship lay the ocean, broad, smooth, glittering, but, heaving and setting, with its eternal breathings, which always resemble the respiration of some huge monster. Between the vessel and this waste of water, and within three hundred feet of the first, stretched an irregular line of ripple, dotted here and there with the heads of low naked rocks, marking the presence and direction of the reef.

This was all that would interpose between the basin and the raging billows, should another storm occur; but Captain Truck thought this would suffice so far to break the waves as to render the anchorage sufficiently secure. Astern of the ship, however, a rounded ridge of sand began to appear as the tide fell, within forty fathoms of the vessel, and as the bottom was hard, and difficult to get an anchor into it, there was the risk of dragging on this bank. We say that the bottom was hard, for the reader should know that it is not the weight of the anchor that secures the ship, but the hold its pointed fluke and broad palm get of the ground. The coast itself was distant less than a mile, and the entire basin within the reef was fast presenting spits of sand, as the water fell on the ebb. Still there were many channels, and it would have been possible, for one who knew their windings, to have sailed a ship several leagues among them, without passing the inlet; these channels forming a sort of intricate net-work, in every direction from the vessel.

When Captain Truck had coolly studied all the peculiarities of his position, he set about the duty of securing his ship, in good earnest. The two light boats were brought under the bows, and the stream anchor was lowered, and fastened to a spar that lay across both. This anchor was carried to the bank astern, and, by dint of sheer strength, was laid over its summit with a fluke buried to the shank in the hard sand. By means of a hawser, and a purchase applied to its end, the men on the banks next roused the chain out, and shackled it to the ring. The bight was hove-in, and the ship secured astern, so as to prevent a shift of wind, off the land, from forcing her on the reef. As no sea could come from this quarter, the single anchor and chain were deemed sufficient for this purpose. As soon as the boats were at liberty, and before the chain had been got ashore, two kedges were carried to the reef, and laid among the rocks, in such a way that their flukes and stocks equally got hold of the projections. To these kedges lighter chains were secured; and when all the bights were hove-in, to as equal a strain as possible. Captain Truck pronounced his ship in readiness to ride out any gale that would be likely to blow. So far as the winds and waves might affect her, the Montauk was, in truth, reasonably safe; for on the side where danger was most to be apprehended, she had two bowers down, and four parts of smaller chain were attached to the two kedges. Nor had Captain Truck fallen into the common error of supposing he had so much additional strength in his fastenings, by simply running the chains through the rings, but he had caused each to be separately fastened, both in-board and to the kedges, by which means each length of the chain formed a distinct and independent fastening of itself.

So absolute is the sovereignty of a ship, that no one had presumed to question the master as to his motives for all this extraordinary precaution, though it was the common impression that he intended to remain where they were until the wind became favourable, or at least, until all danger of being thrown upon the coast, from the currents and the ground-swell, should have ceased, Paul Blunt observed, that he fancied it was the intention to take advantage of the smooth water within the reef, to get up a better and a more efficient set of jury-masts. But Captain Truck soon removed all doubts by letting the truth be known. While on board the Danish wreck, he had critically examined her spars, sails, and rigging, and, though adapted for a ship two hundred tons smaller than the Montauk, he was of opinion they might be fitted to the latter vessel, and made to answer all the necessary purposes for crossing the ocean, provided the Mussulmans and the weather would permit the transfer.

"We have smooth water and light airs," he said, when concluding his explanation, "and the current sets southwardly along this coast; by means of all our force, hard working, a kind Providence, and our own enterprise, I hope yet to see the Montauk enter the port of New York, with royals set, and ready to carry sail on a wind. The seaman who cannot rig his ship with sticks and ropes and blocks enough, might as well stay ashore, Mr. Dodge, and publish an hebdomadal. And so, my dear young lady, by looking along the land, the day after to-morrow, in the northern board here, you may expect to see a raft booming down upon you that will cheer your heart, and once more raise the hope of a Christmas dinner in New York, in all lovers of good fare."

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 18 Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 18

Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 18
Chapter XVIIIHere, in the sands. Thee I'll rake up-- LEAR His mind made up, his intentions announced, and his ship in readiness, Captain Truck gave his orders to proceed with promptitude and clearness. The ladies remaining behind, he observed that the two Messrs. Effingham, as a matter of course, would stay with them as protectors, though little could harm them where they were. "I propose to leave the ship in the care of Mr. Blunt," he said, "for I perceive something about that gentleman which denotes a nautical instinct. If Mr. Sharp choose to remain also, your society will be the
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 16 Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 16

Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 16
Chapter XVIAnd there he went ashore without delay, Having no custom-house or quarantine,-- To ask him awkward questions on the way About the time and place where he had been. BYRON. Captain Truck was in a sound sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow. With the exception of the ladies, the others soon followed his example; and as the people were excessively wearied, and the night was so tranquil, ere long only a single pair of eyes were open on deck: those of the man at the wheel. The wind died away, and even this
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT