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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHomeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 18
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Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 18 Post by :kiranb Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :2461

Click below to download : Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 18 (Format : PDF)

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

Chapter XVIII

Here, 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 more agreeable, and in exchange, gentlemen, I ask the favour of the strong arms of all your servants. Mr. Monday is my man in fair or foul, and so, I flatter myself, will be Sir George Templemore; and as for Mr. Dodge, if he stay behind, why the Active Inquirer will miss a notable paragraph, for there shall be no historian to the expedition, but one of my own appointing. Mr. Saunders shall have the honour of cooking for you in the meanwhile, and I propose taking every one else to the Dane."

As no serious objections could be made to this arrangement, within an hour of the time when the ship was fastened, the cutter and jolly-boat departed, it being the intention of Captain Truck to reach the wreck that evening, in season to have his sheers ready to raise by daylight in the morning; or he hoped to be back again in the course of the succeeding day. No time was to be lost, he knew, the return of the Arabs being hourly expected, and the tranquillity of the open sea being at all times a matter of the greatest uncertainty. With the declared view of making quick work, and with the secret apprehension of a struggle with the owners of the country, the captain took with him every officer and man in his ship that could possibly be spared, and as many of the passengers as he thought might be useful. As numbers might be important in the way of intimidation, he cared almost as much for appearances as for any thing else, or certainly he would not have deemed the presence of Mr. Dodge of any great moment; for to own the truth, he expected the editor of the Active Inquirer would prove the quality implied by the first word of the title of his journal, as much in any other way as in fighting.

Neither provisions nor water, beyond what might be necessary in pulling to the wreck, nor ropes, nor blocks, nor any thing but arms and ammunition, were taken in the boats; for the examination of the morning had shown the captain, that, notwithstanding so much had been plundered, a sufficiency still remained in the stranded vessel. Indeed, the fact that so much had been left was one of his reasons for hastening off himself, as he deemed it certain that they who had taken away what was gone, would soon return for the remainder. The fowling-pieces and pistols, with all the powder and ball in the ship, were taken: a light gun that was on board, for the purpose of awaking sleepy pilots, being left loaded, with the intention of serving for a signal of alarm, should any material change occur in the situation of the ship.

The party included thirty men, and as most had fire-arms of one sort or another, they pulled out of the inlet with spirit and great confidence in their eventual success. The boats were crowded, it is true, but there was room to row, and the launch had been left in its place on deck, because it was known that two boats were to be found in the wreck, one of which was large: in short, as Captain Truck had meditated this expedient from the moment he ascertained the situation of the Dane, he now set about carrying it into effect with method and discrimination. We shall first accompany him on his way, leaving the small party in the Montauk for our future attention in another chapter.

The distance between the two vessels was about four leagues, and a headland intervening, those in the boats in less than an hour lost sight of their own ship, as she lay shorn of her pride anchored within the reef. At almost the same moment, the wreck came into view, and Captain Truck applied his glass with great interest, in order to ascertain the state of things in that direction. All was tranquil--no signs of any one having visited the spot since morning being visible. This intelligence was given to the people, who pulled at their oars the more willingly under the stimulus of probable success, driving the boats ahead with increasing velocity.

The sun was still some distance above the horizon, when the cutter and jolly-boat rowed through the narrow channel astern of the wreck, and brought up, as before, by the side of the rocks. Leaping ashore, Captain Truck led the way to the vessel, and, in five minutes, he was seen in the forward cross-trees, examining the plain with his glass. All was as solitary and deserted as when before seen, and the order was immediately given to commence operations without delay.

A gang of the best seamen got out the spare topmast and lower-yard of the Dane, and set about fitting a pair of sheers, a job that would be likely to occupy them several hours. Mr. Leach led a party up forward, and the second mate went up with another further aft, each proceeding to send down its respective top-gallant-mast, top-sail-yard, and top-mast; while Captain Truck, from the deck, superintended the same work on the mizen-mast. As the men worked with spirit, and a strong party remained below to give the drags, and to come up the lanyards, spar came down after spar with rapidity, and just as the sun dipped into the ocean to the westward, everything but the lower-masts was lying on the sands, alongside of the ship; nothing having been permitted to touch the decks in descending. Previously, however, to sending down the lower-yards, the launch had been lifted from its bed and landed also by the side of the vessel.

Ail hands were now mustered on the sands, and the boat was launched, an operation of some delicacy, as heavy rollers were occasionally coming in. As soon as it floated, this powerful auxiliary was swept up to the rocks, and then the men began to load it with the standing rigging and sails, the latter having been unbent, as fast as each spar came down. Two kedges were found, and a hawser was bent to one, when the launch was carried outside of the bar and anchored. Lines being brought in, the yards were hauled out to the same place, and strongly lashed together for the night. A great deal of running rigging, many blocks, and divers other small articles, were put into the boats of the Montauk, and the jolly-boat of the wreck, which was still hanging at her stern, was also lowered and got into the water. With these acquisitions, the party had now four boats, one of which was heavy and capable of carrying a considerable freight.

By this time it was so late and so dark, that Captain Truck determined to suspend his labours until morning. In the course of a few hours of active toil, he had secured all the yards, the sails, the standing and running rigging, the boats, and many of the minor articles of the Dane; and nothing of essential importance remained, but the three lower masts. These, it is true, were all in all to him, for without them he would be but little better off than he was before, since his own ship had spare canvas and spare yards enough to make a respectable show above the foundation. This foundation, however, was the great requisite, and his principal motive in taking the other things, was to have a better fit than could be obtained by using spars and sails that were not intended to go together.

At eight o'clock, the people got their suppers, and prepared to turn in for the night. Some conversation passed between Captain Truck and his mates, concerning the manner of disposing of the men while they slept, which resulted in the former's keeping a well-armed party of ten with him in the ship, while the remainder were put in the boats, all of which were fastened to the launch, as she lay anchored off the bar. Here they made beds of the sails, and, setting a watch, the greater portion of both gangs were soon as quietly asleep as if lying in their own berths on board the Montauk. Not so with Captain Truck and his mates. They walked the deck of the Dane fully an hour after the men were silent, and for some time after Mr. Monday had finished the bottle of wine he had taken the precaution to bring with him from the packet, and had bestowed his person among some old sails in the cabin. The night was a bright starlight, but the moon was not to be expected until near morning. The wind came off the sands of the interior in hot puffs, but so lightly as to sound, that it breathed past them like the sighings of the desert.

"It is lucky, Mr. Leach," said the Captain, continuing the discourse he had been holding with his mate in a low voice, under the sense of the insecurity of their situation; "it is lucky, Mr. Leach, that we got out the stream anchor astern, else we should have had the ship rubbing her copper against the corners of the rocks. This air seems light, but under all her canvas, the Montauk would soon flap her way out from this coast, if all were ready."

"Ay, ay, sir, if all were ready!" repeated Mr. Leach, as if he knew how much honest labour was to be expended before that happy moment could arrive.

"If all were ready. I think we may be able to whip these three sticks out of this fellow by breakfast-time in the morning, and then a couple of hours will answer for the raft; after which, a pull of six or eight more will take us back to our own craft."

"If all goes well, it may be done, sir."

"Well or ill, it must be done. We are not in a situation to play at jack-straws!"

"I hope if may be done, sir."

"Mr. Leach!"

"Captain Truck!"

"We are in a d----le category, sir, if the truth must be spoken."

"That is a word I am not much acquainted with, but we have an awkward berth of it here, if that be what you mean!"

A long pause, during which these two seamen, one of whom was old, the other young, paced the deck diligently.

"Mr. Leach!"

"Captain Truck!"

"Do you ever pray?"

"I have done such a thing in my time, sir; but, since I have sailed with you, I have been taught to work first and pray afterwards; and when the difficulty has been gotten over by the work, the prayers have commonly seemed surplusage."

"You should take to, your thanksgivings. I think your grandfather was a parson Leach."

"Yes, he was, sir, and I have been told your father followed the same trade."

"You have been told the truth, Mr. Leach. My father was as meek, and pious, and humble a Christian as ever thumped a pulpit. A poor man, and, if truth must be spoken, a poor preacher too; but a zealous one, and thoroughly devout. I ran away from him at twelve, and never passed a week at a time under his roof afterwards. He could not do much for me, for he had little education and no money, and, I believe, carried on the business pretty much by faith. He was a good man, Leach, notwithstanding there might be a little of a take-in for such a person to set up as a teacher; and, as for my mother, if there ever was a pure spirit on earth it was in her body!"

"Ay, that is the way commonly with the mothers, sir."

"She taught me to pray," added the captain, speaking a little thick, "but since I've been in this London line, to own the truth, I find but little time for any thing but hard work, until, for want of practice, praying has got to be among the hardest things I can turn my hand to."

"That is the way with all of us; it is my opinion, Captain Truck, these London and Liverpool liners will have a good many lost souls to answer for."

"Ay, ay, if we could put it on them, it would do well enough; but my honest old father always maintained, that every man must stand in the gap left by his own sins; though he did assert, also, that we were all fore-ordained to shape our courses starboard or port, even before we were launched."

"That doctrine makes an easy tide's-way of life; for I see no great use in a man's carrying sail and jamming himself up in the wind, to claw off immoralities, when he knows he is to fetch up upon them after all his pains."

"I have worked all sorts of traverses to get hold of this matter, and never could make any thing of it. It is harder than logarithms. If my father had been the only one to teach it, I should have thought less about it, for he was no scholar, and might have been paying it out just in the way of business; but then my mother believed it, body and soul, and she was too good a woman to stick long to a course that had not truth to back it."

"Why not believe it heartily, sir, and let the wheel fly? One gets to the end of the v'y'ge on this tack as well as on another."

"There is no great difficulty in working up to or even through the passage of death, Leach, but the great point is to know the port we are to moor in finally. My mother taught me to pray, and when I was ten I had underrun all the Commandments, knew the Lord's Creed, and the Apostles' Prayer, and had made a handsome slant into the Catechism; but, dear me, dear me, it has all oozed out of me, like the warmth from a Greenlander."

"Folks were better educated in your time, Captain Truck, than they are now-a-days, by all I can learn."

"No doubt of that in the world. In my time, younkers were taught respect for their betters, and for age, and their Catechism, and piety, and the Apostles' Prayer, and all those sort of things. But America has fallen astern sadly in manners within the last fifty years. I do not flatter myself with being as good as I was when under my excellent dear mother's command, but there are worse men in the world, and out of Newgate, too, than John Truck. Now, in the way of vices, Leach, I never swear."

"Not you, sir; and Mr. Monday _never drinks."

As the protestation of sobriety on the part of their passenger had got to be a joke with the officers and men of the ship, Captain Truck had no difficulty in understanding his mate, and though nettled at a retort that was like usurping his own right to the exclusive quizzing of the vessel, he was in a mood much too sentimental and reflecting to be angry. After a moment's pause, he resumed the dialogue, as if nothing had been said to disturb its harmony.

"No, I _never swear; or, if I do, it is in a small gentlemanly way, and with none of your foul-mouthed oaths, such as are used by the horse-jockeys that formerly sailed out of the river."

"Were they hard swearers?"

"Is a nor'-wester a hard wind? Those fellows, after they have been choked off and jammed by the religion ashore for a month or two, would break out like a hurricane when they had made an offing, and were once fairly out of hearing of the parsons and deacons. It is said that old Joe Bunk began an oath on the bar that he did not get to the end of until his brig was off Montauk. I have my doubts, Leach, if any thing be gained by screwing down religion and morals, like a cotton bale, as is practised in and about the river!"

"A good many begin to be of the same way of thinking; for when our people _do break out, it is like the small-pox!"

"I am an advocate for education; nor do I think I was taught in my own case more than was reasonable. I think even a prayer is of more use to a ship-master than Latin, and I often have, even now, recourse to one, though it may not be exactly in Scripture language. I seldom want a wind without praying for it, mentally, as it might be; and as for the rheumatis', I am always praying to be rid of it, when I'm not cursing it starboard and larboard. Has it never struck you that the world is less moral since steamboats were introduced than formerly?"

"The boats date from before my birth, sir."

"Very true--you are but a boy. Mankind appear to be hurried, and no one likes to stop to pray, or to foot up his sins, as used to be the case. Life is like a passage at sea. We feel our way cautiously until off soundings on our own coast, and then we have an easy time of it in the deep water; but when we get near the shoals again; we take out the lead, and mind a little how we steer. It is the going off and coming on the coast, that gives us all the trouble."

"You had some object in view, Captain Truck, when you asked me if I ever prayed!"

"Certain. If I were to set to work to pray myself just now, it would be for smooth water to-morrow, that we may have a good time in towing the raft to the ship--hist! Leach did you hear nothing?"

"There was a sound different from what is common in the air from the land! It is probably some savage beast, for Africa is full of them."

"I think we might manage a lion from this fortress. Unless the fellow found the stage, he could hardly board us, and a plank or two thrown from that, would make a draw-bridge of it at once. Look yonder! there is something moving on the bank, or my eyes are two jewel-blocks."

Mr. Leach looked in the required direction, and he, too, fancied he saw something in motion on the margin of the bank. At the point where the wreck lay, the beach was far from wide, and her flying jib-boom, which was still out, projected so near the low acclivity, where the coast rose to the level of the desert, as to come within ten feet of the bushes by which the latter was fringed. Although the spar had drooped a little in consequence of having lost the support of the stays, its end was still sufficiently high to rise above the leaves, and to permit one seated on it to overlook the plain as well as the starlight would allow. Believing the duty to be important, Captain Truck, first giving his orders to Mr. Leach, as to the mode of alarming the men, should it become necessary, went cautiously out on the bowsprit, and thence by the foot-ropes, to the farther extremity of the booms. As this was done with the steadiness of a seaman and with the utmost care to prevent discovery, he was soon stretched on the spar, balancing his body by his legs beneath, and casting eager glances about, though prevented by the obscurity from seeing either far or very distinctly.

After lying in this position a minute, Captain Truck discovered an object on the plains, at the distance of a hundred yards from the bushes, that was evidently in motion. He was now all watchfulness, for, had he not seen the proofs that the Arabs or Moors had already been at the wreck, he knew that parties of them were constantly hovering along the coast, especially after every heavy gale that blew from the westward, in the hope of booty. As all his own people were asleep, the mates excepted, and the boats could just be discovered by himself, who knew their position, he was in hopes that, should any of the barbarians be near, the presence of his own party could hardly be known. It is true, the alteration in the appearance of the wreck, by the removal of the spars, must strike any one who had seen it before, but this change might have been made by another party of marauders, or those who had now come, if any there were, might see the vessel for the first time.

While such thoughts were rapidly glancing through his mind, the reader will readily imagine that the worthy master was not altogether at his ease. Still he was cool, and as he was resolved to fight his way off, even against an army, he clung to the spar with a species of physical resolution that would have done credit to a tiger. The object on the plain moved once more, and the clouds opening beyond he plainly made out the head and neck of a dromedary. There was but one, however; nor could the most scrupulous examination show him a human being. After remaining a quarter of an hour on the boom, during all which time the only sounds that were heard were the sighings of the night-air, and the sullen and steady wash of the surf, Captain Truck came on deck again, where he found his mate waiting his report with intense anxiety. The former was fully aware of the importance of his discovery, but, being a cool man, he had not magnified the danger to himself.

"The Moors are down on the coast," he said, in an undertone; "but I do not think there can be more than two or three of them at the most; probably spies or scouts; and, could we seize them, we may gain a few hours on their comrades, which will be all we want; after which they shall be welcome to the salt and the other dunnage of the poor Dane. Leach, are you the man to stand by me in this affair?"

"Have I ever failed you, Captain Truck, that you put the question?"

"That you have never, my fine fellow; give me a squeeze of your honest hand, and let there be a pledge of life or death in it."

The mate met the iron grasp of his commander, and each knew that he received an assurance on which he might rely.

"Shall I awake the men, sir?" asked Mr. Leach.

"Not one of them. Every hour of sleep the people get will be a lower mast saved. These sticks that still remain are our foundation, and even one of them is of more account to us, just now, than a fleet of ships might be at another time. Take your arms and follow me; but first we will give a hint to the second-mate of what we are about."

This officer was asleep on the deck, for he had been so much wearied with his great exertions that afternoon as to catch a little rest as the sweetest of all gifts. It had been the intention of Captain Truck to dismiss him to the boats: but, observing him to be overcome with drowsiness, he had permitted him to catch a nap where he lay. The look-out, too, was also slumbering under the same indulgence; but both were now awakened, and made acquainted with the state of things on shore.

"Keep your eyes open, but keep a dead silence," concluded Captain Truck; "for it is my wish to deceive these scouts, and to keep them ignorant of our presence. When I cry out 'Alarm!' you will muster all hands, and clear away for a brush, but not before. God bless you, my lads! mind and keep your eyes open. Leach, I am ready."

The captain and his companion cautiously descended to the sands, and passing astern of the ship, they first took their way to the jolly-boat, which lay at the rocks in readiness to carry off the two officers to the launch. Here they found the two men in charge so soundly asleep, that nothing would have been easier than to bind them without giving the alarm. After a little hesitation, it was determined to let them dream away their sorrows, and to proceed to the spot where the bank was ascended.

At this place it became necessary to use the greatest precaution, for it was literally entering the enemy's country. The steepness of the short ascent requiring them to mount nearly on their hands and feet, this part of their progress was made without much hazard, and the two adventurers stood on the plain, sheltered by some bushes.

"Yonder is the camel," whispered the captain: "you see his crooked neck, with the head tossing at moments. The fellow is not fifty yards from the body of the poor German! Now let us follow along this line of bushes, and keep a sharp look-out for the rider."

They proceeded in the manner mentioned, until they came to a point where the bushes ceased, and there was an opening that overlooked the beach quite near the wreck.

"Do you see the boats, Leach, here away, in a line with the starboard davit of the Dane? They look like dark spots on the water, and an ignorant Arab might be excused for taking them for rocks."

"Except that they rise and fall with the rollers; he must be doubly a Turk who could make such a blunder!"

"Your wanderers of the desert are not so particular. The wreck has certainly undergone some changes since yesterday, and I should not wonder if even a Mussulman found them out, but--"

The gripe of Mr. Leach, whose fingers almost entered the flesh of his arm, and a hand pointed towards the bushes on the other side of the opening, silenced the captain's whisper, A human form was seen standing on the fringe of the bank, directly opposite the jib-boom. It was swaddled in a sort of cloak, and the long musket that was borne in a hollow of an arm, was just discernible, diverging from the line of the figure. The Arab, for such it could only be, was evidently gazing on the wreck, and presently he ventured out more boldly, and stood on the spot that was clear of bushes. The death-like stillness on the beach deceived him, and he advanced with less caution towards the spot where the two officers were in ambush, still keeping his own eye on the ship. A few steps brought him within reach of Captain Truck, who drew back his arm until the elbow reached his own hip, when he darted it forward, and dealt the incautious barbarian a severe blow between the eyes. The Arab fell like a slaughtered ox, and before his senses were fairly recovered, he was bound hands and feet, and rolled over the bank down upon the beach, with little ceremony, his fire-arms remaining with his captors.

"That lad is in a category," whispered the captain; "it now remains to be seen if there is another."

A long search was not rewarded with success, and it was determined to lead the camel down the path, with a view to prevent his being seen by any wanderer in the morning.

"If we get the lower masts out betimes," continued the captain, "these land pirates will have no beacons in sight to steer by, and, in a country in which one grain of sand is so much like another, they might hunt a week before they made a happy landfall."

The approach of the two towards the camel was made with less caution than usual, the success of their enterprise throwing them off their guard, and exciting their spirits. They believed in short, that their captive was either a solitary wanderer, or that he had been sent ahead as a scout, by some party that would be likely to follow in the morning.

"We must be up and at work before the sun, Mr. Leach," said the captain, speaking clearly, but in a low tone, as they approached the camel. The head of the animal was tossed; then it seemed to snuff the air, and it gave a shriek. In the twinkling of an eye an Arab sprang from the sand, on which he had been sleeping, and was on the creature's back. He was seen to look around him, and before the startled mariners had time to decide on their course, the beast, which was a dromedary trained to speed, was out of sight in the darkness. Captain Truck had thrown forward his fowling-piece, but he did not fire.

"We have no right to shoot the fellow," he said, "and our hope is now in the distance he will have to ride to join his comrades. If we have got a chief, as I suspect, we will make a hostage of him, and turn him to as much account, as he can possibly turn one of his own camels. Depend on it we shall see no more of them for several hours, and we will seize the opportunity to get a little sleep. A man must have his watch below, or he gets to be as dull and as obstinate as a top-maul."

The captain having made up his mind to this plan was not slow in putting it in execution. Returning to the beach they liberated the legs of their prisoner, whom they found lying like a log on the sands, and made him mount the staging to the deck of the ship. Leading the way into the cabin, Mr. Truck examined the fellow by a light, turning him round and commenting on his points very much as he might have done had the captive been any other animal of the desert.

The Arab was a swarthy, sinewy man of forty, with all his fibres indurated and worked down to the whip-cord meagreness and rigidity of a racer, his frame presenting a perfect picture of the sort of being one would fancy suited to the exhausting motion of a dromedary, and to the fare of a desert. He carried a formidable knife, in addition to the long musket of which he had been deprived, and his principal garment was the coarse mantle of camel's hair, that served equally for cap, coat and robe. His wild dark eyes gleamed, as Captain Truck passed the lamp before his face, and it was sufficiently apparent that he fancied a very serious misfortune had befallen him. As any verbal communication was out of the question, some abortive attempts were essayed by the two mariners to make themselves understood by signs, which, like some men's reasoning, produced results exactly contrary to what had been expected.

"Perhaps the poor fellow fancies we mean to eat him, Leach," observed the captain, after trying his skill in pantomime for some time without success; "and he has some grounds for the idea, as he was felled like an ox that is bound to the kitchen. Try and let the miserable wretch understand, at least, that we are not cannibals."

Hereupon the mate commenced an expressive pantomime, which described, with sufficient clearness, the process of skinning, cutting up, cooking, and eating the carcass of the Arab, with the humane intention of throwing a negative over the whole proceeding, by a strong sign of dissent at the close; but there are no proper substitutes for the little monosyllables of "yes" and "no," and the meaning of the interpreter got to be so confounded that the captain himself was mystified.

"D--n it, Leach," he interrupted, "the man fancies that he is not good eating, you make so many wry and out-of-the-way contortions. A sign is a jury-mast for the tongue, and every seaman ought to know how to practise them, in case he should be wrecked on a savage and unknown coast. Old Joe Bunk had a dictionary of them, and in calm weather he used to go among his horses and horned cattle, and talk with them by the hour. He made a diagram of the language, and had it taught to all us younkers who were exposed to the accidents of the bea. Now, I will try my hand on this Arab, for I could never go to sleep while the honest black imagined we intended to breakfast on him."

The captain now recommenced his own explanations in the language of nature. He too described the process of cooking and eating the prisoner--for this he admitted was indispensable by way of preface--and then, to show his horror of such an act, he gave a very good representation of a process he had often witnessed among his sea-sick passengers, by way of showing his loathing of cannibalism in general, and of eating this Arab in particular. By this time the man was thoroughly alarmed, and by way of commentary on the captain's eloquence, he began to utter wailings in his own language, and groans that were not to be mistaken. To own the truth, Mr. Truck was a good deal mortified with this failure, which, like all other unsuccessful persons, he was ready to ascribe to anybody but himself.

"I begin to think, Mr. Leach," he said, "that this fellow is too stupid for a spy or a scout, and that, after all, he is no more than a driveller who has strayed from his tribe, from a want of sense to keep the road in a desert. A man of the smallest information must have understood me, and yet you perceive by his lamentations and outcries that he knows no more what I said than if he were in another parallel of latitude. The chap has quite mistaken my character; for if I really did intend to make a beast of myself, and devour my species, no one of the smallest knowledge of human nature would think I'd begin on a nigger! What is your opinion of the man's mistake, Mr. Leach?"

"It is very plain, sir, that he supposes you mean to broil him, and then to eat so much of his steaks, that you will be compelled to heave up like a marine two hours out; and, if I must say the truth, I think most people would have inferred the same thing from your signs, which are as plainly cannibal as any thing of the sort I ever witnessed."

"And what the devil did he make of yours, Master Cookery-Book?" cried the captain with some heat. "Did he fancy you meant to mortify the flesh with a fortnight's fast? No, no, sir; you are a very respectable first officer, but are no more acquainted with Joe Bunk's principles of signs, than this editor here knows of truth and propriety. It is your blundering manner of soliloquizing that has set the lad on a wrong traverse. He has just grafted your own idea on my communication, and has got himself into a category that a book itself would not reason him out of, until his fright is passed. Logic is thrown away on all 'skeary animals,' said old Joe Bunk. Hearkee, Leach, I've a mind to set the rascal adrift, condemning the gun and the knife for the benefit of the captors. I think I should sleep better for the certainty that he was trudging along the sand, satisfied he was not to be barbecued in the morning."

There is no use in detaining him, sir, for his messmate, who went off on the dromedary, will sail a hundred feet to his one, and if an alarm is really to be given to their party, it will not come from this chap. He will be unarmed, and by taking away his pouch we shall get some ammunition for this gun of his, which will throw a shot as far as Queen Anne's pocket-piece. For my part, sir, I think there is no great use in keeping him, for I do not think he would understand us, if he stayed a month, and went to school the whole time."

"You are quite right, and as long as he is among us, we shall be liable to unpleasant misconceptions; so cut his lashings, and set him adrift, and be d---d to him."

The mate, who by this time was drowsy, did as desired, and in a moment the Arab was at liberty. At first the poor creature did not know what to make of his freedom, but a smart application, _a posteriori_, from the foot of Captain Truck, whose humanity was of the rough quality of the seas, soon set him in motion up the cabin-ladder. When the two mariners reached the deck, their prisoner was already leaping down the staging, and in another minute his active form was obscurely seen clambering up the bank, on gaining which he plunged into the desert, and was seen no more.

None but men indurated in their feelings by long exposure would be likely to sleep under the circumstances in which these two seamen were placed; but they were both too cool, and too much accustomed to arouse themselves on sudden alarms, to lose the precious moments in womanish apprehensions, when they knew that all their physical energies would be needed on the morrow, whether the Arabs arrived or not. They accordingly regulated the look-outs, gave strong admonitions of caution to be passed from one to another, and then the captain stretched himself in the berth of the poor Dane who was now a captive in the desert, while Mr. Leach got into the jolly-boat, and was pulled off to the launch. Both were sound asleep in less than five minutes after their heads touched their temporary pillows.

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