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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHomeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 21
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Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 21 Post by :kiranb Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :3365

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Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 21

Chapter XXI

Nothing beside remains! Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

SHELLEY


As Captain Truck was so fully aware of the importance of rapid movements to the success of his enterprise, it will be remembered that he left in the ship no seaman, no servant, except Saunders the steward, and, in short, no men but the two Messrs. Effingham, Mr. Sharp, Mr. Blunt, and the other person just mentioned. If to these be added, Eve Effingham, Mademoiselle Viefville, Ann Sidley, and a French _femme de chambre_, the whole party will be enumerated. At first, it had been the intention of the master to leave one of his mates behind him, but, encouraged by the secure berth he had found for his vessel, the great strength of his moorings, the little hold the winds and waves could get of spars so robbed of their proportions, and of a hull so protected by the reef, and feeling a certain confidence in the knowledge of Mr. Blunt, who, several times during the passage, had betrayed a great familiarity with ships, he came to the decision named, and had formally placed the last named gentleman in full charge, _ad interim_, of the Montauk.

There was a solemn and exciting interest in the situation of those who remained in the vessel, after the party of bustling seamen had left them. The night came in bland and tranquil, and although there was no moon, they walked the deck for hours with strange sensations of enjoyment, mingled with those of loneliness and desertion. Mr. Effingham and his cousin retired to their rooms long before the others, who continued their exercise with a freedom and an absence of restraint, that they had not before felt, since subjected to the confinement of the ship.

"Our situation is at least novel," Eve observed, "for a party of Parisians, Viennois, Romans, or by whatever name we may be properly styled."

"Say Swiss, then," returned Mr. Blunt; "for I believe that even the cosmopolite has a claim to choose his favourite residence."

Eve understood the allusion, which carried her back to the weeks they had passed in company, among the grand scenery of the Alps; but she would not betray the consciousness, for, whatever may be the ingenuousness of a female, she seldom loses her sensitiveness on the subject of her more cherished feelings.

"And do you prefer Switzerland to all the other countries of your acquaintance?" asked Mr. Sharp: "England I leave out of the question, for, though we, who belong to the island, see so many charms in it, it must be conceded that strangers seldom join us very heartily in its praises. I think most travellers would give the palm to Italy."

"I am quite of the same opinion," returned the other; "and were I to be confined to a choice of a residence for life, Italy should be my home. Still, I think, that we like change in our residence, as well as in the seasons. Italy is summer, and one, I fear, would weary of even an eternal June."

"Is not Italy rather autumn, a country in which the harvest is gathered and where one begins already to see the fall of the leaf?"

"To me," said Eve, "it would be an eternal summer; as things are eternal with young ladies. My ignorance would be always receiving instruction, and my tastes improvement. But, if Italy be summer, or autumn, what is poor America?"

"Spring of course," civilly answered Mr. Sharp.

"And, do you, Mr. Blunt, who seem to know all parts of the world equally well, agree in giving _our country, _my country at least, this encouraging title?"

"It is merited in many respects, though there are others in which the term winter would, perhaps, be better applied. America is a country not easily understood; for, in some particulars, like Minerva, it has been born full-grown: while, in others, it is certainly still an infant."

"In what particulars do you especially class it with the latter?" inquired Mr. Sharp.

"In strength, to commence," answered the other, slightly smiling; "in opinions, too, and in tastes, and perhaps in knowledge. As to the latter essential, however, and practical things as well as in the commoner comforts, America may well claim to be in midsummer, when compared with other nations. I do not think you Americans, Miss Effingham, at the head of civilisation, certainly, as so many of your own people fancy; nor yet at the bottom, as so many of those of Mademoiselle Viefville and Mr. Sharp so piously believe."

"And what are the notions of the countrymen of Mr. Blunt, on the subject?"

"As far from the truth, perhaps, as any other. I perceive there exist some doubts as to the place of my nativity," he added, after a pause that denoted a hesitation, which all hoped was to end in his setting the matter at rest, by a simple statement of the fact; "and I believe I shall profit by the circumstance, to praise and condemn at pleasure, since no one can impeach my candour, or impute either to partialities or prejudices."

"That must depend on the justice of your judgments. In one thing, however, you will have me on your side, and that is in giving the _pas to delicious, dreamy Italy! Though Mademoiselle Viefville will set this down as _lese majeste against _cher Paris_; and I fear, Mr. Sharp will think even London injured."

"Do you really hold London so cheap?" inquired the latter gentleman, with more interest than he himself was quite aware of betraying.

"Indeed, no. This would be to discredit my own tastes and knowledge. In a hundred things, I think London quite the finest town of Christendom. It is not Rome, certainly, and were it in ruins fifteen centuries, I question if people would flock to the banks of the Thames to dream away existence among its crumbling walls; but, in conveniences, beauty of verdure, a mixture of park-like scenery and architecture, and in magnificence of a certain sort, one would hardly know where to go to find the equal of London."

"You say nothing of its society, Miss Effingham?"

"It would be presuming, in a girl of my limited experience to speak of this. I hear so much of the good sense of the nation, that I dare not say aught against its society, and it would be affectation for me to pretend to commend it; but as for your females, judging by my own poor means, they strike me as being singularly well cultivated and accomplished; and yet---"

"Go on, I entreat you. Recollect we have solemnly decided in a general congress of states to be cosmopolites, until safe within Sandy Hook, and that _la franchise is the _mot d'ordre_."

"Well, then, I should not certainly describe you English as a talking people," continued Eve, laughing. "In the way of society, you are quite as agreeable as a people, who never laugh and seldom speak, can possibly make themselves."

"_Et les jeunes Americaines_?" said Mademoiselle Viefville, laconically.

"My dear mademoiselle, your question is terrific! Mr. Blunt has informed me that _they actually giggle!"

"_Quelle horreur_!"

"It is bad enough, certainly; but I ascribe the report to calumny. No; if I must speak, let me have Paris for its society, and Naples for its nature. As respects New York, Mr. Blunt, I suspend my judgment."

"Whatever may be the particular merit which shall most attract your admiration in favour of the great emporium, as the grandiloquent writers term the capital of your own state, I think I can venture to predict it will be neither of those just mentioned. Of society, indeed, New York has positively none: like London, it has plenty of company, which is disciplined something like a regiment of militia composed of drafts from different brigades, and which sometimes mistakes the drum-major for the colonel."

"I had fancied you a New Yorker, until now," observed Mr. Sharp.

"And why not now? Is a man to be blind to facts as evident as the noon-day sun, because he was born here or there? If I have told you an unpleasant truth, Miss Effingham, you must accuse _la franchise of the offence. I believe _you are not a Manhattanese?"

"I am a mountaineer; having been born at my father's country residence."

"This gives me courage then, for no one here will have his filial piety shocked,"

"Not even yourself?"

"As for myself," returned Paul Blunt, "it is settled I am a cosmopolite in fact, while you are only a cosmopolite by convention. Indeed, I question if I might take the same liberties with either Paris or London, that I am about to take with palmy Manhattan. I should have little confidence in the forbearance of my auditors: Mademoiselle Viefville would hardly forgive me: were I to attempt a criticism on the first, for instance."

"_C'est impossible_! you could not, Monsieur Blunt; _vous parlez trop bien Francais not to love _Paris_."

"I _do love _Paris_, mademoiselle; and, what is more, I love _Londres_, or even _la Nouvelle Yorck_. As a cosmopolite, I claim this privilege, at least, though I can see defects in all. If you will recollect, Miss Effingham, that New York is a social bivouac, a place in which families encamp instead of troops, you will see the impossibility of its possessing a graceful, well-ordered, and cultivated society. Then the town is commercial; and no place of mere commerce can well have a reputation for its society. Such an anomaly, I believe, never existed. Whatever may be the usefulness of trade, I fancy few will contend that it is very graceful."

"Florence of old?" said Eve.

"Florence and her commerce were peculiar, and the relations of things change with circumstances. When Florence was great, trade was a monopoly, in a few hands, and so conducted as to remove the principals from immediate contact with its affairs. The Medici traded in spices and silks, as men traded in politics, through agents. They probably never saw their ships, or had any farther connexion with their commerce, than to direct its spirit. They were more like the legislator who enacts laws to regulate trade, than the dealer who fingers a sample, smells at a wine, or nibbles a grain. The Medici were merchants, a class of men altogether different from the mere factors, who buy of one to sell to another, at a stated advance in price, and all of whose enterprise consists in extending the list of safe customers, and of doing what is called a 'regular business.' Monopolies do harm on the whole, but they certainly elevate the favoured few. The Medici and the Strozzi were both princes and merchants, while those around them were principally dependants. Competition, in our day, has let in thousands to share in the benefits; and the pursuit, while it is enlarged as a whole, has suffered in its parts by division."

"You surely do not complain that a thousand are comfortable and respectable to-day, for one that was _il magnifico three hundred years since?"

"Certainly not. I rejoice in the change; but we must not confound names with things. If we have a thousand mere factors for one merchant, society, in the general signification of the word, is clearly a gainer; but if we had one Medici for a thousand factors, society, in its particular signfication, might also be a gainer. All I mean is, that, in lowering the pursuit, we have necessarily lowered its qualifications; in other words, every man in trade in New York, is no more a Lorenzo, than every printer's devil is a Franklin."

"Mr. Blunt cannot be an American!" cried Mr. Sharp; "for these opinions would be heresy."

"_Jamais, jamais_" joined the governess.

"You constantly forget the treaty of cosmopolitism. But a capital error is abroad concerning America on this very subject of commerce. In the way of merchandise alone, there is not a Christian maritime nation of any extent, that has a smaller portion of its population engaged in trade of this sort than the United States of America. The nation, as a nation, is agricultural, though the state of transition, in which a country in the course of rapid settlement must always exist, causes more buying and selling of real property than is usual. Apart from this peculiarity, the Americans, as a whole people, have not the common European proportions of ordinary dealers."

"This is not the prevalent opinion," said Mr. Sharp.

"It is not, and the reason is, that all American towns, or nearly all that are at all known in other countries, are purely commercial towns. The trading portion of a community is always the concentrated portion, too, and of course, in the absence of a court, of a political, or of a social capital, it has the greatest power to make itself heard and felt, until there is a direct appeal to the other classes. The elections commonly show quite as little sympathy between the majority and the commercial class as is consistent with the public welfare. In point of fact, America has but a very small class of real merchants, men who are the cause and not a consequence of commerce, though she has exceeding activity in the way of ordinary traffic. The portion of her people who are engaged as factors,--for this is the true calling of the man who is a regular agent between the common producer and the common consumer,--are of _a high class as factors, but not of _the high class of merchants. The man who orders a piece of silk to be manufactured at Lyons, at three francs a yard, to sell it in the regular course of the season to the retailer at three francs and a half, is no more a true merchant, than the attorney, who goes through the prescribed forms of the court in his pleadings, is a barrister."

"I do not think these sentiments will be very popular at home, as Mr. Dodge says," Eve laughingly remarked; "but when shall we reach that home! While we are talking of these things, here are we, in an almost deserted ship, within a mile of the great Desert of Sahara! How beautiful are the stars, mademoiselle! we have never before seen a vault so studded with brilliants."

"That must be owing to the latitude," Mr. Sharp observed.

"Certainly. Can any one say in what latitude we are precisely?" As Eve asked this question, she unconsciously turned towards Mr. Blunt; for the whole party had silently come to the conclusion that he knew more of ships and navigation than all of them united.

"I believe we are not far from twenty-four, which is bringing us near the tropics, and places us quite sixteen degrees to the southward of our port. These two affairs of the chase and of the gale have driven us fully twelve hundred miles from the course we ought to have taken."

"Fortunately, mademoiselle, there are none to feel apprehensions on our account, or, none whose interest will be so keen as to create a very lively distress. I hope, gentlemen, you are equally at ease on this score?"

This was the first time Eve had ever trusted herself to out an interrogatory that might draw from Paul Blunt any communication that would directly touch upon his connexions. She repented of the speech as soon as made, but causelessly, as it drew from the young man no answer. Mr. Sharp observed that his friends in England could scarcely know of their situation, until his own letters would arrive to relieve their minds. As for Mademoiselle Viefville, the hard fortune which reduced her to the office of a governess, had almost left her without natural ties.

"I believe we are to have watch and ward to-night," resumed Eve, after the general pause had continued some little time. "Is it not possible for the elements to put us in the same predicament as that in which we found the poor Dane?"

"Possible, certainly, but scarcely probable," returned Mr. Blunt. "The ship is well moored, and this narrow ledge of rocks, between us and the ocean, serves admirably for a break-water. One would not like to be stranded, helpless as we are, at this moment, on a coast like this!"

"Why so particularly helpless? You allude to the absence of our crew?"

"To that, and to the fact that, I believe, we could not muster as much as a pocket-pistol to defend ourselves with, everything in the shape of fire-arms having been sent with the party in the boats."

"Might we not lie on the beach, here, for days, even weeks," inquired Mr. Sharp, "without being discovered by the Arabs?"

"I fear not. Mariners have told me that the barbarians hover along the shores, especially after gales, in the hope of meeting with wrecks, and that it is surprising how soon they gain intelligence of any disaster. It is seldom there is even an opportunity to escape in a boat."

"I hope here, at least, we are safe?" cried Eve, in a little terror, and shuddering, as much in playfulness as in real alarm.

"I see no grounds of concern where we are, so long as we can keep the ship off the shore. The Arabs have no boats, and if they had, they would not dare to attack a vessel that floated, in one, unless aware of her being as truly helpless as we happen at this moment to be."

"This is a chilling consolation, but I shall trust in your good care, gentlemen. Mademoiselle, it is drawing near midnight, I believe."

Eve and her companion then courteously wished the two young men good night, and retired to their state-rooms; Mr. Sharp remained an hour longer with Mr. Blunt, who had undertaken to watch the first few hours, conversing with a light heart, and gaily; for, though there was a secret consciousness of rivalry between these two young men on the subject of Eve's favour, it was a generous and manly competition, in which each did the other ample justice. They talked of their travels, their views of customs and nations, their adventures in different countries, and of the pleasure each had felt in visiting spots renowned by association or the arts; but not a word was hazarded by either concerning the young creature who had just left them, and whom each still saw in his mind's eye, long after her light and graceful form had disappeared. At length Mr. Sharp went below, his companion insisting on being left alone, under the penalty of remaining up himself during the second watch. From this time, for several hours, there was no other noise in the ship than the tread of the solitary watchman. At the appointed period of the night, a change took place, and he who had watched, slept; while he who had slept, watched. Just as day dawned, however, Paul Blunt, who was in a deep sleep, felt a shake at his shoulder.

"Pardon me," cautiously whispered Mr. Sharp: "I fear we are about to have a most unpleasant interruption to our solitude."

"Heavenly powers!--Not the Arabs?"

"I fear no less: but it is still too dark to be certain of the fact. If you will rise, we can consult on the situation in which we are placed. I beg you to be quick."

Paui Blunt had hastily risen on an arm, and he now passed a hand over his brow, as if to make certain that he was awake. He had not undressed himself, and in another moment he stood on his feet in the middle of the state-room.

"This is too serious to allow of mistake. We will not alarm her, then; we will not give any alarm, sir, until certain of the calamity."

"In that I entirely agree with you," returned Mr. Sharp who was perfectly calm, though evidently distressed. "I may be mistaken, and wish your opinion. All on board but us two are in a profound sleep."

The other drew on his coat, and in a minute both were on deck. The day had not yet dawned, and the light was scarce sufficient to distinguish objects even near as those on the reef, particularly when they were stationary. The rocks, themselves, however, were visible in places, for the tide was out, and most of the upper portion of the ledge was bare. The two gentlemen moved cautiously to the bows of the vessel, and, concealed by the bulwarks, Mr. Sharp pointed out to his companion the objects that had given him the alarm.

"Do you see the pointed rock a little to the right of the spot where the kedge is placed?" he said, pointing in the direction that he meant. "It is now naked, and I am quite cenain there was an object on it, when I went below, that has since moved away."

"It may have been a sea-bird; for we are so near the day, some of them are probably in motion. Was it large?"

"Of the size of a man's head, apparently; but this is by no means all. Here, farther to the north, I distinguished three objects in motion, wading in the water, near the point where the rocks are never bare."

"They may have been herons; the bird is often found in these low latitudes, I believe. I can discover nothing."

"I would to God, I may have been mistaken, though I do not think I could be so much deceived."

Paul Blunt caught his arm, and held it like one who listened intently.

"Heard you that?" he whispered hurriedly.

"It sounded like the clanking of iron."

Looking around, the other found a handspike, and passing swiftly up the heel of the bowsprit, he stood between the knight-heads. Here he bent forward, and looked intently towards the lines of chains which lay over the bulwarks, as bow-fasts. Of these chains the parts led quite near each other, in parallel lines, and as the ship's moorings were taut, they were hanging in merely a slight curve. From the rocks, or the place where the kedges were laid to a point within thirty feet of the ship, these chains were dotted with living beings crawling cautiously upward. It was even easy, at a second look, to perceive that they were men stealthily advancing on their hands and feet.

Raising the handspike, Mr. Blunt struck the chains several violent blows. The effect was to cause the whole of the Arabs--for it could be no others--suddenly to cease advancing, and to seat themselves astride the chains.

"This is fearful," said Mr. Sharp; "but we must die, rather than permit them to reach the ship."

"We must. Stand you here, and if they advance, strike the chains. There is not an instant to lose."

Paul Blunt spoke hurriedly, and, giving the other the handspike, he ran down to the bitts, and commenced loosening the chains from their fastenings. The Arabs heard the clanking of the iron-rings, as he threw coil after coil on the deck, and they did not advance. Presently two parts yielded together beneath them, and then two more. These were the signals for a common retreat, and Mr. Sharp now plainly counted fifteen human forms as they scrambled back towards the reef, some hanging by their arms, some half in the water, and others lying along the chains, as best they might. Mr. Blunt having loosened the chains, so as to let their bights fall into the sea, the ship slowly drifted astern, and rode by her cables. When this was done, the two young men stood together in silence on the forecastle, as if each felt that all which had just occurred was some illusion.

"This is indeed terrible," exclaimed Paul Blunt. "We have not even a pistol left! No means of defence--nothing but this narrow belt of water between us and these barbarians! No doubt, too, they have fire-arms; and, as soon as it is light, they will render it unsafe to remain on deck."

Mr. Sharp took the hand of his companion and pressed it fervently. "God bless you!" he said in a stifled voice. "God bless you, for even this brief delay. But for this happy thought of yours, Miss Effingham--the others--we should _all have been, by this time, at the mercy of these remorseless wretches. This is not a moment for false pride or pitiful deceptions. I think either of us would willingly die to rescue that beautiful and innocent creature from a fate like this which threatens her in common with ourselves?"

"Cheerfully would I lay down my life to be assured that she was, at this instant, safe in a civilized and Christian country."

These generous young men squeezed each other's hands, and at that moment no feeling of rivalry, or of competition even, entered the heart of either. Both were influenced by a pure and ardent desire to serve the woman they loved, and it would be true to say, that scarce a thought of any but Eve was uppermost in their minds. Indeed so engrossing was their common care in her behalf, so much more terrible than that of any other person did her fate appear on being captured, that they forgot, for the moment, there were others in the ship, and others, too, who might be serviceable in arresting the very calamity they dreaded.

"They may not be a strong party," said Paul Blunt, after a little thought, "in which case, failing of a surprise, they may not be able to muster a force sufficient to hazard an open attack until the return of the boats. We have, God be praised! escaped being seized in our sleep, and made unconscious victims of so cruel a fate. Fifteen or twenty will scarcely dare attempt a ship of this size, without a perfect knowledge of our feebleness, and particularly of our want of arms. There is a light gun on board, and it is loaded; with this, too, we may hold them at bay, by not betraying our weakness. Let us awake the others, for this is not a moment for sleep. We are safe, at least, for an hour or two; since, without boats, they cannot possibly find the means to board us in less than that time."

The two young men went below, unconsciously treading lightly, like those who moved about in the presence of an impending danger. Paul Blunt was in advance, and to his great surprise he met Eve at the door of the ladies' cabin, apparently awaiting their approach. She was dressed, for apprehension, and the novelty of their situation, had caused her to sleep in most of her clothes, and a few moments had sufficed for a hasty adjustment of the toilet. Miss Effingham was pale, but a concentration of all her energies seemed to prevent the exhibition of any womanly terror.

"Something is wrong!" she said, trembling in spite of herself, and laying her hand unwittingly on the arm of Paul Blunt: "I heard the heavy fall of iron on the deck."

"Compose yourself, dearest Miss Effingham, compose yourself, I entreat you. I mean, that we have come to awaken the gentlemen."

"Tell me the worst, Powis, I implore you. I am equal,--I think I am equal, to hearing it."

"I fear your imagination has exaggerated the danger."

"The coast?"

"Of that there is no cause for apprehension. The sea is calm, and our fasts are perfectly good."

"The boats?"

"Will doubtless be back in good time."

"Surely--surely," said Eve, recoiling a step, as if she saw a monster, "not the Arabs?"

"They cannot enter the ship, though a few of them are hovering about us. But for the vigilance of Mr. Sharp, indeed, we might have all been captured in our sleep. As it is, we have warning, and there is now little doubt of our being able to intimidate the few barbarians who have shown themselves, until Captain Truck shall return."

"Then from my soul, I thank you, Sir George Templemore, and for this good office will you receive the thanks of a father, and the prayers of all whom you have so signally served."

"Nay, Miss Effingham, although I find this interest in me so grateful that I have hardly the heart to lessen your gratitude, truth compels me to give it a juster direction. But for the promptitude of Mr. Blunt--or as I now find I ought to address him, Mr. Powis--we should truly have all been lost."

"We will not dispute about your merits, gentlemen. You have both deserved our most heartfelt thanks, and if you will awaken my father and Mr. John Effingham, I will arouse Mademoiselle Viefville and my own women. Surely, surely, this is no time to sleep!"

The summons was given at the state-room doors, and the two young men returned to the deck, for they felt it was not safe to leave it long at such a moment. All was quite tranquil above, however, nor could the utmost scrutiny now detect the presence of any person on the reef.

"The rocks are cut off from the shore, farther to the southward by deeper water," said Paul Blunt--for we shall continue to call both gentlemen, except on particular occasions, by their _noms de guerre_--"and when the tide is up the place cannot be forded. Of this the Arabs are probably aware; and having failed in their first attempt, they will probably retire to the beach as the water is rising, for they might not like to be left on the riband of rock that will remain in face of the force that would be likely to be found in such a vessel."

"May they not be acquainted with the absence of most of our people, and be bent upon seizing the vessel before they can return?"

"That indeed is the gloomy side of the conjecture, and it may possibly be too true; but as the day is beginning to break, we shall soon learn the worst, and anything is better than vague distrust."

For some time the two gentlemen paced the quarter-deck together in silence. Mr. Sharp was the first to speak.

"The emotions natural to such an alarm," he said, "have caused Miss Effingham to betray an incognito of mine, that I fear you find sufficiently absurd. It was quite accidental, I do assure you; as much so, perhaps, as it was motiveless."

"Except as you might distrust American democracy," returned Paul, smiling, "and feel disposed to propitiate it by a temporary sacrifice of rank and title."

"I declare you do me injustice. My man, whose name _is Sharp, had taken the state-room, and, finding myself addressed by his appellation, I had the weakness to adopt it, under the impression it might be convenient in a packet. Had I anticipated, in the least, meeting with the Effinghams, I should not have been guilty of the folly, for Mr. and Miss Effingham are old acquaintances."

"While you are thus apologising for a venial offence, you forget it is to a man guilty of the same error. I knew your person, from having seen you on the Continent; and finding you disposed to go by the homely name of Sharp, in a moment of thoughtlessness, I took its counterpart, Blunt. A travelling name is sometimes convenient, though sooner or later I fancy all deceptions bring with them their own punishments."

"It is certain that falsehood requires to be supported by falsehood. Having commenced in untruth, would it not be expedient to persevere until we reach America? I, at least, cannot now assert a right to my proper name, without deposing an usurper!"

"It _will be expedient for you, certainly, if it be only to escape the homage of that double-distilled democrat, Mr. Dodge. As for myself, few care enough about me to render it a matter of moment how I am styled; though, on the whole, I should prefer to let things stand as they are, for reasons I cannot well explain."

No more was said on the subject, though both understood that the old appellations were to be temporarily continued. Just as this brief dialogue ended, the rest of the party appeared on deck. All preserved a forced calmness, though the paleness of the ladies betrayed the intense anxiety they felt. Eve struggled with her fears on account of her father, who had trembled so violently, when the truth was first told him, as to be quite unmanned, but who now comported himself with dignity, though oppressed with apprehension almost to anguish. John Effingham was stern, and in the bitterness of his first sensations he had muttered a few imprecations on his own folly, in suffering himself to be thus caught without arms. Once the terrible idea of the necessity of sacrificing Eve, in the last resort, as an expedient preferable to captivity, had flashed across his mind; but the real tenderness he felt for her, and his better nature, soon banished the unnatural thought. Still, when he joined the party on deck, it was with a general but vague impression, that the moment was at hand when circumstances had required that they were all to die together. No one was more seemingly collected than Mademoiselle Viefville. Her life had been one of sacrifices, and she had now made up her mind that it was to pass away in a scene of violence; and, with a species of heroism that is national, her feelings had been aroused to a sort of Roman firmness, and she was prepared to meet her fate with a composure equal to that of the men.

These were the first feelings and impressions of those who had been awakened from the security of the night, to hear the tale of their danger; but they lessened as the party collected in the open air, and began to examine into their situation by means of the steadily increasing light. As the day advanced, Paul Blunt, in particular, carefully examined the rocks near the ship, even ascending to the fore-top, from which elevation he overlooked the whole line of the reef; and something like hope revived in every bosom, when he proclaimed the joyful intelligence that nothing having life was visible in that direction.

"God be praised!" he said with fervour, as his foot touched the deck again on descending; "we have at least a respite from the attacks of these barbarians. The tide has risen so high that they dare not stay on the rocks, lest they might be cut off; for they probably think us stronger than we are, and armed. The light gun on the forecastle is loaded, gentlemen, though not shotted; for there are no shot in the vessel, Saunders tells me; and I would suggest the propriety of firing it, both to alarm the Arabs, and as a signal to our friends. The distance from the wreck is not so great but it might be heard, and I think they would at least send a boat to our relief. Sound flies fast, and a short time may bring us succour. The water will not be low enough for our enemies to venture on the reef again, under six or eight hours, and all may yet be well."

This proposal was discussed, and it proving, on inquiry, that all the powder in the ship, after loading the gun for this very purpose of firing a signal, had been taken in the boats, and that no second discharge could be made, it was decided to lose no more time, but to let their danger be known to their friends at once, if it were possible to send the sound so far. When this decision was come to, Mr. Blunt, aided by Mr. Sharp, made the necessary preparations without delay. The latter, though doing all he could to assist, envied the readiness, practical skill and intelligence, with which his companion, a man of cultivated and polished mind in higher things, performed every requisite act that was necessary to effect their purpose. Instead of hastily discharging the piece, an iron four-pound gun, Mr. Blunt first doubled the wad, which he drove home with all his force, and then he greased the muzzle, as he said, to increase the report.

"I shall not attempt to explain the philosophy of this," he added with a mournful smile, "but all lovers of salutes and salvos will maintain that it is useful; and be it so or not, too much depends on our making ourselves heard, to neglect any thing that has even a chance of aiding that one great object. If you will now assist me, Sir George, we will run the gun over to starboard, in order that it may be fired on the side next the wreck."

"Judging from the readiness you have shown on several occasions, as well as your familiarity with the terms, I should think you had served," returned the real baronet, as he helped his companion to place the gun at a port on the northern side of the vessel.

"You have not mistaken my trade. I was certainly bred, almost born, a seaman; and though as a traveller I have now been many years severed from my early habits, little of what I knew has been lost. Were there five others here, who had as much familiarity as myself with vessels, I think we could carry the ship outside the reef, crippled as she is, and set the Arabs at defiance. Would to God our worthy captain had never brought her inside."

"He did all for the best, no doubt?"

"Beyond a question; and no more than a commendable prudence required. Still he has left us in a most critical position. This priming is a little damp, and I distrust it. The coal, if you please."

"Why do you not fire?"

"At the last moment, I almost repent of my own expedient. Is it quite certain no pistols remain among any of our effects?"

"I fear not. Saunders reports that all, even to those of the smallest size, were put in requisition for the boats."

"The charge in this gun might serve for many pistols, or for several fowling-pieces. I might even sweep the reef, on an emergency, by using old iron for shot! It appears like parting with a last friend, to part with this single precious charge of gunpowder."

"Nay, you certainly know best; though I rather think the Messrs. Effingham are of your first opinion."

"It is puerile to waver on such a subject, and I will hesitate no longer. There are moments when the air seems to float in the direction of our friends; on the first return of one of those currents, I will fire."

A minute brought the opportunity, and Paul Blunt, or Paul Powis, as his real name would now appear to be, applied the coal. The report was sharp and lively; but as the smoke floated away, he again expressed his doubts of the wisdom of what had just been done. Had he then known that the struggling sounds had diffused themselves in their radii, without reaching the wreck, his regrets would have been increased fourfold. This was a fact, however, that could not be then ascertained, and those in the packet were compelled to wait two or three hours before they even got the certainty of their failure.

As the light increased a view was obtained of the shore, which seemed as silent and deserted as the reef. For half an hour the whole party experienced the revulsion of feeling that accompanies all great changes of emotion, and the conversation had even got to be again cheerful, and to turn into its former channels, when suddenly a cry from Saunders renewed the alarm. The steward was preparing the breakfast in the galley, from which he gave occasional glances towards the land, and his quick eye had been the first to detect a new and still more serious danger that now menaced them.

A long train of camels was visible, travelling across the desert, and holding its way towards the part of the reef which touched the shore. At this point, too, were now to be seen some twenty Arabs, waiting the arrival, of their friends; among whom it was fair to conclude were those who had attempted to carry the ship by surprise. As the events which next followed were closely connected with the policy and forbearance of the party of barbarians near the wreck, this will be a suitable occasion to explain the motives of the latter, in not assailing Captain Truck, and the real state of things among these children of the desert.

The Dane had been driven ashore, as conjectured, in the last gale, and the crew had immediately been captured by a small wandering party of the Arabs, with whom the coast was then lined; as is usually the case immediately after tempestuous weather. Unable to carry off much of the cargo, this party had secured the prisoners, and hurried inland to an oasis, to give the important intelligence to their friends; leaving scouts on the shore, however, that they might be early apprised of any similar disaster, or of any change in the situation of their present prize. These scouts had discovered the Montauk, drifting along the coast, dismasted and crippled, and they had watched her to her anchorage within the reef. The departure of her boats had been witnessed, and though unable to foresee the whole object of this expedition, the direction taken pointed out the wreck as the point of destination. All this, of course, had been communicated to the chief men of the different parties on the coast, of which there were several, who had agreed to unite their forces to secure the second ship, and then to divide the spoils.

When the Arabs reached the coast near the wreck, that morning, the elders among them were not slow in comprehending the motives of the expedition; and having gained a pretty accurate idea of the number of men employed about the Dane, they had come to the just conclusion that few were left in the vessel at anchor. They had carried off the spy-glass of their prize too, and several among them knew its use, from having seen similar things in other stranded ships. By means of this glass, they discovered the number and quality of those on board the Montauk, as soon as there was sufficient light, and directed their own operations accordingly. The parties that had appeared and disappeared behind the sandy ridges of the desert, about the time at which we have now arrived in the narrative, and those who have been already mentioned in a previous chapter, were those who came from the interior, and those who went in the direction of the reef; the first of the latter of which Saunders had just discovered. Owing to the rounded formation of the coast, and to the intervention of a headland, the distance by water between the two ships was quite double that by land between the two encampments, and those who now arrived abreast of the packet, deliberately pitched their tents, as if they depended more on a display of their numbers for success than on concealment and as if they felt no apprehension of the return of the crew.

When the gentlemen had taken a survey of this strong party, which numbered more than a hundred, they held a consultation of the course it would be necessary to pursue. To Paul Blunt, as an avowed seaman, and as one who had already shown the promptitude and efficiency of his resources, all eyes were turned in expectation of an opinion.

"So long as the tide keeps in," this gentleman observed, "I see no cause for apprehensions. We are beyond the reach of musketry, or at all events, any fire of the Arabs, at this distance, must be uncertain and harmless; and we have always the hope of the arrival of the boats. Should this fail us, and the tide fall this afternoon as low as it fell in the morning, our situation will indeed become critical. The water around the ship may possibly serve as a temporary protection, but the distance to the reef is so small that it might be passed by swimming."

"Surely we could make good the vessel against men raising themselves out of the water, and clambering up a vessel's side?" said Mr. Sharp.

"It is probable we might, if unmolested from the shore. But, imagine twenty or thirty resolute swimmers to put off together for different parts of the vessel, protected by the long muskets these Arabs carry, and you will easily conceive the hopelessness of any defence. The first man among us, who should show his person to meet the boarders, would be shot down like a dog."

"It was a cruel oversight to expose us to this horrible fate!" exclaimed the appalled father.

"This is easier seen now than when the mistake was committed," observed John Effingham. "As a seaman, and with his important object in view, Captain Truck acted for the best, and we should acquit him of all blame, let the result be what it may. Regrets are useless, and it remains for us to devise some means to arrest the danger by which we are menaced, before it be too late. Mr. Blunt, you must be our leader and counsellor: is it not possible for us to carry the ship outside of the reef, and to anchor her beyond the danger of our being boarded?"

"I have thought of this expedient, and if we had a boat it might possibly be done, in this mild weather; without a boat, it is impossible."

"But we have a boat," glancing his eye towards the launch that stood in the chocks or chucks.

"One that would be too unwieldy for our purposes, could it be got into the water; a thing in itself that would be almost impracticable for us to achieve."

A long silence succeeded, during which the gentlemen were occupied in the bootless effort of endeavouring to devise expedients to escape the Arabs; bootless, because on such occasions, the successful measure is commonly the result of a sort of sudden inspiration, rather than of continued and laborious thought.

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