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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Rescue - PART I. THE MAN AND THE BRIG - Chapter IV
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The Rescue - PART I. THE MAN AND THE BRIG - Chapter IV Post by :Dan_Schulz Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :January 2011 Read :2021

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The Rescue - PART I. THE MAN AND THE BRIG - Chapter IV

It was noon before the brig, piloted by Lingard through the deep
channels between the outer coral reefs, rounded within
pistol-shot a low hummock of sand which marked the end of a long
stretch of stony ledges that, being mostly awash, showed a black
head only, here and there amongst the hissing brown froth of the
yellow sea. As the brig drew clear of the sandy patch there
appeared, dead to windward and beyond a maze of broken water,
sandspits, and clusters of rocks, the black hull of the yacht
heeling over, high and motionless upon the great expanse of
glittering shallows. Her long, naked spars were inclined slightly
as if she had been sailing with a good breeze. There was to the
lookers-on aboard the brig something sad and disappointing in the
yacht's aspect as she lay perfectly still in an attitude that in
a seaman's mind is associated with the idea of rapid motion.

"Here she is!" said Shaw, who, clad in a spotless white suit,
came just then from forward where he had been busy with the
anchors. "She is well on, sir--isn't she? Looks like a mudflat to
me from here."

"Yes. It is a mudflat," said Lingard, slowly, raising the long
glass to his eye. "Haul the mainsail up, Mr. Shaw," he went on
while he took a steady look at the yacht. "We will have to work
in short tacks here."

He put the glass down and moved away from the rail. For the next
hour he handled his little vessel in the intricate and narrow
channel with careless certitude, as if every stone, every grain
of sand upon the treacherous bottom had been plainly disclosed to
his sight. He handled her in the fitful and unsteady breeze with
a matter-of-fact audacity that made Shaw, forward at his station,
gasp in sheer alarm. When heading toward the inshore shoals the
brig was never put round till the quick, loud cries of the
leadsmen announced that there were no more than three feet of
water under her keel; and when standing toward the steep inner
edge of the long reef, where the lead was of no use, the helm
would be put down only when the cutwater touched the faint line
of the bordering foam. Lingard's love for his brig was a man's
love, and was so great that it could never be appeased unless he
called on her to put forth all her qualities and her power, to
repay his exacting affection by a faithfulness tried to the very
utmost limit of endurance. Every flutter of the sails flew down
from aloft along the taut leeches, to enter his heart in a sense
of acute delight; and the gentle murmur of water alongside,
which, continuous and soft, showed that in all her windings his
incomparable craft had never, even for an instant, ceased to
carry her way, was to him more precious and inspiring than the
soft whisper of tender words would have been to another man. It
was in such moments that he lived intensely, in a flush of strong
feeling that made him long to press his little vessel to his
breast. She was his perfect world full of trustful joy.

The people on board the yacht, who watched eagerly the first sail
they had seen since they had been ashore on that deserted part of
the coast, soon made her out, with some disappointment, to be a
small merchant brig beating up tack for tack along the inner edge
of the reef--probably with the intention to communicate and offer
assistance. The general opinion among the seafaring portion of
her crew was that little effective assistance could be expected
from a vessel of that description. Only the sailing-master of the
yacht remarked to the boatswain (who had the advantage of being
his first cousin): "This man is well acquainted here; you can see
that by the way he handles his brig. I shan't be sorry to have
somebody to stand by us. Can't tell when we will get off this
mud, George."

A long board, sailed very close, enabled the brig to fetch the
southern limit of discoloured water over the bank on which the
yacht had stranded. On the very edge of the muddy patch she was
put in stays for the last time. As soon as she had paid off on
the other tack, sail was shortened smartly, and the brig
commenced the stretch that was to bring her to her anchorage,
under her topsails, lower staysails and jib. There was then less
than a quarter of a mile of shallow water between her and the
yacht; but while that vessel had gone ashore with her head to the
eastward the brig was moving slowly in a west-northwest
direction, and consequently, sailed--so to speak--past the whole
length of the yacht. Lingard saw every soul in the schooner on
deck, watching his advent in a silence which was as unbroken and
perfect as that on board his own vessel.

A little man with a red face framed in white whiskers waved a
gold-laced cap above the rail in the waist of the yacht. Lingard
raised his arm in return. Further aft, under the white awnings,
he could see two men and a woman. One of the men and the lady
were in blue. The other man, who seemed very tall and stood with
his arm entwined round an awning stanchion above his head, was
clad in white. Lingard saw them plainly. They looked at the brig
through binoculars, turned their faces to one another, moved
their lips, seemed surprised. A large dog put his forepaws on the
rail, and, lifting up his big, black head, sent out three loud
and plaintive barks, then dropped down out of sight. A sudden
stir and an appearance of excitement amongst all hands on board
the yacht was caused by their perceiving that the boat towing
astern of the stranger was their own second gig.

Arms were outstretched with pointing fingers. Someone shouted out
a long sentence of which not a word could be made out; and then
the brig, having reached the western limit of the bank, began to
move diagonally away, increasing her distance from the yacht but
bringing her stern gradually into view. The people aft, Lingard
noticed, left their places and walked over to the taffrail so as
to keep him longer in sight.

When about a mile off the bank and nearly in line with the stern
of the yacht the brig's topsails fluttered and the yards came
down slowly on the caps; the fore and aft canvas ran down; and
for some time she floated quietly with folded wings upon the
transparent sheet of water, under the radiant silence of the sky.
Then her anchor went to the bottom with a rumbling noise
resembling the roll of distant thunder. In a moment her head
tended to the last puffs of the northerly airs and the ensign at
the peak stirred, unfurled itself slowly, collapsed, flew out
again, and finally hung down straight and still, as if weighted
with lead.

"Dead calm, sir," said Shaw to Lingard. "Dead calm again. We got
into this funny place in the nick of time, sir."

They stood for a while side by side, looking round upon the coast
and the sea. The brig had been brought up in the middle of a
broad belt of clear water. To the north rocky ledges showed in
black and white lines upon the slight swell setting in from
there. A small island stood out from the broken water like the
square tower of some submerged building. It was about two miles
distant from the brig. To the eastward the coast was low; a coast
of green forests fringed with dark mangroves. There was in its
sombre dullness a clearly defined opening, as if a small piece
had been cut out with a sharp knife. The water in it shone like a
patch of polished silver. Lingard pointed it out to Shaw.

"This is the entrance to the place where we are going," he said.

Shaw stared, round-eyed.

"I thought you came here on account of this here yacht," he
stammered, surprised.

"Ah. The yacht," said Lingard, musingly, keeping his eyes on the
break in the coast. "The yacht--" He stamped his foot suddenly.
"I would give all I am worth and throw in a few days of life into
the bargain if I could get her off and away before to-night."

He calmed down, and again stood gazing at the land. A little
within the entrance from behind the wall of forests an invisible
fire belched out steadily the black and heavy convolutions of
thick smoke, which stood out high, like a twisted and shivering
pillar against the clear blue of the sky.

"We must stop that game, Mr. Shaw," said Lingard, abruptly.

"Yes, sir. What game?" asked Shaw, looking round in wonder.

"This smoke," said Lingard, impatiently. "It's a signal."

"Certainly, sir--though I don't see how we can do it. It seems
far inland. A signal for what, sir?"

"It was not meant for us," said Lingard in an unexpectedly savage
tone. "Here, Shaw, make them put a blank charge into that
forecastle gun. Tell 'em to ram hard the wadding and grease the
mouth. We want to make a good noise. If old Jorgenson hears it,
that fire will be out before you have time to turn round twice. .
. . In a minute, Mr. Carter."

The yacht's boat had come alongside as soon as the brig had been
brought up, and Carter had been waiting to take Lingard on board
the yacht. They both walked now to the gangway. Shaw, following
his commander, stood by to take his last orders.

"Put all the boats in the water, Mr. Shaw," Lingard was saying,
with one foot on the rail, ready to leave his ship, "and mount
the four-pounder swivel in the longboat's bow. Cast off the sea
lashings of the guns, but don't run 'em out yet. Keep the
topsails loose and the jib ready for setting, I may want the
sails in a hurry. Now, Mr. Carter, I am ready for you."

"Shove off, boys," said Carter as soon as they were seated in the
boat. "Shove off, and give way for a last pull before you get a
long rest."

The men lay back on their oars, grunting. Their faces were drawn,
grey and streaked with the dried salt sprays. They had the
worried expression of men who had a long call made upon their
endurance. Carter, heavy-eyed and dull, steered for the yacht's
gangway. Lingard asked as they were crossing the brig's bows:

"Water enough alongside your craft, I suppose?"

"Yes. Eight to twelve feet," answered Carter, hoarsely. "Say,
Captain! Where's your show of cutthroats? Why! This sea is as
empty as a church on a week-day."

The booming report, nearly over his head, of the brig's
eighteen-pounder interrupted him. A round puff of white vapour,
spreading itself lazily, clung in fading shreds about the
foreyard. Lingard, turning half round in the stern sheets, looked
at the smoke on the shore. Carter remained silent, staring
sleepily at the yacht they were approaching. Lingard kept
watching the smoke so intensely that he almost forgot where he
was, till Carter's voice pronouncing sharply at his ear the words
"way enough," recalled him to himself.

They were in the shadow of the yacht and coming alongside her
ladder. The master of the brig looked upward into the face of a
gentleman, with long whiskers and a shaved chin, staring down at
him over the side through a single eyeglass. As he put his foot
on the bottom step he could see the shore smoke still ascending,
unceasing and thick; but even as he looked the very base of the
black pillar rose above the ragged line of tree-tops. The whole
thing floated clear away from the earth, and rolling itself into
an irregularly shaped mass, drifted out to seaward, travelling
slowly over the blue heavens, like a threatening and lonely

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The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter I The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter I

The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter I
The coast off which the little brig, floating upright above heranchor, seemed to guard the high hull of the yacht has nodistinctive features. It is land without form. It stretches awaywithout cape or bluff, long and low--indefinitely; and when theheavy gusts of the northeast monsoon drive the thick rainslanting over the sea, it is seen faintly under the grey sky,black and with a blurred outline like the straight edge of adissolving shore. In the long season of unclouded days, itpresents to view only a narrow band of earth that appears crushedflat upon the vast level of waters by the weight of

The Rescue - PART I. THE MAN AND THE BRIG - Chapter III The Rescue - PART I. THE MAN AND THE BRIG - Chapter III

The Rescue - PART I. THE MAN AND THE BRIG - Chapter III
After waiting a moment, Carter went on deck. The sky, the sea,the brig itself had disappeared in a darkness that had becomeimpenetrable, palpable, and stifling. An immense cloud had comeup running over the heavens, as if looking for the little craft,and now hung over it, arrested. To the south there was a lividtrembling gleam, faint and sad, like a vanishing memory ofdestroyed starlight. To the north, as if to prove the impossible,an incredibly blacker patch outlined on the tremendous blacknessof the sky the heart of the coming squall. The glimmers in thewater had gone out and the invisible sea all around