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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Three Midshipmen - Chapter 19. In Perilous Condition
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The Three Midshipmen - Chapter 19. In Perilous Condition Post by :Satish Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1455

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The Three Midshipmen - Chapter 19. In Perilous Condition


The little half-sinking schooner dashed on amid the raging seas, now lifted up to the summit of one surrounded by hissing foam, now sinking down into the gloomy hollow between others which seemed as if they were about instantly to engulf her. Again another sea struck her; and had not every one held on tight to the rigging or bulwarks, her deck would have been cleared, as it made a clean wash fore and aft.

"We must not run this risk again!" exclaimed Murray. "All hands go below; one on deck is enough. I'll take the helm. No expostulation, Adair; remember, I am commanding officer. I am determined to do it."

Adair, with a bad grace, was obliged to obey with the rest. They all went below, and Murray battened down the hatches. Lashing himself to the helm, he alone remained on deck through that fearful gale. The sea roared around the little vessel, the wind whistled through the shrouds, fierce lightnings darted from the dark heavy clouds, the thunder rattled in deafening peals, while deluges of rain and spray flew about his head and almost blinded him. Yet, undaunted as at the first, he stood like some spirit of the storm at his dangerous post.

Those below tried to sleep, to pass away the time, but so fearful was the tumult that sleep refused to visit even the seamen's eyes. Hour after hour passed by. Still, by the noise and the movement of the vessel, it was too evident that the gale continued. Adair calculated that it must already be almost day. Just then the vessel became more steady, and the noise of the storm considerably diminished. Adair was surprised that Murray did not take off the hatches. He was anxious to go on deck to relieve him. He knocked and knocked again on the skylight. He called and called out again and again. There was no answer. With frantic energy he attempted to burst open the skylight. The dreadful idea seized him that Murray, his brave and noble friend, had been washed overboard and lost.

He and his companions again knocked several times. Still there was no answer. They themselves were almost stifled with the heat of the atmosphere and the odour of the rotting tobacco and monkey-skins. "This will never do," exclaimed Adair, becoming more and more alarmed for Murray's safety. "We must force the hatches off, or break our way through the skylight." They groped about and found a handspike which had been chucked down below. "Now, lads. Heave he!" cried Adair, and getting the end under the skylight, with a loud crash they prized it off, and one after the other sprang on deck. There stood Murray lashed to the helm, and looking more like a man in a trance than one awake.

"Hillo, where am I?" he exclaimed, gazing wildly around.

"On the deck of the _Venus_, old fellow," answered Terence, taking him by the hand. "Right gallantly you steered us through the gale, and as soon as it fell calm you dropped asleep, and small blame to you. We did the same below, and I cannot tell you how glad I am to see you safe: we all thought you had fallen overboard." Murray was very much surprised to find that he had slept so long and so soundly, but he soon gave evidence that he had not had enough rest, for Adair had a mattress brought up and stretched under an awning on deck, and the moment he placed his head on it he was off again as soundly as before.

"We must turn to at the pumps, sir," observed Needham, coming from below. "If we don't bear a hand, I fear the craft will sink under us." Such it appeared would probably be the case, but no one was daunted. All set to work and laboured away as manfully as before. When Murray awoke he found that the schooner was again almost cleared of water. The last man to leave the pumps was Wasser. He was still labouring away, when down he sank on the deck. Murray and Adair ran to lift him up. He could scarcely open his eyes, and looked thoroughly worn out. They lifted the poor fellow to the mattress from which Murray had just risen, and as soon as the fire, which had gone out, could be lighted, they made some beef broth, which they poured down his throat. They also gave him a little rum. Alick and Terence differed as to which was the best restorative, but, unlike doctors in general, they agreed to administer them alternately. Paddy wanted to give them in equal proportions--that is to say, for every cup of broth Alick gave, he wanted to give a glass of grog; but fortunately to this arrangement Murray would not consent. He argued that one tumbler of grog, half and half, was stronger than a dozen basins of broth, and he would therefore allow only half a tumbler in the day. When Wasser was at length able to speak, to Adair's astonishment he declared in favour of the remedy of the rival practitioner, and Murray and his broth carried the day. In spite of the heat, Wasser had to be carried below, and all who could were glad to take shelter there, for down came the rain with terrific force, and continued without intermission, almost swamping the little vessel. Her crew had work enough to do all their time in keeping her clear of the water, which poured in through the leaks in bucketsful. For days and nights together no one had on a dry jacket. By such observations as they could manage to make, Murray and Adair began to suspect that all their seamanship was set at nought; for though they at times made some way through the water, they as quickly lost all the ground they had gained, and thus it became evident that there was a strong current against them.

"This is dreadfully trying," exclaimed Terence, after they had become convinced of this disagreeable fact. "Let us try and make the land again, and see whereabouts we are. Perhaps by hugging the shore we may be able to get round Cape Palmas after all." Murray agreed to this proposal, although he was not very sanguine of success. He knew that the currents were probably as strong in-shore as where they then were, but he hoped that they might possibly get a slant of wind off the land, which would enable them to stem the current, and help them along round the Cape. Murray had been making his calculations on paper.

"I could scarcely have believed that we could have been so unfortunate," he observed, looking calmly up. "For the last six days we have not made good more than four or five miles--perhaps scarcely so much. _I have no wish to pay another visit to Cape Coast Castle, though I dare say the old governor would be as kind to us as before."

"I agree with you," answered Adair. "Let us stick at it. We must get the wind in our favour some day or other It does not always blow from the nor'ard, I suppose."

Like true British sailors they did stick at it. Such is the spirit which has animated the numerous brave voyagers who have explored the arctic regions, the southern seas, and the wide-spreading Pacific. At length the land was made. It was a long way, however, to the southward, or rather to the eastward of Cape Palmas. The wind fell soon afterwards, and slowly they drifted in toward the shore. Their glasses as they approached were directed at it, and they could see a number of blacks collected on the beach and evidently watching them. The part of the coast they were now off is called the Ivory Coast. As far as the eye could reach it was flat and monotonous, but along its whole extent appeared rich groves of cocoa-nut trees, extending a considerable distance inland. Here and there, embosomed by the cocoa-nut groves, they could see small villages and separate buildings, the cottages with high conical roofs, thatched with palmetto leaves. To the east appeared a long thin spit of sand, separated from the main beach by a lagoon, into which several rivers and streams appeared to fall. As they approached the shore a terrific surf was seen rolling in towards it, and breaking with a loud roar on the sand.

"What will become of our little craft if we get in among those breakers?" said Adair. "She will have hard work to swim, I suspect."

"I doubt if she will ever float through them," answered Murray. "If she does, and we are stranded, which is the best fate we can then hope to happen to us, I fear that those black gentry on the shore will not give us a very friendly reception. They are flourishing their spears as if they would like to dig them into us."

"We shall be completely in their power, and, what is the worst, we have not the means of showing fight," said Adair, watching the people on the shore through his glass. "They have some big canoes hauled up on the beach, and they seem disposed to launch them, and come in chase of us, should the rollers not send us to them."

"I wish that there was a chance of that," exclaimed Murray; "I should have very little fear of them if they came to attack us. Ah! there's a puff of wind off the shore. Our blacks have discovered it. They are wetting their fingers and holding up their hands. We may yet be able to stand off the land."

The minutes passed slowly by. They were full of the most anxious suspense. Now the promised breeze died away, and the little vessel floated helplessly in towards the dreaded surf. Now it came on again, and she was able to get a little farther off, again to be left to drift back towards the land. Then, just as her case seemed hopeless, another puff would come, and once more her sails would fill, and all on board hoped that she would make a good offing. Had they possessed sweeps, with the help of the transient breeze, they might have got to a safe distance from the land. As to anchoring, that was out of the question. Even had there been bottom to be found with such an inset, their cable would not have held them for an instant. When the schooner got near enough to the shore, they saw that the natives were still watching them eagerly, and no sooner did the breeze return, than preparations were made to launch several of their canoes. From the gestures of the blacks, Murray and Adair agreed that their intentions did not appear to be friendly, and therefore it would be wise to avoid them altogether if they could, and at all events to be prepared to receive them warmly, should they overtake the schooner. Her progress was very slow, and there appeared too great a prospect of their doing this. Every preparation was therefore made for such a contingency. The wind was light, but it appeared to be increasing, and by degrees it was evident that the little craft was forging ahead more and more rapidly through the smooth shining ocean. The negroes on shore must have seen that their chance of overtaking her was every moment lessening, and they were observed to make several strenuous efforts to launch their canoes through the surf. The first two were capsized and sent back on the beach, which the people in her (or rather out of her) very easily regained, as if perfectly accustomed to that mode of proceeding. Again, however, the canoes were righted and launched, and this time four gained the open sea. The fifth was driven back, and probably received some damage, for she was not again launched. Four large canoes full of strong active negroes, completely armed according to their own fashion, were antagonists not to be despised; still it was evident that they had not firearms, or that if they had, they must have been rendered completely useless from the thorough drenching they must have got. Night was drawing on. The wind in a few minutes drew more round to the eastward, and gave signs of once more dropping. Of course every inch of canvas the little _Venus could carry was set on her, so that unless the breeze, increased it was impossible to make her go faster than she was doing through the water. As yet she was keeping well ahead of the canoes. The two midshipmen anxiously watched the proceedings of the latter. The blacks in the stern-sheets were standing up and gesticulating, and flourishing their clubs and lances, and encouraging their companions. The sun at length went down, and with the last gleam of light shed by his rays they could see the canoes still in pursuit. Darkness, however, now rapidly rose over the deep, and hid them from their view. Murray wisely bethought him of altering the schooner's course more to the southward for a short time. Nearly an hour passed, and there were no signs of the canoes. They had therefore little apprehension that they would overtake them. The schooner was hauled up again on a wind. The night passed away, and when morning broke neither the canoes nor the land were in sight.

"If the breeze lasts we may hope to regain the ground we lost last night," observed Murray. But it did not; and when once more they reached in towards the land, they found that they had made as little progress as before. Again, too, their provisions were running short. Though they might catch some fish, the supply was uncertain.

"We shall have to bear up again for Cape Coast Castle after all, I am afraid," observed Adair to Murray. "And really, Alick, if I were you, I would leave the old craft there, and let us find our way as we best can to Sierra Leone. Yet, of course, if you resolve to continue the voyage, I'll stick by you. You'll not think I hesitated about that point."

"I know full well that you'd not desert me, Paddy, even if things were ten times as bad as they are," answered Murray. "But you also know me well enough not to suppose that I would disobey my orders and abandon the schooner while she holds together. If she gets a slight repair, with a fresh supply of provisions, she will be as well able to perform the voyage as she was at first. There is no use starving, though; and as we have scarcely anything left to eat on board, we'll keep away at once for Cape Coast Castle."

The order to put up the helm was received with no little satisfaction by Needham and the rest, and in less than three days the schooner was riding safely at anchor before the old fort. The Governor received the two midshipmen with the greatest kindness.

"Well, my lads," said he, "I suppose you have had enough of this knocking about in your rotten old tub, and will not object to leave her this time. We shall soon have a man-of-war here, which will carry you up to Sierra Leone, and I will bear you free from all blame with your captain or any one else. You should no longer risk your own lives or those of your people in such a vessel."

"I am much obliged to you, sir," said Murray. "I've made up my mind long ago on the matter, but I am willing to let any of the people leave me who wish it, and will try to get others in their stead."

The Governor, who really was anxious about the safety of the young officer, whose perseverance he very much admired, the next day went on board the schooner, hoping to persuade the crew to abandon her; and expecting to gain his point under the belief that no other people would be obtained to go in her. They assembled on deck. The Governor addressed them. Murray said nothing.

"I sticks by my officers," said Needham, touching his hat and going behind Murray. Not another word did he utter.

"So do I, sir," said White, doing the same. Wasser and the other blacks, grinning from ear to ear, and scratching their woolly pates, followed Needham and White. Murray felt much gratified.

"There, sir," said he to the Governor, "you see that my men will not desert me or the ship. We are bound to continue the voyage."

"I give up all hope of preventing you," said the kind-hearted Governor, with a sigh. "However, as go you will, we will try to make you as comfortable as we can."

The Governor was as good as his word, and provisions and stores of all sorts were sent on board. There was little chance of their starving this time, though that of their going to the bottom was not much diminished, as few means were procurable of giving anything like a substantial repair to the little craft. Among other gifts Alick and Terence received a couple of parrots and a monkey. The first two were presented to Murray, the latter to Adair. The little craft was once more pronounced ready for sea. They had been employed all day in setting up the rigging, and in bending sails, when one of the men proposed a swim overboard, to cool themselves after the heat to which they had been subject. In an instant all hands were in the water swimming about round and round the vessel. The boat was in the water on the starboard side. Murray, intending to bathe afterwards, was alone on deck. Suddenly he saw the ill-omened fin of a shark rising above the water at no great distance off, and then his snout appeared, and his wicked eyes were visible surveying the scene of action. Murray shouted to Adair and the rest of the people to come on board. No one lost an instant in attempting to obey the order. Wasser alone was on the port side at the moment, and nearest to where the shark had appeared. He was a good swimmer as he had before shown, and instead of singing out for a rope with which to climb up on that side, he struck out to pass round the schooner's stern. It was a fatal resolve. Murray was watching the ominous fin. It disappeared. "Swim towards the stern! swim towards the stern! splash about with your legs, Wasser!" he cried out, running aft, and heaving the poor negro a rope. "Catch hold of this, my lad, catch hold of this!" Wasser made a spring at the rope, for instinctively he was aware what was behind him. He had half lifted himself out of the water, when he uttered a fearful shriek. The monster shark had seized him by the legs. In vain he struggled; in vain Murray hauled away to drag him out of the water; the ferocious fish would not let go his hold; the poor negro shrieked again and again. By that time Terence and Needham had climbed on board, and, coming to Murray's assistance, they leaned over the counter, and seizing Wasser by the arms, pulled him up still farther out of the water, and then White, joining them with a boat-hook, drove the point into one of the monster's eyes, when he at length opened his jaws, and retreated to a short distance, still, however, watching his writhing prey, as if ready to make another attack. It would be too horrible were I to describe the dreadful condition in which the shark had left poor Wasser's legs. One foot was entirely gone, while the other leg was bare to the bone. A mattress was got up on deck, and Murray and Adair, with all the skill they could command, set to work to doctor the negro lad, while they sent off to the port for assistance.

"No use, thank ye, massas," said Wasser, shaking his head. "Doctor no do good. My time come. Me die happy. Once me thought fetish take me, now me know where me go--who wait for me."

He pointed solemnly upwards as he spoke. The deathbed of that poor black lad might well be envied by many a proud white man. Wasser's predictions proved not unfounded. When the doctor came on board he pronounced his case utterly hopeless, and as Wasser himself entreated that he might not be sent on shore, he was allowed to remain where he was. All night the two midshipmen and Needham sat up watching him, and doing their best to relieve his pain. At daybreak they were to get under weigh, and with the dying lad on board they once more left Cape Coast Castle and shaped a course for Sierra Leone. The wind still continued light, and in order to keep them from gloomy thoughts or apprehensions, Murray set all hands to work to fish. They had plenty of lines and bait this time, and as they sailed along the sea seemed literally alive with fish of every description. There were bonettas, and dolphins, and skipjacks without number, all affording sport and very pleasant provender; while the seaman's arch-enemies, the sharks, cruised round them as if they had made up their minds that they were to become their prey. Poor Wasser had lingered on from day to day, it appearing that each hour would prove his last, when, just at daybreak on the fourth morning, after leaving harbour, he called Murray, with a faint voice, to his side. "Me go, massa! me go up dere, good-bye," he whispered, and with his hand pointing upwards, he fell back. His arms dropped by his side, and Murray saw that the faithful lad was dead. A funeral at sea is often an impressive ceremony. That of poor Wasser was short, for though there were few in attendance it was not the less sad; for by his gentle and obliging manners, and his coolness and courage in danger, he had won the affection and respect of all with whom he had sailed. The body was sewn securely up in his blankets and hammock, with such heavy weights as could be spared fastened to the feet; and when launched overboard, after Murray had read the funeral service, it shot quickly out of sight.

"Well, Tom, I don't think as how Jack Shark will be able to grab the poor fellow before he gets safely down to the bottom."

I do not know exactly what sort of a notion sailors have of the bottom of the ocean, but I rather think they have an idea that it is a comfortable sort of a place, where people can spend their time pleasantly enough, if they can but once contrive to reach it without being caught by a shark or other marine monster.

When they had got over the feelings produced by Wasser's death, the little crew managed to amuse themselves tolerably well. Murray taught his parrots to sing and whistle, and to talk, till they became wonderfully tame and fond of him; while Paddy contrived to instruct his monkey Queerface, as he called him, so well, that he fully rivalled his old friend Quirk on board the _Racer_. Paddy used to observe that as Queerface could act like a human being, while the parrots could talk like one, their united talents would enable them to make a very fair representation of a young savage; or indeed of some of his acquaintance who considered themselves polished young gentlemen, but often acted no better than monkeys, and scarcely knew the meaning of what they were saying more than did the parrots. There was no fear of the parrots flying away, so they were allowed full liberty, and in calm weather they used to sit on the rigging, nodding their heads and cleaning their feathers, and talking away with the greatest glee till Queerface, who had been watching them from the deck, would take it into his head to spring up the rigging after them and chase them from shroud to shroud, or they would keep out of his reach by circling round and round the vessel, completely laughing at his beard. One day a huge shark was seen following the vessel.

"I wonder what he wants with us?" exclaimed Paddy, gravely. "If we do not catch him, perhaps he will catch one of us."

"Such a notion is a mere superstition," observed Murray. "However, we will try and catch him."

A bonetta had just been caught, and that, it was agreed, would serve as a good bait for the shark. There was no hook on board large enough to secure him, so another plan was adopted by Needham's suggestion. The bonetta was secured to a small line, while with the end of the peak-halyards a running bowline-knot was formed and placed over it, or rather round it. The fish was thus in the very centre of the hoop, or slip-knot it might be called, but a short distance before it, "We shall have the gentleman, no fear of it," observed Paddy, as he watched the shark dart forward towards the bait. Murray managed the line with the bait, Paddy kept the bowline to draw it tight when the shark should get his head well into it. Silently and cautiously the monster glided on, his cruel green eye on the bonetta, which Murray gradually withdrew till it was close up to the counter. Then suddenly the shark, afraid of losing his prey, made a dart at the fish till the bowline was just behind his two hind fins, when Paddy, giving a sudden jerk to it, brought it tight round him. The men, when they saw this, endeavoured to catch a turn with the rope to secure the monster, but, quick as lightning, he gave a terrific jerk to the rope and tore it through their hands. Out flew the rope. Unhappily, Paddy was standing in the middle of the coil, and before he could jump out of it a half-hitch was caught round his leg.

"Hold on! hold on, lads!" he shrieked out; "oh, Murray, help!" It was too late. He was drawn up right over the gunwale, but just as he was going overboard he seized hold of the peak-halyards, where they were belayed to the side, and held on like grim death. The shark tugged and tugged away terribly. He could hold on no longer. He felt his fingers relaxing their grasp, and in another moment he would have been dragged under the water with small chance of escape, when Needham seized him firmly by the jacket. Ned, however, forgot that it would be necessary for him to get a grasp at something; but before he had done so, he found himself dragged over with Paddy. At that moment White sprang up, and grasped hold of his legs just as they were disappearing over the gunwale; and at the same time Sambo, the other black, caught hold of White, who would inevitably otherwise have followed Needham, and thus poor Murray saw himself in a moment about to be deprived of his brother officer and crew. He himself now sprang to their assistance. All I have been describing took place within a few seconds of time. With a boat-hook, fortunately at hand, he got a hold of Paddy's jacket, which considerably relieved Needham; and at the same moment, the shark coming up again towards the schooner, he and Needham were hauled on board again, his leg being happily released from the coil which had caught it without the necessity of cutting the rope. Poor Paddy's leg was, however, dreadfully mangled; and, unable to stand, he sank down with pain on the deck. Queerface was all the time chattering and jumping about in a state of the greatest excitement, evidently understanding somewhat of his master's danger; and no sooner did Adair regain the deck than he ran up, and, squatting down by his side, made so ludicrous a face that in spite of his pain Terence could not help bursting out into a fit of laughter, which, as he afterwards remarked, must wonderfully have relieved poor Queerface's mind. The shark meantime was hauled on board, though when they had got him thus far he flapped about and struggled so violently that he almost took the deck from the crew. Little mercy had he to expect from their hands. His enemies now attacked him with anything which first came in their way, but they made little impression on him while his head was the chief point of assault. Queerface chattered away and skipped about, taking very good care, however, to keep clear of him; and the parrots, Polly and Nelly, sang and talked as vehemently as if very much interested in the scene, till Sambo, the black cook, watching his opportunity, rushed in with his cleaver and gave the monster a blow on the upper part of his tail, which in an instant quieted him. Not another flap did he give with tail or fin, his huge jaws closed, and he was dead. After all their trouble, he was of no great use to them. They cut a few slices out of him for frying; for seamen will often eat shark's flesh with much the same feeling that a Fejee islander or a New Zealander a few years ago used to eat their enemies taken in war. His skin, however, was of some value, and that accordingly they took off and preserved.

Poor Paddy suffered very great pain from his hurt. The only remedy any one on board could think of applying was oil, and with that they continued to bathe it liberally, as it did just as well afterwards to burn in the lamps. The wet season was not yet over. Day after day they had torrents of rain, so that no one on board had a dry rag on their backs. The schooner too grew more and more leaky and the cargo of tobacco more and more rotten, till the odour arising from it was scarcely bearable, and at length they were completely driven out of their cabin. Often they wished to heave it overboard, but they dared not; for had they done so the vessel, already somewhat crank, would certainly have capsized. Still, whenever the two midshipmen could get a glimpse of the sun they took their observations; and they found that they were making progress, though slowly, to the northward.

"Can you believe it, Paddy?" exclaimed Murray, "you have been on board here upwards of three months, and four have passed away since I was placed in command of her. Still my motto is `persevere,' and I intend to stick to it." Right gallantly did the little crew follow his example.

A few days after this, on taking their observations, they found that they had in this last twenty-four hours made good no less than forty miles, and two days after that they went over fifty miles of ground. This put all hands in good spirits; and Adair's leg getting better, he was once more able to move about as before. They even began to fancy that all their trials were over, and that they should make an easy passage to Sierra Leone, but they were mistaken. That very evening the sky gave signs of a change of weather. The wind began to moan in the rigging, white crests rose on the summits of the seas, which increased rapidly in size as they rolled tumultuously around them. All the canvas was closely reefed, when the gale came down upon the schooner. She stood bravely up to it on her course till it increased in strength, the lightning darting from the clouds with a vividness, and the thunder rattling and crashing with a fury which no one on board had ever before experienced. Sometimes so intense was the heat of the electric fluid as it passed round and about them, that they expected to be actually scorched by it if they happily escaped being struck dead. The rain all the time came down in torrents, leaking through the deck and half filling the vessel, which was also letting in the water at every seam. They had thus not a moment for rest, for they soon found it necessary to keep the pumps going all the time. At length the gale ceased; but it left them in a deplorable condition, with the leaks much increased and their sails in tatters. All the canvas had been expended, and it seemed impossible to repair them, till they bethought them of the monkey-skins in the hold; and as soon as the wind fell they were lowered down, and all hands turned to for the purpose of mending them with this novel contrivance.

"We shall do very well now," exclaimed Adair, when once more they were set. "But my friend Queerface does not seem quite to understand the joke of seeing his brothers and sisters stretched out there before him, and I should say feels remarkably uncomfortable in his own skin lest we should some day think it necessary to make use of his hide in the same way."

For three or four days they ran on to the northward, when down came another gale upon them, which gave every sign of being heavier even than the first.

"I will have no man's life exposed unnecessarily to this fearful lightning," exclaimed Murray, as flash after flash darted vividly around them.

Night had just come on. Between the intervals of the flashes the darkness was such as could be felt. Adair attempted to expostulate, and the rest would gladly have disobeyed orders; but Murray was firm, and insisted on being left alone as before.

"Well, my dear fellow, mind you don't go to sleep," observed Adair, as with the crew, Queerface, and the two parrots, he dived down into the noisome little cabin.

Hour after hour Murray gallantly stood to the helm, the little schooner dashing through the foaming seas, for he judged it better to keep her on her course than to heave her to. Terrifically the thunder rolled. Crash succeeded crash almost without cessation, while the lightning darted from the sky and played with even more fearful vividness round the little vessel than on the former night. Still Murray undaunted stood at his post with perfect calmness. Though he scarcely expected to escape, it was not the calmness of despair or stoicism, but that which the most perfect trust in God's mercy and all-just government of human affairs can alone give. "If He thinks fit to call me hence, His will be done," he repeated to himself over and over again during that dreadful night. Several times Adair, anxious for his safety, lifted a little scuttle which had been contrived in the skylight, and inquired how he got on, and at times wondered at the fearless tone in which he replied. Still the danger of foundering was to be feared, for, what with the torrents of rain from the skies, and the opening leaks, the little vessel was rapidly filling with water. Dawn was at length breaking and the wind was decreasing, when, as Murray looked around, he thought he saw a vessel to windward bearing down upon them. Just at that instant a cry arose from below that the schooner was sinking, and Adair and the crew leaped on deck. The pump was instantly rigged, and they worked away at it with a will. Still the water appeared to be gaining on them. On came the stranger. She was a large and fine schooner. As the wind had decreased she was making sail; rapidly she neared them. There could be little doubt from her appearance that she was a slaver. To offer any resistance, should she wish to capture them, would be out of the question. Their hearts sank within them. Just then the glitter of some gold-lace on the cap of an officer standing on the schooner's poop caught Adair's eye. He seized his telescope, and directly afterwards a cheer came down to them, as the schooner, shooting up into the wind, prepared to heave-to. "Huzza! huzza!" exclaimed Adair. "It's all right!--there can be no doubt of it!--There's Jack Rogers himself."

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The Three Midshipmen - Chapter 18. An Adventurous Voyage The Three Midshipmen - Chapter 18. An Adventurous Voyage

The Three Midshipmen - Chapter 18. An Adventurous Voyage
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. AN ADVENTUROUS VOYAGE Who would not rather command a gunboat, or even a despatch vessel or fire-ship, than be a junior lieutenant, mate, or midshipman on board a line-of-battle ship or the smartest frigate afloat? Such were Murray's feelings as he and Adair paced the deck of the somewhat unseaworthy little schooner of which he had been placed in charge by Captain Grant. While he stood away towards Sierra Leone, the _Ranger continued her course to the southward. "I can't say much for your accommodation," observed Terence, after they had stood watching the fast-receding frigate, and Murray had