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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 15. Evenings On The Wreck, With A Story From The Captain
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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 15. Evenings On The Wreck, With A Story From The Captain Post by :healthyways2101 Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2727

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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 15. Evenings On The Wreck, With A Story From The Captain


The favourite season of girls is, I think, Spring; and of boys, Autumn. One is the time of dreams, flowers, and emotions; the other, the period of hopes, courage, and accomplishment.

October, the fulness of Autumn, with its cool, clear, bracing air; with its gathered crops, rustling leaves, and golden light: October, when days of furious storm are succeeded by weeks of hazy sunshine and muffled quiet; when the fish are fat but greedy; when quacking seafowl and game of every kind tempt the lovers of good sport--

Ah! that is the time for boys.

We fellows gulped it up as the hounds do their meat when distributed to them, for by the end of October we should finish our six months at the cape.

This dashed our cup of happiness with regret, as the falling leaves and low winds moaning of winter touch October with a tint of sadness. But in one case, as in the other, the spice of regret was just what gave zest to the enjoyment of our pleasure.

The days being so short, it got to be our habit to improve every one of our daylight hours, out of school, in the many sports which invited us, and to do our studying in the evenings. So every night, as soon as supper was finished, we repaired with Mr Clare to the schoolroom in the old brig. There would be a wood-fire crackling in the stove, and two shaded, bright lamps hanging over the tables.

We took up our studies, and Mr Clare sat by, ready to answer questions or give explanations. When not busied with us he smoked and chatted with Captain Mugford, or read the papers and magazines. Ugly had his place on a mat where he could hear and see all that was going on.

Generally, during some portion of the evening, the Captain spread out his great red bandanna on his knees, and took a loud-snoring nap. Every movement of our salt tute's was interpreted by some corresponding signal of the bandanna handkerchief. When perplexed, he wiped his forehead with it; when amused, it blew a merry peal on his nose; in moments of excitement or delight, it was snapped by his side; when sleepy, he spread it on his lap; and once, I remember, he suddenly stowed it away-- when much enraged by an impudent fellow who was shooting on our cape--in the stomach of his breeches instead of in the usual hind-pocket of his coat. The intruder seemed to understand the warlike signal, for he immediately stopped his insolence and made off. In fact, the Captain's red bandanna was like the Spanish woman's fan--a language in itself.

One evening we all finished our lessons early and drew our stools about the stove. Our salt tute was snoring bass and Ugly treble, so we did not disturb their dreams, but talked in low voices to Mr Clare, until, whether intentionally or irresistibly I know not, Drake gave a tremendous sneeze, so loud and shrill that Ugly sprang to his legs with a loud bark, and the Captain's head bounced from his chest and struck the back of his chair with a bang.

"Bless my heart!" said the Captain, clutching the handkerchief from his knees, and commencing to wipe his head with it. "Bless my soul, I rather think that I must have been napping. There you are, all laughing around the fire, whilst I have been dreaming of--well, never mind--days gone by--you may depend on that; but, Ugly, what were your dreams about, eh?"

"We should like to hear, though, something about those days gone by, Captain," said Mr Clare, suspecting that the worthy old seaman was in the vein for story-telling. "It is a long time since you have spun us a yarn, and the boys have been much wishing for one."

"Ay, that we have, Captain," we all sang out together; "we should like to hear something about those days gone by which you were dreaming of just now. We are sure from your countenance that there is something interesting; come, tell us all about it."

"You'll be disappointed, then. It's curious, and that is all I can say in its favour," answered the skipper; "I was thinking, or dreaming rather, of a circumstance which I haven't thought of for many a year that I can remember, which occurred during my first voyage. However, I'll undertake to tell it you if, when I've done, Mr Clare will spin you one of his yarns. He can spin one better than I can. Come, make him promise, and I will begin. If not, I'll shut up my mouth."

On this, of course, we all turned on our fresh water tutor and attacked him. "Come; Mr Clare, do promise us to give us one of your stories. Something about your life in America; you saw a good many curious things out there in the backwoods, which we should like to hear. Do promise us, now." Thus appealed to, Mr Clare gave the desired promise; and on this the skipper, blowing his nose with his red bandanna, which he afterwards placed across his knees, began what I will call:--


"Land, ho! Land, ho!" was shouted one morning, soon after daybreak, from the mast-head. I was on my first voyage to the West Indies, in the good ship _Banana_.

"Where away?" asked the captain, whom the sound called out of his berth on deck.

"A little on the starboard bow," was the answer.

The ship was kept away towards the point indicated, while the captain, with his glass slung on his back, went aloft. The passengers, of whom I forgot to say we had several, and all the crew, were on the lookout, wondering what land it could be. We found, after the captain came below and had consulted his chart, that it was a little rock or key to the southward of Barbadoes.

"We'll get a nearer look at them, in case any poor fellows may have been cast away there. I have known the survivors of a ship's company remain on them for weeks together, and in some instances they have died of starvation before relief has reached them."

As we approached the rock all the glasses on board were directed towards it, to ascertain if there were signs of human beings there. The spot looked silent and deserted.

"If there are any poor fellows there, how eagerly they will watch our approach--how anxious they will be lest we should sail away without looking for them," I said to myself.

While these thoughts were passing through my mind, I heard the first mate say that he could make out something white on the shore, which he took for a tent or a boat's sail. As we drew nearer it became evident that there was a tent, but no human being was stirring that we could see. Nearer still a boat was observed, drawn up on the rocks. On further inspection she was discovered to be a complete wreck. Melancholy indeed was the spectacle which told so clearly its own story--how the shipwrecked mariners had been cast on the island in their boat--how they had gone on waiting for relief, and how at length famine had carried them off, one by one, till none remained. Still our captain was not a man to quit the spot after so cursory an inspection. The ship, having got under the lee of the land, was hove to, and a boat was lowered. Charley, another midshipman, or apprentice rather, and I formed part of her crew, while Mr Merton, our first officer, went in charge of her, accompanied by some of the passengers.

It was a long, low, coral-formed island, with a white beach--a very untempting spot for a habitation in that burning climate. When we landed, Mr Merton told us to accompany him, leaving two other men in the boat. We followed close after him, with the boat's stretchers in our hands, proceeding along the beach, for the tent we had seen was some little distance from where we had landed. We had got within a hundred yards of it, when suddenly part of it was thrown back, and out there rushed towards us two figures, whose frantic and threatening gestures made us start back with no little surprise, if not with some slight degree of apprehension. They were both tall, gaunt men, their hair was long and matted, their eyes were starting out of their heads, and their cheeks were hollow and shrivelled. They looked more like skeletons covered with parchment than human beings. Their clothes were in rags, and their large straw hats were in tatters, and, to increase their strange appearance, they had covered themselves with long streamers of dried seaweed, strings of shells, and wreaths of the feathers of wild birds. Each of them flourished in his hand a piece of timber--a rib, apparently, of a boat.

"Who are you, who dare to come and invade our territory?" exclaimed one, advancing before the other. "Away--away--away! We are monarchs and rulers here. This land is ours, won by our trusty swords and battle-axes. Away, I say! or meet the consequences of your temerity."

I was at first puzzled to know who the people could be, but our mate at once comprehended the true state of the case, and with great tact endeavoured to calm the strangers instead of irritating them, as many would have done.

"Don't be afraid that we are come to interfere with you, or to trespass on your territories, most mighty sovereigns, as you undoubtedly are," he answered, stopping short and holding up his hands. "Just hear what I have to say. Lower your weapons, and let us hoist a flag of truce."

"Granted, granted. Spoke like a sensible man, most worthy ambassadors," exclaimed the person who had hitherto not said anything. And both, lowering their clubs, stood still, gazing inquiringly at us. I had never before seen the effect of a few calm words, and a steady, determined look, in tranquillising the fury of madmen. Such were, undoubtedly, these unfortunate occupants of the island.

"Listen, then," continued Mr Merton. I had never before heard him say so much at a time. "You see yonder ship: she is bound on a far-distant trip, and on her way she called here on the chance of finding any one in distress who might need aid. Should no one require it, she will at once take her departure. Can you tell me if any people are residing on your island who may wish to leave it? At all events, you yourselves may have letters to send home. If you will at once get them ready, I will gladly be the bearer."

The two unfortunate maniacs looked at each other with a bewildered look. The idea of writing home, and not going themselves, seemed to strike them forcibly.

"Home!" cried one, in a deep, hollow voice. "Home! where is that?"

"Old England, I conclude," answered our mate. "You have many friends there who would be glad to see you--father, mother, sisters, wife and children; or perhaps one who has long, long been expecting you, and mourned for you, and wondered and wondered, till the heart grew sick, that you did not come--yet even now faithful, and believing against hope, fondly expects your return."

Mr Merton had been skilfully watching the effect of his remarks. They were most successful. He had touched a chord which had long ceased to vibrate. Again the two madmen looked inquiringly into each other's faces.

"Is it possible?" said one, touching his forehead. "Has all this been an hallucination?"

"Norton, I do not longer doubt it," answered the other. "We have conjured up many wild fancies, but the sight of that ship and the sound of a countryman's voice have dispelled them. We are ready to go with you, friend."

The person who had last spoken seemed at the first to be less mad than his companion.

"I am glad of your decision, gentlemen, and the sooner we get on board the better. But tell me, did you come here alone? Have you no companions?"

"Companions! Yes, we had. We frightened them away. They fled from us."

"Where are they now?" asked the mate.

"On the other side of the island," answered the least mad of the strangers. "They dare not approach us. Perhaps you may find them. They will gladly go away. While you search for them we will prepare for our departure."

"Very well, gentlemen, we will return for you," answered Mr Merton, in his usual calm tone. It had a wonderful effect in soothing the irritation of the madmen.

We took our way in the direction they pointed across the island. After walking and climbing some way over the uneven ground, we came in sight of a hut built of driftwood and pieces of wreck, almost hid from view in the sheltered nook of the rock. No one was moving about it. Its appearance was very sad and desolate.

"Perhaps the unfortunate people are all dead," remarked Charley to me. "I think, from what those two strange men down there said, they have not seen them for a long time."

We went on, apprehending the worst. As we got nearer, we hallooed to warn anybody who might be there of our coming, so as not to take them by surprise. Again we hallooed, and directly afterwards we saw the head of a man appear at an opening in the hut which served as a window, while he thrust out of it the muzzle of a musket.

"Hillo, mate! don't fire. We come as friends," shouted Mr Merton.

The musket was speedily withdrawn, and a man appeared at the door of the hut, followed closely by another. There they both stood, closely regarding us with looks of wonder. As they saw us they called to some one inside, and two more men appeared at the door of the hut, stretching out their hands towards us. Their clothes were in rags and tatters, and they had a very wretched, starved appearance.

"Are you come to take us from this?" inquired the man we had at first seen, in a hollow, cavernous voice.

"I hope so, if you wish to go," answered the mate.

"Go! yes, yes, at once--at once!" shouted the poor wretches, in the same hollow tones. "We thought at first you were two madmen who are living on the opposite side of the island."

Mr Merton told them that they need be no longer afraid of the madmen, and that as he had no time to remain, they must accompany him at once to the boat.

The first speaker, who said that he was the mate of the vessel to which the rest belonged, replied that he was afraid none of them would be able to walk across the island, as they had scarcely any strength remaining, and that he believed a few days more would have finished their miseries.

While Mr Merton and the mate were speaking, the rest beckoned us to come into the hut. Heaps of empty shells and bones of fish showed what had been for long their principal food. Some dried seaweed had served as their beds, and a tin saucepan appeared to have been their only cooking utensil, while a cask contained a very small supply of water.

From their appearance, I do not think that they could have existed many days longer. The only weapon they had was the musket which had been presented at our approach, but the mate confessed that they had not a grain of gunpowder, but that he thought by showing it he might frighten away the madmen, for whom he mistook us. They had, consequently, been unable to shoot any of the birds which frequented the rock, though they had collected some eggs, which had proved a valuable change in their diet. As time pressed, Mr Merton urged them to prepare for their departure. Having collected a few trifling articles, relics of their long imprisonment, they declared themselves ready to make the attempt to move. Charley and I helped along the mate, who was the strongest, while Mr Merton and the two seamen who had accompanied us assisted the other three. Even as it was, so weak were they, that without the utmost aid we could afford them they could not have crossed the island. They had frequently to sit down, and almost cried like children with the pain and fatigue they suffered.

Poor fellows! we had not stopped to ask any questions as to the particulars of their disaster, but as we went along the mate gave us some of the details. From the way he spoke, I saw that, though a very quiet, well-disposed young man, he was not one formed to command his fellow-men. He told us that his name was Jabez Brand.

"I was second mate of the _North Star_, a large brig, bound from Honduras to London. We had a crew of fifteen hands, all told. Several gentlemen also took their passage in the cabin. Among them were two brothers, Messrs. Raymonds, fine, tall, handsome men. They had made their fortunes out in the West Indies, and were returning home, as they thought and said, to enjoy their wealth. How their money had been made I do not know, but it was said they were in no ways particular. Be that as it may, they had very pleasant manners, and were very open and free in their talk. One thing I remarked, that they seemed to think that they were going to be very great people with all their wealth, when they got home. Some of the other gentlemen, it seemed to me, fought rather shy of them, perhaps because, as it was said, they had supplied slave vessels with stores, or had had shares in them, which is not unlikely. The _North Star was an old vessel, though, to look at her, you would not have supposed it, for she had been painted up and fitted out so as to look as good as new. She was not the first ship I have seen sent to sea which ought to have been sold for firewood. In our run out we had only had fine weather, so she was in no way tried. On this our return trip, we had not long left port when a heavy squall came suddenly off the land and carried away our mainmast, and, the wind continuing from the same quarter, we were unable to return. We had managed to rig a jury-mast and to continue our voyage, when another gale sprung up, and blowing with redoubled fury, the ship began to labour very much in the heavy sea which quickly got up. Still, for a couple of days after this gale began, there did not seem to be much cause for apprehension, though the ship was making more water than usual. However, on the evening of the third day, finding the pumps not sucking as they ought to have done, I went down into the hold, and then, to my dismay, I found that the water was already over the ground tier of casks. I went on deck, and quietly told the captain. He turned pale, for he knew too well what sort of a craft we were aboard. However, he did not show any further signs of alarm, but told the first mate to call all hands to man the pumps, while he sent me below to tell the passengers that they would be required to lend a hand. We had been driven about, now in one direction, now in another, but were some way to the northward of the equator. The wind was at this time, however, blowing strong from the north-east, and to let both our pumps work we were obliged to put the ship right before it.

"All hands worked with a will, for we knew that our lives depended on our exertions. Even the Messrs. Raymonds set to; but while others were calm and collected, they were excited and evidently alarmed. I thought to myself what good will all their wealth be to them if the ship goes down? More than once I went below with a lantern to see if we were keeping the water under, but I saw too plainly that, in spite of all we were doing, it was gaining on us. We searched about to try and find out where the leak was, but we might as well have tried to stop the holes in a sieve. At midnight the water had risen halfway to the second tier of casks. Still all hands worked on, hoping that by sunrise a sail might appear to take us off. I saw too plainly that the ship was sinking, but it was very important to have light, that we might see how best to launch the boats. Day seemed very, very long in coming. The captain tried to cheer the people, but he must have known as well as any on board that perhaps none of us might live to see the sun rise over the waters.

"All that night we laboured without a moment's rest. Dawn came, and I went to the mast-head to learn if a sail was in sight. I scarcely expected to see one, yet I hoped against hope. Not a speck could I discover on the clearly-defined circle of the horizon. The old ship was now fast settling down, and the sea was making a complete breach over her. To enable the water to run off the decks and to allow us to launch the boats, we cut away the stanchions and bulwarks between the fore and main rigging. Such food and water as could be got at was then handed up on deck, ready to be placed in the boats. The crew did not wait the captain's orders to lower them. He seemed unwilling to abandon the ship till the last moment. There was a dinghy stowed in the longboat. While the men were getting it out a sea broke on board, and, dashing it against the spars, drove in the starboard bilge, and at the same time washed two of the poor fellows overboard. We then got the stores into the longboat. A warp was next passed over the port bow of the ship outside the fore-rigging, and then inboard again through the gangway, and secured to the bow of the boat, sufficient slack being left to allow her to go astern. However, just as we were launching the boat a sea struck her, and stove in two planks of the port bilge. I now thought that it was all up with us, for though there was the jollyboat, she could not carry half the number on board; still it was possible that we might get the planks back to their places and stop the leak; so, in spite of the accident to her, we managed by great exertions to launch her, and I, with some of the crew and passengers, jumped into her with buckets and began to bail her out. Happily, the carpenter was one of the party. Some blankets had been thrown into the boat, which he immediately thrust over the leak and stood on them, while he got ready a plank and some nails which he had brought with him. While he and I were working away the boat was shipping many seas, in consequence of the weight of the warp ahead; I sang out that we must have it shifted, and after a light rope had been hove to us and made fast, it was let go. Meantime the quarterboat was lowered and several men got into her, but their painter was too short, and before they had got their oars into her she broke adrift and dropped astern. The men in her lifted up their hands for help; the captain, who was still on deck, hove them an oar, and we hove another, but they missed both of them, and before long a sea struck the boat and turned her over. It was very sad, for we could give her no help. We, meantime, in the longboat, were not in a very much better condition, for we were shipping a great deal of water. The captain now ordered us to haul up the boat, that the people might get into her; but while we were so doing, the roughness of the sea causing a sudden jerk on the rope, it parted, and we dropped astern. Cries of despair rose from many of those on board when they saw what had occurred. We instantly got out our oars and endeavoured to pull up to the ship, but the quantity of water in her made all our efforts unavailing. To prevent the boat going down we were obliged to turn to and bail. Away we drifted, every moment, increasing our distance from the ship, and lessening our hope of being able to return. There stood our late companions on the poop of the sinking ship, some waving to us, some shouting and imploring us to return. Summoned by the captain, we saw that they then were endeavouring to form a raft. The thought that the lives of all on board depended mainly on our exertions stimulated us once more to attempt to pull up to them. We got out the oars, and while the landsmen bailed we pulled away till the stout ash-sticks almost broke. By shouts and gestures I encouraged the people; every muscle was stretched to the utmost--no one spared himself--but our strength could not contend with the fearful gale blowing in our teeth. The seas broke over us, and almost swamped the boat; still, if we could but hold our own, a lull might come before the ship went down. But vain were all our hopes; even while our eyes were fixed on the brig, her stern for an instant lifted up on a foam-crested sea, and then her bow, plunging downwards, never rose again. Most of those who remained on board were engulfed with the wreck, but a few, springing overboard before she sank, struck out towards us. It would, indeed, have required a strong swimmer to contend with that sea. One after another the heads of those who still floated disappeared beneath the foaming waves, till not one remained; the other boats also had disappeared, and we were left alone on the waste of waters. The instant the brig went down a cry arose from some in our boat, so piercing, so full of despair, that I thought that some relations or dear friends of one of those who had escaped had been lost in her; but on looking again I discovered that it had proceeded from the two brothers I have spoken of. They had lost what they had set their hearts on--what they valued more than relations and friends--their long-hoarded wealth. There they sat, the picture of blank despair. I knew that it would never do to let the people's minds rest on what had occurred, so I cheered them up as best I could, and told them that I thought we should very likely be able to reach some port or other in four or five days. On examining our stores, I found that with economy they might hold out for nearly two weeks, and before that time I hoped we might reach some civilised place. I was more concerned with the state of our boat. She was originally not a strong one, and, what with the injury she received when launched from the sinking ship, and the battering she had since got, she had become very leaky. The crew, severely taxed as their strength had been, behaved very well, but two of our passengers gave signs of becoming very troublesome. I did not suspect at the time that their minds were going. At first they were very much cast down, but then one of them roused up and began to talk very wildly, and at last the other took up the same strain, and off they went together. They insisted on taking command, and having twice as much food served out to them as others got. At one time they wanted the boat to be steered to the northward, declaring that we should have no difficulty in reaching England. I had to hide the compass from them, and at last they were pacified under the belief that we were going there. Each morning when they woke up they asked how much nearer they were to our native land. There were three other passengers--an old man, a lad, and an invalid gentleman. Consumption had already brought him near the grave, still he lasted longer than the other two. The young boy died first; fear had told on his strength; then the old man died. I could not tell exactly where we were. We were always on the lookout for land, or a sail to pick us up. One morning at daybreak the man who had taken my place at the helm roused us up with the cry of 'Land! land ahead!'

"'Old England--old England!' shouted the madmen, springing up and waving their hands.

"'My native land--my own loved home!' cried the invalid, sitting up as he awoke and gazing long and anxiously at the rock which rose out of the blue water before us.

"Drawing a deep sigh when he discovered his mistake, he sank back into his place. Soon afterwards, finding that he did not stir, I was about to raise him up. There was no need for my so doing. He had gone to that long home whence there is no return. Those who loved him on earth would see him no more. Some of the people were in a very weak and sad condition. They had been sick on board--scarcely fit for duty. I knew what the land was--the rock we are now on; but, barren as it is, I thought it would be better to recruit our strength on shore than to attempt to continue our course to the mainland in our present condition. I therefore steered for it, and was looking out for a secure spot where I might beach the boat, when the madmen, growing impatient, seized the tiller and ran her on shore, where she now lies. We were nearly swamped, and everything in the boat was wetted. She also was so much injured that she was totally unfit again to launch, and we had no means of repairing her. However, we set to work to make things as comfortable as we could, and the first thing I did was to erect a tent to shelter the sick men from the rays of the sun. Poor fellows, they did not long require it. Three of them very soon died. We had now only six survivors of those who had escaped from the foundering ship. We were all getting weaker and weaker, except the madmen, who seemed to be endowed with supernatural strength. One day I, with the three seamen who remained, went out to collect shellfish and birds' eggs. I carried the only musket we had saved, having dried some gunpowder which I had in a flask. We had come back with a supply; but as we approached the tent we saw the two madmen standing in front of it, flourishing pieces of wood and swearing that we should not enter it, and that they were the kings of the country. Some of our people wanted me to shoot them, but that, of course, I would not on any account do. I could not even say that our lives were threatened. I stopped and tried to reason with the poor men. At last they consented to give us up a saucepan and some of the provisions, and we, glad to be rid of their company, resolved to go to the other side of the island, and to build ourselves a hut from the driftwood which we had seen there in abundance. This we did, but we all have been growing weaker and weaker ever since, and had you not come to our rescue I do not think we should have held out much longer."

The mate finished his account--on which, from what he afterwards told me, I have somewhat enlarged--just as we got up to the tent. The unhappy madmen stood in front of it waiting for us. Though excited in their looks and wild in their conversation, they seemed perfectly prepared to accompany us. They looked with eyes askant at the mate and his three companions, but said nothing to them.

"Well, gentlemen, are you ready to proceed?" exclaimed Mr Brand as we got up to them.

"Certainly, noble mariners--certainly," answered one of them. "But stay, we have some freight to accompany us."

And, going into the tent, they dragged out a sea-chest, which appeared to be very heavy. The mate looked surprised, and when they were not looking he whispered to me that he did not believe that the chest contained anything of value. He, however, had not an opportunity of speaking to Mr Merton, who told them that as soon as he had seen the people into the boat he would come back and help them along with their chest. This reply satisfied them, and they sat themselves down composedly on the chest while we helped the other poor men into the boat. As soon as this was done, two of our crew were sent back to bring along the chest. Though strong men, they had no little difficulty in lifting it; but whether or not it was full of gold, no one could have watched over it more jealously than did the two madmen. It was very remarkable how completely they seemed inspired by the same spirit, and any phantasy which might enter the head of one was instantly adopted by the other.

"There's enough gold there to buy the Indies!" cried Ben Brown, a seaman, as he handed in the chest. "Take care we don't let it overboard, mates, or the gentlemen won't forgive us in a hurry."

"It is more than your lives are worth if you do so!" cried the madmen. "Be careful--be careful, now."

The boat was loaded, and we pulled away for the ship. Our captain seemed somewhat astonished at the extraordinary appearance of the people we brought on board. The mate and other men of the lost vessel were carefully handed up. They were not heavier than children, but the Messrs. Raymonds would not leave the boat till they saw their chest hoisted up in safety. Their first care on reaching the deck was about it, and, going aft to the captain, they begged he would be very careful where it was stowed.

"Stay! Before these gentlemen lose sight of it let it be opened, that there may be no mistake about its contents," said Mr Merton.

"What, and expose all our hoarded wealth to the eyes of the avaricious crew!" they cried out vehemently. "We shall be robbed and murdered for the sake of it, and this chest will be sent where many others have gone--to the bottom of the sea."

"You are perfectly safe on board this ship, I trust, gentlemen," remarked our captain. "Is the chest secured with a key?"

"Whether or not, with our consent never shall it be opened!" exclaimed one of the brothers.

"Then remember I can in no way be answerable for what is found in it when it is opened," observed the captain.

What new idea came into the heads of the two brothers I do not know, but they instantly agreed that the chest should be opened.

"Call the carpenter," said our captain, who wanted to bring the matter to a conclusion, and who probably by this time had begun to suspect the sad condition of the two gentlemen.

Mr Pincott, the carpenter, and one of his mates came aft, and made short work in opening the mysterious chest. Those who claimed it as their property started back with looks of dismay. It was full to the brim of stones and sand and shells. Again and again they looked at it; they rubbed their eyes and brows; they clutched it frantically and examined it with intense eagerness; they plunged their hands deep down among the rubbish; it was long before they appeared able to convince themselves of the reality; over and over again they went through the same action. At last one of them, the most sane of the two, drew himself up, and, pointing to the chest, said in a deep, mournful voice--

"Captain, we have been the victims of a strange hallucination, it seems. We have not lost sight of that chest since we filled it. We thought that we had stored it with gold and precious stones. I know how it was. Hunger, anxiety, hardships, had turned our brains. We had lost all-- all for which we had been so long toiling. We conjured up this phantasy as our consolation. Is it not so, Jacob?"

The other brother thus addressed shook his head and looked incredulous. Once more he applied himself to the examination of the chest. At last he got up, and looked long and fixedly at the other, as if to read the thoughts passing through his head.

"You are right, brother Simon," he said, after some time, in a deep, low, mournful voice; "it's dross--dross--all dross. What is it worse than what we have been working for? That's gone--all gone--let this go too--down--down to the bottom of the sea."

Again influenced by the same impulse, they dragged the chest to the side of the vessel, and with hurried gestures threw the contents with their hands over into the sea. It appeared as if they were trying which could heave overboard the greatest quantity in the shortest time. When they had emptied it, they lifted up the chest, and before any one could prevent them that also was cast into the sea.

"There perish all memorial of our folly!" exclaimed the one who was called Simon. "We shall have to begin the world anew. Captain, where do you propose landing us? The sooner we begin the work the better."

The captain told them that must depend on circumstances, but it was finally arranged that they were to be put on shore at Barbadoes, where, after a long conversation together, they expressed a wish to be landed. The scene was a very strange one; the rapid changes of ideas, the quickly succeeding impulses, and the extraordinary understanding between the two. We found, however, that they were twins, and had always lived together, so that they seemed to have but one mind in common.

I never met an officer who took so much interest in the apprentices-- indeed, in all the men under him. He took occasion to speak to me and Charley of what had occurred.

"How utterly incapable of affording satisfaction is wealth unless honestly obtained and righteously employed!" he remarked. "We have also before us an example of the little reliance which can be placed on wealth. These two poor men have lost theirs and their minds at the same time. Their senses have been mercifully restored to them. It remains to be seen by what means they will attempt to regain their fortunes."

I cannot say that Mr Merton's remarks made any very deep impression on me or Charley at the time, though I trust they produced their fruit in after years. Every kindness was shown the two poor men on board, and, as far as I could judge, they appeared to have become perfectly sane. The same kindness was also shown the mate and the other rescued seamen of the lost brig. We landed the mate and seamen, as well as the two brothers, at Bridge Town, in the island of Barbadoes, but from that day to this I have never heard a word about them.

Harry Higginson, some time before the Captain's yarn concluded, got up from his seat and went to the side of our cabin schoolroom and stood there, looking through a dead-light which was open to ventilate the room. He had remembered that it was about the time of the moon's rising, and went to watch it come up. As our salt tute finished, Harry turned from his lookout, and, catching my eye, beckoned me to join him, and so I did. Coming beside him, Harry pointed and whispered--for the spell of the story still lingered over us, and no one seemed willing to break it roughly--

"What do you make of that, Bob?"

The big mellow moon was right before us, and, as one would say, about the height of a house, above the eastern horizon. Its light silvered a path on the sea to us--a path that was bounded on one side by the bold, dark rocks of the southern shore of the cape, and whose limit to our right was as undefined as the undulating waters it was lost in. Across the stretch of moonlight, and a half-mile from the wreck, I saw a lugger heading for a point that made the southern side of a snug little cove which afterwards got the name of "Smuggler's Cove." It was the sight of that boat at such a time coming towards the shore of our rough cape that caused Harry's question to me.

"Singular--very singular," I answered; "we must watch that craft."

Mr Clare called to us, "Boys, what are you whispering about over there?"

We wanted to keep watch quietly by ourselves, on the discovery which promised some interest, so we did not answer, and Walter at that moment called on Mr Clare for his story.

"Well," said Mr Clare, "I promised a story as the only way of getting Captain Mugford's. I bought a great deal cheaply, and must pay now. In common honesty, therefore, I am bound to commence my story. I am afraid that I cannot make it as interesting as Captain Mugford's, inasmuch as his was about the sea, while mine relates to the land. However, I will begin."

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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 16. Mr. Clare's Story Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 16. Mr. Clare's Story

Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 16. Mr. Clare's Story
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CHAPTER FOURTEEN. UGLY VOLUNTEERS--OUR FRESH TUTE TO THE RESCUE! "Poor old Robinson Crusoe! poor old Robinson Crusoe! They made him a coat of an old nanny-goat: I wonder how they could do so! With a ring a ting tang, and a ring a ting tang, Poor old Robinson Crusoe." _Mother Goose_.The storm broke before morning, and a clear fresh September day opened on us castaways. There was no exertion of ours that could get us home, for our little cutter was a complete wreck, and we had but one of the many