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And there he went ashore without delay,
Having no custom-house or quarantine,--
To ask him awkward questions on the way
About the time and place where he had been.
Under such circumstances, it will occasion no great surprise that the
cabin was aroused next morning with the sudden and startling information
that the land was close aboard the ship. Every one hurried on deck, where,
sure enough, the dreaded coast of Africa was seen, with a palpable
distinctness, within two miles of the vessel. It presented a long broken
line of sand-hills, unrelieved by a tree, or by so few as almost to merit
this description, and with a hazy background of remote mountains to the
north-east. The margin of the actual coast nearest to the ship was
indented with bays; and even rocks appeared in places; but the general
character of the scene was that of a fierce and burning sterility. On this
picture of desolation all stood gazing in awe and admiration for some
minutes, as the day gradually brightened, until a cry arose from forward,
of "a ship!"
"Whereaway?" sternly demanded Captain Truck; for the sudden and unexpected
appearance of this dangerous coast had awakened all that was forbidding
and severe in the temperament of the old master; "whereaway, sir?"
"On the larboard quarter, sir, and at anchor."
"She is ashore!" exclaimed half-a-dozen voices at the same instant, just
as the words came from the last speaker. The glass soon settled this
important point. At the distance of about a league astern of them were,
indeed, to be seen the spars of a ship, with the hull looming on the
sands, in a way to leave no doubt of her being a wreck. It was the first
impression of all, that this, at last, was the Foam; but Captain Truck
soon announced the contrary.
"It is a Swede, or a Dane," he said, "by his rig and his model. A stout,
solid, compact sea-boat, that is high and dry on the sands, looking as if
he had been built there. He does not appear even to have bilged, and most
of his sails, and all of his yards, are in their places. Not a living soul
is to be seen about her! Ha! there are signs of tents made of sails on
shore, and broken bales of goods! Her people have been seized and carried
into the desert, as usual, and this is a fearful hint that we must keep
the Montauk off the bottom. Turn-to the people, Mr. Leach, and get up your
sheers that we may step our jury-masts at once; the smallest breeze on the
land would drive us ashore, without any after-sail."
While the mates and the crew set about completing the work they had
prepared the previous day, Captain Truck and his passengers passed the
time in ascertaining all they could concerning the wreck, and the reasons
of their being themselves in a position so very different from what they
had previously believed.
As respects the first, little more could be ascertained; she lay
absolutely high and dry on a hard sandy beach, where she had probably been
cast during the late gale, and sufficient signs were made out by the
captain, to prove to him that she had been partly plundered. More than
this could not be discovered at that distance, and the work of the Montauk
was too urgent to send a boat manned with her own people to examine. Mr.
Blunt, Mr. Sharp, Mr. Monday, and the servants of the two former, however,
volunteering to pull the cutter, it was finally decided to look more
closely into the facts, Captain Truck himself taking charge of the
expedition.--While the latter is getting ready, a word of explanation will
suffice to tell the reader the reason why the Montauk had fallen so much
The ship being so near the coast, it became now very obvious she was
driven by a current that set along the land, but which, it was probable,
had set towards it more in the offing. The imperceptible drift between the
observation of the previous day and the discovery of the coast, had
sufficed to carry the vessel a great distance; and to this simple cause,
coupled perhaps with some neglect in the steerage during the past night,
was her present situation to be solely attributed. Just at this moment,
the little air there was came from the land, and by keeping her head
off-shore, Captain Truck entertained no doubt of his being able to escape
the calamity that had befallen the other ship in the fury of the gale. A
wreck is always a matter of so much interest with mariners, therefore,
that taking all these things into view, he had come to the determination
we have mentioned, of examining into the history of the one in sight, so
far as circumstances permitted.
The Montauk carried three boats; the launch, a large, safe, and
well-constructed craft, which stood in the usual chucks between the
foremast and mainmast; a jolly-boat, and a cutter. It was next to
impossible to get the first into the water, deprived as the ship was of
its mainmast; but the other hanging at davits, one on each quarter, were
easily lowered. The packets seldom carry any arms beyond a light gun to
fire signals with, the pistols of the master, and perhaps a fowling-piece
or two. Luckily the passengers were better provided: all the gentlemen had
pistols, Mr. Monday and Mr. Dodge excepted, if indeed they properly
belonged to this category, as Captain Truck would say, and most of them
had also fowling-pieces. Although a careful examination of the coast with
the glasses offered no signs of the presence of any danger from enemies,
these arms were carefully collected, loaded, and deposited in the boats,
in order to be prepared for the worst. Provisions and water were also
provided, and the party were about to proceed.
Captain Truck and one or two of the adventurers were still on the deck,
when Eve, with that strange love of excitement and adventure that often
visits the most delicate spirits, expressed an idle regret that she could
not make one in the expedition.
"There is something so strange and wild in landing on an African desert,"
she said; "and I think a near view of the wreck would repay us,
Mademoiselle, for the hazard."
The young men hesitated between their desire to have such a companion, and
their doubts of the prudence of the step; but Captain Truck declared there
could be no risk, and Mr. Effingham consenting, the whole plan was altered
so as to include the ladies; for there was so much pleasure in varying the
monotony of a calm, and escaping the confinement of ship, that everybody
entered into the new arrangement with zeal and spirit.
A single whip was rigged on the fore-yard, a chair was slung, and in ten
minutes both ladies were floating on the ocean in the cutter. This boat
pulled six oars, which were manned by the servants of the two Messrs.
Effinghams, Mr. Blunt, and Mr. Sharp, together with the two latter
gentlemen in person. Mr. Effingham steered. Captain Truck had the
jolly-boat, of which he pulled an oar himself, aided by Saunders, Mr.
Monday, and Sir George Templemore; the mates and the regular crew being
actively engaged in rigging their jury-mast. Mr. Dodge declined being of
the party, feeding himself with the hope that the present would be a
favourable occasion to peep into the state-rooms, to run his eye over
forgotten letters and papers, and otherwise to increase the general stock
of information of the editor of the Active Inquirer.
"Look to your chains, and see all clear for a run of the anchors, Mr.
Leach, should you set within a mile of the shore," called out the captain,
as they pulled off from the vessel's side. "The ship is drifting along the
land, but the wind you have will hardly do more than meet the send of the
sea, which is on shore: should any thing go wrong show an ensign at the
head of the jury-stick forward."
The mate waved his hand, and the adventurers passed without the sound of
the voice. It was a strange sensation to most of those in the boats, to
find themselves in their present situation. Eve and Mademoiselle
Viefville, in particular, could scarcely credit their senses, when they
found the egg-shells that held them heaving and setting like bubbles on
those long sluggish swells, which had seemed of so little consequence
while in the ship, but which now resembled the heavy respirations of a
leviathan. The boats, indeed, though always gliding onward, impelled by
the oars, appeared at moments to be sent helplessly back and forth, like
playthings of the mighty deep, and it was some minutes before either
obtained a sufficient sense of security to enjoy her situation. As they
receded fast from the Montauk, too, their situation seemed still more
critical; and with all her sex's love of excitement, Eve heartily repented
of her undertaking before they had gone a mile. The gentlemen, however,
were all in good spirits, and as the boats kept near each other, Captain
Truck enlivening their way with his peculiar wit, and Mr. Effingham, who
was influenced by a motive of humanity in consenting to come, being
earnest and interested, Eve soon began to entertain other ideas.
As they drew near the end of their little expedition, entirely new
feelings got the mastery of the whole party. The solitary and gloomy
grandeur of the coasts, the sublime sterility,--for even naked sands may
become sublime by their vastness,--the heavy moanings of the ocean on the
beach, and the entire spectacle of the solitude, blended as it was with
the associations of Africa, time, and the changes of history, united to
produce sensations of a pleasing melancholy. The spectacle of the ship,
bringing with it the images of European civilization, as it lay helpless
and deserted on the sands, too, heightened all.
This vessel, beyond a question, had been driven up on a sea during the
late gale, at a point where the water was of sufficient depth to float
her, until within a few yards of the very spot where she now lay; Captain
Truck giving the following probable history of the affair:
"On all sandy coasts," he said, "the return waves that are cast on the
beach form a bar, by washing back with them a portion of the particles.
This bar is usually within thirty or forty fathoms of the shore, and there
is frequently sufficient water within it to float a ship. As this bar,
however, prevents the return of all the water, on what is called the
under-tow, narrow channels make from point to point, through which this
excess of the element escapes. These channels are known by the appearance
of the water over them, the seas breaking less at those particular places
than in the spots where the bottom lies nearer to the surface, and all
experienced mariners are aware of the fact. No doubt, the unfortunate
master of this ship, finding himself reduced to the necessity of running
ashore to save the lives of his crew, has chosen such a place, and has
consequently forced his vessel up to a spot where she has remained dry as
soon as the sea fell. So worthy a fellow deserved a better fate; for this
wreck is not three days old, and yet no signs are to be seen of any who
were in that stout ship."
These remarks were made as the crew of the two boats lay on their oars, at
a short distance without the line on the water, where the breaking of the
sea pointed out the position of the bar. The channel, also, was plainly
visible directly astern of the ship, the sea merely rising and falling in
it without combing. A short distance to the southward, a few bold black
rocks thrust themselves forward, and formed a sort of bay, in which it was
practicable to land without risk; for they had come on the coast in a
region where the monotony of the sands, as it appeared when close in, was
little relieved by the presence of anything else.
"If you will keep the cutter just without the breakers, Mr. Effingham,"
Captain Truck continued, after standing up a while and examining the
shore, "I will pull into the channel, and land in yonder bay. If you feel
disposed to follow, you may do so by giving the tiller to Mr. Blunt, on
receiving a signal to that effect from me. Be steady, gentlemen, at your
oars, and look well to the arms on landing, for we are in a knavish part
of the world. Should any of the monkeys or ouran-outangs claim kindred
with Mr. Saunders, we may find it no easy matter to persuade them to leave
us the pleasure of his society."
The captain made a sign, and the jolly-boat entered the channel. Inclining
south, it was seen rising and falling just within the breakers, and then
it was hid by the rocks. In another minute, Mr. Truck, followed by all but
Mr. Monday, who stood sentinel at the boat, was on the rocks, making his
way towards the wreck. On reaching the latter, he ascended swiftly even to
the main cross-trees. Here a long examination of the plain, beyond the
bank that hid it from the view of all beneath, succeeded, and then the
signal to come on was made to those who were still in the boat.
"Shall we venture?" cried Paul Blunt, soliciting an assent by the very
manner in which he put the question.
"What say you, dear father?"
"I hope we may not yet be too late to succour some Christian in distress,
my child. Take the tiller, Mr. Blunt, and in Heaven's good name, and for
humanity's sake, let us proceed!"
The boat advanced, Paul Blunt standing erect to steer, his ardour to
proceed corrected by apprehensions on account of her precious freight.
There was an instant when the ladies trembled, for it seemed as if the
light boat was about to be cast upon the shore, like the froth of the sea
that shot past them; but the steady hand of him who steered averted the
danger, and in another minute they were floating at the side of the
jolly-boat. The ladies got ashore without much difficulty, and stood on
the summit of the rocks.
"Nous voici donc, en Afrique," exclaimed Mademoiselle Viefville, with that
sensation of singularity that comes over all when they first find
themselves in situations of extraordinary novelty.
"The wreck--the wreck," murmured Eve; "let us go to the wreck. There may
be yet a hope of saving some wretched sufferer."
Toward the wreck they all proceeded, after leaving two of the servants to
relieve Mr. Monday on his watch.
It was an impressive thing to stand at the side of a ship on the sands of
Africa, a scene in which the desolation of an abandoned vessel was
heightened by the desolation of a desert. The position of the vessel,
which stood nearly erect, imbedded in the sands, rendered it less
difficult than might be supposed for the ladies to ascend to, and to walk
her decks, a rude staging having been made already to facilitate the
passage. Here the scene became thrice exciting, for it was the very type
of a hastily deserted and cherished dwelling.
Before Eve and Mademoiselle Viefville gained the deck, the other party had
ascertained that no living soul remained. The trunks, chests, furniture,
and other appliances of the cabin, had been rummaged, and many boxes had
been raised from the hold, and plundered, a part of their contents still
lying scattered on the decks. The ship, however, had been lightly
freighted, and the bulk of her cargo, which was salt, was apparently
untouched. A Danish ensign was found bent to the halyards, a proof that
Captain Truck's original conjecture concerning the character of the vessel
was accurate, her name, too, was ascertained to be the Carrier, as
translated into English, and she belonged to Copenhagen. More than this it
was not easy to ascertain. No papers were found, and her cargo, or as much
of it as remained, was so mixed, and miscellaneous, as Saunders called it,
that no plausible guess could be given as to the port where it had been
taken in, if indeed it had all been received on board at the same place.
Several of the light sails had evidently been carried off, but all the
heavy canvas was left on the yards which remained in their places. The
vessel was large, exceedingly strong, as was proved by the fact that she
had not bilged in beaching, and apparently well found. Nothing was wanting
to launch her into the ocean but machinery and force, and a crew to sail
her, when she might have proceeded on her voyage as if nothing unusual had
occurred. But such a restoration was hopeless, and this admirable machine,
like a man cut off in his youth and vigour, had been cast upon the shores
of this inhospitable region, to moulder where it lay, unless broken up for
the wood and iron by the wanderers of the desert.
There was no object more likely to awaken melancholy ideas in a mind
resembling that of Captain Truck's, than a spectacle of this nature. A
fine ship, complete in nearly all her parts, virtually uninjured, and yet
beyond the chance of further usefulness, in his eyes was a picture of the
most cruel loss. He cared less for the money it had cost than for the
qualities and properties that were thus destroyed.
He examined the bottom, which he pronounced capital for stowing, and
excellent as that of a sea-boat; he admired the fastenings: applied his
knife to try the quality of the wood, and pronounced the Norway pine of
the spars to be almost equal to anything that could be found in our own
southern woods. The rigging, too, he regarded as one loves to linger over
the regretted qualities of a deceased friend.
The tracks of camels and horses were abundant on the sand around the
ship, and especially at the bottom of the rude staging by which the party
had ascended, and which had evidently been hastily made in order to carry
articles from the vessel to the backs of the animals that were to bear
them into the desert. The foot-prints of men were also to be seen, and
there was a startling and mournful certainty in distinguishing the marks
of shoes, as well as those of the naked foot.
Judging from all these signs, Captain Truck was of opinion the wreck must
have taken place but two or three days before, and that the plunderers had
not left the spot many hours.
"They probably went off with what they could carry at sunset last evening,
and there can be no doubt that before many days, they, or others in their
places, will be back again. God protect the poor fellows who have fallen
into this miserable bondage! What an occasion would there now be to rescue
one of them, should he happen to be hid near this spot!"
The idea seized the whole party at once, and all eagerly turned to examine
the high bank, which rose nearly to the summit of the masts, in the hope
of discovering some concealed fugitive. The gentlemen went below again,
and Mr. Sharp and Mr. Blunt called out in German, and English, and French,
to invite any one who might be secreted to come forth. No sound answered
these friendly calls. Again Captain Truck went aloft to look into the
interior, but he beheld nothing more than the broad and unpeopled desert.
A place where the camels had descended to the beach was at no great
distance, and thither most of the party proceeded, mounting to the level
of the plain beyond. In this little expedition, Paul Blunt led the
advance, and as he rose over the brow of the bank, he cocked both barrels
of his fowling-piece, uncertain what might be encountered. They found,
however, a silent waste, almost without vegetation, and nearly as
trackless as the ocean that lay behind them. At the distance of a hundred
rods, an object was just discernible, lying on the plain half-buried in
sand, and thither the young men expressed a wish to go, first calling to
those in the ship to send a man aloft to give the alarm, in the event of
any party of the Mussulmans being seen. Mr. Effingham, too, on being told
their intention, had the precaution to cause Eve and Mademoiselle
Viefville to get into the cutter, which he manned, and caused to pull out
over the bar, where she lay waiting the issue.
A camel's path, of which the tracks were nearly obliterated by the sands,
led to the object; and after toiling along it, the adventurers soon
reached the desired spot. It proved to be the body of a man who had died
by violence. His dress and person denoted that of a passenger rather than
that of a seaman, and he had evidently been dead but a very few hours,
probably not twelve. The cut of a sabre had cleft his skull. Agreeing not
to acquaint the ladies with this horrible discovery, the body was hastily
covered with the sand, the pockets of the dead man having been first
examined; for, contrary to usage, his person had not been stripped. A
letter was found, written by a wife to her husband, and nothing more. It
was in German, and its expressions and contents, though simple, were
endearing and natural. It spoke of the traveller's return; for she who
wrote it little thought of the miserable fate that awaited her beloved in
this remote desert.
As nothing else was visible, the party returned hastily to the beach,
where they found that Captain Truck had ended his investigation, and was
impatient to return. In the interest of the scene the Montauk had
disappeared behind a headland, towards which she had been drifting when
they left her. Her absence created a general sense of loneliness, and the
whole party hastened into the jolly-boat, as if fearful of being left.
When without the bar again, the cutter took in her proper crew, and the
boats pulled away, leaving the Dane standing on the beach in his solitary
desolation--a monument of his own disaster.
As they got further from the land the Montauk came in sight again, and
Captain Truck announced the agreeable intelligence that the jury mainmast
was up, and that the ship had after-sail set, diminutive and defective as
it might be. Instead of heading to the southward, however, as heretofore,
Mr. Leach was apparently endeavouring to get back again to the northward
of the headland that had shut in the ship, or was trying to retrace his
steps. Mr. Truck rightly judged that this was proof his mate disliked the
appearance of the coast astern of him, and that he was anxious to get an
offing. The captain in consequence urged his men to row, and in little
more than an hour the whole party were on the deck of the Montauk again,
and the boats were hanging at the davits.
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