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Speed, gallant bark! richer cargo is thine,
Than Brazilian gem, or Peruvian mine;
And the treasures thou bearest thy destiny wait,
For they, if thou perish, must share in thy fate.
Paul kept the launch running off free, until he was near a mile from the
ship, when, finding he was approaching the reef to the northward and
eastward, and that a favourable sand-bank lay a short distance ahead, he
put down the helm, let the sheet fly, and the boat's forefoot shot upon
the sands. By a little management, the launch was got broadside to the
bank, the water being sufficiently deep, and, when it was secured, the
females were enabled to land through the opening of a shutter.
The change from the apparent hopelessness of their situation, was so
great, as to render the whole party comparatively happy. Paul and John
Effingham united in affirming it would be quite possible to reach one of
the islands to leeward in so good a boat, and that they ought to deem
themselves fortunate, under the circumstances, in being the masters of a
little bark so well found in every essential. Eve and Mademoiselle
Viefville, who had fervently returned their thanks to the Great Ruler of
events, while in the boat, walked about the hard sand with even a sense of
enjoyment, and smiles began again to brighten the beautiful features of
the first. Mr. Effingham declared, with a grateful heart, that in no park,
or garden, had he ever before met with a promenade that seemed so
delightful as this spot of naked and moistened sand, on the sterile coast
of the Great Desert. Its charm was its security, for its distance from
every point that could be approached by the Arabs, rendered it, in their
eyes, a paradise.
Paul Powis, however, though he maintained a cheerful air, and the
knowledge that he had been so instrumental in saving the party lightened
his heart of a load, and disposed him even to gaiety, was not without some
lingering remains of uneasiness. He remembered the boats of the Dane, and,
as he thought it more than probable Captain Truck had fallen into the
hands of the barbarians, he feared that the latter might yet find the
means to lay hands on themselves. While he was at work fitting the
rigging, and preparing a jigger, with a view to render the launch more
manageable, he cast frequent uneasy glances to the northward, with a
feverish apprehension that one of the so-long-wished-for boats might at
length appear. Their friends he no longer expected, but his fears were all
directed towards the premature arrival of enemies from that quarter. None
appeared, however, and Saunders actually lighted a fire on the bank, and
prepared the grateful refreshment of tea for the whole party; none of
which had tasted food since morning, though it was now drawing near night.
"Our caterers," said Paul, smiling, as he cast his eyes over the repast
which Ann Sidley had spread on the roof of the boat, where they were all
seated on stools, boxes, and trunks, "our caterers have been of the
gentler sex, as any one may see, for we have delicacies that are fitter
for a banquet than a desert."
"I thought Miss Eve would relish them, sir," Nanny meekly excused herself
by saying; "she is not much accustomed to a coarse diet; and mamerzelle,
too, likes niceties, as I believe is the case with all of French
Eve's eyes glistened, though she felt it necessary to say something by way
"Poor Ann has been so long accustomed to humour the caprices of a petted
girl," she said, "that I fear those who will have occasion for all their
strength may be the sufferers. I should regret it for ever, Mr. Powis, if
_you_, who are every way of so much importance to us, should not find the
food you required."
"I have very inadvertently and unwittingly drawn down upon myself the
suspicion of being one of Mr. Monday's _gourmets_, a plain roast and
boiled person," the young man answered laughingly, "when it was merely my
desire to express the pleasure I had in perceiving that those whose
comfort and ease are of more account than any thing else, have been so
well cared for. I could almost starve with satisfaction, Miss Effingham,
if I saw you free from suffering under the extraordinary circumstances in
which we are placed."
Eve looked grateful, and the emotion excited by this speech restored all
that beauty which had so lately been chilled by fear.
"Did I not hear a dialogue between you and Mr. Saunders touching the
merits of sundry stores that had been left in the ship?" asked John
Effingham, turning to Paul by way of relieving his cousin's distress.
"Indeed you might; he relieved the time we were rousing at the chains with
a beautiful Jeremiad on the calamities of the lockers. I fancy, steward,
that you consider the misfortunes of the pantry as the heaviest disaster
that has befallen the Montauk!"
Saunders seldom smiled. In this particular he resembled Captain Truck; the
one subduing all light emotions from an inveterate habit of serious
comicality, and the responsibility of command; and the other having lost
most of his disposition to merriment, as the cart-horse loses his
propensity to kick, from being overworked. The steward, moreover, had
taken up the conceit that it was indicative of a "nigger" to be merry;
and, between dignity, a proper regard to his colour--which was about
half-way between that of a Gold Coast importation, and a rice-plantation
overseer, down with the fever in his third season--and dodged submission
to unmitigated calls on his time, the prevailing character of the poor
fellow's physiognomy was that of a dolorous sentimentality He believed
himself to be materially refined by having had so much intimate
communication with gentlemen and ladies, suffering under sea-sickness, and
he knew that no man in the ship could use language like that he had always
at his finger's ends. While so strongly addicted to melancholy, therefore,
he was fond of hearing himself talk; and, palpably encouraged as he had
now been by John Effingham and Paul, and a little emboldened by the
familiarity of a shipwreck, he did not hesitate about mingling in the
discourse, though holding the Effinghams habitually in awe.
"I esteem it a great privilege, ladies and gentlemen," he observed, as
soon as Paul ceased, "to have the honour of being _wracked_ (for so the
steward, in conformity with the Doric of the forecastle, pronounced the
word,) in such company. I should deem it a disgrace to be cast away in
some society I could name, although I will predicate, as we say in
America, nothing on their absence. As to what inwolves the stores, it
surgested itself to me that the ladies would like delicate diet, and I
intermated as much to Mrs. Sidley and t'other French waiting-woman. Do you
imagine, gentlemen, that the souls of the dead are permitted to look back
at such ewents of this life as touches their own private concerns and
"That would depend, I should think, steward, on the nature of the
employment of the souls themselves," returned John Effingham. "There must
be certain souls to which any occupation would be more agreeable than that
of looking behind them. But, may I ask why you inquire?"
"Because, Mr. John Effingham, sir, I do not believe Captain Truck can ever
be happy in heaven, as long as the ship is in the hands of the Arabs! If
she had been honourably and fairly wracked, and the captain suffercated by
drowning, he could go to sleep like another Christian; but, I do think,
sir, if there be any special perdition for seamen, it must be to see their
vessel rummaged by Arabs. I'll warrant, now, those blackguards have had
their fingers in everything already; sugar, chocolate, raisins, coffee,
cakes, and all! I wonder who they think would like to use articles they
have handled! And there is poor Toast, gentlemen, an aspiring and
improving young man; one who had the materials of a good steward in him,
though I can hardly say they were completely deweloped. I did look forward
to the day when I could consign him to Mr. Leach as my own predecessor,
when Captain Truck and I should retire, as I have no doubt we should have
done on the same day, but for this distressing accident. I dewoutly pray
that Toast is deceased, for I would rather any misfortune should befall
him in the other world than that he should be compelled to associate with
Arab niggers in this. Dead or alive, ladies, I am an advocate for a man's
keeping himself respectable, and in proper company."
So elastic had the spirits of the whole become by their unlooked-for
escape, that Saunders was indulged to the top of his humour, and while he
served the meal, passing between his fire on the sands and the roof of the
launch, he enjoyed a heartier gossip than any he had had since they left
the dock; not even excepting those sniggering scenes with Mr. Toast in the
pantry, in which he used to unbend himself a little, forgetting his
dignity as steward in the native propensities of the black.
Paul Powis entered but a moment into the trifling, for on him rested the
safety of all. He alone could navigate, or even manage the boat in rough
water; and, while the others confided so implicitly in his steadiness and
skill, he felt the usual burden of responsibility. When the supper was
ended, and the party were walking up and down the little islet of sand, he
took his station on the roof therefore, and examined the proceedings of
the Arabs with the glass; Mr. Sharp, with a species of chivalrous
self-denial that was not lost on his companion, foregoing the happiness of
walking at the side of Eve, to remain near him.
"The wretches have laid waste the cabins already!" observed Mr. Sharp,
when Paul had been looking at the ship some little time. "That which it
took months to produce they will destroy in an hour."
"I do not see that," returned Paul; "there are but about fifty in the
ship, and their efforts seem to be directed to hauling her over against
the rocks. They have no means of landing their plunder where she lies; and
I suspect there is a sort of convention that all are to start fair. One or
two, who appear to be chiefs, go in and out of the cabins; but the rest
are actively engaged in endeavouring to move the ship."
"And with what success?"
"None, apparently. It exceeds their knowledge of mechanics to force so
heavy a mass from its position. The wind has driven the ship firmly on the
bank, and nothing short of the windlass, or capstan, can remove her. These
ignorant creatures have got two or three small ropes between the vessel
and the reef, and are pulling fruitlessly at both ends! But _our_ chief
concern will be to find an outlet into the ocean, when we will make the
best of our way towards the Cape de Verds."
Paul now commenced a long and close examination of the reef, to ascertain
by what openings he might get the launch on the outside. To the northward
of the great inlet there was a continued line of rocks, on which he was
sorry to perceive armed Arabs beginning to show themselves; a sign that
the barbarians still entertained the hope of capturing the party.
Southward of the inlet there were many places in which a boat might pass
at half-tide, and he trusted to getting through one of them as soon as it
became dark. As the escape in the boat could not have been foreseen, the
Arabs had not yet brought down upon them the boats of the wreck; but
should morning dawn and find them still within the reef, he saw no hope of
final escape against boats that would posess the advantage of oars,
ignorant as the barbarians might be of their proper use.
Every thing was now ready. The interior of the launch was divided into two
apartments by counterpanes, trunks, and boxes; the females spreading their
mattresses in the forward room, and the males in the other. Some of those
profound interpreters of the law, who illustrate legislation by the
devices of trade, had shipped in the Montauk several hundred rude leaden
busts of Napoleon, with a view to save the distinction in duties between
the metal manufactured and the metal unmanufactured. Four or five of these
busts had been struck into the launch as ballast. They were now snugly
stowed, together with the water, and all the heavier articles, in the
bottom of the boat. The jigger had been made and bent, and a suitable mast
was stepped by means of the roof. In short, every provision for comfort or
safety that Paul could think of had been attended to: and every thing was
in readiness to re-embark as soon as the proper hour should arrive.
The gentler portion of the party were seated on the edge of the roof,
watching the setting sun, and engaged in a discourse with feelings more
attempered to their actual condition than had been the case immediately
after their escape. The evening had a little of that wild and watery
aspect which, about the same hour, had given Captain Truck so much
concern, but the sun dipped gorgeously into the liquid world of the West,
and the whole scene, including the endless desert, the black reef, the
stranded ship, and the movements of the bustling Arabs, was one of
"Could we foretell the events of a month," said John Effingham, "with what
different feelings from the present would life be chequered! When we left
London, the twenty days since, our eyes and minds were filled with the
movements, cares, refinements, and interest of a great and polished
capital, and here we sit, houseless wanderers, gazing at an eventide on
the coast of Africa! In this way, young men, and young ladies too, will
you find, as life glides away that the future will disappoint the
expectations of the present moment!"
"All futures are not gloomy, cousin Jack," said Eve; "nor is all hope
doomed to meet with disappointment. A merciful God cares for us when we
are reduced to despair on our own account, and throws a ray of unexpected
light on our darkest hours. Certainly we, of all his creatures, ought not
to deny this!"
"I do not deny it. We have been rescued in a manner so simple as to seem
unavoidable, and yet so unexpected as to be almost miraculous. Had not Mr.
Blunt, or Mr. Powis, as you call him--although I am not in the secret of
the masquerade--but, had not this gentleman been a seaman, it would have
surpassed all our means to get this boat into the water, or even to use
her properly were she even launched. I look upon his profession as being
the first great providential interference, or provision, in our behalf;
and his superior skill and readiness in that profession as a circumstance
of no less importance to us."
Eve was silent; but the glow in the western sky was scarcely more radiant
and bright than the look she cast on the subject of the remark.
"It is no great merit to be a seaman, for the trade is like another, a
mere matter of practice and education," observed Paul, after a moment of
awkward hesitation. "If, as you say, I have been instrumental in serving
you, I shall never regret the accidents--cruel accidents of my early life
I had almost called them--that cast my fortunes so early on the ocean."
A falling pin would have been heard, and all hoped the young man would
proceed; but he chose to be silent. Saunders happened to overhear the
remark, for he was aiding Ann Sidley in the boat, and he took up the
subject where it was left by the other, in a little aside with his
"It is a misfortune that Mr. Dodge is not here to question the gentleman,"
said the steward to his assistant, "and then we might hear more of his
adwentures, which, I make no doubt, have been werry pathetic and
romantical. Mr. Dodge is a genuine inquisitor, Mistress Ann; not such an
inquisitor as burns people and flays them in Spain, where I have been, but
such an inquisitor as torments people, and of whom we have lots
"Let the poor man rest in peace," said Nanny, sighing. "He's gone to his
great account, steward; and I fear we shall none of us make as good a
figure as we might at the final settling. Besides Miss Eve, I never knew a
mortal that wasn't more or less a sinner."
"So they all say; and I must allow that my experience leans to the wicked
side of the question. Captain Truck, now, was a worthy man; but he had his
faults, as well as Toast. In the first place he would swear when things
took him aback; and then, he had no prewarication about speaking his mind
of a fellow-creature, if the coffee happened to be thick, or the poultry
didn't take fat kindly. I've known him box the compass with oaths if the
ship was got in irons."
"It's very sinful; and it is to be feared that the poor man was made to
think of all this in his latter moments."
"If the Arabs undertook to cannibalize him, I think he must have given it
to them right and left," continued Saunders, wiping an eye, for between
him and the captain there had existed some such affection as the prisoner
comes to feel for the handcuffs with which he amuses his _ennui_, "some of
his oaths would choke a dog."
"Well, let him rest--let him rest. Providence is kind, and the poor man
may have repented in season."
"And Toast, too! I'm sure, Mrs. Ann, I forgive Toast all the little
mistakes he made, from the bottom of my heart, and particularly that
affair of the beefsteak that he let fall into the coffee the morning that
Captain Truck took me so flat aback about it; and I pray most dewoutly
that the captain, now he has dropped this mortal coil, and that there is
nothing left of him but soul, may not find it out, lest it should breed
ill-blood between them in heaven."
"Steward, you scarcely know what you say," interrupted Ann, shocked at his
ignorance, "and I will speak of it no more."
Mr. Saunders was compelled to acquiesce, and he amused himself by
listening to what was said by those on the roof. As Paul did not choose to
explain farther, however, the conversation was resumed as if he had said
nothing. They talked of their escape, their hopes, and of the supposed
fate of the rest of the party; the discourse leaving a feeling of sadness
on all, that harmonized with the melancholy, but not unpicturesque, scene
in which they were placed. At length the night set in; and as it
threatened to be dark and damp, the ladies early made their arrangements
to retire. The gentlemen remained on the sands much later; and it was ten
o clock before Paul Powis and Mr. Sharp, who had assumed the watch, were
This was about an hour later than the period already described as the
moment when Captain Truck disposed himself to sleep in the launch of the
Dane. The weather had sensibly altered in the brief interval, and there
were signs that, to the understanding of our young seaman, denoted a
change. The darkness was intense. So, deep and pitchy black, indeed, had
the night become, that even the land was no longer to be distinguished,
and the only clues the two gentlemen had to its position were the
mouldering watch-fires of the Arab camp, and the direction of the wind.
"We will now make an attempt," said Paul, stopping in his short walk on
the sand, and examining the murky vault over head. "Midnight is near; and
by two o'clock the tide will be entirely up. It is a dark night to thread
these narrow channels in, and to go out upon the ocean, too, in so frail a
bark! But the alternative is worse."
"Would it not be better to allow the water to rise still higher? I see by
these sands that it has not yet done coming in."
"There is not much tide in these low latitudes, and the little rise that
is left may help us off a bank, should we strike one. If you will get upon
the roof, I will bring in the grapnels and force the boat off."
Mr. Sharp complied, and in a few minutes the launch was floating slowly
away from the hospitable bank of sand. Paul hauled out the jigger, a small
sprit-sail, that kept itself close-hauled from being fastened to a
stationary boom, and a little mast stepped quite aft, the effect of which
was to press the boat against the wind. This brought the launch's head up,
and it was just possible to see, by close attention, that they had a
slight motion through the water.
"I quit that bank of sand as one quits a tried friend," said Paul, all the
conversation now being in little more than whispers: "when near it, I know
where we are; but presently we shall be absolutely lost in this intense
"We have the fires of the Arabs for lighthouses still."
"They may give us some faint notions of our position but light like that
is a very treacherous guide in so dark a night. We have little else to do
but to keep an eye on the water, and to endeavour to get to windward."
Paul set the lug-sail, into which he had converted the royal, and seated
himself directly in the eyes of the boat, with a leg hanging down on each
side of the cutwater. He had rigged lines to the tiller, and with one in
each hand he steered, as if managing a boat with yoke-lines. Mr. Sharp was
seated at hand, holding the sheet of the mainsail; a boat-hook and a light
spar lying on the roof near by, in readiness to be used should
While on the bank, Paul had observed that, by keeping the boat near the
wind, he might stretch through one of the widest of the channels for near
two miles unless disturbed by currents, and that, when at its southern
end, he should be far enough to windward to fetch the inlet, but for the
banks of sand that might lie in his way. The distance had prevented his
discerning any passage through the reef at the farther end of this
channel; but, the boat drawing only two feet of water, he was not without
hopes of being able to find one. A chasm, that was deep enough to prevent
the passage of the Arabs when the tide was in, would, he thought,
certainly suffice for their purpose. The progress of the boat was steady,
and reasonably fast; but it was like moving in a mass of obscurity. The
gentleman watched the water ahead intently, with a view to avoid the
banks, but with little success; for, as they advanced, it was merely one
pile of gloom succeeding another. Fortunately the previous observation of
Paul availed them, and for more than half an hour their progress was
"They sleep in security beneath us," said Paul, "while we are steering
almost at random. This is a strange and hazardous situation in which we
are placed. The obscurity renders all the risks double."
"By the watch-fires, we must have nearly crossed the bay, and I should
think we are now quite near the southern reef."
"I think the same; but I like not this baffling of the wind. It comes
fresher at moments, but it is in puffs, and fear there will be a shift It
is now my best pilot."
"That and the fires."
"The fires are treacherous always. It looks darker than ever ahead!"
The wind ceased blowing altogether, and the sail fell in heavily. Almost
at the same moment the launch lost its way, and Paul had time to thrust
the boot-hook forward just in season to prevent its striking a rock.
"This is a part of the reef, then, that is never covered," said he. "If
you will get on the rocks and hold the boat, I will endeavour to examine
the place for a passage. Were we one hundred feet to the southward and
westward, we should be in the open ocean, and comparatively safe."
Mr. Sharp complied, and Paul descended carefully on the reef, feeling his
way in the intense darkness by means of the boat-hook. He was absent ten
minutes, moving with great caution, as there was the danger of his falling
into the sea at every step. His friend began to be uneasy, and the whole
of the jeopardy of their situation presented itself vividly to his mind in
that brief space of time, should accident befall their only guide. He was
looking anxiously in the direction in which Paul had disappeared, when he
felt a gripe of his arm.
"Breathe even with care!" whispered Paul hurriedly. "These rocks are
covered with Arabs, who have chosen to remain on the dry parts of the
reef, in readiness for their plunder in the morning. Thank Heaven! I have
found you again; for I was beginning to despair. To have called to you
would have been certain capture, as eight or ten of the barbarians are
sleeping within fifty feet of us. Get on the roof with the least possible
noise, and leave the rest to me."
As soon as Mr. Sharp was in the boat, Paul gave it a violent shove from
the rocks, and sprang on the roof at the same moment. This forced the
launch astern, and procured a momentary safety. But the wind had shifted.
It now came baffling, and in puffs, from the Desert, a circumstance that
brought them again to leeward.
"This is the commencement of the trades," said Paul, "they have been
interrupted by the late gale, but are returning. Were we outside the reef,
our prayers could not be more kindly answered than by giving us this very
wind but here, where we are, it comes unseasonably. Ha!--this, at least,
A puff from the land filled the sails, and the ripple of the water at the
stern was just audible. The helm was attended to, and the boat drew slowly
from the reef and ahead.
"We have all reason for gratitude! That danger, at least, is avoided. Ha!
the boat is aground!"
Sure enough the launch was on the sands. They were still so near the
rocks, as to require the utmost caution in their proceedings. Using the
spar with great care, the gentlemen discovered that the boat hung astern,
and there remained no choice but patience.
"It is fortunate the Arabs have no dogs with them on the rocks: you hear
them howling incessantly in their camps."
"It is, truly. Think you we can ever find the inlet in this deep
"It is our only course. By following the rocks we should be certain to
discover it; but you perceive they are already out of sight, though they
cannot be thirty fathoms from us. The helm is free, and the boat must be
clear of the bottom again. This last puff has helped us."
Another silence succeeded, during which the launch moved slowly onward,
though whither, neither of the gentlemen could tell. But a single fire
remained in sight, and that glimmered like a dying blaze. At times the
wind came hot and arid, savouring of the Desert, and then intervals of
death-like calm would follow. Paul watched the boat narrowly for half an
hour, turning every breath of air to the best account, though he was
absolutely ignorant of his position. The reef had not been seen again, and
three several times they grounded, the tide as often floating them off.
The course, too, had been repeatedly varied. The result was that painful
and profound sensation of helplessness that overcomes us all when the
chain of association is broken, and reason becomes an agent less useful
"The last fire is out," whispered Paul. "I fear that the day will dawn
and find us still within the reef."
"I see an object near us. Can it be a high bank?"
The wind had entirely ceased, and the boat was almost without motion. Paul
saw a darkness more intense even than common ahead of him, and he leaned
forward, naturally raising a hand before him in precaution. Something he
touched, he knew not what; but feeling a hard smooth surface, that he at
first mistook for a rock, he raised his eyes slowly, and discerned, by the
little light that lingered in the vault of heaven, a dim tracery that he
recognized. His hand was on the quarter of the ship!
"'Tis the Montauk!" he whispered breathlessly, "and her decks must be
covered with Arabs. Hist!--do you hear nothing?"
They listened, and smothered voices, those of the watch, mingled with low
laughter, were quite audible. This was a crisis to disturb the coolness of
one less trained and steady than Paul; but he preserved his
"There is good as well as evil in this," he whispered. "I now know our
precise position; and, God be praised! the inlet is near, could we but
reach it.--By a strong shove we can always force the launch from the
vessel's side, and prevent their boarding us; and I think, with extreme
caution, we may even haul the boat past the ship undetected."
This delicate task was undertaken. It was necessary to avoid even a tread
heavier than common, a fall of the boat-hook, or a collision with the
vessel, as the slightest noise became distinctly audible in the profound
stillness of deep night. Once enlightened as to his real position,
however, Paul saw with his mind's eye obstructions that another might not
have avoided. He knew exactly where to lay his hand, when to bear off, and
when to approach nearer to the side of the ship, as he warily drew the
boat along the massive hull.--The yard of the launch luckily leaned
towards the reef, and offered no impediment. In this manner, then, the two
gentlemen hauled their boat as far as the bows of the ship, and Paul was
on the point of giving a last push, with a view to shove it to as great a
distance possible ahead of the packet, when its movement was suddenly and
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