Peter the Whaler
by W.H.G. Kingston
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"I owe everything to you, Peter," he said, and the tears stood in his eyes—"my life and property, and more, the safety of this dear child; and I do feel most cruelly not being able to make you any return. In England the sovereign would have given you a free pardon to a certainty; here, in such a case as yours, we have no one to appeal to. I have introduced myself to your captain, and, as he seems a kind man, I trust he will interest himself in you. I beg to offer you an outfit, which I have brought on board; and I fear that there is little else I can do for you. When you come back I shall be on the look-out for you, and then you must fulfil your promise of sailing with me. Make yourself a thorough seaman in the meantime, and I think I can promise you very soon the command of a ship."

Mary joined in, and entreated me first to take care of myself, and then to come back to Charleston to rejoin them.

"You know, Peter, I shall be nearly grown up by that time," she said, in her sweet, innocent, and lively manner, though she was half crying at the time. "Then, you know, if you become first mate, I shall be able to act as father's second mate; so we shall have quite a family party on board the dear old ship."

Thus we talked on, joking often through our sorrows, till it was time for my friends to go on shore. With heavy hearts we parted. Had we been able to see the future, haw much heavier would they have been! I found in the chest which they had brought me numberless little things, which all told of sweet Mary's care and forethought. I had just time to write a few hasty lines to my family, but the letter never reached home. While I was in prison, and my fate uncertain, I dared not write.

The next morning, at break of day, the boatswain's whistle roused me from my slumbers, and his gruff voice was heard bawling out, "All hands up anchor," followed with another pipe of "Man the capstan."

To a person accustomed to the merchant service, where, from the few hands which can be employed, the duty must be carried on slowly and cautiously, the work on board a man-of-war appears as if done almost by magic. The rapidity and certainty of action is gained only by great arrangement, method, and practice. Every man on board has his proper post and particular duties; and all are accustomed to listen for and obey the signal of command, be it the human voice, the boatswain's pipe, a peculiar flag, or the report of a great gun or musket. The crew are separated into two divisions, with their respective officers: these divisions are called watches—the starboard and larboard—because one does duty, or watches, while the other rests below.

On important occasions, when greater strength is required, or it is necessary to shorten sail in a hurry, or danger is apprehended, both watches, or all hands, are called. Thus, getting under weigh, or going into harbour, or at divisions and quarters, all hands are at their proper posts at the same time. Each top has its proper crew, who are known as fore-top men, main-top men, and mizzen-top men, whose duty is to tend the sails above them. On deck there are the sheet-anchor men stationed on the forecastle, whose duty is to tend the head-sails, anchors, etcetera, and consequently the most trustworthy veterans are selected for the office. In what is called the waist, or the centre of the ship, the landsmen and least skilful of the crew are placed. They have to pull and haul with the marines, and to clean the decks, and to do various ignoble duties below. From the part of the ship where they are stationed, they are called waisters. The after-guards are stationed on the quarter-deck, and have to tend the spanker and other after-sails, and to haul the main brace.

The officers are divided into commissioned officers, namely, the captain and the lieutenants, the master, surgeon, and purser; the warrant officers, who are boatswain, gunner, and carpenter, and the midshipmen; and, lastly, the petty officers, who have their rating given them on board ship by the captain or first lieutenant, and may be equally disrated by them.

There are slight variations in the British and United States navies; but the latter has adhered very closely to the customs of the former; and however republican our well-beloved cousins may be on shore, afloat they wisely carry out the principles of an absolute monarchy in the most perfect manner.

There are certain general duties in which all hands are engaged, and in which each has a number. Thus a man has one number at mess, another at quarters, and another at divisions. Discipline is everything on board a man-of-war. Without it such a mass of people could not possibly be moved together, and all would be confusion and constant disaster. There must be a head to command, either worn by the captain or first lieutenant. If the latter is a good seaman, all may go well in spite of the incapacity of his superior; but a clever captain will never submit to have a stupid first, so that it is seldom that the office of first lieutenant is held by other than a good seaman. It would take up too much space were I to attempt to describe all the grades and offices on board a man-of-war. It will suffice when I state that every man has his proper place, and that one follows the other in rank, down to the lowest rated officer. I was rated as an able seaman, which I considered a high honour, considering the little knowledge I felt myself to possess, and was placed in the after-guard. I had to take my trick at the helm, which I was also glad of, as it enabled me to perfect myself in steering.

The commander, Captain Gierstien, was a man who had seen much of the world, and was, I have reason to believe, a very good seaman; so was Mr Stunt, the first lieutenant, who was a disciplinarian of the most rigid school; and certainly the ship was in very good order as a man-of-war. But there was a sad want of any of the milder influences which govern human beings. Kind words and considerate treatment were not to be found. This I soon discovered; and it seemed as if a leaden weight were attached to my heart. Strict regulations, the cat, and fear did everything. How the second lieutenant, Mr Dunning, contrived to gain his rank I do not know, for he was nothing at all of a practical seaman but then he spouted poetry, and wrote verses in praise of freedom; and this talent, I conclude, had gained him his appointment, though, by the bye, the verses appeared to be very bad.

There were several of my own messmates with whom I became intimate. Though rough in manner, they were kind of heart; and I will say of two or three of them, that all their sentiments were such as no gentleman need have been ashamed of possessing. I found them both agreeable and instructive companions; and I was glad to enjoy their friendship, the more from the very want of kindly feelings which prevailed generally throughout the ship. Andrew Thompson was my greatest chum. He was a true-hearted seaman, every inch of him. He had been all his life at sea, and had had his eyes open, as the saying is, all the time. He used to take great delight in describing the countries he had visited, and the ports and harbours in which he had brought up, as also in giving me instruction in all branches of seamanship.

My other friend was called Terence O'Connor, an Irishman, as his name betokens, with all the good qualities generally ascribed to the natives of that country. He liked me, as being a countryman, in the first place; and secondly, because I liked him. He was still young, and had nothing of the Mentor about him, like Thompson. He was brave, and true as steel. I should not say that he was a first-rate seaman; but he was active and energetic, and he knew how to obey—indeed, he was a capital hand to have as a mate.

There was also an English lad I liked much, Tom Stokes by name. He was not very bright, and he used to be sadly bullied by the crew; but as I was strong, could and did protect him, and his gratitude won my regard. He had been tolerably well educated; and being fond of reading, with a retentive memory, he possessed a good deal of information. Left an orphan, without a friend in the world, he had come to sea; and quitting his ship at Charleston, he had entered on board the Pocahuntas. I mention these three of my shipmates for reasons which will hereafter be seen. I had several other friends, whom I liked more perhaps than Tom Stokes, and as much as O'Connor, but I need not describe them.

We had fine weather on first putting to sea, and had thus time to let everything shake into its place before a gale came on. It was early in the year, but for some reason or other we were ordered to get northward as fast as we could. For the first week we had calms, and then the wind came ahead, so that our progress was very slow. Instead of running through the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, we were to keep on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, and to approach the northern shore of Labrador.

"You'll want your Flushing jacket and trousers, not forgetting worsted socks and gloves, my boy, when you get there," said Thompson, who gave me this information. "You've never felt anything like the cold, nor seen anything like the fogs, to be found in those parts."

He told me that few Europeans had settled on the coast of Labrador; but that some Moravian missionaries were stationed at four or five spots, for the purpose of converting the Esquimaux to Christianity. "Those must be Christians, indeed, to my mind, who will go and live in such a climate, for the sake of teaching their religion to the ignorant heathen, who would not otherwise have a chance of having the truths of the gospel preached to them," he observed; and I agreed with him. "I've been told," he continued, "that during the winter the thermometer often falls 30 degrees below the freezing point; and though the houses of the missionaries are heated by stoves, the windows and walls are covered all the time with ice, and the bed-clothes freeze to the walls. Rum is frozen in the air as rapidly as water, and rectified spirits soon become thick like oil. From December to June the sea is so completely frozen over that no open water is to be seen. Once some of the missionaries ventured, in February, to visit some Esquimaux forty miles distant, and although wrapped in furs, they were nearly destroyed. Their eyelids froze together, so that they were continually obliged to pull them asunder, and, by constantly rubbing, prevent their closing; while one of them had his hands frozen and swollen up like bladders. During their short summer, however, the heat is excessive; and mosquitoes, in swarms, infest the air."

"I hope we shall not have long to remain in those regions," I remarked.

"I hope not," said Thompson; "but who can tell? Ships, when they get into the ice, cannot always get out again, and some have been frozen up for several years together; yet, by proper precautions, few of the people on board have died, and at length have returned to their friends and country."

"It must be very dreary work, Andrew, having nothing but the ice and snow to look at for such a length of time together," I remarked.

"I'll tell you what, Peter, when you have lived as long as I have, you will discover, I hope, that it is not what one sees on the outside, so much as what is in the inside of a man, which makes him happy and contented, or the contrary," said Andrew. "Now I have met several men, who have passed two winters running in those regions, when the sun was not to be seen for months together, and ice and snow was all around them; but the captain and officers being kind, and doing everything to amuse them and to take care of their health, they assured me they never enjoyed themselves more in their lives."

"I would rather not try it in our present ship."

"Nor would I, Peter," said Andrew; and the subject dropped.

"What an odd name they have given to our ship!" I remarked one day, when Tom Stokes was near; "I cannot think where it comes from."

"Oh, I can tell you, Peter," said Tom, sitting down close to me. "I read some time ago a history of North America, and I remember meeting with the name of Pocahuntas. You must know that she was an Indian princess, that is to say, she was the daughter of a powerful chief inhabiting that part of the country which is now the State of Virginia. A small body of English, had settled there, with a governor, a handsome young man, placed over them. They were cultivating the ground and building houses in fancied security, when the Indians attacked them, killed some, and carried off others, among whom was the governor, as prisoners. It was the custom of the Indians to torture their prisoners in the most dreadful way before killing them. Such was to be the lot of the governor; but, fortunately for him, he was seen by Pocahuntas, who instantly fell in love with him, and interceded for his life with her father. The prayer was granted, on condition that he would become her husband. He was too glad to accept his life on such terms; for the young lady was very beautiful, and he would thereby form an alliance with a very powerful tribe, and secure his countrymen from further molestation. He became much attached to his beautiful and faithful bride; and, having succeeded in converting her to Christianity, he married her according to the rites of the Church. From this union sprung some of the most respectable and wealthy families of the State."

I thanked Tom for his story, and agreed that the Princess Pocahuntas ought to be held in reverence by all true Virginians. Our conversation was interrupted by the cry of "All hands, shorten sail!" We sprung on deck. A heavy gale had come on, and the ship was heeling over to her scuppers under it. I was aloft in an instant, helping to reef the mizzen-topsail; the topgallant-sails and courses had been clewed up.

The wind was about north-west, and blew very cold. The leaden waves rose sullenly on every side, topped with hissing foam, and every instant they leaped higher and higher, as if lashing themselves into fury. The twilight of evening was just giving way to the gloom of night. I never remember a more dismal-looking close to a day.

We had managed to close-reef the mizzen-topsail; but the main-topsail, which was more difficult to manage, was still bulging out above the yard, the hands on which it threatened every instant to strike off, as the ship, with desperate force, kept plunging her bows into the opposing seas.

"Come, bear a hand with that main-topsail there," exclaimed Mr Stunt through his speaking-trumpet, "or—"

What he was going to say I know not, for at that instant there arose the fearful cry of "A man overboard!—a man overboard!"

It sounded like the knell of a fellow-being. Captain Gierstien was on deck. I was near him.

"If I lower a boat I shall lose some other brave fellows," he exclaimed aloud, though he was speaking to himself.

"We'll gladly risk our lives to save him, sir," cried two or three who were near him; "it's O'Connor—it's Terry O'Connor!"

"So would I," escaped from my lips. I had at all events intended to have volunteered to go in the boat.

"Down with the helm! Back the main-topsail!" exclaimed the captain in the same breath. "Stand by to lower a boat; but hold fast. Can any of you see or hear him?" The ship was hove to, and all hands stood peering into the loom and trying to catch a sound of a voice. O'Connor was a first-rate swimmer, and he was not a man to yield to death without a struggle—that we knew.

It must be understood that, though several sentences were spoken, not thirty seconds had elapsed after he had struck the water before the order to heave the ship to was given. She was also going but slowly through the water, though, from the way she was tumbling about, a landsman might have supposed she was moving at a great rate.

"Does any one see him?" asked the captain. Alas in that dark night even the sharpest eyes on board could not discern so small an object as a man's head floating amid those troubled waters.

"Does any one see him?" There was a dead silence. The hopelessness of the case struck a chill through all our hearts. Two minutes—three— passed away. We continued from all parts of the ship peering into the darkness—some to windward, others to leeward, and others a stern. Now I thought I saw something, but it was the dark top of a wave under the glistening foam. Five minutes had elapsed since the accident. Long before this the ship must have left him far astern, and he must have sunk beneath those heavy waves. Such was the feeling gaining possession of many.

Again the captain made the final inquiry, "Does any one yet see him?" An ominous silence gave the sad response. "Then it is hopeless waiting longer. Fill the main-topsail. Up with the helm."

Scarcely had the captain uttered these words in a loud voice, than a hand in the main-top hailed the deck with the words, "I hear a voice from down to leeward, sir."

I had heard it also, I was certain. It was O'Connor's manly voice. It was not a shriek, the death-wail of a struggling wretch, but a bold, nervous hail.

"Hold fast then with the main-topsail braces," cried the captain. There was no need of that order, by the bye. "Keep the helm down. Stand by to lower the starboard quarter boat." It was the lee one.

"Volunteers, away!" Several sprung to the falls. I was among the first; so was Tom Derrick, an active young topman. He leaped into the bow as the boat was being lowered; I into the stern to unhook the after falls; the rest of the volunteer crew followed. The boat was lifting and pitching with fearful violence alongside, to the great risk of being swamped. Poor Derrick stood up to clear the falls, I believe, or to fend off the bow of the boat from the ship's side. I saw his figure in an erect position for an instant—the boat's bow pitched into the sea— the next instant he was gone. In vain the man close to him tried to grasp him—he went down like a shot; not a cry was heard, not a sign of him was again seen.

There was no time to be lost, if we would save O'Connor. Every moment the fury of the gale was increasing. Our oars were out, and over the foaming sea we pulled in the direction whence the voice had come. The ship rose towering astern of us, her dark masts lifting and falling against the leaden sky. By her we guided our course. We thought we must have reached the spot where O'Connor should have been.

"Be alive, shipmates," said a voice close to us. "In bow oar, and lend us a hand." It was O'Connor's voice. He was swimming with perfect composure close to us on the top of a wave, and striking out toward the bows, so as to avoid the stern. He was with some little difficulty hauled on board, for he had not a stitch of clothing on with which we could catch hold of him.

"Thank ye, shipmates all," he exclaimed, as he sprung into the stern-sheets. "But lend us a jacket, some one, will ye? for it's bitter cold out of the water, and I've left all mine, do ye see, for Daddy Neptune, when he wants a new rig-out."

A seaman will joke in the midst of a furious engagement, or at other moments of the greatest peril; and I believe Terence was truly grateful to the merciful Providence who had so wonderfully preserved him. We threw our jackets over him, to shelter him as well as we could, and pulled back as fast as we were able to the ship. There was a short time for talking and hearing how it had happened, as may be supposed. We had great difficulty in getting on board again, and it required extreme caution to prevent the boat being swamped alongside. At last we reached the deck, and the boat was hoisted in.

"Why, you haven't got him," said the captain, seeing the same number come back as had gone away in the boat.

"Yes, sir," we answered; "but poor Derrick has gone;" and we explained how our other shipmate had been lost. So there was a sigh and a tear for poor Derrick; and a cheer and congratulations for O'Connor's preservation.

Our captain ordered O'Connor at once to his hammock, observing that his nervous system must have received a great shock, and that he need not do duty for some days, while the surgeon was directed to see to him. O'Connor very gladly turned in; and the surgeon feeling his pulse, prescribed a stiff glass of grog, a style of medicine of which sailors most approve. After he was made comfortable, I went and sat by him, and congratulated him heartily on his preservation.

"Why, you see, Peter, there's an old saying about a man not being able to drown who is born to finish his career in another way, in which a rope plays a prominent part; but I hope that's not true in my case. You must know, indeed, that when I first struck the water, as I was hove off the yard, I thought I should escape. When I came to the top again, after I had sunk some way down, thinks I to myself, there's no use trying to swim with all this hamper of clothing about me; so the first thing I did was to cast it all adrift, and to kick off my shoes. I had some difficulty in getting out of my jacket, but I succeeded by treading the water with my feet the while. Remember, Peter, always have your sea-going clothes made loose, so as to be able to throw them off in a moment. You never know when you may require to be rid of them. When I was free of my clothes, I thought there would be no use striking out and wearying myself, to try and regain the ship, because I saw that all I could do would not bring me up alongside her again; so I threw myself on my back, with my arms folded on my breast, and lay as quiet as a turtle basking in the sun of Ascension. You know singing out in the water tires a man almost as much as struggling with his arms and legs, so I kept my voice also for when it was wanted. There was no use, you see, singing out at that time, because I knew that there would be a noise on board, and people asking who had gone, and where was. I heard a cry of 'A man overboard!' just as I came to the surface. I could see the ship all the time, and I was glad to find she did not leave me. I don't mean to say, Peter, but what my feelings were very awful, for I knew the difficulty and danger of lowering a boat; but I did not think my shipmates would ever desert me, without trying to pick me up. There I lay, then, tossing on the seas, and looking at the ship. I hoped I should be observed, for I heard the captain ask, 'Does any one see him?' I being to leeward of the ship, his voice reached me; but I did not expect to make any one hear on board. How long the time appeared! At last I heard the order given to fill the main-topsail. 'Now or never,' I thought; and just as I rose on the summit of a wave, I leaped as high as I could, and sung out at the very top of my voice. Never did I shout louder, for it mattered nothing if I burst my lungs, if I was not heard. How thankful I felt when I heard the order given to lower a boat! My advice to you, Peter, is, 'Always keep your presence of mind, and, while life remains, never despair.'"


The Pocahuntas continued on her course to the northward, with variable weather. I believe we had got a considerable way to the eastward of where we should have been; but of that I have no certain knowledge, as a foremast man has no means of ascertaining the ship's position, except when she makes the land, unless the officers choose to tell him. At last a fine westerly breeze sprung up, and we went gaily along.

Now, however incredible what I am going to relate may appear especially as happening to O'Connor, yet it is, I can assure my readers, perfectly true. Terence had been sent on the fore-topgallant-yard—what to do I do not recollect, for I was aft at the time—when by some means or other he lost his hold and fell over the yard. Another man, who was on the yard and saw him fall, ejaculated, "Poor Terence, this time it's all over with him!"

Falling from that height on the deck, his brains would inevitably have been dashed out of his head; but, as he fell, the hitherto sluggish wind filled the foresail, on the bulge of which, at the very instant his body striking, it was thrown with considerable force forward right into the sea. As before, Terence preserved his consciousness, or, at all events, recovered it as he struck the water. He struck out bravely alongside the ship.

"Heave us a rope, shipmates," he sung out. I ran to the side, and was just in time to throw him a rope as he dropped past. He caught hold of it, and hand over hand he hauled himself on board into the mizzen-chains. From thence jumping into the waist, he shook himself dry, like a Newfoundland dog, and went forward again to his duty, as if nothing had happened.

"Peter," he observed afterwards to me, when we were together, "if I never had any religion before, I think I should have some now. You see, when I felt myself going, I thought it was all up with me, and never was so surprised in my life as when I found myself in the water. Tell me, Peter, do you think it was God who made the foresail belly out at the moment it did?"

"I think it was by His will it so happened," I answered. "I don't think chance did it."

"But do you think He would take the trouble to look after such a poor fellow as I am?" he asked.

"A sparrow, we are told by the Bible, falls not to the ground that He knows not of," observed Andrew Thompson, who had sat himself down near us. "Then don't you think, messmate, He would look after a human being, with a soul to be saved?"

"I feel that He preserved my life; but I don't understand it," replied Terence.

"No, messmate, none of us can understand His mysteries. We see the earth and the sky and sea—the sun and moon rise and set—we feel the wind blow, and the snow and the rain fall. But we cannot comprehend how all this is ordered, though we must acknowledge that it is for our good; and we feel that the power of the Ruler of all is so much greater than we can understand, that it is hope less to attempt it. But I say, messmate, that is no reason why we should not believe that all these things are; but, on the contrary, that God, who creates and cares for the smallest birds, watches over us also."

We both acknowledged the truth of Andrew's creed; and let me assure my young friends that a blessed comfort it was to us afterwards, when dangers, such as few have surmounted, surrounded us.

We continued standing to the northward; and, as far as we could learn, we were considerably to the eastward of Newfoundland. The change of temperature made us glad of warm clothing; but as yet there was no cold to be complained of. We might have guessed that we were approaching the arctic regions, by the character of the numberless sea-fowl which at times surrounded us. We were now, I believe, in latitude 54 degrees or 55 degrees; but I am uncertain, from the reasons I before stated.

Our officers had their guns on deck, and amused themselves by shooting as many of the birds which came in their way as they could; but my messmates called them by the various names of shearwaters, boatswains, kittiwakes, dovekies, Mollymokes or Mollies, gulls, buntings, and many others, whose names I forget. Those the officers did not want were given to the crew, who were in no ways particular as to the nature of the fresh meat they could procure. The shearwaters especially we found very good, particularly when made into pies. For the purpose of enabling us to make crust, a greater quantity of flour than usual was served out. At first our pies had a very oily and fishy taste; but Andrew showed us that this fishy flavour is confined to the fat, the whole of which is under the skin, and chiefly near the thighs. By carefully skinning the birds, they tasted like ordinary land-fowl; and before the officers found out the secret, we had a capital pie every day for dinner.

Our most constant companions were the Mollies; for which bird the North Sea men have as great an affection and veneration as sailors round the Cape of Good Hope have for Mother Carey's chickens or the superb albatross: They have an idea that the spirits of the brave old Greenland skippers, the successors of the fierce sea-kings, have, when quitting their mortal frames, entered these fleet denizens of the air, still desirous to wander over the scenes of their former exploits. They are very strong and graceful on the wing and though they scarcely seem to move their gracefully-rounded pinions, they can fly in the teeth almost of the fiercest gale—now swooping into the dark troughs of the sea—now skimming over the white foaming crests. They seldom, except during calm and moderate weather, alight on the water, being ever constant on the wing; and they will fly so close to the ship, that I have fancied I could catch them with my hand.

One calm evening, as I was stationed on the poop, one of these birds, with noiseless wing, came flying so close to me that he almost brushed my nose; but before I could lift my hand to catch him, he was gone. Several times some of the pretty little snow-buntings attempted to alight on our rigging; but, like thistle-downs, before they could reach it, they were blown to leeward, and, exhausted and weary, were soon overwhelmed by the waves.

We had fishing-lines on board; and one day, the wind being light, we were told we might try them, when, to our no small satisfaction, we caught some excellent cod and halibut. We were, in fact, passing over a fishing-bank.

The weather now altered for the worse. Sleet, fog, and rain succeeded each other with unvarying rapidity, with an addition generally of a strong gale, coming from the north round to the north-west. For two days it was impossible to lay our course, so we remained hove to, hoping for an abatement of the storm.

I am now coming to one of the most perilous incidents of my life. I think I said that Thompson, O'Connor, Stokes, and I were in the same watch, though we were stationed in different parts of the ship. It had been blowing very hard from the northward during the day; but towards the evening it moderated a little, and the ship was carrying her three whole topsails close-hauled, and looking up to the north-east. No moon or stars were visible, for heavy masses of clouds covered the sky, and seemed to descend till they filled, as it were, the whole space between sky and ocean.

There were look-outs stationed forward, though, as we were supposed to be in the open sea, no danger of any sort was apprehended. Other ships might, by possibility, be crossing our course, but that was not likely; and if, by any wonderful chance, we came near each other, we should probably see and be seen in time to prevent a collision. The larboard watch, to which I belonged, and of which Mr Dunning, the second lieutenant, was officer, had the first watch, namely, from eight o'clock till midnight. At four bells, or ten o'clock, it came to my turn to take my trick at the helm. The weather had become bitterly cold; so I, with the rest, had donned all the warm clothing we could command. I had on a flannel shirt and drawers, with worsted hose and comforter, and over all a thick Flushing jacket and trousers; a Welsh wig, under a south-wester, covered my head, and a thick pair of lined boots my feet, while my hands were encased in woollen mittens—so that I little cared for the inclemency of the weather, provided I had not to face it. This I had to do while at the helm; and I remembered Andrew's account of the Moravian missionaries having their eyelids frozen together, and thought mine would suffer in the same manner.

To say that the night was very dark would not give an idea of the inky obscurity in which we appeared to be sailing. One could scarcely see one's hand with one's arm held out at full length; and as for discerning anything ahead, that appeared impossible. I say appeared, because there is much difference having something to look at and nothing. In the latter case you fancy, because you see nothing, that nothing could be seen if it were there. I heard Mr Dunning, as he passed me, apostrophising the night as dark as Erebus.

The quarter-master, who was conning the ship, was continually exclaiming, "No higher," as I kept her luffing up into the wind, unable to see the shaking of her canvas, which rose dark and towering above me, till it seemed to be lost in the clouds. Indeed, as we sailed on, we seemed literally to be sweeping the sky with our mast-heads. Thus we ploughed our way, ignorant of what was ahead, through the boiling seas during the whole time I had the wheel.

I had just been relieved, and was finding my way forward, knocking my hands against my sides to warm them, when there was a loud cry from the look-out men of "A ship ahead, standing right for us under all sail."

"Under all sail—impossible, in a night like this!" exclaimed the officer of the watch, rousing himself from a reverie.

"Luff all you can luff, and we may weather her," cried the voice from forward, in a tone which showed the emergency of the case; but the lieutenant had seen what he thought was a sail, and exclaimed, "Keep her away—hard up with the helm—hard up." The commands of the officer were obeyed; the spokes of the wheel were turned a-weather; the ship, falling off, felt the full force of the gale, and flew with redoubled speed through the water.

Andrew Thompson, who was standing next to me, had been peering into the gloom ahead. "A sail!" he exclaimed: "that's no sail, but an iceberg—I see its light. We might have weathered it; but now we are on it—and Heaven have mercy on our souls!"

As he spoke, a loud, fearful crash was heard—the stout ship shook and trembled in every timber. I was thrown, as were all near me, to the deck with stunning force. Shrieks and cries arose from every part of the ship; and the watch below, in their consternation, came hurrying up on deck, many without their clothes, others with them in their hands. All was dismay and confusion; while the terrific noise of the wind, and the sea dashing over the ship, and the ship striking against the iceberg (for an iceberg it was in truth against which we had struck), added to the cries of the people, the groans of the ship, and the creaking and crashing of the masts, almost drowned the voices of the officers, who were rushing here and there as they came from their cabins, in a vain endeavour to restore order. Many of the people in their fright sprung overboard, and were instantly swallowed up by the waves. The ship rose and fell with tremendous force as the sea lifted her, and the loud crashing forward showed that her strong bows had been stove in. The fore-mast went by the board, the heel probably lifted right out of its step. Then a terrific cry arose that the ship was sinking, and that all was lost.

The sergeant of marines, a rigid disciplinarian, had at the first alarm collected his men, and by the command of the captain brought them, with their arms in their hands, on the quarter-deck, ready to enforce his orders. No sooner was the cry raised that all was lost, than many rushed forward, with the intention of getting on the iceberg.

"Let no man quit the ship," shouted the captain through his speaking-trumpet. "Beat to quarters, marines; fire on any who attempt to leave the deck."

Andrew Thompson, O'Connor, and Stokes were close to me, just abreast of the fore-mast. Andrew looked round when he heard the bows of the ship being stove in. "My lads," he exclaimed to us three, "the ship won't be many minutes more above water; so if you'd have a chance for your lives, follow me."

This he said just as the captain had ordered the marines to fire on any who should quit the ship. We did not stop to see whether they would obey or not, but, jumping on the forecastle, ran along the bowsprit and down by the dolphin-striker—a spar which hangs perpendicularly under the bowsprit—from whence we dropped down one by one on to a part of the iceberg which the waves did not reach. The ice was very rough, and we were thus enabled to scramble up perfectly clear of the sea.

Several others attempted to follow our example; and the marines, even at that awful moment, obedient to their orders, commenced firing on them. By the flashes of their muskets, as well as from three or four guns, which the gunner and his crew had time to discharge, the whole dreadful scene was disclosed for an instant, never to be erased from my memory: The ship, with her bow run high upon the berg; her tall masts, with their yards and sails going by the board; the dark ocean and the white-crested seas dashing over her stern, amid which stood a mass of human beings, in all the attitudes of agonised despair and dismay, except those few drilled to obedience, who knew not the danger. Then, again, above our heads, rising to the clouds, the white shining iceberg, which at every flash seemed to glow with flames of fire—the bright light reflected from pinnacle to pinnacle, and far into the caverned recesses of its stupendous sides.

Can I ever forget the dreadful despairing shriek which rent the skies, as the bow lifting high in the air, it seemed, the stern sank down, even at the instant the marines fired their last volley: it was a volley over their own graves! Slowly the proud ship glided from the icy rock, on which she had been wrecked, down into the far depths of the ocean. Soon all were engulfed beneath the greedy waves. No helping hand could we offer to any of our shipmates. The taller masts and spars followed, dragged down by the sinking hull; and in another instant, as we gazed where our ship had just been, a black obscurity was alone before us. I say we, for I saw that others were near me; but who they were I could not at the time tell. I called out, and Andrew's voice answered, "Is that you, Peter? I am glad you've escaped, lad. Who is there besides?"

"I'm here, Andrew, thanks to Providence and your advice," cried Terence.

"And so am I; but I don't think I can hold on much longer," exclaimed poor Tom Stokes, who had fallen on his side and hurt himself. Terence and I, who were near him, on this grasped hold of him, and dragged him up to the broad ledge on which we were seated, from the rough points of ice—to which he had been clinging. We then all huddled together as close as we could, to keep ourselves warm.

"Perhaps there may be some one else saved," observed Andrew; so we shouted at the top of our voices, "Shipmates, ahoy! are any of you there?" We listened. The only answering sound was the lashing of the waves against the base of the iceberg; and we were convinced that, out of that gallant crew, who lately trod the deck of the beautiful ship which was now, fathoms down beneath our feet, we four were the only beings left alive.


I can scarcely picture the horrors of that night. I would fain, indeed, forget them, but that is impossible. We had preserved our lives for the present moment; but what could we expect beyond, but starvation in its worst form? We had also read and heard enough of icebergs to know that, as they are driven to the southern latitudes, their bases, immersed in water much above the freezing-point, rapidly melt, and huge fragments being dislodged, they are suddenly reversed, creating a tumult as if a huge mountain were plunged into the ocean.

"If we have to stay here long, we shall be frozen to death," said poor Stokes, his teeth chattering with cold and fear. He was the only one of us who had got wet. "Trust in Providence, lad," said Andrew solemnly. "He has wonderfully preserved us thus far. He will not desert us, unless it be His good pleasure that we should die; and then we must: meet our fate like reasoning men, thanking Him for His especial mercy that He has given us time to repent of our sins, and has not hurried us, as He has our shipmates, into eternity without a moment's warning."

"Should I never have another opportunity, I thank you now, Andrew, for making me think of such things in the way you have done," exclaimed Terence, from the fulness of his heart. "Had it not been for you, shipmate, I should not have seen the finger of God in the various ways in which He has been pleased to preserve me, and I should have died the ungrateful, unthinking wretch I had hitherto lived."

"I have been but an humble instrument in His hand, Terence," answered Andrew, in his usual calm, humble tone. "You see, I should be very wrong, and very wicked indeed, if, knowing what is right, I did not take every opportunity, when there was no fear of discrediting religion, to teach my shipmates."

"You spoke to me at a proper time, Andrew; and your words had, I hope, a right effect," I observed.

"And to me also," said Tom; "and I thank you."

"Well, shipmates, bad as we are off, and worse as we may be, I don't feel unhappy when I hear you say those words; that I can tell you," exclaimed Andrew. "It's a joyful thing for a man, when he has seen the sun rise for the last time, to feel that there is a chance of some few things being scored in his favour in the world to which he's bound. But mind you, I don't say it's what I would pride myself on, for I know that the most one can do may count as nothing; but still it's pleasant, and nothing can make it otherwise."

Strange as it may seem, thus we talked on. Indeed, what other subject could we talk on but religion? for every moment we felt that we might be in the presence of our Maker. As Andrew warned us, the shock the iceberg had received by the ship striking against it might have detached what are called calves, great lumps from the bottom, and, should the gale increase, it might capsize in an instant.

We had many hours to wait for daylight. We were so well clothed, from its having been our watch on deck, that we did not feel the cold particularly; but poor Tom continued to suffer. Fortunately Andrew discovered in his pocket his pipe with some tobacco, and a flint and steel. He lighted the pipe, and let Tom have a smoke, which revived and warmed him, and we then all took a few whiffs round. This little luxury seemed to do us much good. We sheltered Tom as much as we could from the wind with our bodies; and we wrung out his wet jacket, and chafed his hands and feet till the circulation was restored. The night, however, seemed interminable. To favour us still further, the wind fell, and shifted further to the south, which made it much warmer. The sea also went down, for it did not seem to lash with such fury as before our floating resting-place.

"What chance have we of escaping?" I asked of Andrew, after a lengthened silence.

"There may be some of the wreck cast up on the berg, and with it we may make a raft, and reach the coast of Newfoundland or Labrador; or the berg itself may be driven ashore, but that I do not think at all likely; or we may be seen by some ship and taken off. I know of no other possible chance of escape."

"Then I trust we may be seen by some ship," I ejaculated. "There must be many whalers in these parts."

"They keep farther to the eastward, generally," replied Andrew. "They are also not fond of icebergs, and try to avoid them."

I own that, seeing him so calm and collected, I fancied he must have some hopes of deliverance, by means of which we were ignorant; so I asked him whether he thought we should find any food to support us.

"I have often heard of people finding means of subsistence when in as bad a condition as we are," he replied. "Providence has decreed that man should require food to support life; and therefore the air and the sea, as well as the earth, afford him food. Even in the cold regions of the north there is an abundance; and the very food which we could scarcely manage to digest in the south is there wholesome and palatable. In the plains of Asia, for instance, where the earth affords the greatest produce, the people care to eat little besides fruit and corn; while in the land of the Esquimaux, where neither fruit nor corn can grow, they thrive on whale's blubber, the flesh of bears and wild-fowl."

"Perhaps we may catch some wild-fowl in the morning," I observed.

"Perhaps we may; but I think we should hear them if there were any perched about the berg, and I have been listening for some time for them without hearing a sound."

By this remark of Andrew's I knew that he had been considering how we should support life, though he was prepared for the worst; and also, probably, how we had best act under all the circumstances which might occur. I might have sailed with Andrew for a long time, in calm weather, without discovering the real heroic qualities which, under his rough exterior, he possessed.

Morning at last dawned; and what a change from the previous day! Then, all had been storm and gloom; now, all around was calm, beautiful, and bright. Before the sun rose, the whole eastern sky was glowing with an orange tinge; while every fleecy cloud around was tinted with gold and red, orange, or pink, and every conceivable intermediate hue; while the clear portions of the sky itself were of the purest and most ethereal blue—the whole sea glowing with the same varied and beautiful colours. But still more beautiful and wonderful seemed the vast mountain of ice on which we floated, as in every fantastic form it appeared, towering above us. The pinnacles and turrets of the summit were tinted with the glowing hues of the east; while, lower down, the columns and arches which supported them seemed formed of the purest alabaster of almost a cerulean tint; and a round us, on either side, appeared vast caverns and grottoes, carved, one might almost suppose, by the hands of fairies, for their summer abode, out of Parian marble, their entrances fringed with dropping icicles, glittering brilliantly.

It is not to be wondered at, if we did not admire the enchanting spectacle as much as it deserved, for we could not forget that we were floating on an iceberg, in the middle of the North Sea; but still the scene made an impression on my mind which I shall not forget. We had struck on the lowest and least precipitous side of the iceberg, there being a wide flat space some distance above the water, with one ledge rising above the other, for some way up,—so that we had ample room to walk about; nor was the ice so slippery as to cause us much fear of tumbling into the water. I had heard a rippling noise during the night, and could not conceive whence it came; but now, on looking around, I perceived that it was caused by a small cascade, which, from the ice at the top continually melting, came trickling down the side.

"We shall have fresh water, at all events, in abundance," I observed to Andrew, who had awoke from a sleep into which he, with our other companions, had fallen.

"Yes, Peter; and from what I see not far off, if I mistake not, we shall have food also," he added, pointing to a dark object which lay on a ledge below us, a little way to the left.

"If looks like an animal of some sort," I exclaimed. "But I am afraid it will be off before we can catch it. Shall we run down and secure it?"

"I have no fear on that score," he replied; "it is a seal, and from the way it is lying, it is, I suspect, dead. Indeed, a live animal would not have got on the ice so early in the morning. They are now feeding, and love to come out of the water to bask at noon in the sun. We will wake up Terence and Tom, and get them to help to drag it up out of the reach of the sea. It will probably not be very palatable, though it will doubtless serve to keep us alive. But before we commence the work of the day, let us return thanks to Heaven for having preserved us through the great perils of the past night."

We roused up our companions; and I believe did most sincerely offer up our thanksgiving for the mercy which had been shown us in saving us out of so many from destruction. We then, with care to avoid falling into the sea, descended to where the body of the seal had been thrown. The animal was dead, but it was quite fresh, and had probably been cast up that very night; at all events, it could not have been there long.

"I doubted not that God would send us food. This did not happen by chance," said Andrew. We found that we could not drag the entire body of the seal up to the higher ledge, so we cut thin slices out of it, hoping by drying them in the sun to preserve them longer. We first skinned it carefully, as Andrew showed us that by stretching out the skin it would afford us some little shelter at night. Having collected a supply of food to last us for many days, we dragged the remainder of the carcase out of the reach of the waves, and carried the meat to the upper ledge.

"Now, my lads," said Andrew, who took the lead in everything, we willingly obeying him, "it is very right to secure some food for ourselves in the first place; but as we shall none of us have a fancy for spending the rest of our days here, we'll look out to see if there's a ship in the offing, and if so, to make some signal to attract her notice."

We all agreed; and before attempting to eat some of the seal, for which, indeed, we had little fancy, we set to work to climb to one of the highest pinnacles of the berg. We found it impossible to reach the highest, but we got some way up; and not a sail was to be seen as far as the eye could reach on the part of the horizon visible to us. Our climb had shown us, however, a considerable portion of the lower part of the berg, and we observed several things lying about, evidently cast there by the waves. We immediately descended to secure them.

There was a hen-coop with some chickens in it, and though they were drowned, they were very acceptable; there were two boarding-pikes, a boat-sail, and several spars and bits of rope, which had been lying in the boats or on the booms. These were all treasures, and, collecting them, we carried them up to our ledge. There were also fragments of wood and chips washed from the cook's galley, and bits of quarter-boat which had gone to pieces with the first sea. These latter we dried in the sun, and afterwards kindled with them a small fire, over which we cooked two of our fowls, and dried the seal's flesh for future use. We without difficulty ate the fowls, but had not yet got up an appetite for seal-flesh.

"We might be worse off, there's no doubt about it," observed Terence; "and it strikes me, Andrew, that what with the hen-coop and the spars, we might build a sort of a raft which would keep us afloat a short time, should the berg take to making a somerset?"

"I was thinking of the same thing," was Andrew's reply. "They will form but a small raft; but if the berg drives anywhere near shore, it will, at least, enable us to reach it. The sooner we set about making it the better. It will keep us off the cold ice in the meantime, and by rigging the boat's sails on the pikes, we shall be sheltered from the wind; and, my lads, let me tell you, we might be much worse off, so let us be thankful."

This conversation took place while we were making our breakfast. Instead of tea, we knocked off, with the boarding-pikes, lumps of ice, which we ate, and found perfectly fresh. This, Andrew explained, arose either from the iceberg having been formed of the accumulation of the snow of many winters on the coast of Greenland, and thus having been always fresh; or if formed out of salt water, from the ice, when freezing, having ejected the saline particles. He told us that water, when freezing, has the property of purifying itself, and of squeezing out, as it were, all extraneous or coarse matter.

Our not over-luxurious repast being finished, Andrew proposed our attempting again to ascend the berg to plant a signal-post and flag to attract the notice of any passing ship. Terence was for spreading out the boat's sail; but Andrew reminded him that on the white iceberg that would not be readily seen, and advised our fastening our coloured handkerchiefs together instead.

"We must first, however, get to the top of the berg," said Terence; "and, to my mind, these boarding-pikes will serve us a good turn."

No sooner thought of than tried. With the boarding-pikes we chopped steps out of the side, where it was too precipitous to surmount without such aid; and by fixing the pikes below us, we shoved ourselves up with them. In this manner, after considerable labour, we reached a high pinnacle of the berg. It was not broad enough for us to stand on without fear of falling off, so we sat astride on it while we chopped a hole deep enough to fix one of the spars in, which we had hauled up for the purpose. At the top we secured four red cotton handkerchiefs, which, as they blew out, might be seen at a considerable distance. We beat the ice tightly round the heel of the spar, and it appeared to stand firmly and well.

"Now, on whatever side of the berg a ship approaches, it will be seen that some human beings are on it," observed Andrew, as we prepared to descend, having first carefully surveyed the horizon on every side.

At this juncture we had a loss, which caused us great dismay, and, we thought, would prove a very serious inconvenience. After lighting the fire, Andrew had put the flint and steel into his jacket pocket, along with his handkerchief, on drawing out which they were jerked out also, and before we could catch them, they had fallen over the steep side of the berg. Away they bounded, from ledge to ledge, till they fell into the sea. Had they lodged in any crevice, one of us might probably have attempted to recover them, and should very likely have fallen into the sea in so doing; so, as Andrew observed, all was for the best. It was fortunate, we observed, that we had dried some of our seal's flesh, or we should have had to eat it quite raw.

We now descended, and commenced at once to form our raft. We had few materials, and our only tools were the knives and the heads of the boarding-pikes. We first made a framework of the spars; and then, knocking the hen-coop to pieces, we nailed the planks on to the top, securing the whole fabric more firmly with ropes. When completed, as we looked at it, we agreed that it was a very small ark to support four people on the stormy ocean.

"I don't think it will have to float me, shipmates," said poor Tom, who had not recovered his hurt. "I feel as if I could not weather out another night like the last."

"On you'll do well enough, lad," answered Andrew, in a kind voice. "Your clothes will be dry, you'll have a dry plank to lie on, and a roof over your head. You'll do yet, trust to me." These encouraging words had an immediate effect on Tom's spirits, and we heard no more of his complaints.

We had observed, as we sat on the top of the berg, several articles floating round the base, and some lodged in crevices which we had not before discovered. Our raft being completed as far as our materials would go, I volunteered to try and get hold of some of the things. To do this with safety, I begged my shipmates to hold one end of a line, which we had formed out of the various pieces collected, while the other I secured round my body. By keeping the line always tight, I was able to lean over the edge and pick up several things in the water. The first was a bucket, in sound condition. This was valuable, as it would contain fresh water, and prevent the necessity of our chewing the cold ice, which chilled us extremely. Then I found some more spars, and the fragments of one of the boats, which must have been stove in and got adrift before the ship went down. These enabled us to increase our raft to a size which afforded us hope that it might support us in our necessity.

When I was tired, Terence followed my example, and also added to our store of valuables. As he was hunting about, almost out of sight, among the rougher parts of the berg, we heard him sing out, "A prize! a prize!" and, standing up, he held aloft an iron pot with the cover on. The cover had been jammed tightly down, so that it had floated like a buoy.

"There is something in it, though," he observed, shaking it; and, on getting off the cover, we discovered a piece of beef ready for cooking. It had evidently floated out of the cook's galley.

"I quite forgot, though, that we had no means of lighting a fire; so, after all, it won't be of any use," sighed Terence, after we had all four collected again on our raft.

"Don't be so sure of that," said Andrew. "I have seen a fire kindled by means which few people would think of, but I am not quite certain that I can manage it; however, I'll try. It's worth the experiment; for if we can light a fire, we may make some soup, which will do us all good."

Saying this, he climbed some way up the berg, where he knocked off a pure piece of ice from one of its sparkling pinnacles. We all sat round, wondering what he was going to do. With the boarding-pike he carefully chopped the lump, till he had made it into a thick circular cake; then he pared away the edges, and afterwards commenced operations with his knife, scraping away, till he had formed both sides into a perfect convex shape. Lastly, he took it between his mittens, and rubbed it round and round till he turned it out with a fine polish.

"There," he said, "there is a fine burning-glass for you."

"A burning-glass!" I answered, laughing. "A piece of ice shaped like a burning-glass; but you will never get anything like fire out of that, I should think!"

"I should think not," said Terence, but not in the same positive way that I had spoken; for he had, justly, a great respect for everything Andrew did.

"Give me your hand here, then," said Andrew to me. I took off my mitten and gave it him willingly. He looked at the sun, which was shining brightly, and held the ice between it and my hand. I saw a little bright spot appear on my hand; but I thought nothing of that, till, feeling an acute sensation of burning, I snatched my hand away in a hurry, to the amusement of my companions.

"I thought it would answer," exclaimed Andrew triumphantly. "I saw the master of a whaler I was once on board make several like this, and play the same trick to his people I played you; and he afterwards explained that any perfectly transparent substance in a convex shape—that is, bulging out like this—will collect the rays of the sun, and form a burning-glass. But now, while the sun is out, and before our burning-glass melts, let us light a fire and boil our soup."

The chips we had collected very rapidly dried; so we soon had a fire kindled by this unexpected means. The soup refreshed us wonderfully; but we were very sparing of it, by Andrew's advice; for we could not tell how long we might have to remain without means of obtaining more food.

Thus passed away our first day on the iceberg, without a sail appearing in the horizon to afford us a hope of rescue.


That night, overcome by fatigue, strange as it may seem, we all slept soundly. The sun again rose, and discovered us still floating in safety on our unstable resting-place. The day passed much as the former one had done.

We had been actively employed during the greater part of it, and therefore, in spite of our extraordinary position and the deep anxiety we felt for our future fate, we were all able to sleep, if not very soundly, at least for some hours, when the third night closed in upon us. I need not say that Andrew offered up our prayers aloud for deliverance to the Great Being who had hitherto so mercifully preserved us.

I dreamed, it seemed to me, all night long. Sometimes I was at home with my father and mother and sweet sisters, and they were all laughing and talking, while we stood at the window of the dining-hall and looked out at the beautiful and familiar prospect before it. Someone was describing to them some adventures very similar to mine; but I felt that I could have nothing to do with them, for I was still, I knew, on an iceberg in the Northern Ocean, likely any moment to be overwhelmed beneath it. Then I thought a ship appeared, and Captain Dean was at the helm, and that sweet Mary, dressed in white, and looking like a seraph, stood on the forecastle waving to me to come off to them. I, of course, could not move, for my feet were jammed into a hole in the ice, and I struggled in vain to drag them out. On a sudden a storm arose, and Mary shrieked; and even her father turned pale, as the ship rose on the tops of the angry billows, and rolled over and over, bow foremost, till she was lost to my sight in the distance. I cried out with terror, and my own voice awoke me, when I found that my feet were projecting beyond the shelter of the sail, and were bitterly cold.

I got up to warm them by stamping them up and down, and the noise awoke my companions. They naturally told me to lie down and be quiet; but the night was so fine and calm, that I said I would go a little way from them not to disturb them, and would walk up and down for an hour or so. I had no fancy for any more of those dreadful dreams, and I felt that the exercise would do me good. As I looked out on the tranquil, dark-shining sea, in which the glittering stars floating, so it seemed, in the blue ether above me were reflected as in a mirror, all sorts of strange fancies came into my head. I remembered all I had read or heard of mermen and mermaids, of ocean monsters and sea-spirits, and I could scarcely persuade myself that I did not see some gliding before me. Certainly I could hear them: now there was a distant roar, now a loud snorting noise near me; there were voices wandering through the air, and strains of sweet music seemed to come up from the deep. I was almost positive I could hear music: sweet and faint and soft as a seraph's sigh, it came down to my ear on the gentle wind. I would on no account have missed listening to that enchanting melody.

For a long time I continued gazing on the sea without feeling any inclination to sleep, when I fancied that I saw the dark sails of a ship about a mile off, and directly to windward of us. I peered into the darkness to assure myself, for I did not like causelessly to arouse my companions. How eagerly I looked may be supposed. If there was a ship where I supposed, the music I had heard must have come from her. At last I was almost confident that there was a ship; but as I had my doubts, I went back to Andrew and touched his arm.

"Andrew," I said, trembling all over in my eagerness, "I do not wish to raise false hopes, but look out there and tell me what you see."

"See, lad!—why, a sail; there's no doubt of it," he exclaimed hurriedly. "A barque-rigged vessel standing on a bowline to the north-west. She's a whaler, I suspect; but how to make the keenest ears on board hear us, is a puzzle."

We called Terence and Tom, who instantly sprung to their feet and joined us in looking out for the stranger.

"Could not we make a fire as a signal?" I asked, "that would attract her."

"You forget that our flint and steel went overboard, and the ice without the sun won't light a fire," he answered; "but we will see what our voices can do. Now, my lads, let's hail together."

On that, standing up, throwing out our chests, and putting our hands to our mouths, we gave a shout which none but strong lungs could have uttered. It must have been carried a good mile to windward over the calm sea, but no responding cry came down to our anxious ears.

"There is no use wearing out our lungs with hallooing," said Terence. "They wouldn't hear us, up to windward there, even if they were much nearer. We must have patience, shipmates!—it's no use."

"God's will be done," ejaculated Andrew. "He may yet think fit to send us help."

The tone Andrew gave to our minds prevented us from despairing or sinking into despondency. I do not mean to say that we did not, at first, feel the most bitter disappointment as the ship receded into the darkness which surrounded us, but this feeling did not endure. We, as our wise companion advised us, "trusted in God that He would save us;" and we all along felt that He would do so.

We earnestly watched the ship as long as she was visible, and long after, though we scarcely expected her to tack, or to repass near. At length we returned to our raft, and endeavoured to forget our disappointment in sleep. We lay down, under our sealskin and sail, and after an hour's trial, I once more closed my eyes. How long I had slept I do not know, when I was again awoke by a loud noise and a violent movement of the iceberg.

Andrew suddenly started up, exclaiming, "The time has come! Hold on to the raft, my lads; hold on."

He meantime seized a boarding-pike, ready to steady the raft. His impression was that the iceberg was in the act of rolling over, and that now was the time our raft would be of service, if it could survive the waves caused by the submersion of the snow-formed mountain on which we rested.

We waited in awful suspense, believing that our last moment had indeed arrived. It is difficult to calculate time on such occasions. Gradually the rocking movement of the berg ceased, and we found that the ledge on which we were posted had sloped rather more towards the water than before, so that it was necessary to continue holding on by the boarding-pike to prevent its gliding off.

"What has happened?" I exclaimed, as I first again drew breath freely. "I thought it was all over with us."

"So did I, lad, at first, before I had time to think. I now suspect the cause of the commotion; and it is a mercy that the consequences have not been more terrible. When the circumstance which has just taken place happens, the whalers say that an iceberg has calved—that is, a huge lump of ice has broken away from the base of the berg, and has floated up to the top of the water. The noise we heard was when it struck against other parts, and first came to the surface. The loss of a large mass, of course, makes the berg lop-sided; and should another lump break away, it may go right over. Should we survive till the morning, we shall probably see the calf floating near us. I have known large ships overwhelmed by bergs falling on them. You know that it is the custom to moor ships to the lee side of a berg, to prevent their drifting to leeward with a contrary wind. A friend of mine, who gave me the account, belonged to a whaler, the Thomas, of Hull, Captain Taylor, fishing in Davis's Straits. Well, one day they lay moored to an iceberg, with a long scope of warp out, and thought themselves quite secure. On a sudden, without any notice, as they were sitting at dinner, a tremendous noise was heard and a blow was felt, just as if the ship had struck on a rock. Up went the bow in the air, till the keel showed above water, and the taffrail was almost under it. All thought the ship must go down; but still she floated, not much the worse for the blow. It was found, what all the old whale-men knew well enough, that a calf had broken away from the bottom of the berg, but fortunately had struck the keel fairly, without injuring the ship's bottom. Sometimes a calf falls from the top of a berg; but I hope one will not come down on our heads, for if it does, it will settle us outright."

Andrew said this quite calmly, though he felt that what he was describing might any moment happen. He afterwards reminded us that pieces were more likely to fall from the summit in the day-time, when the sun was shining on it, than at night, and that therefore we should not let the thought oppress us.

It may be supposed that we did not sleep, nor attempt to sleep, any more that night. As there was no moon, we had not any means of ascertaining how the time passed; but we calculated that it was about two o'clock in the morning when the last occurrence I have described took place. The air had been very light when I first looked out; now it was a perfect calm, so that not even a ripple was heard against the side of the berg. We were therefore not uncomfortable, as far as our feelings went, could we have divested ourselves of the recollection of the peril to which we were momentarily exposed.

Oh how long that night seemed! I fancied, that it would never have an end: each minute seemed prolonged to an hour—each hour to a winter's night. Sometimes we talked, and listened to Andrew's description of the events which had occurred to him when he before visited the Polar Sea. At other times we were all silent together; but Andrew took care this should not last long; and never did man so exert himself to keep up the spirits of his companions. He was actuated by a true Christian spirit; and nothing else would have enabled him, I am confident, to forget himself and watch over us in the way he did.

There had been a spell of silence, when Terence exclaimed, "What say you, Andrew, if we were to launch our raft, and try to reach the coast of Newfoundland while the calm lasts? It might be done, might it not?"

"I think not," was Andrew's reply. "While we remain on the iceberg, we have a chance of being seen; but, on a raft, a ship may pass close to us and not heed us, while, if a gale should come on, the raft would not live an instant. Even should we near the coast, which I do not think likely, we should probably be knocked to pieces on the rocks; so I say stay to the last extremity. If the iceberg won't hold us, then take to the raft."

Of course we determined to follow Andrew's advice; indeed, we all looked up to him as our guide and captain. With no little thankfulness did we welcome the first streaks of dawn on the eastern horizon. Again we knelt down and offered our prayers to Heaven. We had scarcely risen to our feet when a shout of joy escaped from our lips; for there, in the grey misty dawn, with her canvas hanging against her masts, lay motionless on the calm water a ship—the same, doubtless, which we fancied had passed far away from us in the night. Was that calm sent by Providence to effect, our salvation? The result will prove it, or when His now inscrutable ways are made manifest. How our hearts beat with hope and fear! My first impulse was to scream out to her. I checked myself, and asked Andrew what he would advise. He did not answer for some time.

Eagerly we watched the stranger. She was a barque—a whaler, no doubt. "Will she see us?" we asked one another. "Will she near the iceberg again, or will she sail off in an opposite direction?"

Those who have been placed in a similar position to the one in which we were, can alone truly comprehend to the full the intensity of our feelings. We could scarcely breathe—we could scarcely speak. All our thoughts were concentrated in that one point; our very being seemed wrapped up, as it were, in it. The night had passed slowly away; but still more slow did the light of day seem to creep over the world.

I said we were for some time silent. At last Andrew answered my question by saying, "The first thing we must do, shipmates, is to climb up to the top of the berg, and spread out our red handkerchiefs; so as to show a broad face to those on board yonder vessel. As soon as the sun is high enough, we'll try and light a fire, and the smoke may be seen by them; but if not, then we must trust ourselves to the raft, and try to paddle up to her. Perhaps we may reach her before a breeze springs up; but perhaps not. Yet I don't think it will get up till noon."

"But why not get on the raft at once?" I urged; for I had more confidence in it than he had.

"Because if we do, we may not be able to return to the iceberg, which we should wish to do if we miss the ship," he answered. "But on that point I will agree to what you all wish. What do you say, Tom?—you are the youngest, and should speak first."

"I say, then, let us try the raft," said Tom, who fancied even that he could swim to the ship.

"And so do I," I added.

"And I," exclaimed Terence, eagerly. "We'll drive her up to the ship in no time."

"Then, shipmates, the sooner we are off the better," we all cried out together.

Terence and I climbed up to the top of the berg, and spread out our handkerchiefs between two upright spars, and we thought they could not fail of being seen. Andrew and Tom, meantime, were filling the iron pot with water, collecting some of our seal flesh, and otherwise getting our raft ready. Securing one end of our rope to a point of ice, we eased the raft carefully down into the sea. To our satisfaction it floated well alongside, but it required great caution not to upset it as we stepped upon it. We at once saw that Andrew had good reason for not wishing to trust to it; for no sooner were we on it, than, calm as the sea was, the water washed completely over it, and, had we not placed two planks across it to sit on, we should have been wet through directly. We each of us held a small piece of the boat's planking in our hands to serve as paddles.

"Away we go, my lads," exclaimed Terence, as he gave a strong shove against the iceberg with a boarding-pike; and with a cheer, which, perilous as was our adventure, we could not repress, we began vigorously to ply our paddles. It was a matter of life and death, we saw. If we missed the ship, our chance of returning to the iceberg was small indeed. Our progress was very slow. We might have made a mile an hour—perhaps not so much—and we had three miles to go at least. Still we did not flag in our exertions. We each of us chewed a piece of seal's flesh to stay our hunger, though we had no inclination or power to swallow anything. We scarcely spoke a word all the time, but every now and then we turned a glance back, to judge how far we had got from our late abode.

One mile was passed, and we were not seen. Indeed, so small a speck as we were on the ocean, we could not expect to be observed till the sun had risen. Our great anxiety was respecting the wind—still the sea continued calm as a mirror. On we went—our eyes were on the ship's sails. Alas! a light cat's-paw skimmed across the ocean—the topgallant-sails of the barque blew out; but before they had any influence in impelling her through the water, they again drooped as before. Another cat's-paw came stronger than the first, and rippled the whole surrounding surface.

Oh with what agony we saw the topsails bulge out, and the barque's head turn from us! We simultaneously shouted, or rather shrieked out in our eagerness. It was of no avail. We strove to drive the raft on faster than before. What could our utmost efforts accomplish in overtaking a ship, her sails filled even with the light air then blowing? No longer were cat's-paws playing on the surface of the sea, but a well-defined ripple, almost small waves, were covering every part of it; and, as we worked our way among them, they washed around our feet. Every sail on board the barque began to draw; she had got steerage way, and was standing from us. We were not seen; and hope, which had hitherto sustained us, fled. Our hearts sunk, and scarcely could we longer ply our useless paddles.

"Andrew, what say you to this?" asked Terence at length.

"Persevere to the last, like men," replied Andrew. "We may have to return to the iceberg; but even then we must not lose courage, or our trust in Providence."

Just then the sun rose from his watery bed with glorious refulgence in an unclouded sky. I looked back, to judge how far we had got from the iceberg. Truly if it had appeared beautiful when we were on it, doubly so it did appear now, glittering in the beams of the sun; some parts of alabaster whiteness, and the rest tinged with hues of gold and pink and most transparent blue. It was an object well calculated to attract the eyes of a stranger.

A cry from my companions made me turn my head. The barque's sails were shivering, as she luffed up to the wind. Directly after a boat was seen to be lowered, and quickly being manned, it pulled towards us. Then indeed our hearts rose to our bosoms, and we shouted with joy. Poor Tom, from the great revulsion of feeling, was nearly fainting and falling off the raft, had we not supported him. Still we paddled on, and the boat seemed to fly towards us. She was quite close to us, when, in our joy we waved our paddles above our heads, and gave way to another shout.

"Hillo, who have we here?" exclaimed a voice from the boat. "What, mates, we didn't see you!"

Such was the case; they had seen our signal, but had overlooked us. The surgeon of the ship, never having before seen an iceberg, was gazing at it with his glass, and was the first to remark our handkerchiefs; and not being able to make out what they were, he had directed to them the captain's attention. He was in the boat, and assisted to help us off our raft.

Once on board and safe, the strength which had hitherto supported us, gave way, and we sunk down to the bottom of the boat, overpowered with various emotions. I trust and believe that we were all of us grateful to Heaven for our wonderful preservation.

The boat towed our raft alongside, as it was too valuable for firewood to be lost. We were hoisted on board, unable to help ourselves, and were received by the master, officers, and crew with the greatest kindness and attention. The surgeon ordered us at once to be put into warm hammocks, while some warm liquid was poured down our throats, which soon restored us. However, no one questioned us about our adventures till we were more completely recovered.

Two events occurred which ought to have increased, if they did not, our sense of gratitude for our preservation. Scarcely had our feet touched the deck of the barque than a strong breeze sprang up, which sent her at the rate of some seven knots an hour through the water, far away from the iceberg. Before, however, she had run out of sight of that floating island, its glittering summits were seen to lean forward, and, with a sound which could be heard at that distance, to fall prostrate in the water, while the waves created by its submersion reached so far as perceptibly to lift the ship as they passed. Thus was I, with my companions, preserved from the most awful and perilous position in which I was ever placed.


The vessel on board which we so happily found ourselves was called The Shetland Maid,—her master, Captain John Rendall. She measured three hundred and fifty tons, was barque-rigged, and perfectly fitted as a whaler, being also strengthened by every means which science could devise, to enable her to resist the pressure of the ice to which such vessels must inevitably be exposed in their progress through the arctic seas. She had forty-two souls on board, including officers, being some few short of her complement, as two fell sick in Orkney before leaving, and two were unhappily lost overboard in a furious gale she encountered soon after sailing.

Andrew, Terence, and I remained two days below under the doctor's care, and by the third had completely recovered our usual strength. Tom Stokes, who had suffered most, and was not naturally so strong, took a week before he came round.

As soon as we appeared on deck, the captain called us aft, and desired to know our adventures. Andrew was the spokesman, and the captain expressed himself much pleased with our messmate's mode of narrating them.

"Well, my men," he said, "I have lost some of my crew, and I suppose you'll have no objection to entering regularly for the voyage in their place. You'll share with the other able seamen eighteenpence for each tun of oil, you know, besides monthly wages."

We told him that we should be glad to enter, and would sign articles when he pleased; and that we would answer for Tom Stokes, that he would do the same.

Behold me at last, then, as I have styled myself, PETER THE WHALER. We were now standing to the northward, and rapidly approaching the ice. Before, however, I proceed with an account of my adventures, I will describe the ship, her officers and crew, and the peculiar arrangements made to fit her for the service in which she was employed.

Captain Rendall was a well-educated, intelligent, brave, and, I feel sure, a truly religious man. I may say, without more than justice, that he was the father of his crew. His father had been in the same service before him for many years; and he had the advantage of his experience, to which he added the knowledge he himself had gained. I do not give him as a specimen of the masters of all whalers, for I fear there are few like him, though they must of necessity be intelligent and superior men. There were three mates. The chief mate, Mr Todd, was also chief harpooner or specksioneer. Then there were the other harpooners, boat-steerers, line-managers, and coopers, beside foremast-men, landsmen, and apprentices.

It is not the custom to pay simply monthly wages; but, as an inducement to all hands to exert themselves in their several capacities in capturing fish, they receive a gratuity for every size fish caught during the voyage, or a certain sum for every tun of oil which the cargo produces. The master gets scarcely any pay if he has no success in his voyage; but for every whale killed he gets three guineas, from ten to twenty shillings for each tun of oil, and a thirtieth to a twentieth on the value of the cargo; so that he may make as much as five hundred pounds by a single voyage. The chief mate may get nearly a hundred, and the seamen twenty-five pounds each. Many of the ships belong to Hull and other northern ports of England and Scotland; but it is usual to touch at the Orkneys or Shetland, to complete the complement of the crew with the hardy islanders who inhabit them.

A whaler, in order to withstand the shock of the ice, is strengthened inside, both at the stem and stern, by stout timbers placed in various directions, and fastened securely together; while on the outside she is in parts covered with a double, and even a treble planking, besides other thick pieces, which serve to ward off the blows from the parts most likely to receive them. How little all the strengthening which the art and ingenuity of man can devise is of avail against the mighty power of the ice, I shall have hereafter to describe. The masts of a whaler are lower than in a common merchantman, and her sails are smaller, and cut in a different shape, the courses or lower sails decreasing towards the foot, so as to be worked with slight strength. Sometimes this is of importance, as, when all the boats are away together in chase of whales, three or four men alone remain on board to take care of the ship.

A whale-ship, therefore, though she has great care and expense bestowed on her, has not, in port, the graceful and elegant appearance possessed by some other ships, bound to more genial climes. The crew do not sleep in hammocks, as on board men-of-war, but in berths or standing bed-places, erected on the half-deck forward. It is a dark retreat, and not scented with sweet odours, especially after a ship has begun to take in her cargo; but the weary seaman cares little where he lays his head, provided it is in a dry and warm place.

We next come to the boats—a very important part of the outfit. The bow and stern of a whale-boat are both sharp, rise considerably, and are nearly alike. It has great beam, or breadth, to prevent its being dragged, when towed by a whale, completely under the water. The keel is convex in the centre, to enable it to be turned more easily; and for the same reason it is steered by an oar instead of a rudder. The oar can also turn a boat when she is at rest, and can scull her in calm weather up to a whale without noise. A large-size boat is pulled by five oars, and one to steer, and a small one by four oars; the first being from twenty-six to twenty-eight feet long, and the last from twenty-three to twenty-four. A large one is five feet five inches in breadth; and a small one five feet three inches.

The rowers include the harpooner and the line-manager. They are carvel-built—that is, the planks are placed as in a ship. Boats in general are clinker-built—that is, the planks overlap each other; but as they are difficult to repair, the other simpler method is employed. A ship generally carries seven boats—two or more large, and the rest small. They are suspended by cranes, or davits, in a row outside the rigging, on either side of the ship, and another astern, so that they can be directly lowered into the water. A smart crew will man and lower a boat in the space of a minute, and be away in chase of a whale.

When we got on board, the boats' crews were busily employed in getting their respective boats and gear ready for action. Each boat had a harpooner, who pulled the bow oar, a steersman, next to him in rank, who steered, and a line-manager, who pulled the after or stroke oar; and besides them were two or three seamen who pulled the other oars.

The first operation, after cleansing the boats, was to get the lines spliced and coiled away; and when it is remembered that each whale may be worth from five hundred to eight hundred pounds, and that, if the lines are in any way damaged, the fish may be lost, it will be acknowledged that they have good reason to be careful. Each line is about one hundred and twenty fathoms long; so that when the six lines, with which each boat is supplied, are spliced together, the united length is seven hundred and twenty fathoms, or four thousand three hundred and twenty feet.

A few fathoms of the line is left uncovered, with an eye at the end, in order to connect the lines of another boat to it; for sometimes, when a whale swims far, or dives deep, the lines of several boats are joined together. The rest of the line is neatly and carefully coiled away in the stern of the boat.

To the upper end of the line is spliced the "fore-ganger" of a "spanned harpoon," thus connecting the harpoon with all the lines in the boat. A "fore-ganger" is a piece of rope a few fathoms long, made of white or untanned hemp, so as to be more flexible and easily extended when the harpoon is projected from the hand.

As the crew of each boat accomplished the work of coiling away their lines, they gave three hearty cheers, to which we all responded; so we had as much cheering as at a sailing match.

I must try to describe a harpoon, for the benefit of those who have never seen one. It is the whaler's especial weapon—the important instrument of his success. It consists of a "socket," "shank," and "mouth." The shank, which is made of the most pliable iron, is about two feet long; the socket is about six inches long, and swells from the shank to nearly two inches in diameter; and the mouth is of a barbed shape, each barb or wither being eight inches long and six broad, with a smaller barb reversed in the inside. The object of the barb, of course, is to prevent the harpoon being drawn out of the whale after it has been fixed.

The hand harpoon is projected by aid of a stock or handle of wood, seven feet in length, fixed in the socket. After the whale is struck, this handle falls out; but it is not lost, as it is secured to the line by a loop. The line, it must be remembered, is fastened to the iron part of the harpoon.

Harpoon-guns are now frequently used for projecting harpoons. The harpoon for this purpose is made with two shanks, side by side, one of which goes into the bore of the gun; to the other on the outside the line is attached.

On every harpoon is stamped the name of the ship, so that it is at once easy to ascertain, from the weapon in the whale, by whom it was struck. Lances are also used, with long handles and sharp heads, to assist in killing the whale.

Each boat is furnished with two harpoons, eight lances, and some spare oars; a flag, with its staff, to serve as a signal; a "mik," as a rest for the harpoon, when ready for instant service; an axe, ready for cutting the line when necessary; a "pigging," a small bucket for baling out the boat; two boat-hooks, and many other things which I need scarcely name.

A most important contrivance belonging to a whaler is the crow's-nest, which I may describe as a sentry-box at the mast-head. It is, perhaps, more like a deep tub, formed of laths and canvas, with a seat in it, and a movable screen, which traverses on an iron rod, so that it can instantly be brought round on the weather side. In the bottom is a trap-door, by which it is entered. Here the master takes up his post, to pilot his ship among the ice; and here, also, a look-out is kept, when whales are expected to appear in the distance.

Just consider how necessary it is to have a good shelter, when frequently the temperature of the air is from 10 degrees to 20 degrees below the freezing-point.

I must not forget to mention the means taken for preserving the cargo of blubber. This is done in casks, in which the blubber is placed after it has been cut up into very small portions. The casks are stowed in the hold, and some are placed between decks; and when there has been unusual success, so that there are not casks enough, the blubber is stowed away in bulk among them.

The mode of fishing, and the remainder of the operations, will be described in the course of my narrative.

In three more days we were all ready. The harpoon-guns were cleaned, oiled, and fastened, with their swivels, on the "billet-heads," in the bows of the boats. Each harpooner got a supply of gunpowder and percussion-caps; and all other requisites were put into the boats.

The crow's-nest had been got up to the main-topgallant mast-head; and in the afternoon we were ready, and eager to attack the first whale which should appear. In the evening the harpooners were invited down into the cabin, to receive their instructions for the season; and afterwards the steward served out a glass of grog to all hands, to drink "a good voyage and a full ship."

I had fully expected to see whales in such numbers, that we should have nothing to do but to chase and capture them; but in this I was disappointed, for not a whale did we meet; indeed, with the heavy sea then running, had we got hold of one, we could not have secured it. It was, I ought to say, towards the end of April, and we were in hourly expectation of being among the ice, through which, at that time of the year, it was expected a passage would easily be found to the northward.

We had seen several icebergs, which like their companion on which the corvette was wrecked, had early broken away from the main body, as also washing pieces and several large floes; but we had yet to learn what a field of ice was like.

It was night, and blowing very hard from the south-west. It was my watch on deck, and Mr Todd, the first mate, was officer of the watch. We were standing on a bowline under our topsails, a sharp look-out being kept ahead for danger. O'Connor and I were together, leaning against the bulwarks and talking. "Well, Terence," I said, "I would rather find myself homeward bound, after all that has occurred, than be obliged to be running into a sea in which we shall all the time be obliged to be cruising among ice."

"Oh, I don't consider much of that," he answered. "It's only a summer cruise, you know; and when we get back, we shall have our pockets stuffed with gold, and be able to talk of all the wonders we have seen."

"I hope we may get back. I have no fancy to spend a winter on the ice," I said.

"There are pleasanter places to live in, no doubt, Peter; but people have lived not only one year, but several years running in those regions, and have not been the worse for it," replied Terence.

Just then we were startled by the loud cry of "Breakers ahead!" Mr Todd in a moment saw what was to be done. "Wear ship!" he exclaimed. "Up with the helm. Gaff-topsail-sheets let fly. Drop the peak. Square away the after-yards."

While these and other orders were given and executed, in order to take the pressure of the wind off the after part of the ship, and to make her head turn from it, I glanced in the direction towards which we were running. A pale light seemed to be playing over it; and I could distinguish, amid the foaming breakers, huge masses of ice dashing about and heaving one upon another, any one of which, I thought, would be sufficient to stave in the sides of the ship, if not to overwhelm her completely.

At the same time a loud, crashing, grinding noise was heard, sufficient to strike terror into the stoutest hearts. But it must be remembered that we were all so busily engaged in flying here and there in the performance of our duty, that we had no time for fear. This is a great secret to enable men to go through dangers unappalled. Had we been compelled to stand inactive, our feelings might have been very different.

The ship wore slowly round; but still she seemed approaching the threatening mass. She plunged more violently than before amid the raging sea, and in another moment I felt certain we must be among the upheaving masses. Just then her head seemed to turn from them; but a sea struck her on the quarter and came rolling on board; a tremendous blow was felt forward, another followed. Cries arose from some of the men that all was lost, and I expected to find the ship instantly dashed to pieces.

Our good captain rushed on deck. He cast one glance aloft, and another at the ice. "She's clear, my lads," he shouted. The ship came round, and in another instant we were on the eastern or lee side of the floe, and gliding smoothly on in calm water through a broad passage, leading amid the main body of the polar ice.


Our ship made good progress, considering the impediments in her way, towards the fishing grounds in the north, to which she was bound. Sometimes we had a clear sea; at other times we were sailing among patches of ice and icebergs, or through lanes penetrating into packs of many miles in extent, and from which it seemed impossible we should ever again be extricated. Our captain, or one of his mates, was always at this time in the crow's-nest, directing the course of the ship amid the dangers which surrounded her.

I shall not soon forget the first day of May, which I spent in the icy sea. It was as unlike May-day at home as any day could well be as far as the temperature went, though we were sailing through a sea tolerably free from ice.

"All play to-day and no work, my boy, for we are going to have a visit from a king and queen," said an old whaler, David McGee by name, as he gave me a slap on the shoulder which would have warmed up my blood not a little, if anything could in that biting weather.

"He must be King Frost, then," I answered, laughing; "for we have plenty of his subjects around us already."

"No; I mean a regular-built king," said old McGee, winking at some of his chums standing around, who had made many a voyage before. "He boards every ship as comes into these parts, to ask them for tribute; and then he makes them free of the country, and welcome to come back as often as they like."

"Thank him for nothing for that same," I answered, determined not to be quizzed by them. "But don't suppose, David, I'm so jolly green as to believe what you're telling me; no offence to you, though."

"You'll see, youngster, that what I say is true; so look out for him," was old McGee's answer, as he turned on his heel.

I had observed that for a few days past the old hands were busy about some work, which they kept concealed from the youngsters, or the green hands, to which class I belonged. Everything went on as usual till eight bells had been struck at noon, when an immense garland, formed of ribbons of all colours, bits of calico, bunting, and artificial flowers, or what were intended for them, was run up at the mizzen-peak. On the top of the garland was the model of a ship, full-rigged, with sails set and colours flying. Scarcely had it gone aloft, when I was startled by a loud bellowing sound, which seemed to come from a piece of ice floating ahead of the ship.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse