“The Voyage of the Salt Mackerel,” by Charles Barnard (from Robert Merry’s Museum, May 1872; pp. 234-238)
Jack Smith lived upon a farm in Connecticut. His father, John Smith, owned a little place on the banks of a river that ran into Long Island Sound. His home was a quiet one, far removed from any city, and two miles from the village. An old-fashioned farm-house, a great barn, a corn-house, and other buildings, wide fields, the deep woods, and the river made all that Jack knew of the world.
Jack was, in some respects, a remarkable boy. He went to school in the winter, and in the summer helped his father on the farm, or played with his boon companion, Tommy Stifkins, who lived in the village. The village was two miles away, and he seldom visited it except to see Tommy, and to go to church.
As might be supposed, Jack had very little pocket money. He could not spend it if he had it; so he got along very happily without any money at all. Once a week the Youth’s Banner came to him; and for a day he devoted himself to it. He used to read every line, advertisements and all. The articles that interested him the most were those describing foreign lands. When he became a man, he would travel, and cross the sea, and visit the strange countries, and perhaps go round the world.
One warm afternoon in the summer vacation, he sat on the bank of the river, fishing and reading the Banner. Suddenly he had a new idea and a big bite at the same instant. He laid down the paper, and pulled in the line, and caught—a log—a log floating down stream. The line had become entangled in it, and by pulling it in he secured it. The new idea was as big as the log.
He would travel; he would go abroad, and see the world during his vacation. He turned over the idea, and examined his prize at the same time. It was a log of wood, the like of which he had never seen. It must have come from some strange place up the river. He would go and visit that country. Yes; he would travel, and see the world.
How could he? He had no money. The log settled the question for him. Make a boat or raft, and sail down the stream, and see where it went. Perhaps he could get to the sea, and have a chance to meet a real ship. How particularly fine that would be! He wondered if they would look like the pictures in the Banner.
This was such a grand scheme, that he fell into a profound meditation over it, and dropped the Banner into the water. He would build a boat. How could he? He had never seen but one boat in his life, except— O, yes; he had seen pictures of boats in his paper. Greatly pleased with this idea, he went home, and hunted up all the old papers he could find, and searched them through for a picture of a boat. At last he found a picture of a whale- boat. Of course he could not make anything like that. Reluctantly he gave that idea up, and wondered what he could do next. The supper horn sounded, and he went to the table, and astonished his mother by eating little or nothing. He was too full of his great idea of a voyage to eat. He meant to go somehow, even if he had neither boat nor money.
After tea he wandered down by the river in the moonlight. The dark water rippled past in a most enticing way. It seemed to sweep into the moonlight, and go on as if it meant to travel on and on forever. The breeze swept past him, and
seemed to go on over the tree tops. A bat flew over his head, and disappeared. He looked up at the moon and the stars; they, too, seemed to be sailing swiftly through the sky past the black clouds. Everything was moving, moving all that time. Only he stood still day after day on the old farm.
A log floating down stream came into the sparkling bar of moonlight on the water, and then slid away into the dark. This was too much. He must go somewhere, and see something. What did it matter if he had no money? There were lots of rusty nails in the barn, and plenty of odd timbers and boards in the wood-shed. He could make a raft. A boat was out of the question. Yes; a raft it should be. He would load it with apples and gingerbread, and take a voyage.
He did not sleep much that night, but lay awake, thinking over his great project. As soon as it was light, he scrabbled into his clothes, and went to the river bank. He had secured the log; and setting it afloat, he stepped upon it, and found, to his joy, that it would support him. It was a square piece of timber, about eight inches thick, and twenty feet long. He at once concluded that if he had another piece like it, the two would make a raft. He ate his breakfast in the greatest haste, and then went to the shed. To his joy, he found two sticks that he thought might be fastened together, and made to answer.
With much labor he lugged the timbers to the shore, and began to build the famous Salt Mackerel. This was the name he gave the ship. He disdained to call it a raft. It would be a ship, and it was to be strong enough to sail and sail, till it came to the salt sea. He had read that the mackerel was a very beautiful saltwater fish; and as he meant to reach the sea, he gave the vessel the descriptive title of the “Salt Mackerel.” He selected a little cove where the grass came down to the water for a ship-yard, and where no one could see what was going on. He did not mean to tell of his plans till they were finished.
With a hatchet he sharpened the ends of the log and the timbers, and laid them on the grass, about two feet apart. The Salt Mackerel was to have two keels, and— O, bother! there was the dinner-horn. How quick the morning had gone! Dinner over, he gathered a lot of loose boards and some rusty nails, and went to work in earnest. He worked hard all that afternoon, and all the next day, and then she began to look like something. She did certainly. The Salt mackerel had assumed a form as fishy and beautiful as its lovely namesake.
It was twenty feet long, two feet wide, and pointed at one end. The two sticks of timber underneath the deck were securely fastened together by braces; and to give it a real ship shape, the deck was made to project at the bows, and was sharpened to a point. The stern was square.
Now Jack had not read the Youth’s Banner in vain. He knew that at sea the waves sometimes dashed over the bows, and that ships had rudders to guide them. Accordingly he made a rudder, and nailed a board all round the sides of the ship, and called it the bulwarks, in true nautical style. She must also be rigged. She must have a mast, and sails, and a cabin. He meant to take a long voyage, to go down to the sea and back. He might be gone two or three days—perhaps a week.
Sunday came, and he was obliged to suspend operations. He got through the day as well as he could, and early Monday morning prepared to rig and stock the Salt Mackerel for the voyage. He worked hard for three days, and at last everything was ready. Day by day he had asked for lunch, and each time had carefully stored it in the barn, for provisions on the voy-
age. He spent Thursday morning picking huckleberries for stores; and that afternoon he gathered everything together, and having loaded the cargo, prepared to launch the Salt Mackerel. He tried to push her into the water; but she would not stir. With the greatest care he unloaded her, and tried again. She moved slightly. Ah, a brave idea! Get some rollers. He ran to the wood-shed, and soon had some round sticks for rollers. With much labor he managed to get two of them under her, and then, with a fence rail for a lever, he tried to start her. She moved slowly, and then with a rush she slid into the water stern foremost. With a shout of alarm, he ran after her just in time to grasp the point of the bows as she slid into the water. A second later, and he would have lost her.
Why had ne not thought of it? Every ship had a cable. The Salt Mackerel must have a cable. A clothes-line would do; there was an abandoned one in the attic. He secured the floating ship to a bush, and ran home as fast as he could. The line was a wretched affair; but by doubling it would answer.
He dragged some stones to the shore, and made a little wharf, so that he could step into the Salt Mackerel as she floated in deep water. He went aboard, and proudly paced her deck. She was truly a fine ship. She sustained him beautifully, and the deck was dry. He pushed her about in the cove with a pole. How easily she moved! She was a success, and equal to any voyage. Now he could travel, and see the world, even though he only had twenty-five cents in his pocket. He would take the money with him on the voyage, in case he was shipwrecked. Of course he did not intend she should be lost in a storm; but, according to the Youth’s Banner, every ship was liable to wreck and disaster. Besides, if the voyage extended to New Haven or New York, he might want to stop and spend the quarter.
He drew the ship up to the dock, to take in the cargo. It took him till dark to prepare everything, and he was reluctantly obliged to go home for the night. He ate a hearty breakfast the next morning, and then told his mother that he was going off to spend the day. This was true, only it was not the whole truth. Of course, such wickedness met with its punishment in due time. His mother put a lunch into a basket for him, and hoped he would be careful, and not fall into the river. He looked up amazed. had she discovered his secret? No; and bidding her good morning, he went to the dock. He saw his father in the hayfield; but he was too far away to hear Jack’s good by.
How sweetly the Salt Mackerel floated on the water! The birch tree mast stood stiff and rakish, and the bowsprit stuck up beautifully. At the peak flapped a red flannel pennant, and the jib and mainsail were furled in a very shippy fashion. Jack, as has been remarked, had not read the Banner in vain. He had studied ships, and had rigged his in sloop style. The mainsail was made of an old sheet, and it had no booms. What of that? It was a leg-of-mutton sail, and would, no doubt, make her spin. The jib was made of bagging, and had no rings by which it could run up and down the jib- stay. What of that? He could wind it round the jib-stay when he wished to furl it. The sails had the proper sheets, made of twine, and there was a rudder, with tiller-ropes at the stern. At the stern was the cabin. It was made of barrel hoops nailed to the ship’s sides, and bent over in an arch, and roofed with the curtains of an old carriage. It was only three feet high, but quite large enough to crawl into, and to hold the provisions. The tiller-ropes passed along the outside, and came together at the cabin door. At the bows
lay a big stone, fastened to the clothes-line cable for an anchor.
He had brought a great-coat with him, and a wooden comb, and some matches; also a lantern, and six candle ends, and the last copy of the Banner. He had read that good ships carried libraries, and he would have one. He stored the huckleberries, gingerbread, and other things in the cabin, and prepared for the voyage.
The breeze was fresh, and blew straight down the river. He took one of the poles he had chopped into shape for oars, and pushed off. How beautifully she glided out upon the river! For a moment he stood enraptured with the pleasing motion. Ah, she feels the current! The bows turned down stream, and the speed quickened. “Up with the sails!” he cried; and appointing himself captain, he unrolled the yellow jib. The breeze took it, and it began to tug at the sheets. He ran to the tiller-ropes, to keep her straight, as the sail pulled her nose round to the western shore.
In a tremor of delight he sat down on the deck to steer the proud Salt Mackerel on her first voyage. He could not rest long. the ripples parted under her bows, and the trees on the shore began to glide past in procession. “Up with the main-sail!” No sooner said than done. The three- cornered sail bellied out in the wind, and the Salt Mackerel was fairly started.
Captain Jack gazed round upon the passing shore. Every trace of his home was gone. He looked back, and saw the top of his father’s house disappearing round a bend in the river. What a glorious voyage he would have! Hallo! What is this? A bridge! Ah, it was the wooden bridge at the village! How quickly he had come down the two miles! Suddenly he heard a shout. He looked at the shore, and saw a boy fishing under a tree.
Tommy Stifkins, his schoolmate and playfellow. Tommy was greatly excited at the sight of the stately Salt Mackerel gliding swiftly past; and throwing down his line, he ran shouting along the bank. Captain Jack could not make out what he said, and steered the ship in shore.
“Hold on, Jacky, hold on! Take me too, Jacky.”
Jack looked round on the deck of the ship. Yes; it would carry two, and Tommy should be the crew. She needed more hands. Besides, it would take two to haul up the anchor, and to steer while the sails were hoisted. He pointed to the bridge, and steering skilfully, he shot under it, and glided out into the sunlight on the other side. The big anchor splashed into the water, the Salt Mackerel swung round, and the sails drooped in the shelter of the bridge. She lay a few feet from the shore, and Tommy appeared almost wild with excitement, and ready to get on board at once.
“No,” said Jack; “she is only provisioned for one. If you can get some lunch, I’ll take you. I’m going on a voyage to the sea and back. It will take a week, and I mean to sleep on board.”
Tommy went utterly wild over the magnificence of this plan. He was ready to stand on his head for joy. Yes, he would run home, and get some lunch, and an old army blanket to sleep in.
Without further talk, he ran away, and Jack, not displeased to get company, prepared to receive the crew. The provisions were stored closer, and the cabin made as snug as possible. Presently Tommy returned, laden with a blanket, two coats, a tin pail, and a jug of water. At his heels ran a black-and-tan. Jack saw the dog with joy. What fun! A dog on the ship! The Salt Mackerel was pushed in shore as close as the cable would permit, and the cargo was passed on board. Skip, the black-and-tan, did not want to go; but when he saw Tommy take off his
shoes and stockings, to wade through the shallow water, he barked furiously, and then plunged boldly after. Tommy clinbed in, and haulded the dog after him. The dog shook himself, and Tommy inspected his glorious surroundings with the greatest pleasure. What fun! A voyage down the river!
The sails had not been furled, and were gently flapping in the wind. Tommy put on his shoes, and spread his blanket on the floor of the cabin. He was a bright youth, and among his things he had brought everything he could think of and find. His parents were not at home, and he had picked up his outfit in the pantry and his room very much as he pleased. Wrong conduct for a small boy; but the temptation of a voyage was too great to be resisted.
Captain Jack called out,—
“Up with the anchor, all hands!”
They both went to the bows, to pull in the cable. It was not hard work till the anchor was nearly up. They tugged and tugged, and the water began to creep up through the cracks in the deck.
“Heave ahoy!” cried Jack; and it was landed on the bows. The Salt Mackerel, freed from her anchor, drifted majestically backwards, and ran stern foremost into the bushes on the bank.
“Look out!” cried Jack. “Shove her off!”
Tommy took the oar, and thrust it into the water. It would not touch bottom, and he tumbled flat on the deck. The ship swung slowly round, and the sails filling with the wind that blew under the bridge, she proudly floated out into the stream without injury.
“Hurrah!” cried Tommy, scrabbling to his feet.
“Yes,” said Jack; “it is well to cheer now that we are not wrecked. I thought she’d smash in the cabin when she struck. Hullo! where is she going?
He grasped the tiller-ropes to turn her head down stream; for the river took a bend here, and the wind was carrying her to the opposite bank. The breeze now blew on the other side, and under Jack’s instructions Tommy shifted the twine sheets, and the voyage began again. The current was stronger than the wind, and the Salt Mackerel easily turned in the right direction. The boys looked back, and saw the bridge disappearing round a corner. On the bridge they saw a man waving his hat at them, and shouting. As the ship glided rapidly on, he was soon lost to view, and the thought no more about it.
Then they sat down on the deck to enjoy the passing scenery and the gentle motion. Tommy was in raptures over the beauties of the Salt Mackerel, and wanted to know all about her construction, and the plan of the voyage. Busily talking, they did not notice how time went, and before long they began to be hungry.
“Guess it must be noon,” said Jack, glancing up at the sun. “Let us have dinner. By the way, we should keep a log, like a real ship.”
Tommy thought so too, and out of his pocket he fished the stump of a pencil, and in his great-coat he found a leaf from his spelling-book.
“I’ll keep the log and get dinner while you steer.”
“All right,” said Jack; “I’ll be captain, and you may be first mate and crew.”
“Nuf sed,” replied Tommy, as he opened his tin pail. “Dinner is ready.”
With the lunch between them, they sat on the deck, and ate the cold meat and bread, while the proud Salt Mackerel glided sweetly on. The trees on the banks grew thinner, and the woods changed to open field. They saw a few houses here and there, and with joy noticed they were coming to a country new and strange to them.
“The Voyage of the Salt Mackerel,” by Charles Barnard (from Robert Merry’s Museum, June 1872; pp. 245-250)
The afternoon passed away, and the evening came. At six o’clock Jack’s mother went to the door, and blew the supper-horn long and loud. His father came home, but no Jacky appeared. It grew dark, and she began to wonder why he did not come. His father sent a man to look for him. The man went all over the farm, and returned, reporting that Jack was not to be found. The moon rose round and full in the east. Eight o’clock came; nine and ten struck on the wooden clock in the kitchen. His mother became greatly alarmed, and his father went up and down the river bank, and called and called; but only the echo replied. Jack was lost. His mother did not go into fits; she was too fat. She wiped her eye with the corner of her
apron, and kept his supper warm on the stove. Nobody slept that night in the farm-house. Mr. John Smith put in his horse, and rode to the village. Everybody had gone to bed save the Stifkins family. They were waiting and wondering where the lively Tommy and the black-and-tan could be.
When Mr. John Smith drove up in the moonlight, and asked if Jack was there, they said, “No. And Tommy and Skip are gone nobody knows where.”
Were they not at the Smiths’?
“Sho, you don’t say!”
“And Jack’s missing too.”
How dreadful! A dog and two boys lost. The people had a solemn talk, and decided it was best to ring the church-bell, and call up the folks to hunt for the lost boys and black-and-tan. Mr. Smith and Mr. Stifkins called on the minister for the key of the church. Poor man! he had a crying baby that night, and was sitting up, trying to soothe its torn heart. He was performing a grand march with the child in his arms when they rang; he put his head out of the window, and they inquired of the moonlit night-cap if they might ring the church-bell for a lost dog and two boys. The night-cap wriggled vigorously, and they felt very sad. How the baby yelled! The minister threw him sprawling on the bed, and came to the door in a big wrapper.
Yes; he had seen the two boys going down the river in a boat that afternoon. It seemed to be a fine large boat, and he imagined they were safe.
“Safe!” cried Mr. John Smith; “safe! the boy never saw a boat in his life before.”
“Perhaps he has read about boats.”
Mr. John Smith and Mr. Peter Stifkins put their hands to their disordered brains, and said simultaneously,—
“That paper—that Youth’s Banner—it has fired their young hearts with a desire for travel and adventure, and they have run away.”
“Yes,” replied the minister, solemnly; “they have run away to sea. Let us ring the bell.”
Meanwhile the adventurous Jack, the cheerful Tommy, the black-and-tan, and the proud Salt Mackerel went sailing on. The wind held fair all the afternoon, and with the greatest interest our travellers watched the swiftly passing shores; they had never enjoyed such a day in their lives. The ship did not need much attention, and they sat on the deck content and happy. They passed farms without number; they shot under three bridges, and passed two towns. The people on shore stared at them in wonder, and some boys swimming in the river tried to follow them. Bless you! they were soon left behind by the flying Salt Mackerel.
What fun! The river spread out wider and wider; the waves danced and splashed against the speeding ship. She proudly parted the foam under her bows, and left a bubbling wake behind.
“Hi!” cried Captain Jack; “isn’t it jolly! Aren’t you glad you come?”
“Guess I be. See how she spins! It is the greatest thing any fellows ever did.”
Skip sat on his haunches, and sniffed the breeze with evident satisfaction. Ah, it was fun! It surpassed all the joys of fishing, tag, or new story books.
The sun began to go down. Tommy brought out some huckleberries and bread, and they had supper on deck. The dog also had a bite, and then he stretched his neck over the bulwarks, to get a drink in the river. He could not reach; so Jack dipped up some water in his hand. Skip tasted it, and would not touch it. What was the matter? Jack sucked one wet finger; it was salt!
They were nearing the sea. The Salt Mackerel was nearing her native element.
How splendid! Perhaps they would see a ship soon. How wide the river spread out! The boys were in great glee. They had not thought to reach tide-water so soon. How fast she must have sailed! At least forty miles since morning.
The sun went down behind the low hills. It began to grow cool, and they put on their overcoats. The night was coming on; it was their first night away from home.
Were they not afraid? Not a bit. Nor homesick? No. It was fun, they thought. As they could not drink the brackish water of the river, they drank from the stone jug, and gave the dog some also. They must now prepare for their first night at sea. Should they turn in shore, and anchor, or go on all night.
“Go on, by all means,” said the captain. “Did you ever read in the Banner of a ship that anchored at night?”
“No,” replied the first mate, “I never did; only—perhaps—we might fall asleep, and be run into by a steamship or a schooner.”
“That’s so. If we are going on all night, we ought to have a green light on the port side, and a red one on the starboard.”
“No; it’s a green light on the starboard.”
“Ho! I guess I know. Haven’t I read the Banner?”
“Any way, I think it would be more fun to anchor near shore, and start fresh in the morning. If we go on, we might come to the ocean in the dark, and not see the ships.”
This was true; and seeing some lights on shore, they guessed it must be a town, and voted to pass it, and then anchor. The moon came up, and it was light enough to see pretty well; so, wrapping themselves up, they passed the lights on shore, and then the rudder was turned, and the Salt Mackerel began to sail majestically sidewise. Somehow she did not sail very well side to the wind, and, as they were not a great way off shore, the captain decided to come to anchor.
If we had chanced to sail down that river that summer night, we might have seen two boys and a dog curled up under the cabin of the Salt Mackerel as she quietly floated on the tide.
As soon as the sun rose, the dog began to bark, and the boys hastily scrabbled up. They stood on the deck, and were surprised at the beauty and novelty of the scene around them. The smooth river stretched wider and wider between its low banks, and down stream the blue water met the blue sky. It was the first time they had seen the marine horizon. They had seen pictures of the wide salt sea, but had not supposed it could be so very big and splendid. The shores were low and sandy, and here and there stood a small house, very different from any they had ever seen. They concluded they must be fishermen’s houses. They washed their faces in the salt water, and brushed their hair in high glee; all their hopes were fulfilled. They would soon be upon the open sea. They ate their breakfast with a great relish, and prepared to continue the voyage. The horizon was a long way off; but they hoped to reach it by dinner time, and then, after sailing about on the real sea, and looking at the real ships, they would start for home.
After breakfast they examined the stone jug; the water was almost gone. They must get a new supply. they pulled up the anchor, and rowed towards the shore. Finding a smooth beach, they pushed her bows on to the sand. Jack jumped ashore with the jug, and Tommy mounted guard on the Salt Mackerel. In a short time the captain returned in great glee; he had seen two real boats and a fish-net; a woman had filled his jug, and they would now start.
Hah! what’s this? The tide. They had read about the tide in the “Jography.” It was going out, and the Salt Mackerel was aground. They took off their shoes and stockings, and shoved and pushed with all their might, and at last she floated. They wet their clothes badly. What of that? It was a mere trifle to such intrepid navigators.
The breeze was freshening; white clouds sailed through the sky, and the waves danced merrily. The jib was unrolled, and the mainsail spread; the twine ropes were made fast, and away flew the Salt Mackerel over the blue water.
It was a proud moment for the boys; they were now on a real voyage. The shores spread out wide, and they boldly went out on the bay. The waves grew bigger, and dashed against the bulwarks, and spattered the black-and-tan, and he crept into the cabin as if he was afraid.
The boys laughed, and were very merry. The Banner was neglected; they could not stop to read while there was so much to be seen. They might come to a light-house at any moment, and—
“O,” cried Tommy, “there is a ship coming!”
Yes, a real ship—a schooner beating up the bay against the wind. How she zigzagged from shore to shore! They watched the clumsy oyster boat, and imagined it to be a very fine ship. How the waves parted under her bows! how the sails shook when she came about on a new tack! They could hardly keep their eyes off of her. Once she sailed close to them, and they could see the men on board.
In a wonderfully short time she was gone, and the Salt Mackerel went sailing on alone. How high the waves were! Once in a while they broke on the ship’s bulwarks, and spattered the boys with spray.
Jack shouted for joy. What if they should have a gale!
Tommy thought it would be fun. As for Skip, he put his tail under his legs, and crept farther into the cabin. On and on they sailed, faster and faster in the rising wind. After a while they looked astern, and gave a cry of dismay. Where was the shore? Gone! Only the faint blue spots on the horizon far behind. They were at sea.
Jack stood up, and gazed around on the horizon; it was blue water everywhere save to the north.
“Haven’t we gone far enough?” said Tommy.
“Yes; I guess we’ll sail round a bit, and then make for the river. We must get in shore, to fidn a good place to anchor. Let go the jib-sheet! Steady there, all hands!”
“All right, sir,” said Tommy, as he unfastened the strings.
Jack pulled the tiller-ropes, and the Salt Mackerel went round gracefully. The sheets were drawn aft, and she began to go ahead on the new tack.
“We shall have to beat back,” said Jack.
“The wind’s dead ahead,” said Tommy.
Skip came out, and wagged his tail, as if he was glad to go home.
Suddenly—splash! and a great wave came over the bulwarks, and drenched them all over, and the black-and-tan retreated into the cabin. The boys shook off the water, and— Splash! and another wave broke on the deck in a cataract.
The crew began to be frightened, and the captain looked serious. He was on the point of saying something, when a bigger wave came aboard, and wet them to the skin. It even washed into the cabin, and drenched the gingerbread. The wind increased, and the Salt Mackerel began to behave in a singular manner, rocking from side to side, and letting in the water at every crack.
The crew were anxious, and the officers got excited. The captain looked round over the tumbling waves; the shore was not to be seen. If this was going to sea, it was not very funny. Far away to the south he saw a ship sailing towards them. To his dismay, he saw that the Salt Mackerel was not going ahead at all; there was no wake behind her. She could sail before the wind, but could not beat up against it.
She was going sidewise!
What a dreadful oversight!!
The keels were not deep enough!!!
In despair, Captain Jack pulled the tiller-rope, and let out the sheets; he must try to reach Long Island; it was far off to the south somewhere, and they must make for it. The Salt Mackerel swung round, and went before the wind; the water subsided from the deck, and no more waves broke over the bulwarks, though they rose tall and foaming behind the stern.
The voyage was too much of a success. They had reached the salt sea, but could not get back, unless the wind changed; and there seemed no prospect of that. It was blowing harder and harder every—
Ah, what is that? The main-sheet snapped, and the sail was flapping wildly in the wind. The captain called to the crew to take it in. The crew rose as one man, and then feeling a singular pain under its jacket, it sat down on the wet deck, and began to cry.
The captain tried to walk; but the deck went up and down wildly, and the black-and-tan began to cry. The captain crawled on his hands and knees to the mast, and then stood up and furled the sail. How high the waves! how wild the wind! The jib would be enough in such a gale.
This done, he crept back, and took the tiller-ropes again. How the ship rolled! The waves began to come in again; a monster green wave struck the stern, and stove in the cabin. Bang went the jib—blown away.
Tommy sat in the water, wet to the skin, and crying bitterly.
“They would be wrecked, and—never get home—no, never. O, it was horrid! and he was so hungry! and everything was wet.”
The huckleberries floated about on the deck, and the dog howled dismally. Captain Jack grit his teeth to keep brave, and looked earnestly at the ship approaching them; it was a sloop, and he could see the men on board.
The Salt Mackerel was disabled; he had better call to the men for help. Perhaps they would tow the ship to the river, and then they could mend the sails, and go home.
Suddenly he saw the sloop’s jib run down, and she came up into the wind and stopped. A boat was lowered, and two men got in; they were coming to the—
Swash! and a huge wave broke all over them. The cabin burst open, and coats, pails, stores, and black-and-tan were swept into the sea.
“Come, ye little fools!” cried a rough voice; “get into the boat before ye are washed away and drowned.”
Tommy dried his tears, and scrabbled into the boat alongside.
“Won’t you take the Salt—the raft—in tow, sir?” said Jack.
“No. Into the boat with ye!”
Jack jumped in. The men put out their oars, and the ruined Salt Mackerel went drifting helplessly away on the wild waves of Long Island Sound. In a few moments the boys stood on the dirty deck of the Sally Ann, stone lighter, bound up the river.
The captain received them kindly, and offered to take them ashore; he scolded them well for venturing to sea on a raft, and gave them some salt fish and crackers.
They ate them in thankfulness, and felt better. After a while Tommy began to cry softly.
“Say, Jack, where is Skip?”
Jack held up his hands in alarm.
“He’s drowned, unless he could swim ashore;” and they mingled their tears.
Tommy cried for the black-and-tan, and Jack mourned for the proud Salt Mackerel; he had made a voyage, and she was lost as sea. What a disagreeable motion the sloop had! He would lie down on the deck a little while. If this was going to sea, it was not very funny.
“O, dear, I wish I was home!”
“So do I,” roared Tommy; “I’m awful sick.”
“So am I. Isn’t it dreadful?”
After a while they fell asleep on the deck; and when they awoke, it was nearly dark, and the sloop was fastened up at a wharf in a strange town.
Jack asked one of the sailors for the captain.
“Gone ashore. Better go ashore yourself, my covies. The wharf’ll be shet up soon, and ye can’t stay here all night.”
They took each other’s hand, and went ashore, and were soon in the streets of the town. How lucky Jack had taken that quarter! He bought two doughnuts for five cents, and they ate them in the street. Where should they stay all night? They could not think of a hotel with only twenty cents. Presently they met a boy selling papers; he cried his wares in this alarming fashion:—
“Awful ’lamity! two boys blown to sea! Er’s yer Evenin’ Trumpet!”
“Give me a paper,” said Jack.
“Five cents, my covy.”
Jack paid the money, and they sat down to read the paper. “Appalling calamity! Two boys blown to sea on a raft! etc., etc.” Big letters and all, Jack read it from the first great “A” to the little notice at the end in fine print, “Information concerning the boys thankfully received at this office.”
To the office they would go. They asked the way to the Evening Trumpet, and soon stood before that august sanctum; they rang the bell, and three men appeared.
Mr. John Smith, Mr. Peter Stifkins, and the minister! The boys rushed into the paternal arms. Joy reigned.
That night they all went home in the cars, and before morning the captain and the crew of the luckless Salt Mackerel were at the end of their remarkable journey.
As for that ship and the poor black-and-tan, they were never heard from to this day. Lost at sea.