"We were blown off shore, sir," Frank said, "and have been rowing
against the wind for hours."
"Well, my lads," the captain said, "you have only prolonged your
lives for a few minutes, for she will not hold together long.
The ship, indeed, presented a pitiable appearance. The masts had
already gone, the bulwark to windward had been carried away, and
the hull lay heeled over at a sharp angle, her deck to leeward
being level with the water. The crew were huddled down near the
lee bulwarks, sheltered somewhat by the sharp slope of the deck
from the force of the wind. As each wave broke over the ship, tons
of water rushed down upon them. No more guns were fired, for the
lashing had broken and the gun run down to leeward. Already there
were signs that the ship would break up ere long, and no hope
existed that rescue could arrive in time.
Suddenly there was a great crash, and the vessel parted amidships.
"A few minutes will settle it now," the captain said. "God help us
At this moment there was a shout to leeward, which was answered
by a scream of joy from those on board the wreck, for there, close
alongside, lay the lifeboat, whose approach had been entirely unseen.
In a few minutes the fifteen men who remained of the twenty-two,
who had formed the crew of the wreck, and the four boys, were on
board her. A tiny sail was set and the boat's head laid towards
"I am glad to see you, Master Hargate," the sailor who rowed one
of the stroke oars shouted. He was the man who had lent them the
boat. "I was up in the town looking after my wife, who is sick,
and clean forgot you till it was dark. Then I ran down and found
the boat hadn't returned, so I got the crew together and we came
out to look for you, though we had little hope of finding you. It
was lucky for you we did, and for the rest of them too, for so it
chanced that we were but half a mile away when the ship fired her
first gun, just as we had given you up and determined to go back;
so on we came straight here. Another ten minutes and we should have
been too late. We are making for Ramsgate now. We could never beat
back to Deal in this wind. I don't know as I ever saw it blow much
These sentences were not spoken consecutively, but were shouted out
in the intervals between gusts of wind. It took them two hours to
beat back to Ramsgate, a signal having been made as soon as they
left the wreck to inform the lifeboat there and at Broadstairs that
they need not put out, as the rescue had been already effected.
The lads were soon put to bed at the sailors' home, a man being
at once despatched on horseback to Deal, to inform those there of
the arrival of the lifeboat, and of the rescue of the four boys
who had been blown to sea.
Early next morning Frank and Handcock returned to Deal, the other
two lads being so exhausted by their fatigue and exposure that the
doctor said they had better remain in bed for another twenty-four
It is impossible to describe the thankfulness and relief which Mrs.
Hargate experienced, when, about two in the morning, Dr. Parker
himself brought her news of the safety of her boy. She had long
given up all hope, for when the evening came on and Frank had not
returned, she had gone down to the shore. She learned from the
fishermen there that it was deemed impossible that the boys could
reach shore in face of the gale, and that although the lifeboat had
just put out in search of them, the chances of their being found
were, as she herself saw, faint indeed. She had passed the hours
which had intervened, in prayer, and was still kneeling by her
bedside, where little Lucy was unconsciously sleeping, when Dr.
Parker's knock was heard at the door. Fervent, indeed, was her
gratitude to God for the almost miraculous preservation of her son's
life, and then, overcome by the emotions she had experienced, she
sought her couch, and was still asleep when, by the earliest train
in the morning, Frank returned.
For some time the four boys were the heroes of the school.
A subscription was got up to pay for the lost boat, and close
as were Mrs. Hargate's means, she enabled Frank to subscribe his
share towards the fund. The incident raised Frank to a pinnacle
of popularity among his schoolfellows, for the three others were
unanimous in saying that it was his coolness and skill in the
management of the boat, which alone kept up their spirits, and
enabled them to keep her afloat during the gale, and to make the
wreck in safety.
In the general enthusiasm excited by the event, Frank's pursuits,
which had hitherto found few followers, now became quite popular
in the school. A field club was formed, of which he was elected
president, and long rambles in the country in search of insects
and plants were frequently organized. Frank himself was obliged, in
the interests of the school, to moderate the zeal of the naturalists,
and to point out that cricket must not be given up, as, if so large a
number withdrew themselves from the game, the school would suffer
disaster in its various engagements with other schools in the
neighborhood. Consequently the rule was made that members of the
club were bound to be in the cricket field on at least three days
in the week, including one half holiday, while they were free to
ramble in the country on other days. This wise regulation prevented
the "naturalists" from becoming unpopular in the school, which would
assuredly have been the case had they entirely absented themselves
One Saturday afternoon Frank started with a smaller boy, who was
one of his most devoted followers, for a long country walk. Frank
carried his blowgun, and a butterfly net, Charlie Goodall a net
of about a foot in depth, made of canvas, mounted on a stout brass
rim, and strong stick, for the capture of water beetles. Their
pockets bulged with bottles and tin boxes for the carriage of their
They had passed through Eastry, a village four miles from Deal,
when Frank exclaimed, "There is a green hairstreak. The first I've
seen this year. I have never caught one before."
Cautiously approaching the butterfly, who was sunning himself on
the top of a thistle, Frank prepared to strike, when it suddenly
mounted and flitted over a hedge. In a moment the boys had scrambled
through the gap and were in full pursuit. The butterfly flitted
here and there, sometimes allowing the boys to approach within
a few feet and then flitting away again for fifty yards without
stopping. Heedless where they were going, the boys pursued, till
they were startled by a sudden shout close to them.
"You young rascals, how dare you run over my wheat?"
The boys stopped, and Frank saw what, in his excitement, he had
not hitherto heeded, that he was now running in a field of wheat,
which reached to his knee.
"I am very sorry, sir," he said. "I was so excited than I really
did not see where I was going."
"Not see!" shouted the angry farmer. "You young rascal, I'll break
every bone in your body," and he flourished a heavy stick as he
Charlie Goodall began to cry.
"I have no right to trespass on your wheat, sir," Frank said firmly;
"but you have no right to strike us. My name is Frank Hargate.
I belong to Dr. Parker's school at Deal, and if you will say what
damage I have caused, I will pay for it."
"You shall pay for it now," shouted the farmer, as he advanced with
Frank slipped three or four of his clay bullets into his mouth.
"Leave us alone or it will be worse for you," he said as he raised
the blowgun to his mouth.
The farmer advanced, and Frank sent a bullet with all his force,
and with so true an aim that he struck the farmer on the knuckles.
It was a sharp blow, and the farmer, with a cry of pain and surprise,
dropped the stick.
"Don't come a step nearer," Frank shouted. "If you do, I will aim
at your eye next time," and he pointed the threatening tube at the
enraged farmer's face.
"I'll have the law of you, you young villain. I'll make you smart
"You can do as you like about that," Frank said. "I have only
struck you in self defense, and have let you off easily. Come along,
Charlie, let's get out of this."
In a few minutes they were again on the road, the farmer making no
attempt to follow them, but determined in his mind to drive over
the next morning to Deal to take out a summons against them for
trespass and assault. The lads proceeded silently along the road.
Frank was greatly vexed with himself at his carelessness in running
over half grown wheat, and was meditating how he could pay the fine
without having to ask his mother. He determined upon his return
to carry some of his cases of stuffed birds down to a shop in the
town, and he felt sure that he could get enough for these to pay
for any damage which could have been inflicted, with a fine for
trespassing, for he had seen stuffed birds exposed in the windows
for sale, which were, he was sure, very inferior to his own both
in execution and lifelike interest.
After proceeding a few hundred yards along the road they met a pretty
little girl of seven or eight years old walking along alone. Frank
scarcely glanced at her, for at the moment he heard a shouting in
the distance and saw some men running along the road. For a moment
he thought that the farmer had despatched some of his men to stop
him, but instantly dismissed the idea, as they were coming from
the opposite direction and could by no possibility have heard what
had happened. They were lost sight of by a dip in the road, and as
they disappeared, an object was seen on the road on the near side
of the dip.
"It is a dog," Frank said. "What can they be shouting at?"
The dog was within fifty yards of them when the men again appeared
from the dip and recommenced shouting. Frank could now hear what
"Mad dog! mad dog!"
"Get through the hedge, Charlie, quick," Frank cried. "Here, I will
help you over, never mind the thorns."
The hedge was low and closely kept, and Frank, bundling his comrade
over it, threw himself across and looked round. The dog was within
ten yards of them, and Frank saw that the alarm was well founded.
The dog was a large crossbred animal, between a mastiff and a
bulldog. Its hair was rough and bristling. It came along with its
head down and foam churning from its mouth. Frank looked the other
way and gave a cry. Yet twenty yards off, in the middle of the road,
stood the child. She, too, had heard the shouts, and had paused
to see what was the matter. She had not taken the alarm, but stood
unsuspicious of danger, watching, not the dog, but the men in the
Frank placed the blowgun to his mouth, and in a moment his pellet
struck the animal smartly on the side of the head. It gave a short
yelp and paused. Another shot struck it, and then Frank, snatching
the water net from Charlie, threw himself over the hedge, and placed
himself between the child and the dog just as the latter, with a
savage growl, rushed at him.
Frank stood perfectly cool, and as the animal rushed forward,
thrust the net over its head; the ring was but just large enough to
allow its head to enter. Frank at once sprang forward, and placing
himself behind the dog kept a strain upon the stick, so retaining
the mouth of the net tightly on his neck. The animal at first
rushed forward dragging Frank after him. Then he stopped, backed,
and tried to withdraw his head from the encumbrance which blinded
him. Frank, however, had no difficulty in retaining the canvas net
in its place, until the men, who were armed with pitchforks, ran
up and speedily despatched the unfortunate animal.
"That's bravely done, young master," one of them said; "and you
have saved missy's life surely. The savage brute rushed into the
yard and bit a young colt and a heifer, and then, as we came running
out with forks, he took to the road again. We chased 'um along,
not knowing who we might meet, and it gived us a rare turn when we
saw the master's Bessy standing alone in the road, wi' nout between
her and the dog. Where have you been, Miss Bessy?"
"I've been to aunt's," she said, "and she gave me some strawberries
and cream, and it's wicked of you to kill the poor dog."
"Her aunt's farm lies next to master's," the man explained; "and
little miss often goes over there.
"The dog was mad, missy, and if it hadn't been for young master
here, it would have killed you as safe as eggs. Won't you come back
to the farm, sir? Master and mistress would be main glad to thank
you for having saved missy's life."
"No, thank you," Frank said; "we are late now and must be going
on our way. I am very glad I happened to be here at the time;" so
saying Frank and Charlie proceeded on their way to Deal.
On reaching home he at once picked out four of his best cases of
stuffed birds. The cases he had constructed himself, for his father
had encouraged him to depend upon himself for his amusements. He
had asked Charlie to come round to help him to carry the cases,
and with these he proceeded to a shop where he had seen such things
offered for sale.
"And you really did these yourself?" the man said in surprise.
"They are beautifully done. Quite pictures, I call them. It is a
pity that they are homely birds. There is no great sale for such
things here. I cannot give you more than five shillings each, but
if you had them in London they would be worth a great deal more."
Frank gladly accepted the offer, and feeling sure that the pound
would cover the damage done and the fine, which might be five
shillings apiece for trespassing, went home in good spirits. The
next morning the doctor was called out in the middle of school,
and presently returned accompanied by the farmer with whom they
had had the altercation on the previous day. Frank felt his cheeks
flush as he anticipated a severe reprimand before the whole school.
"Mr. Gregson," the doctor said, "tells me that two of my boys were
out near his place at Eastry yesterday. One of them gave him his
name, which he has forgotten."
"It was I, sir," Frank said rising in his place; "I was there with
Goodall. We ran on Mr. Gregson's ground after a butterfly. It was
my fault, sir, for, of course, Goodall went where I did. We ran
among his wheat, and I really did not notice where we were going
till he called to us. I was wrong, of course, and am ready to pay
for any damage we may have caused."
"You are welcome," the farmer said, "to trample on my wheat for
the rest of your born days. I haven't come over here to talk about
the wheat, though I tell you fairly I'd minded to do so. I've come
over here, Dr. Parker, me and my missus who's outside, to thank
this young gentleman for having saved the life of my little daughter
Bessy. She was walking along the road when a mad dog, a big brute
of a mastiff, who came, I hear, from somewhere about Canterbury,
and who has bit two boys on the road, to say nothing of other dogs
and horses and such like; he came along the road, he were close
to my Bess, and she stood there all alone. Some of my men with
pitchforks were two hundred yards or so behind; but law, they could
have done nothing! when this young gentleman here jumped all of a
sudden over a hedge and put himself between the dog and my Bess.
The dog, he rushed at him; but what does he do but claps a bag he'd
got at the end of a stick over the brute's head, and there he holds
him tight till the men comes up and kills him with their forks.
"Young gentleman," he said, stepping up to Frank and holding out
his hand, "I owe my child's life to you. There are not many men
who would have thrown themselves in the way of a mad dog, for the
sake of a child they knew nothing of. I thank you for it with all
my heart. God bless you, sir. Now, boys, you give three cheers with
me for your schoolmate, for you've got a right to be proud of him."
Three such thundering cheers as those which arose had never been
heard within the limits of Dr. Parker's school from the day of its
foundation. Seeing that farther work could not be expected from them
after this excitement, Dr. Parker gave the boys a holiday for the
rest of the day, and they poured out from the schoolroom, shouting
and delighted, while Frank was taken off to the parlor to be thanked
by Mrs. Gregson. The farmer closed his visit by inviting Frank,
with as many of his schoolfellows as he liked - the whole school
if they would come, the more the better - to come over to tea
on the following Saturday afternoon, and he promised them as much
strawberries and cream as they could eat. The invitation was largely
accepted, and the boys all agreed that a jollier meal they never
sat down to than that which was spread on tables in the farmer's
garden. The meal was called tea, but it might have been a dinner,
for the tables were laden with huge pies, cold chicken and duck,
hams, and piles of cakes and tarts of all sorts. Before they started
for home, late in the evening, syllabub and cake were handed round,
and the boys tramped back to Deal in the highest of glee at the
entertainment they had received from the hospitable farmer and his
Great fun had been caused after tea by the farmer giving a humorous
relation of the battle with which his acquaintance with Frank had
commenced, and especially at the threat of Frank to send a bullet
into his eye if he interfered with him. When they left, a most
cordial invitation was given to Frank to come over, with any friend
he liked to bring with him, and have tea at the Oaks Farm whenever
he chose to do so.
CHAPTER III: A TOUGH YARN
"You had a close shave the other night," one of the boatmen remarked
to Frank, as a few days after the adventure he strolled down with
Ruthven and Handcock to talk to the boatman whose boat had been
lost, "a very narrow shave. I had one out there myself when I was
just about your age, nigh forty years ago. I went out for a sail
with my father in his fishing boat, and I didn't come back for
three years. That was the only long voyage I ever went. I've been
sticking to fishing ever since."
"How was it you were away three years?" Handcock asked, "and what
was the adventure? Tell us about it."
"Well, it's rather a long yarn," the boatman said.
"Well, your best plan, Jack," Ruthven said, putting his hand in
his pocket and bringing out sixpence, "will be for you to go across
the road and wet your whistle before you begin."
"Thank ye, young gentleman. I will take three o' grog and an ounce
He went across to the public house, and soon returned with a long
clay in his hand. Then he sat down on the shingle with his back
against a boat, and the boys threw themselves down close to him.
"Now," he began, when he had filled his pipe with great deliberation
and got it fairly alight, "this here yarn as I'm going to tell you
ain't no gammon. Most of the tales which gets told on the beach to
visitors as comes down here and wants to hear of sea adventures is
just lies from beginning to end. Now, I ain't that sort, leastways,
I shouldn't go to impose upon young gents like you as ha' had a real
adventure of your own, and showed oncommon good pluck and coolness
too. I don't say, mind ye, that every word is just gospel. My mates
as ha' known me from a boy tells me that I've 'bellished the yarn
since I first told it, and that all sorts of things have crept in
which wasn't there first. That may be so. When a man tells a story
a great many times, naturally he can't always tell it just the same,
and he gets so mixed up atween what he told last and what he told
first that he don't rightly know which was which when he wants to
tell it just as it really happened. So if sometimes it appears to
you that I'm steering rather wild, just you put a stopper on and
bring me up all standing with a question."
There was a quiet humor about the boatman's face, and the boys
winked at each other as much as to say that after such an exordium
they must expect something rather staggering. The boatman took two
or three hard whiffs at his pipe and then began.
"It was towards the end of September in 1832, that's just forty
years ago now, that I went out with my father and three hands in
the smack, the Flying Dolphin. I'd been at sea with father off and
on ever since I was about nine years old, and a smarter boy wasn't
to be found on the beach. The Dolphin was a good sea boat, but she
wasn't, so to say, fast, and I dunno' as she was much to look at,
for the old man wasn't the sort of chap to chuck away his money in
paint or in new sails as long as the old ones could be pieced and
patched so as to hold the wind. We sailed out pretty nigh over to
the French coast, and good sport we had. We'd been out two days when
we turned her head homewards. The wind was blowing pretty strong,
and the old man remarked, he thought we was in for a gale. There
was some talk of our running in to Calais and waiting till it had
blown itself out, but the fish might have spoil before the Wind
dropped, so we made up our minds to run straight into Dover and
send the fish up from there. The night came on wild and squally,
and as dark as pitch. It might be about eight bells, and I and one
of the other hands had turned in, when father gave a sudden shout
down the hatch, 'All hands on deck.' I was next to the steps and
sprang up 'em. Just as I got to the top something grazed my face.
I caught at it, not knowing what it was, and the next moment there
was a crash, and the Dolphin went away from under my feet. I clung
for bare life, scarce awake yet nor knowing what had happened. The
next moment I was under water. I still held on to the rope and was
soon out again. By this time I was pretty well awake to what had
happened. A ship running down channel had walked clean over the
poor old Dolphin, and I had got hold of the bobstay. It took me some
time to climb up on to the bowsprit, for every time she pitched I
went under water. However, I got up at last and swarmed along the
bowsprit and got on board. There was a chap sitting down fast asleep
there. I walked aft to the helmsman. Two men were pacing up and
down in front of him. 'You're a nice lot, you are,' I said, 'to
go running down Channel at ten knots an hour without any watch,
a-walking over ships and a-drowning of seamen. I'll have the law
of ye, see if I don't.'
"'Jeerusalem!' said one, 'who have we here?'
"'My name is Jack Perkins,' says I, 'and I'm the sole survivor, as
far as I knows, of the smack, the Flying Dolphin, as has been run
down by this craft and lost with all hands.'
"'Darn the Flying Dolphin, and you too,' says the man, and he
begins to walk up and down the deck a-puffn' of a long cigar as if
nothing had happened.
"'Oh, come,' says I, 'this won't do. Here you've been and run down
a smack, drowned father and the other three hands, and your lookout
fast asleep, and you does nothing.'
"'I suppose,' said the captain, sarcastic, 'you want me to jump
over to look for 'em. You want me to heave the ship to in this gale
and to invite yer father perlitely to come on board. P'raps you'd
like a grapnel put out to see if I couldn't hook the smack and bring
her up again. Perhaps you'd like to be chucked overboard yourself.
Nobody asked you to come on board, nobody wanted your company. I
reckon the wisest thing you can do is to go for'ard and turn in.'
There didn't seem much for me to do else, so I went forward to the
forecastle. There most of the hands were asleep, but two or three
were sitting up yarning. I told 'em my story and what this captain
"'He's a queer hand is the skipper,' one of 'em said, 'and hasn't
got a soft place about him. Well, my lad, I'm sorry for what's
happened, but talking won't do it any good. You've got a long voyage
before you, and you'd best turn in and make yourself comfortable
"'I ain't going a long voyage,' says I, beginning to wipe my eye,
'I wants to be put ashore at the first port.'
"'Well, my lad, I daresay the skipper will do that, but as we're
bound for the coast of Chili from Hamburg, and ain't likely to be
there for about five months, you've got, as I said, a long voyage
before you. If the weather had been fine the skipper might have
spoken some ship in the Channel, and put you on board, but before
the gale's blown out we shall be hundreds of miles at sea. Even
if it had been fine I don't suppose the skipper would have parted
with you, especially if you told him the watch was asleep. He would
not care next time he entered an English port to have a claim fixed
on his ship for the vally of the smack.'