sea line and counting the steps of death's invisible ap-
proach. There is no help but in the boats, and what
a help is that ! There heaved the Currency Lass, for
instance, a wingless lump, and the nearest human coast
(that of Kauai in the Sandwiches) lay about a thousand
miles to south and east of her. Over the way there, to
men contemplating that passage in an open boat, all
kinds of misery, and the fear of death and of madness,
A serious company sat down to breakfast; but the
captain helped his neighbours with a smile.
"Now, boys," he said, after a pull at the hot coffee,
"we're done with this Currency Lass, and no mistake.
One good job: we made her pay while she lasted, and
she payed first rate ; and if we care to try our hand again,
we can try in style. Another good job : we have a fine,
stiff, roomy boat, and you know who you have to thank
for that. "We've got six lives to save, and a pot of
money ; and the point is, where are we to take 'em ? "
"It's all two thousand miles to the nearest of the
Sandwiches, I fancy," observed Mac.
" No, not so bad as that," returned the captain. " But
it's bad enough : rather better'n a thousand."
" I know a man who once did twelve hundred in a
boat," said Mac, " and he had all he wanted. He fetched
ashore in the Marquesas, and never set a foot on any-
thing floating from that day to this. He said he would
THE BUDGET OF THE " CURRENCY LASS." 483
rather put a pistol to his head and knock his brains
" Ay, ay ! " said Wicks. " Well I remember a boat's
crew that made this very island of Kauai, and from just
about where we lie, or a bit further. When they got
up with the land, they were clean crazy. There was an
iron-bound coast and an Old Bob Ridley of a surf on.
The natives hailed 'em from fishing-boats, and sung out
it couldn't be done at the money. Much they cared !
there was the land, that was all they knew; and they
turned to and drove the boat slap ashore in the thick
of it, and was all drowned but one. No ; boat trips are
my eye," concluded the captain, gloomily.
The tone was surprising in a man of his indomitable
temper. "Come, Captain," said Carthew, "you have
something else up your sleeve ; out with it."
"It's a fact," admitted Wicks. "You see there's a
raft of little bally reefs about here, kind of chicken-
pox on the chart. Well, I looked 'em all up, and there's
one Midway or Brooks they call it, not forty mile
from our assigned position that I got news of. It
turns out it's a coaling station of the Pacific Mail," he
"Well, and I know it ain-t no such a thing," said
Mac. "I been quartermaster in that line myself."
"All right," returned Wicka "There's the book.
Eead what Hoy t says read it aloud and let the others
484 THE WRECKER.
Hoyt's falsehood (as readers know) was explicit ; in.
credulity was impossible, and the news itself delightful
beyond hope. Each sa.w in his mind's eye the boat draw
in to a trim island with a wharf, coal-sheds, gardens, the
Stars and Stripes and the white cottage of the keeper ;
saw themselves idle a few weeks in tolerable quarters,
and then step on board the China mail, romantic waifs,
and yet with pocketsful of money, calling for champagne
and waited on by troops of stewards. Breakfast, that
had begun so dully, ended amid sober jubilation, and all
hands turned immediately to prepare the boat.
Now that all spars were gone, it was no easy job to
get her launched. Some of the necessary cargo was first
stowed on board ; the specie, in particular, being packed
in a strong chest and secured with lashings to the after-
thwart in case of a capsize. Then a piece of the bulwark
was razed to the level of the deck, and the boat swung
thwart-ship, made fast with a slack line to either stump,
and successfully run out. For a voyage of forty miles
to hospitable quarters, not much food or water was
required ; but they took both in superfluity. Amalu and
Mac, both ingrained sailor-men, had chests which were the
headquarters of their lives ; two more chests with hand-
bags, oilskins, and blankets supplied the others ; Had-
den, amid general applause, added the last case of the
brown sherry ; the captain brought the log, instruments,
and chronometer ; nor did Hemstead forget the banjo or
a pinned handkerchief of Butaritari shells.
THE BUDGET OF THE "CURRENCY LASS." 485
It was about three P.M. when they pushed off, and
(the wind being still westerly) fell to the oars. " Well,
we've got the guts out of you 1 " was the captain's nodded
farewell to the hulk of the Currency Lass, which pres-
ently shrank and faded in the sea. A little after a calm
succeeded with much rain ; and the first meal was eaten,
and the watch below lay down to their uneasy slumber
on the bilge under a roaring shower-bath. The twenty-
ninth dawned overhead from out of ragged clouds ; there
is no moment when a boat at sea appears so trenchantly
black and so conspicuously little ; and the crew looked
about them at the sky and water with a thrill of loneli-
ness and fear. With sunrise the trade set in, lusty and
true to the point; sail was made; the boat flew; and
by about four of the afternoon, they were well up with
the closed part of the reef, and the captain standing on
the thwart, and holding by the mast, was studying the
island through the binoculars.
" Well, and where's your station ? " cried Mac.
" I don't someway pick it up," replied the captain.
"No, nor never wiU!" retorted Mac, with a clang of
despair and triumph iii. his tones.
The truth was soon plain to all. No buoys, no bea-
cons, no lights, no coal, no station ; the castaways pulled
through a lagoon and landed on an isle, where was no
mark of man but wreckwood, and no sound but of the
sea. For the seafowl that harboured and lived there
at the epoch of my visit were then scattered into the
486 THE WRECKER.
uttermost parts of the ocean, and had left no trace^
of their sojourn besides dropped feathers and addled
eggs. It was to this they had been sent, for this they
had stooped all night over the dripping oars, hourly
moving further from relief. The boat, for as small as
it was, was yet eloquent of the hands of men, a thing
alone indeed upon the sea but yet in itself all human;
and the isle, for which they had exchanged it, was in-
gloriously savage, a place of distress, solitude, and hunger
unrelieved. There was a strong glare and shadow of
the evening over all; in which they sat or lay, not
speaking, careless even to eat, men swindled out of
life and riches by a lying book. In the great good
nature of the whole party, no word of reproach had
been addressed to Hadden, the author of these disas-
ters. But the new blow was less magnanimously borne,
and many angry glances rested on the captain.
Yet it was himself who roused them from their leth-
argy. Grudgingly they obeyed, drew the boat beyond
tidemark, and followed him to the top of the miserable
islet, whence a view was commanded of the whole wheel
of the horizon, then part darkened under the coming
night, part dyed with the hues of the sunset and popu-
lous with the sunset clouds. Here the camp was
pitched and a tent run up with the oars, sails, and
mast. And here Amalu, at no man's bidding, from the
mere instinct of habitual service, built a fire and cooked
a meaL Night was come, and the stars and the silver
THE BUDGET OF THE " CUBKENCY LASS.' 487
sickle of new moon beamed overhead, before the meal
was ready. The cold sea shone about them, and the
fire glowed in their faces, as they ate. Tommy had
opened his case, and the brown sherry went the round ;
but it was long before they came to conversation.
"Well, is it to be Kauai after all?" asked Mao
"This is bad enough for me," said Tommy. "Let's
stick it out where we are."
" Well, I can tell ye one thing," said Mac, " if ye care
to hear it. When I was in the China mail, we once
made this island. It's in the course from Honolulu."
" Deuce it is ! " cried Carthew. " That settles it, then.
Let's stay. We must keep good fires going ; and there's
" Lashings of wreck ! " said the Irishman. " There's
nothing here but wreck and coffin boards."
"But we'll have to make a proper blyze," objected
Hemstead. " You can't see a fire like this, not any wye
awye, I mean."
" Can't you ? " said Carthew. "Look round."
They did, and saw the hollow of the night, the bare,
bright face of the sea, and the stars regarding them;
and the voices died in their bosoms at the spectacle.
In that huge isolation, it seemed they must be visible
from China on the one hand and California on the
" My God, it's dreary ! " whispered Hemstead.
" Dreary ? " cried Mac, and fell suddenly silent.
488 THE WKECKBE.
" It's better than a boat, anyway," said Hadden. " I've
had my bellyful of boat."
" What kills me is that specie ! " the captain broke
out. " Think of all that riches, four thousand in gold,
bad silver, and short bills all found money, too ! and
no more use than that much dung ! "
" I'll tell you one thing," said Tommy. " I don't like ft
being in the boat I don't care to have it so far away. "
" Why, who's to take it ? " cried Mac, with a guffaw
of evil laughter.
But this was not at all the feeling of the partners, who
rose, clambered down the isle, brought back the inesti-
mable treasure-chest slung upon two oars, and set it con-
spicuous in the shining of the fire.
" There's my beauty ! " cried Wicks, viewing it with a
cocked head. " That's better than a bonfire. What ! we
have a chest here, and bills for close upon two thousand
pounds ; there's no show to that, it would go in youi
vest pocket, but the rest ! upwards of forty, pounds
avoirdupois of coined gold, and close on two hundred
weight of Chile silver ! What ! aint that good enough
to fetch a fleet ? Do you mean to say that won't affect
a ship's compass ? Do you mean to tell me the lookout
won't turn to and smell it ? " he cried.
Mac, who had no part nor lot in the bills, the forty
pounds of gold, or the two hundredweight of silver,
heard this with impatience, and fell into a bitter, chok-
ing laughter. " You'll see ! " he said, harshly. " You'll
THE BUDGET OP THE " CURRENCY LASS." 489
be glad to feed them bills into the fire before you're
through with ut I " And he turned, passed by himself
out of the ring of the firelight, and stood gazing
His speech and his departure extinguished instantly
those sparks of better humour kindled by the dinner and
the chest. The group fell again to an ill-favoured
silence, and Hemstead began to touch the banjo, as was
his habit of an evening. His repertory was small : the
chords of Home, Sweet Home fell under his fingers ; and
when he had played the symphony, he instinctively
raised up his voice. "Be it never so 'umble, there's no
plyce like 'ome," he sang. The last word was still upon
his lips, when the instrument was snatched from him
and dashed into the fire ; and he turned with a cry to
look into the furious countenance of Mac.
" I'll be damned if I stand this ! " cried the captain,
leaping up belligerent.
"I told ye I was a voilent man," said Mac, with a
movement of deprecation very surprising in one of his
character. " Why don't he give me a chance, then ?
Haven't we enough to bear the way we are ? " And to
the wonder and dismay of all, the man choked upon a
sob. " It's ashamed of meself I am," he said presently,
his Irish accent twenty-fold increased. " I ask all your
pardons for me voilence ; and especially the little man's,
who is a harmless crayture, and here's me hand to'm, if
he'll condescind to take me by't."
490 THE WRECKER. f
So this scene of barbarity and sentimentalism passed
off, leaving behind strange and incongruous impressions.
True, every one was perhaps glad when silence succeeded
that all too appropriate music ; true, Mac's apology
and subsequent behaviour rather raised him in the opin-
ion of his fellow-castaways. But the discordant note
had been struck, and its harmonics tingled in the brain.
In that savage, houseless isle, the passions of man had
sounded, if only for the moment, and all men trembled
at the possibilities of horror.
It was determined to stand watch and watch in case
of passing vessels; and Tommy, on fire with an idea,
volunteered to stand the first. The rest crawled under
the tent, and were soon enjoying that comfortable gift
of sleep, which comes everywhere and to all men,
quenching anxieties and speeding time. And no sooner
were all settled, no sooner had the drone of many
snorers begun to mingle with and overcome the surf,
than Tommy stole from his post with the case of
sherry, and dropped it in a quiet cove in a fathom of
water. But the stormy inconstancy of Mac's behaviour
had no connection with a gill or two of wine; his pas-
sions, angry and otherwise, were on a different sail
plan from his neighbours'; and there were possibilities
of good and evil in that hybrid Celt beyond their
About two in the morning, the starry sky or so it
seemed, for the drowsy watchman had not observed the
THE BUDGET OF THE "CURRENCY LASS." 491
approach of any cloud brimmed over in a deluge ; and
for three days it rained without remission. The islet
was a sponge, the castaways sops ; the view all gone,
even the reef concealed behind the curtain of the falling
water. The fire was soon drowned out ; after a couple
of boxes of matches had been scratched in vain, it was
decided to wait for better weather ; and the party lived
in wretchedness on raw tins and a ration of hard bread.
By the 2d February, in the dark hours of the morn-
ing watch, the clouds were all blown by; the sun
rose glorious ; and once more the castaways sat by a
quick fire, and drank hot coffee with the greed of brutes
and sufferers. Thenceforward their affairs moved in a
routine. A fire was constantly maintained; and this
occupied one hand continuously, and the others for an
hour or so in the day. Twice a day, all hands bathed
in the lagoon, their chief, almost their only pleasure.
Often they fished in the lagoon with good success. And
the rest was passed in lolling, strolling, yarns, and dis-
putation. The time of the China steamers was calcu-
lated to a nicety ; which done, the thought was rejected
and ignored. It was one that would not bear considera-
tion. The boat voyage having been tacitly set aside,
the desperate part chosen to wait there for the coming
of help or of starvation, no man had courage left to
look his bargain in the face, far less to discuss it with
his neighbours. But the unuttered terror haunted them ;
in every hour of idleness, at every moment of silence,
492 THE WRECKER.
it returned, and breathed a chill about the circle, and
carried men's eyes to the horizon. Then, in a panic of
self-defence, they would rally to some other subject.
And, in that lone spot, what else was to be found to
speak of but the treasure ?
That was indeed the chief singularity, the one thing
conspicuous in their island life ; the presence of that chest
of bills and specie dominated the mind like a cathedral ;
and there were besides connected with it, certain irk-
ing problems well fitted to occupy the idle. Two thou-
sand pounds were due to the Sydney firm : two thousand
pounds were clear profit, and fell to be divided in varying
proportions among six. It had been agreed how the part-
ners were to range ; every pound of capital subscribed,
every pound that fell due in wages, was to count for
one "lay." Of these, Tommy could claim five hundred
and ten, Carthew one hundred and seventy, Wicks one
hundred and forty, and Hemstead and Amalu ten apiece :
eight hundred and forty " lays " in all. What was the
value of a lay? This was at first debated in the air
and chiefly by the strength of Tommy's lungs. Then
followed a series of incorrect calculations ; from which
they issued, arithmetically foiled, but agreed from weari-
ness upon an approximate value of 2 7s. l^d. The
figures were admittedly incorrect ; the sum of the shares
came not to 2000, but to 1996 6s. : 3 14s. being thus
left unclaimed. But it was the nearest they had yet found,
and the highest as well, so that the partners were made
THE BUDGET OF THE " CURRENCY LASS." 493
the less critical by the contemplation of their splendid
dividends. Wicks put in 100 and stood to draw cap-
tain's wages for two months ; his taking was 333 3*.
6fd. Carthew- had put in 150 : he was to take out
401 18s. 6%d. Tommy's 500 had grown to be 1213
12s. 9|d. ; and Amalu and Hemstead, ranking for wages
only, had 22 16s. 0^., each.
From talking and brooding on these figures, it was but
a step to opening the chest; and once the chest open,
the glamour of the cash was irresistible. Each felt that
he must see his treasure separate with the eye of flesh,
handle it in the hard coin, mark it for his own, and
stand forth to himself the approved owner. And here
an insurmountable difficulty barred the way. There
were some seventeen shillings in English silver : the rest
was Chile ; and the Chile dollar, which had been taken
at the rate of six to the pound sterling, was practically
their smallest coin. It was decided, therefore, to divide
the pounds only, and to throw the shillings, pence, and
fractions in a common fund. This, with the three pound
fourteen already in the heel, made a total of seven pounds
"I'll tell you," said Wicks. "Let Carthew and
Tommy and me take one pound apiece, and Hemstead
and Amalu split the other four, and toss up for the odd
"0, rot!" said Carthew. "Tommy and I are burst-
ing already. We can take half a sov' each, and let the
other three have forty^ shillings."
494 THE WRECKEB.
"I'll tell you now it's not worth splitting," broke in
Mac. "I've cards in my chest. Why don't you play
for the slump sum ? "
In that idle place, the proposal was accepted with
delight. Mac, as the owner of the cards, was given a
stake; the sum was played for in five games of crib-
bage ; and when Amalu, the last survivor in the tourna-
ment, was beaten by Mac, it was found the dinner hour
was past. After a hasty meal, they fell again imme
diately to cards, this time (on Carthew's proposal) to
Van John. It was then probably two P.M. of the 9th
February ; and they played with varying chances for
twelve hours, slept heavily, and rose late on the mor-
row to resume the game. All day of the 10th, with
grudging intervals for food, and with one long absence
on the part of Tommy from which he returned drip-
ping with the case of sherry, they continued to deal
and stake. Night fell: they drew the closer to the
fire. It was maybe two in the morning, and Tommy
was selling his deal by auction, as usual with that
timid player ; when Carthew, who didn't intend to bid,
had a moment of leisure and looked round him. He
beheld the moonlight on the sea, the money piled and
scattered in that incongruous place, the perturbed faces
of the players; he felt in his own breast the familiar
tumult ; and it seemed as if there rose in his ears a sound
of music, and the moon seemed still to shine upon a
sea, but the sea was changed, and the Casino towered
THE BUDGET OF THE "CURRENCY LASS." 495
from among lamplit gardens, and the money clinked on
the green board. " Good God ! " he thought, " am I gam-
bling again ? " He looked the more curiously about the
sandy table. He and Mac had played and won like gam-
blers ; the mingled gold and silver lay by their places in
the heap. Amalu and Hemstead had each more than
held their own ; but Tommy was cruel far to leeward,
and the captain was reduced to perhaps fifty pounds.
" I say, let's knock off," said Carthew.
" Give that man a glass of Buckle," said some one,
and a fresh bottle was opened, and the game went
Carthew was himself too heavy a winner to with-
draw or to say more; and all the rest of the night he
must look on at the progress of this folly, and make
gallant attempts to lose with the not uncommon conse-
quence of winning more. The first dawn of the llth
February found him well-nigh desperate. It chanced
he was then dealer, and still winning. He had just
dealt a round of many tens; every one had staked
heavily; the captain had put up all that remained to
him, twelve pounds in gold and a few dollars; and
Carthew, looking privately at his cards before he showed
them, found he held a natural.
"See here, you fellows," he broke out, "this ia a
sickening business, and I'm done with it for one." So
saying, he showed his cards, tore them across, and rose
from the ground.
496 THE WKECKER.
The company stared and murmured in mere amaze
ment ; but Mac stepped gallantly to his support.
"We've had enough of it, I do believe," said he.
"But of course it was all fun, and here's my counters
back. All counters in, boys ! " and he began to pour
his winnings into the chest, which stood fortunately
Carthew stepped across and wrung him by the hand.
" I'll never forget this," he said.
"And what are ye going to do with the Highway boy
and the plumber ? " inquired Mac, in a low tone of voice.
" They've both wan, ye see."
"That's true!" said Carthew aloud. "Amalu and
Hemstead, count your winnings; Tommy and I pay
It was carried without speech : the pair glad enough
to receive their winnings, it mattered not from whence ;
and Tommy, who had lost about five hundred pounds,
delighted with the compromise.
" And how about Mac ? " asked Hemstead. " Is he to
"I beg your pardon, plumber. I'm sure ye mean
well," returned the Irishman, "but you'd better shut
your face, for I'm not that kind of a man. If I fought
I had wan that money fair, there's never a soul here
could get it from me. But I fought it was in fun;
that was my mistake, ye see ; and there's no man big
enough upon this island to give a present to my mother's
A HAKD BARGAIN. 497
son. So there's my opinion to ye, plumber, and you can
put it in your pockut till required."
" Well, I will say, Mac, you're a gentleman," said
Carthew, as he helped him to shovel back his winnings
into the treasure chest.
" Divil a fear of it, sir ! a drunken sailor-man," said
The captain had sat somewhile with his face in his
hands : now he rose mechanically, shaking and stum-
bling like a drunkard after a debauch. But as he rose,
his face was altered, and his voice rang out over the isle,
Sail, ho ! "
All turned at the cry, and there, in the wild light of
the morning, heading straight for Midway Keef, was the
brig Flying Scud of Hull.
498 THE WRECKER.
A HARD BARGAIN.
The ship which thus appeared before the castaways
had long " tramped " the ocean, wandering from one port
to another as freights offered. She was two years out
from London, by the Cape of Good Hope, India, and the
Archipelago ; and was now bound for San Francisco in
the hope of working homeward round the Horn. Her
captain was one Jacob Trent. He had retired some five
years before to a suburban cottage, a patch of cabbages,
a gig, and the conduct of what he called a Bank. The
name appears to have been misleading. Borrowers were
accustomed to choose works of art and utility in the
front shop ; loaves of sugar and bolts of broadcloth were
deposited in pledge ; and it was a part of the manager's
duty to dash in his gig on Saturday evenings from one
small retailer's to another, and to annex in each the
bulk of the week's takings. His was thus an active
life, and to a man of the type of a rat, filled with recon-
dite joys. An unexpected loss, a law suit, and the unin-
telligent commentary of the judge upon the bench, com-
bined to disgust him of the business. I was so extraor-
dinarily fortunate as to find, in an old newspaper, a
report of the proceedings in Lyall v. The Cardiff Mutual
Accommodation Banking Co. "I confess I fail entirely
A HARD BARGAIN. 499
to understand the nature of the business," the judge had
remarked, while Trent was being examined in chief; a
little after, on fuller information " They call it a bank,"
he had opined, " but it seems to me to be an unlicensed
pawnshop " ; and he wound up with this appalling allo-
cution : " Mr. Trent, I must put you on your guard ; you
must be very careful, or we shall see you here again."
In the inside of a week the captain disposed of the bank,
the cottage, and the gig and horse ; and to sea again in
the Flying Scud, where he did well and gave high satis-
faction to his owners. But the glory clung to him ; he
was a plain sailor-man, he said, but he could never long