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hull.

"Captain Coxon," said I, with as firm a voice as I could command, - for
I was nearly in as great a rage as he, and rendered insensible to all
consequences by his inhumanity, - "if you bear away and leave that man
yonder to sink with that wreck when he can be saved with very little
trouble, you will become as much a murderer as any ruffian who stabs a
man asleep."

When I had said this, Coxon turned black in the face with passion. His
eyes protruded, his hands and fingers worked as though he were under
some electrical process, and I saw for the first time in my life a
sight I had always laughed at as a bit of impossible novelist
description, - a mouth foaming with rage. He rushed aft, just over
Duckling's cabin, and stamped with all his might.

"Now," thought I, "they may try to murder me!" And without a word I
pulled off my coat, seized a belaying-pin, and stood ready; resolved
that happen what might, I would give the first man who should lay his
fingers on me something to remember me by while he had breath in his
body.

The men, not quite understanding what was happening, but seeing that a
"row" was taking place, came to the forecastle and advanced by degrees
along the main-deck. Among them I noticed the cook, muttering to one
or the other who stood near.

Mr. Duckling, awakened by the violent clattering over his head, came
running up the companion-way with a bewildered, sleepy look in his
face. The captain grasped him by the arm, and pointing to me, cried
out with an oath that "that villain was breeding a mutiny on board, and
he believed wanted to murder him and Duckling."

I at once answered, "Nothing of the kind! There is a man miserably
perishing on board that sinking wreck, Mr. Duckling, and he ought to be
saved. My lads!" I cried, addressing the men on the main-deck, "is
there a sailor among you all who would have the heart to leave that man
yonder without an effort to rescue him?"

"No, sir!" shouted one of them. "We'll save the man; and if the
skipper refuses, we'll make him!"

"Luff!" I called to the man at the wheel.

"Luff at your peril!" screamed the skipper.

"Aft here, some hands," I cried, "and lay the mainyard aback. Let go
the port main-braces!"

The captain came running toward me.

"By the living God!" I cried in a fury, grasping the heavy brass
belaying-pin, "if you come within a foot of me, Captain Coxon, I'll
dash your brains out!"

My attitude, my enraged face and menacing gesture, produced the desired
effect. He stopped dead, turned a ghastly white, and looked round at
Duckling.

"What do you mean by this (etc.) conduct, you (etc.) mutinous
scoundrels?" roared Duckling, with a volley of foul language.

"Give him one for himself if he says too much, Mr. Royle!" sung out
some hoarse voice on the main-deck; "we'll back yer!" And then came
cries of "They're a cursed pair o' murderers!" "Who run the smack
down?" "Who lets men drown?" "Who starves honest men?" This last
exclamation was followed by a roar.

The whole of the crew were now on deck, having been aroused by our
voices. Some of them were looking on with a grin, others with an
expression of fierce curiosity. It was at once understood that I was
making a stand against the captain and chief mate; and a single glance
at them assured me that by one word I could set the whole of them on
fire to do my bidding, even to shedding blood.

In the meantime, the man at the wheel had luffed until the weather
leeches were flat and the ship scarcely moving. And at this moment,
that the skipper might know their meaning, a couple of hands jumped aft
and let go the weather main-braces. I took care to keep my eyes on
Coxon and the mate, fully prepared for any attack that one or both
might make on me. Duckling eyed me furiously but in silence, evidently
baffled by my resolute air and the position of the men. Then he said
something to the captain, who looked exhausted and white and haggard
with his useless passion. They walked over to the lee side of the
poop; and after a short conference, the captain to my surprise went
below, and Duckling came forward.

"There's no objection," he said, "to your saving the man's life, if you
want. Lower away the starboard quarter-boat, - and you go along in
her," he added to me, uttering the last words in such a thick voice
that I thought he was choking.

"Come along, some of you!" I cried out, hastily putting on my coat; and
in less than a minute I was in the boat with the rudder and thole-pins
shipped, and four hands ready to out oars as soon as we touched the
water.

Duckling began to fumble at one end of the boat's falls.

"Don't let him lower away!" roared out one of the men in the boat.
"He'll let us go with a run. He'd like to see us drowned!"

Duckling fell back, scowling with fury; and shoving his head over as
the boat sunk quietly into the water, he discharged a volley of
execrations at us, saying that he would shoot some of us, if he swung
for it, before he was done, and especially applying a heap of abusive
terms to me.

The fellow pulling the bow oar laughed in his face; and another shouted
out, "We'll teach you to say your prayers yet, you ugly old sinner!"

We got away from the ship's side cleverly, and in a short time were
rowing fast for the wreck. The excitement under which I labored made
me reckless of the issue of this adventure. The sight of the lonely
man upon the wreck, coupled with the unmanly, brutal intention of Coxon
to leave him to his fate, had goaded me into a state of mind infuriate
enough to have done and dared anything to _compel_ Coxon to save him.
He might call it mutiny, but I called it humanity; and I was prepared
to stand or fall by my theory. The hate the crew had for their captain
and chief mate was quite strong enough to guarantee me against any foul
play on the part of Coxon; otherwise I might have prepared myself to
see the ship fill and stand away, and leave us alone on the sea with
the wreck. One of the men in the boat suggested this; but another
immediately answered, "They'd pitch the skipper overboard if he gave
such an order, and glad o' the chance. There's no love for 'em among
us, I can tell you; and by - - ! there'll be bloody work done aboard
the _Grosvenor_ if things aren't mended soon, as you'll see."

They all four pulled at their oars savagely as these words were spoken;
and I never saw such sullen and ferocious expressions on men's faces as
came into theirs, as they fixed their eyes as with one accord upon the
ship. _She_, deep as she was, looked a beautiful model on the mighty
surface of the water, rolling with marvelous grace to the swell, the
strength and volume of which made me feel my littleness and weakness as
it lifted the small boat with irresistible power. There was wind
enough to keep her sails full upon her graceful, slender masts, and the
brass-work upon her deck flashed brilliantly as she rolled from side to
side.

Strange contrast, to look from her to the broken and desolate picture
ahead! My eyes were riveted upon it now with new and intense emotion,
for by this time I could discern that the person who was waving to us
was a female, - woman or girl I could not yet make out, - and that her
hair was like a veil of gold behind her swaying arm.

"It's a woman!" I cried in my excitement; "it's no man at all. Pull
smartly, my lads! pull smartly, for God's sake!"

The men gave way stoutly, and the swell favoring us, we were soon close
to the wreck. The girl, as I now perceived she was, waved her
handkerchief wildly as we approached; but my attention was occupied in
considering how we could best board the wreck without injury to the
boat. She lay broadside to us, with her stern on our right, and was
not only rolling heavily with wallowing, squelching movements, but was
swirling the heavy mizzenmast that lay alongside through the water each
time she went over to starboard; so that it was necessary to approach
her with the greatest caution to prevent our boat from being stove in.
Another element of danger was the great flood of water which she took
in over her shattered bulwarks, first on this side, then on that,
discharging the torrent again into the sea as she rolled. This water
came from her like a cataract, and in a second would fill and sink the
boat, unless extreme care were taken to keep clear of it.

I waved my hat to the poor girl, to let her know that we saw her and
had come to save her, and steered the boat right around the wreck, that
I might observe the most practical point for boarding her.

She appeared to be a vessel of about seven hundred tons. The falling
of her masts had crushed her port bulwarks level with the deck, and
part of her starboard bulwarks was also smashed to pieces. Her wheel
was gone, and the heavy seas that had swept her deck had carried away
capstans, binnacle, hatchway gratings, pumps - everything, in short, but
the deck-house and the remnants of the galley. I particularly noticed
a strong iron boat's-davit twisted up like a corkscrew. She was full
of water, and lay as deep as her main-chains; but her bows stood high,
and her fore-chains were out of the sea. It was miraculous to see her
keep afloat as the long swell rolled over her in a cruel, foaming
succession of waves.

Though these plain details impressed themselves upon my memory, I did
not seem to notice anything, in the anxiety that possessed me to rescue
the lonely creature in the deck-house. It would have been impossible
to keep a footing upon the main-deck without a life-line or something
to hold on by; and seeing this, and forming my resolutions rapidly, I
ordered the man in the bow of the boat to throw in his oar and exchange
places with me, and head the boat for the starboard port-chains. As we
approached I stood up with one foot planted on the gunwale ready to
spring; the broken shrouds were streaming aft and alongside, so that if
I missed the jump and fell into the water there was plenty of stuff to
catch hold of.

"Gently - 'vast rowing - ready to back astern smartly!" I cried as we
approached. I waited a moment: the hull rolled toward us, and the
succeeding swell threw up our boat; the deck, though all aslant, was on
a line with my feet. I sprung with all my strength, and got well upon
the deck, but fell heavily as I reached it. However, I was up again in
a moment, and ran forward out of the water.

Here was a heap of gear - stay-sail, and jib-halyards, and other ropes,
some of the ends swarming overboard. I hauled in one of these ends,
but found I could not clear the raffle; but looking round, I perceived
a couple of coils of line - spare stun'-sail tacks or halyards I took
them to be - lying close against the foot of the bowsprit. I
immediately seized the end of one of these coils, and flung it into the
boat, telling them to drop clear of the wreck astern; and when they
found they had backed as far as the length of the line permitted, I
bent on the end of the other coil, and paid that out until the boat was
some fathoms astern. I then made my end fast, and sung out to one of
the men to get on board by the starboard mizzen-chains, and to bring
the end of the line with him. After waiting a few minutes, the boat
being hidden, I saw the fellow come scrambling over the side with a red
face, his clothes and hair streaming, he having fallen overboard. He
shook himself like a dog, and crawled with the line, on his hands and
knees, a short distance forward, then hauled the line taut and made it
fast.

"Tell them to bring the boat round here," I cried, "and lay off on
their oars until we are ready. And you get hold of this line and work
yourself up to me."

Saying which, I advanced along the deck, clinging tightly with both
hands. It very providentially happened that the door of the deck-house
faced the forecastle within a few feet of where the remains of the
galley stood. There would be, therefore, less risk in opening it than
had it faced beamwise: for the water, as it broke against the sides of
the house, disparted clear of the fore and after parts; that is, the
great bulk of it ran clear, though of course a foot's depth of it as
least surged against the door.

I called out to the girl to open the door quickly, as it slid in
grooves like a panel, and was not to be stirred from the outside. The
poor creature appeared mad; and I repeated my request three times
without inducing her to leave the window. Then, not believing that she
understood me, I cried out, "Are you English?"

"Yes," she replied. "For God's sake, save us!"

"I cannot get you through that window," I exclaimed. "Rouse yourself
and open that door, and I will save you."

She now seemed to comprehend, and drew in her head. By this time the
man out of the boat had succeeded in sliding along the rope to where I
stood, though the poor devil was nearly drowned on the road; for when
about half-way, the hull took in a lump of swell which swept him right
off his legs, and he was swung hard a-starboard, holding on for his
life. However, he recovered himself smartly when the water was gone,
and came along hand over fist, snorting and cursing in wonderful style.

Meanwhile, though I kept a firm hold of the life-line, I took care to
stand where the inroads of water were not heavy, waiting impatiently
for the door to open. It shook in the grooves, tried by a feeble hand;
then a desperate effort was made, and it slid a couple of inches.

"That will do!" I shouted. "Now then, my lad, catch hold of me with
one hand, and the line with the other."

The fellow took a firm grip of my monkey-jacket, and I made for the
door. The water washed up to my knees, but I soon inserted my fingers
in the crevice of the door and thrust it open.

The house was a single compartment, though I had expected to find it
divided into two. In the centre was a table that traveled on
stanchions from the roof to the deck, On either side were a couple of
bunks. The girl stood near the door. In a bunk to the left of the
door lay an old man with white hair. Prostrate on his back, on the
deck, with his arms stretched against his ears, was the corpse of a
man, well dressed; and in a bunk on the right sat a sailor, who, when
he saw me, yelled out and snapped his fingers, making horrible grimaces.

Such, in brief, was the _coup d'oeil_ of that weird interior as it met
my eyes.

I seized the girl by the arm.

"You first," said I. "Come; there is no time to be lost."

But she shrunk back, pressing against the door with her hand to prevent
me from pulling her, crying in a husky voice, and looking at the old
man with the white hair, "My father first! my father first!"

"You shall all be saved, but you must obey me. Quickly now!" I
exclaimed passionately; for a heavy sea at that moment flooded the
ship, and a rush of water swamped the house through the open door and
washed the corpse on the deck up into a corner.

Grasping her firmly, I lifted her off her feet, and went staggering to
the life-rope, slinging her light body over my shoulder as I went.
Assisted by my man, I gained the bow of the wreck, and hailing the
boat, ordered it alongside.

"One of you," cried I, "stand ready to receive this lady when I give
the signal."

I then told the man who was with me to jump into the forechains, which
he instantly did. The wreck lurched heavily to port. "Stand by, my
lads!" I shouted. Over she came again, with the water swooping along
the maindeck: The boat rose high, and the forechains were submerged to
the height of the man's knees. "Now!" I called, and lifted the girl
over. She was seized by the man in the chains, and pushed toward the
boat; the fellow standing in the bow of the boat caught her, and at the
same moment down sunk the boat, and the wreck rolled wearily over. But
the girl was safe.

"Hurrah, my lad!" I sung out. "Up with you, - there are others
remaining;" and I went sprawling along the line to the deck-house,
there to encounter another rush of water, which washed as high as my
thighs, and fetched me such a thump in the stomach that I thought I
must have died of suffocation.

I was glad to find that the old man had got out of his bunk, and was
standing at the door.

"Is my poor girl safe, sir?" he exclaimed, with the same huskiness of
voice that had grated so unpleasantly in the girl's tone.

"Quite safe; come along."

"Thanks be to Almighty God!" he ejaculated, and burst into tears.

I seized hold of his thin cold hands, but shifted my fingers to catch
him by the coat collar, so as to exert more power over him; and handed
him along the deck, telling my companion to lay hold of the seaman and
fetch him away smartly. We managed to escape the water, for the poor
old gentleman bestirred himself very nimbly, and I helped him over the
fore-chains; and when the boat rose, tumbled him into her without
ceremony. I saw the daughter leap toward him and clasp him in her
arms; but I was soon again scrambling on to the deck, having heard
cries from my man, accompanied with several loud curses, mingled with
dreadful yells.

"He's bitten me, sir!" cried by companion, hauling himself away from
the deck-house. "He's roaring mad."

"It can't be helped," I answered. "We must get him out."

He saw me pushing along the life-line, plucked up heart, and went with
myself through a sousing sea to the door. I caught a glimpse of a
white face glaring at me from the interior: in a second a figure shot
out, fled with incredible speed toward the bow, and leaped into the sea
just where our boat lay.

"They'll pick him up," I exclaimed. "Stop a second;" and I entered
the house and stooped over the figure of the man on the deck.

I was not familiar with death, and yet I knew it was here. I cannot
describe the signs in his face; but such as they were, they told me the
truth. I noticed a ring upon his finger, and that his clothes were
good. His hair was black, and his features well shaped, though his
face had a half-convulsed expression, as if something frightful had
appeared to him, and he had died of the sight of it.

"This wreck must be his coffin," I said. "He is a corpse. We can do
no more."

We scrambled for the last time along the life-line and got into the
fore-chains; but to our consternation, saw the boat rowing away from
the wreck. However, the fit of rage and terror that possessed me
lasted but a moment or two; for I now saw they were giving chase to the
madman, who was swimming steadily away. Two of the men rowed, and the
third hung over the bows, ready to grasp the miserable wretch. The
_Grosvenor_ stood steady, about a mile off, with her mainyards backed;
and just as the fellow over the boat's bows caught hold of the
swimmer's hair, the ensign was run up on board the ship and dipped
three times.

"Bring him along!" I shouted. "They'll be off without us if we don't
bear a hand."

They nearly capsized the boat as they dragged the lunatic, streaming
like a drowned rat, out of the water; and one of the sailors tumbled
him over on his back, and knelt upon him, while he took some turns with
the boat's painter round his body, arms and legs. The boat then came
alongside; and watching our opportunity, we jumped into her and shoved
off.

I had now leisure to examine the persons whom we had saved.

They - father and daughter, as I judged them by the girl's exclamation
on the wreck - sat in the stern-sheets, their hands locked. The old man
seemed nearly insensible; leaning backward with his chin on his breast
and his eyes partially closed. I feared he was dying; but could do no
good until we reached the _Grosvenor_, as we had no spirits in the boat.

The girl appeared to be about twenty years of age; very fair, her hair
of golden straw color, which hung wet and streaky down her back and
over her shoulders, though a portion of it was held by a comb. She was
deadly pale, and her lips blue; and in her fine eyes was such a look of
mingled horror and rapture as she cast them around her, - first glancing
at me, then at the wreck, then at the _Grosvenor_, - that the memory of
it will last me to my death. Her dress, of some dark material, was
soaked with salt water up to her hips, and she shivered and moaned
incessantly, though the sun beat so warmly upon us that the thwarts
were hot to the hand.

The mad sailor lay at the bottom of the boat, looking straight into the
sky. He was a horrid-looking object, with his streaming hair, pasty
features, and red beard, his naked shanks and feet protruding through
his soaking, clinging trousers, which figured his shin-bones as though
they clothed a skeleton. Now and again he would give himself a wild
twirl and yelp out fiercely; but he was well-nigh spent with his swim,
and on the whole was quiet enough.

I said to the girl, "How long have you been in this dreadful position?"

"Since yesterday morning," she answered, in a choking voice painful to
hear, and gulping after each word. "We have not had a drop of water to
drink since the night before last. He is mad with thirst, for he drank
the water on the deck;" and she pointed to the man in the bottom of the
boat.

"My God!" I cried to the men, "do you hear her? They have not drunk
water for two days! For the love of God, give way!"

They bent their backs to the oars, and the boat foamed over the long
swell. The wind was astern and helped us. I did not speak again to
the poor girl; for it was cruel to make her talk, when the words
lacerated her throat as though they were pieces of burning iron.

After twenty minutes, which seemed as many hours, we reached the
vessel. The crew pressing round the gangway cheered when they saw we
had brought people from the wreck. Duckling and the skipper watched us
grimly from the poop.

"Now then, my lads," I cried, "up with this lady first. Some of you on
deck get water ready, as these people are dying of thirst."

In a few minutes, both the girl and the old man were handed over the
gangway. I cut the boat's painter adrift from the ringbolt so that we
could ship the madman without loosening his bonds, and he was hoisted
up like a bale of goods. Then four of us got out of the boat, leaving
one to drop her under the davits and hook on the falls.

At this moment a horrible scene took place.

The old man, tottering on the arms of two seamen, was being led into
the cuddy, followed by the girl, who walked unaided. The madman, in
the grasp of the big sailor named Johnson, stood near the gangway; and
as I scrambled on deck, one of the men was holding a pannikin full of
water to his face. The poor wretch was shrinking away from it, with
his eyes half out of their sockets; but suddenly tearing his arm with a
violent effort from the rope that bound him, he seized the pannikin and
bit clean through the tin; after which, throwing back his head, he
swallowed the whole draught dashed the pannikin down, his face turned
black and he fell dead on the deck.

The big sailor sprung aside with an oath, forced from him by his
terror; and from every looker-on there broke a groan. They all shrunk
away and stood staring with blanched faces. Such a piteous sight as it
was, lying doubled up, with the rope pinioning the miserable limbs, the
teeth locked, and the right arm uptossed!

"Aft here and get the quarter-boat hoisted up!" shouted Duckling,
advancing on the poop; and seeing the man dead on the deck, he added,
"Get a tarpaulin and cover him up, and let him lie on the fore-hatch."

"Shall I tell the steward to serve out grog to the men who went with
me?" I asked him.

He stared at me contemptuously, and walked away without answering.




THE SAILOR'S WIFE

From "An Iceland Fisherman," BY PIERRE LOTI


The Icelanders were all returning now. Two ships came in the second
day, four the next, and twelve during the following week. And all
through the country joy returned with them; and there was happiness for
the wives and mothers, and junkets in the taverns where the beautiful
barmaids of Paimpol served out drink to the fishers.

The _LĂ©opoldine_ was among the belated; there were yet another ten
expected. They would not be long now; and allowing a week's delay so
as not to be disappointed, Gaud waited in happy, passionate joy for
Yann, keeping their home bright and tidy for his return. When
everything was in good order there was nothing left for her to do; and
besides, in her impatience, she could think of nothing else but her
husband.

Three more ships appeared; then another five. There were only two
lacking now.

"Come, come," they said to her cheerily, "this year the _LĂ©opoldine_


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