My Danish Sweetheart: A Novel. Volume 2 of 3part #2 of 3 of My Danish Sweetheart: A Novel Series by William Clark Russell / Romance & Love
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MY DANISH SWEETHEART
BY W. CLARK RUSSELL
AUTHOR OF 'THE WRECK OF THE GROSVENOR,' 'THE LIFE OF ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD,' 'A MARRIAGE AT SEA,' ETC., ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES
Methuen & Co. 18, BURY STREET, LONDON, W.C. 1891 [_All rights reserved_]
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
I. THE 'EARLY MORN' 1
II. HEADING SOUTH 32
III. A 'LONGSHORE QUARREL 60
IV. A SAILOR'S DEATH 92
V. THE END OF THE 'EARLY MORN' 116
VI. CAPTAIN JOPPA BUNTING 145
VII. ON BOARD 'THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD' 177
VIII. A CREW OF MALAYS 210
IX. BUNTING'S FORECASTLE FARE 241
MY DANISH SWEETHEART
THE 'EARLY MORN.'
I told my story, and the three fellows listened attentively. Their eyesglowed in the lamplight as they stared at me. The weak wind raised apleasant buzzing noise at the cutwater, and the lugger stole in floatinglaunches through the gloom over the long invisible heave of the Atlanticswell.
'Ah!' said the helmsman, when I had made an end, 'we heerd of that thereTintrenale lifeboat job when we was at Penzance. An' so you was hercoxswain?'
'Were the people of the boat drowned?' cried I eagerly. 'Can you give meany news of them?'
'No, sir,' he answered; 'there was no particulars to hand when wesailed. All that we larnt was that a lifeboat had been stove alongside avessel in Tintrenale Bay; and little wonder, tew, says I to my mateswhen I heerd it. Never remember the like of such a night as that there.'
'What was the name of the Dane again?' said one of the fellows seatedopposite me, as he lighted a short clay pipe by the flame of a matchthat he dexterously shielded from the wind in his hand as though hisfist was a lantern.
'The _Anine_,' I answered.
'A bit of a black barque, warn't she?' he continued. 'Capt'n with smalleyes and a beard like a goat! Why, yes! it'll be that there barque,Tommy, that slipped two year ago. Pigsears Hall and Stickenup Adams andme had a nice little job along with her.'
'You are quite right,' said Helga, in a low voice; 'I was on board thevessel at the time. The captain was my father.'
'Oh, indeed, mum!' said the fellow who steered. 'An' he's gone dead!Poor old gentleman!'
'What is this boat?' said I, desiring to cut this sort of sympathyshort.
'The _Airly Marn_,' said the helmsman.
'The _Early Morn_! And from what part of the coast, pray?'
'Why, ye might see, I think, sir, that she hails from Deal,' heanswered. 'There's nothen resembling the likes of her coming fromelsewhere that I knows of.'
'And what are you doing down in this part of the ocean?'
'Why,' said he, after spitting over the stern and passing his hand alonghis mouth, 'we're agoing to Australey.'
'Going _where_?' I cried, believing I had not correctly heard him, whileHelga started from her drooping posture and turned to look at me.
'To Sydney, New South Wales, which is in Australey,' he exclaimed.
'In this small open boat?'
'This small open boat!' echoed one of the others. 'The _Airly Marn's_eighteen ton, and if she ben't big enough and good enough to carry threemen to Australey there's nothen afloat as is going to show her how todo it!'
By the light shed by the dimly burning lantern, where it stood in thebottom of the boat, I endeavoured to gather from their faces whetherthey spoke seriously, or whether, indeed, they were under the influenceof earlier drams of liquor than the dose they had swallowed from ourjar.
'Are you in earnest, men?' said I.
'Airnest!' cried the man at the tiller in a voice of astonishment, asthough he wondered at my wonder. 'Why, to be sure we are! What's wrongwith us that we shouldn't be agoing to Australey?'
I glanced at the short length of dark fabric, and up at the black squareof lugsail.
'What is taking you to Australia in a Deal lugger?' said I.
The man styled Abraham by his mates answered: 'We're a-carrying thishere craft out on a job for the gent that's bought her. There was threeof us an' a boy, but the boy took sick at Penzance, and we came awaywithout him.'
He paused. The man sitting next him continued in a deep voice:
'A gent as lives in Lunnon took this here _Airly Marn_ over for a debt.Well, when he got her he didn't know what to do with her. There was nogood a-leaving her to pine away on the beach, so he tarns to and putsher up to auction. Well, there was ne'er a bid.'
'Ne'er a bid!' echoed the man who was steering.
'Ne'er a bid, I says,' continued the other, 'and whoy? First of all,there ain't no money in Deal; and next, the days of these luggers isnombered. Well, this here gent was called upon by an Australian friendwho, gitting to hear of the _Airly Marn_, says he's a-willing to buy her_for_ a sum. What that sum might be I'm not here _for_ to know.'
'Fifty pound, I allow,' said the man named Tommy. 'Some says she was guvaway. I've heerd speak of thirty pound. But fifty's what I call it.'
'Call it fifty!' exclaimed the fellow who steered.
'Well,' continued the first speaker, whose voice was peculiarly harsh,'this here gent, having purchased the _Airly Marn_, comes down to Deal,and gives out that he wants some men to carry her to Sydney. The matterwas tarned over. How much would he give? Well, he'd give two hundred an'fifty pound, and them as undertook the job might make what shares theychose of the money. I was for making six shares. Abraham there says no,fower's enough. Tommy says three an' a boy. That's seventy-five pound aman, and twenty-five pound for the boy; but the boy being took sick, hisshare becomes ourn.'
'And you think seventy-five pound apiece pay enough for as risky anundertaking as was ever heard of?' cried I.
'Wish it were already aimed,' said Abraham. 'Pay enough? Oy, and goodmonney, tew, in such times as these.'
'How far are we from the English coast?' asked Helga.
The man called Jacob, after a little silence, answered: 'Why, I dare saythe Land's End'll be about a hundred an' eighty mile off.'
'It would not take long to return!' she exclaimed. 'Will you not landus?'
'What! on the English coast, mum?' he cried.
I saw him peering earnestly at us, as though he would gather ourcondition by our attire.
'It's a long way back,' continued he; 'and supposing the wind,' headded, looking up at the sky, 'should head us?'
'If the gent would make it worth us men's while----' broke in Tommy.
'No, no!' exclaimed Abraham, 'we don't want to make nothen out of afellow-creature's distress. We've saved ye, and that's a good job. Nextthing we've got to do is to put ye aboard the first homeward boundvessel we falls in with. I'm for keeping all on. Ships is plentifulhereabout, and ye'll not be kept awaiting. But to up hellum for theEnglish coast again----' I saw his head wag vehemently against thestars. 'It's a long way to Australey, master, and ne'er a man of ustouches a penny-piece till we gits there.'
I sat considering a little. My immediate impulse was to offer thefellows a reward to land us. Then I thought--no! They may ask too much,and, indeed, whatever they might expect must prove too much for me, towhom five pounds was a considerable sum, though, as I have told you, mymother's slender income was enough for us both. Besides, the money thesemen might ask would be far more fitly devoted to Helga, who had lost allsave what she stood in--who was without a friend in England exceptmyself and mother, who had been left by her father without a farthingsaving some pitiful sum of insurance-money, which she would not get formany a long day, and who, brave heart! would, therefore, need mymother's purse to refurnish her wardrobe and embark her for her Danishhome, if, indeed, there would _now_ be a home for her at Kolding.
These considerations passed with the velocity of thought through mymind. On the other hand, we were no longer aboard a stationary raft, butin a nimble little lugger that every hour was carrying us into a newprospect of ocean; and we might be sure, therefore, of speedily fallingin with a homeward-bound steamer that would convey us to England in atenth of the time the lugger would occupy, very much more comfortablytoo, and at the cost of a few shillings, so to speak. Then, again, Ifelt too grateful for our preservation, too glad and rejoiceful overour deliverance from the dreadful future that had just now lain beforeus, to remonstrate with the men, to oppose their wishes to pursue theircourse, to utter a word, in short, that might make them suppose I didnot consider our mere escape from the raft good fortune enough.
'Surely it would not take them very long,' Helga whispered in my ear,'to sail this boat back to Penzance?'
I repeated, in a voice inaudible to the others, the reflections whichhad occurred to me.
'Why, see there now!' bawled one of the boatmen, pointing with a shadowyhand into the dusk over the lee quarter. 'There's plenty of the likes ofher to fall in with; only _she's_ agoing the wrong way.'
I peered, and spied the green side and white masthead lanterns of asteamer propelling along the water at about a quarter of a mile distant.I could faintly distinguish the loom of her black length, like a smearof ink upon the obscurity, and the line of her smoke against the stars,with now and again a little leap of furnace-light at the funnel-mouththat, while it hung there, might have passed for the blood-red visageof the moon staring out of a stormy sky.
'See, Helga!' I cried; 'there are many like her, as this man says. In afew hours, please God, we may be safe aboard such another!' And I sankmy voice to add, 'We cannot do better than wait. Our friends here willbe glad to get rid of us. No fear of their detaining us a moment longerthan can be helped.'
'Yes, you are right,' she answered; 'but I wish to quickly return foryour sake--for your mother's sake, Hugh.'
Her soft utterance of my name fell pleasantly upon my ear. I felt forher hand and pressed it, and whispered, 'A little patience, and we shallfind ourselves at home again. All is well with us now.'
The lights to leeward silently glided ahead, and turned black upon thebow. One of the boatmen yawned with the roar of a cow.
'Nothen to keep me out of my bunk now, I allow,' said he. 'No more raftsto run into, I hope.'
'I should like to get this lady under shelter,' said I.
'That's easily done!' exclaimed Abraham. 'There's a nice little forepeakand a bunk in it at her sarvice.'
Helga hastily explained that she had had rest enough. I perceived thatthe delicacy of our Deal friends did not go to the length of observingthat while Helga occupied the forepeak it must be hers, and hers only;but the discussion of that point was out of the question now; so shestayed where she was, the boatman that had yawned went forward, and in afew minutes his snoring came along in a sound like the grating of aboat's keel over the shingle of his native town.
These darkest hours of the night slowly passed. The breeze blew, thekeen stem of the lugger ripped through the quiet heave of the ocean, andI waited for the dawn, never doubting that Helga and I would be out ofthe boat and aboard some homeward-bounder ere we should have countedanother half-score hours. The homely chat of the two men, their queer'longshore phrases, the rough sympathy they sought to convey by theirspeech, were delightful to listen to. Such had been my experiences,that, though five days comprised them, it seemed as if I had been sixmonths from home. The talk mainly concerned this daring, extraordinaryvoyage to Australia, in what was truly no more than an open boat. Theexcitement of delight over our rescue was in a measure spent. I couldthink calmly, and attend with interest to other considerations than ourpreservation, our sufferings, and, in short, ourselves. And what couldinterest me more than this singular undertaking on the part of threeboatmen?
I inquired what food they carried.
'Whoy,' says Abraham, 'we've got beef and pork and ship's bread andother wittles arter that sort.'
'Shall you touch at any ports?'
'Oy, if the need arises, master.'
'Need arises! You are bound to run short of food and water!'
'There's a plenty of ships to fall in with at sea, master, to help usalong.'
'How long do you reckon on taking to make the run?'
'Fower or foive month,' answered Abraham.
'Oy, an' perhaps six,' said Jacob.
'Who is skipper?' said I.
'There aren't no degrees here,' answered Abraham; 'leastways, now thatthe boy's gone sick and's left behoind.'
'But which of you is navigator, then?'
'Oy am,' said Abraham; 'that's to say, I've got a quadrant along withme, and know how to tell at noon what o'clock it is. That's what'starmed hascertaining the latitude. As to what's called longitude, she'sbest left to the log-line.'
'So she is,' said Jacob.
'And you have no doubt of accurately striking the port of Sydney withouttroubling yourselves about your longitude?'
'Ne'er a doubt,' said Abraham.
'Or if so be as a doubt should come up, then heave the log, says I,'broke in Jacob.
Their manner of speaking warned me to conceal my amazement, that underother conditions could not have been without merriment. They told methey had left Penzance on the morning of Monday, while it was stillblowing heavily. 'But we saw that the breeze,' Abraham said, 'was agoingto fail, and so there was no call to stop for the wedder;' yet they hadhardly run the land out of sight when they sprang their mast in thejump of a very hollow sea. 'There was no use trying to ratch back aginthat sea and breeze,' said Abraham; 'so we stepped our spare mast andlaid the wounded chap in his place; but if the wedder be as bad off theCape as I've heerd talk of, I allow we'll be needing a rig-out o' sparsif we're to reach Australey; and what'll have to be done'll be to fallin with some wessel as'll oblige us.'
Considering they were seafaring men, this prodigious confidence in luckand chance was not less wonderful than the venture they were upon. Butit was for me to question and listen, not to criticise.
'They will never reach Australia,' Helga whispered.
'They are English seamen,' said I softly.
'No, Hugh--boatmen,' said she, giving me my name as easily as though wehad been brother and sister. 'And what will they do without longitude?'
'Grope their way,' I whispered, 'after the manner of the early marineswho achieved everything in the shape of seamanship and discovery inbarkes, as they called them, compared to which this lugger is as athousand-ton ship to a Gravesend wherry.'
The two boatmen were holding a small hoarse argument touching thesuperiority of certain galley-punts belonging to Deal, when the dawnbroke along the port-beam of the lugger. The sea turned an ashen green,and throbbed darkening to the gray wall of eastern sky, against which itwashed in a line of inky blackness. I sprang on to a thwart to lookahead on either bow, and Helga stood up beside me; and as upon thebarque, and as upon the raft, so now we stood together sweeping theiron-gray sky and the dark line of horizon for any flaw that mightdenote a vessel. But the sea stretched bald to its recesses the compassround.
The heavens in the east brightened, and the sea-line changed into asteely whiteness, but this delicate distant horizontal gleam of waterbefore sunrise gave us sight of nothing.
'Anything to be seen, sir?' cried Abraham.
'Nothing,' I answered, dismounting from the thwart.
'Well, there's all day before ye,' paid Jacob, who had taken the helm.
Now that daylight was come, my first look was at Helga, to see how shehad borne the bitter time that was passed. Her eyelids were heavy, hercheeks of a deathlike whiteness, her lips pale, and in the tender hollowunder each eye lay a greenish hue, resembling the shadow a spring leafmight fling. It was clear that she had been secretly weeping from timeto time during the dark hours. She smiled when our eyes met, and herface was instantly sweetened by the expression into the gentleprettiness I had first found in her.
I next took a survey of my new companions. The man styled Abraham was asailorly-looking fellow, corresponding but indifferently with one'simagination of the conventional 'longshoreman. He had sharp features, akeen, iron-gray, seawardly eye, and a bunch of reddish beard stood forthfrom his chin. He was dressed in pilot-cloth, wore earrings, and hishead was encased in a sugar-loafed felt hat, built after the fashion ofa theatrical bandit's.
Jacob, on the other hand, was the most faithful copy of a Deal boatmanthat could have been met afloat. His face was flat and broad, with askin stained in places of a brick-red. He had little, merry, but ratherdim blue eyes, and suggested a man who would be able, without greateffort of memory, to tell you how many public-houses there were in Deal,taking them all round. He had the whitest teeth I had ever seen in asailor, and the glance of them through his lips seemed to fix an air ofsmiling upon his face. His attire consisted of a fur-cap, forced so lowdown upon the head that it obliged his ears to stand out; a yellowoilskin jumper and a pair of stout fearnaught trousers, the ends ofwhich were packed into half-wellington boots.
The third man, named Thomas or Tommy, still continued out of sight, inthe forepeak. One will often see at a glance as much as might occupysome pages to even briefly describe. In a few turns of the eye I hadtaken in these two men and their little ship. The boat seemed to me avery fine specimen of the Deal lugger. Her forepeak consisted of aforecastle, the deck of which was carried in the shape of a platformseveral feet abaft the bulkhead, which limited the sleeping compartment,and under this pent-house or break were stored the anchors, cables, andother gear belonging to the little vessel. In the middle of the boat,made fast by chains, was a stove, with a box under the 'raft,' as theforecastle-deck is called, in which were kept the cooking utensils. Inoticed fresh water casks stowed in the boat's bilge, and a harness-caskfor the meat near the forepeak. Right amidships lay a little fat punt,measuring about fourteen feet long, and along the sides of the thwartswere three sweeps or long oars, the foremast that had been 'sprung,' anda spare bowsprit. This equipment I took in with the swift eye of a manwho was at heart a boatman.
A noble boat, indeed, for Channel cruising, for the short ragged seas ofour narrow waters. But for the voyage to Australia! I could only stareand wonder.
The big lugsail was doing its work handsomely; the breeze was out on thestarboard quarter--a pleasant wind, but with a hardness in the face ofthe sky to windward, a rigidity of small compacted, high-hanging cloudwith breaks of blue between, showing of a wintry keenness when the sunsoared, that promised a freshening of the wind before noon. Under thesteadfast drag of her lug, the light, bright-sided boat was buzzingthrough it merrily, with a spitting of foam off either bow, and a streakon either side of wool-white water creaming into her wake, thatstreamed, rising and falling, far astern.
Had her head been pointing the other way, with a promise of the duskygray of the Cornish coast to loom presently upon the sea-line, I shouldhave found something delightful in the free, floating, airy motion ofthe lugger sweeping over the quiet hills of swell, her weather-sidecaressed by the heads of the little seas crisply running along with herin a sportive, racing way. But the desolation of the ocean lay as anoppression upon my spirits. I counted upon the daybreak revealingseveral sail, and here and there the blue streak of a steamer's smoke;but there was nothing of the sort to be seen, while every hour of suchnimble progress as the lugger was now making must to a degree diminishour chances of falling in with homeward-bound craft; that is to say, wewere sure, sooner or later, to meet with a ship going to England; butthe farther south we went the longer would be the intervals between theshowing of ships by reason of the navigation scattering as it openedout into the North Atlantic; and so, though I never doubted that weshould be taken off the lugger and carried home, yet as I looked aroundthis vacant sea I was depressed by the fear that some time might passbefore this would happen, and my thoughts went to my mother--how shemight be supposing me dead and mourning over me as lost to her for ever,and how, if I could quickly return to her, I should be able to end herheartache and perhaps preserve her life; for I was her only child, andthat she would fret over me even to the breaking of her heart, I feared,despite her having sanctioned my going out to save life.
Yet, when I looked at Helga, and reflected upon what her sufferings hadbeen and what her loss was, and noted the spirit that still shone noblyin her steadfast gaze, and was expressed in the lines of her lips, Ifelt that I was acting my part as a man but poorly, in suffering myspirits to droop. This time yesterday we were upon a raft, from whichthe first rise of sea must have swept us. It was the hard stare of thenorth-westerly sky that caused me to think of this time yesterday; andwith something of a shiver and a long deep breath of gratitude for thesafety that had come to us with this little fabric buoyant under ourfeet, I broke away from my mood of dulness with a half-smile at the twohomely boatmen, who sat staring at Helga and at me.
'The lady looks but poorly,' said Abraham, with his eyes fixed uponHelga, though he addressed me. 'Some people has their allowance of griefsarved out all at once. I earnestly hope, lady, that life's agoing toluff up with you now, and lead ye on a course that won't take long tobring ye to the port of joyfulness.'
He nodded at her emphatically, with as much sympathy in his countenanceas his weather-tanned flesh would suffer him to exhibit.
'We have had a hard time,' she answered gently.
'Much too hard for any girl to go through,' said I. 'Men, you must knowthis lady to be a complete sailor. She can take the wheel; she can soundthe well; she has a nerve of steel at a moment that would send a goodmany who consider themselves stout-hearted to their prayers. It is notthe usage of the sea, Abraham, that makes her look poorly, as you say.'
I noticed Jacob leaning forward with his hands upon his knees, staringat her. Suddenly he smacked his leg with the sound of a pistol-shot.
'Why, yes!' he cried: 'now I'm sure of it. Wasn't you once a boy, mum?'
'What!' cried Abraham, turning indignantly upon him.
A faint blush entered Helga's face.
'What I mean is,' continued Jacob, 'when I last see ye, you was dressedup as a boy!'
'Yes,' said I, 'yes. And what then?'
'Whoy, then,' he cried, fetching his leg another violent slap, 'PigsearsHall owes me a gallon o' beer. When we was aboard the Dane,' hecontinued, addressing Abraham and talking with 'longshore vehemence, 'Icotched sight of a boy that I says to myself, thinks I, is as sartainsurely a female as that the Gull lightship's painted red. I toldPigsears Hall to look. Gal in your eye! says he. Bet ye a gallon ofale, Jacob, she's as much a boy as Barney Parson's Willie! But we wastoo busy to argue, and we left the ship without thinking more about it.Now I'm reminded, and I'm right, and I calls ye to witness, Abraham, sothat Pigsears mayn't haul off from his wager.'
To change the subject, I said abruptly, 'You men seem to have some queernames among you. Pigsears Hall! Could any parson be got to christen aman so?'
''Taint his right name,' said Abraham. 'It's along of his ears that he'sgot that title. There's Stickenup Adams; that's 'cause he holds his thinnose so high. Then there's Paper-collar Joe; that's 'cause he likes tobe genteel about the neck. We've all got nicknames. But in a voyage toAustraley we give ourselves the tarms our mothers knew us by.'
'What is your name?' said I.
'Abraham Vise,' said he.
'_I_ calls it Vise,' said he, looking a little disconcerted. 'It's wrotewith a _W_.'
'And your shipmates?'
'Him,' he answered, indicating his comrade by jerking his chin at him,'is Jacob Minnikin. Him that's forrards is Tommy Budd.' He paused, withhis eyes fixed upon Helga. 'Jacob,' said he, addressing his mate whilehe steadfastly regarded the girl, 'I've been a-thinking, if so be as thegentleman and lady aren't going to be put aboard a homeward-bounder in ahurry, how's she to sleep? Tell ye what it is,' said he slowly, lookingaround at Jacob; 'if to-night finds 'em aboard us we'll have to tarn outof the forepeak. There's a good enough bed for the likes of us men underthat there raft,' said he, pointing to the wide recess that was roofedby the overhanging of the deck of the forepeak. 'The lady looks as ifnothen short of a twenty-four hours' spell of sound sleep was going todo her good. But, of course, as I was saying,' and now he was addressingme, 'you and her may be aboard another craft, homeward bound, before thenight comes.'
'I thank you, on behalf of the lady, for your proposal, Abraham,' saidI. 'She wants rest, as you say; but privacy must naturally be acondition of her resting comfortably in your forepeak. Six hours wouldsuffice----'
'Oh! she can lie there all night,' said Jacob.
At this moment the third man made his appearance. He rose thrustingthrough a little square hatch, and, with true 'longshore instincts, tooka slow survey of the sea, with an occasional rub of his wrist along hiseyes, before coming aft. He glanced at Helga and me carelessly, asthough we had long become familiar features of the lugger to his mind,and, giving Abraham a nod, exclaimed, with another look round the sea,'A nice little air o' wind out this marning.'
This fellow was a middle-aged man, probably forty-five. His countenancewas of a somewhat sour cast, his eyebrows thick and of an iron-gray, andhis eyes, deep-seated under them, gazed forth between lids whose rimswere so red that they put a fancy into one of their being slowly eatenaway by fire, as a spark bites into tinder. The sulky curl of mouthexpressed the born marine grumbler. His headgear was of fur, likeJacob's; but I observed that he was dressed in a long coat, that hadmanifestly been cut for or worn by a parson. Under the flapping tails ofthis coat were exhibited a pair of very loose fearnaught trousers,terminating in a pair of large, gouty, square-toed shoes.
'What about breakfast?' said he. 'Ain't it toime to loight the fire?'
'Why, yes,' answered Abraham, 'and I dessay,' said he, looking at me,'ye won't be sorry to get a mouthful of wittles.'
The sour-faced man, named Tommy, went forward, and was presently busy inchopping up a piece of wood.
'There are some good rashers to be had out of those hams you took fromthe raft,' said I; 'you will find the canned meat pleasant eating too.While you are getting breakfast I'll explore your forepeak, with yourpermission.'
'Sartinly,' answered Abraham.
'Come along, Helga,' said I; and we went forward.
We dropped through the hatch, and found ourselves in a little gloomyinterior, much too shallow to stand erect in. There were four bunks, socontrived as to serve as seats and lockers as well as beds. There wereno mattresses, but in each bunk was a little pile of blankets.
'A noble sea-parlour, Helga!' said I, laughing.
'It is better than the raft,' she answered.
'Ay, indeed! but for all that not so good as to render us unwilling toleave this little lugger. You will never be able to sleep in one ofthese holes?'
'Oh yes,' she answered, with a note of cheerfulness in her voice; 'but Ihope there may be no occasion. I shall not want to sleep till the nightcomes, and before it comes we may be in another ship, journeyinghome--to your home, I mean,' she added, with a sigh.
'And not more mine than yours, so long as it will please you to make ityours. And now,' said I, 'that we may be as comfortable as possible,where are our friends' toilet conveniences? Their washbasin is, nodoubt, the ocean over the side, and I suspect a little lump of grease,used at long intervals, serves them for the soap they need. But there isplenty of refreshment to be had out of a salt-water rinsing of the face.Stay you here, and I will hand you down what is to be found.'
I regained the deck, and asked one of the men to draw me a bucket ofsalt-water. I then asked Abraham for a piece of sailcloth to serve as atowel.
'Sailcloth!' he cried. 'I'll give ye the real thing,' and, sliding opena locker in the stern sheets, he extracted a couple of towels.
'Want any soap?' said he.
'Soap!' cried I. 'Have you such a thing?'
'Why, what d'ye think we are?' called the sour-faced man Tommy, who waskneeling at the little stove and blowing into it to kindle some chips ofwood. 'How's a man to shave without soap?'
'Want a looking-glass?' said Abraham, handing me a lump of marine soapas he spoke.
'Thank you,' said I.
'And here's a comb,' said he, producing out of his trousers pocket aknife-shaped affair that he opened into a large brass comb. 'Anythingmore?'
'What more have you?' said I.
'Nothen, saving a razor,' said he.
This I did not require. I carried the bucket and the little bundle ofunexpected conveniences to the hatch, and called to Helga.
'Here am I, rich in spoils,' said I softly. 'These boatmen are completedandies. Here is soap, here are towels, here is a looking-glass, andhere is a comb,' and having handed her these things I made my way aftagain.
'We han't asked your name yet, sir,' said Abraham, who was at the tilleragain, while the other two were busy at the stove getting the breakfast.
'Hugh Tregarthen,' said I.
'Thank ye,' said he; 'and the lady?'
He nodded approvingly, as though pleased with the sound of the name.
'She's a nice little gal, upon my word!' said he; 'too good to belong toany other country nor Britain. Them Danes gets hold of the Englishtongue wonderful fast. Take a Swede or a Dutchman: it's _yaw yaw_ withthem to the end of their time. But I've met Danes as ye wouldn't knowfrom Deal men, so fust-class was their speech.' He slowly carried hischin to his shoulder, to take a view of the weather astern, and then,fastening his eyes with 'longshore leisureliness upon my face--and I nownoticed for the first time that he slightly squinted--he said, 'It's agood job that we fell in with 'ee, Mr. Tregarthen; for if so be as youtwo had kept all on washing about on that there raft till noonto-day--and I give ye till noon--ye'd be wanting no man's help norprayers afterwards. It's agoing to blow.'
'Yes,' said I, 'there's wind enough in that sky there; in fact it'sfreshening a bit already, isn't it?' For I now perceived the keenerfeathering and sharper play upon the waters, and the harder and broaderracing of the yeast that was pouring away from either quarter of thelugger. 'There's been a shift of the wind, too, I think,' I added,trying to catch a sight of the dusky interior of a little compass-boxthat stood on the seat close against Abraham.
'Yes, it's drawed norradly,' he answered. 'I ain't sorry, for it's likejustifying of me for not setting ye ashore. I _did_ think, when theyoung lady asked me to steer for England, that I wasn't acting the partof a humane man in refusing of her, and for keeping all on stretchingthe distance between you and your home. But I reckoned upon the winddrawing ahead for a homeward-bound course, and now it _has_; so that ifwe was to keep you a week and get ye aboard a steamer at the end of ityou'd stand to get home sooner than if we was to down hellum now andstart aratching for your coast.'
'We owe our lives to you,' said I cordially. 'Not likely that we couldwish to inconvenience you by causing your lugger to swerve by so much asa foot from her course.'