At the sound of Dick’s voice all the crew, in a moment, were
upon the alert. The men who were not on watch rushed to the deck,
and Captain Hull hurried from his cabin to the bows. Mrs. Weldon,
Nan, and even Cousin Benedict leaned over the starboard taffrails,
eager to get a glimpse of what had thus suddenly attracted the
attention of the young apprentice. With his usual indifference,
Negoro did not leave his cabin, and was the only person on board
who did not share the general excitement.
Speculations were soon rife as to what could be the nature of
the floating object which could be discerned about three miles
ahead. Suggestions of various character were freely made. One of
the sailors declared that it looked to him only like an abandoned
raft, but Mrs. Weldon observed quickly that if it were a raft it
might be carrying some unfortunate shipwrecked men who must be
rescued if possible. Cousin Benedict asserted that it was nothing
more nor less than a huge sea-monster; but the captain soon arrived
at the conviction that it was the hull of a vessel that had heeled
over on to its side, an opinion with which Dick thoroughly
coincided, and went so far as to say that he believed he could make
out the copper keel glittering in the sun.
“Luff, Bolton, luff!” shouted Captain Hull to the helmsman; “we
will at any rate lose no time in getting alongside.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” answered the helmsman, and the “Pilgrim” in an
instant was steered according to orders.
In spite, however, of the convictions of the captain and Dick,
Cousin Benedict would not be moved from his opinion that the object
of their curiosity was some huge cetacean.
“It is certainly dead, then,” remarked Mrs. Weldon; “it is
“Oh, that’s because it is asleep,” said Benedict, who, although
he would have willingly given up all the whales in the ocean for
one rare specimen of an insect, yet could not surrender his own
“Easy, Bolton, easy!” shouted the captain when they were getting
nearer the floating mass; “don’t let us be running foul of the
thing; no good could come from knocking a hole in our side; keep
out from it a good cable’s length.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” replied the helmsman, in his usual cheery way;
and by an easy turn of the helm the “Pilgrim’s” course was slightly
modified so as to avoid all fear of collision.
The excitement of the sailors by this time had become more
intense. Ever since the distance had been less than a mile all
doubt had vanished, and it was certain that what was attracting
their attention was the hull of a capsized ship. They knew well
enough the established rule that a third of all salvage is the
right of the finders, and they were filled with the hope that the
hull they were nearing might contain an undamaged cargo, and be “a
good haul,” to compensate them for their ill-success in the last
A quarter of an hour later and the “Pilgrim” was within half a
mile of the deserted vessel, facing her starboard side.
Water-logged to her bulwarks, she had heeled over so completely
that it would have been next to impossible to stand upon her deck.
Of her masts nothing was to be seen; a few ends of cordage were all
that remained of her shrouds, and the try-sail chains were hanging
all broken. On the starboard flank was an enormous hole.
“Something or other has run foul of her,” said Dick.
“No doubt of that,” replied the captain; “the only wonder is
that she did not sink immediately.”
“Oh, how I hope the poor crew have been saved!” exclaimed Mrs
“Most probably,” replied the captain, “they would all have taken
to the boats. It is as likely as not that the ship which did the
mischief would continue its course quite unconcerned”
“Surely, you cannot mean,” cried Mrs Weldon, “that any one could
be capable of such inhumanity?”
“Only too probable,” answered Captain Hull, “unfortunately, such
instances are very far from rare”
He scanned the drifting ship carefully and continued,—
“No, I cannot see any sign of boats here, I should guess that
the crew have made an attempt to get to land, at such a distance as
this, however, from America or from the islands of the Pacific I
should be afraid that it must be hopeless.”
“Is it not possible,” asked Mrs Weldon, “that some poor creature
may still survive on board, who can tell what has happened?”
“Hardly likely, madam; otherwise there would have been some sort
of a signal in sight. But it is a matter about which we will make
The captain waved his hand a little in the direction in which he
wished to go, and said quietly,—
“Luff, Bolton, luff a bit!”
The “Pilgrim” by this time was not much more than three cables’
lengths from the ship, there was still no token of her being
otherwise than utterly deserted, when Dick Sands suddenly
“Hark! if I am not much mistaken, that is a dog barking!”
Every one listened attentively; it was no fancy on Dick’s part,
sure enough a stifled barking could be heard, as if some
unfortunate dog had been imprisoned beneath the hatchways; but as
the deck was not yet visible, it was impossible at present to
determine the precise truth.
Mrs Weldon pleaded,—
“If it is only a dog, captain, let it be saved.”
“Oh, yes, yes, mamma, the dog must be saved!” cried
[Illustration: Negoro had approached without being noticed by
little Jack; “I will go and get a bit of sugar ready for
“A bit of sugar, my child, will not be much for a starved
“Then it shall have my soup, and I will do without,” said the
boy, and he kept shouting, “Good dog! good dog!” until he persuaded
himself that he heard the animal responding to his call.
The vessels were now scarcely three hundred feet apart; the
barking was more and more distinct, and presently a great dog was
seen clinging to the starboard netting. It barked more desperately
“Howick,” said Captain Hull, calling to the boatswain, “heave
to, and lower the small boat.”
The sails were soon trimmed so as to bring the schooner to a
standstill within half a cable’s length of the disabled craft, the
boat was lowered, and the captain and Dick, with a couple of
sailors, went on board. The dog kept up a continual yelping; it
made the most vigourous efforts to retain its hold upon the
netting, but perpetually slipped backwards and fell off again upon
the inclining deck. It was soon manifest, however, that all the
noise the creature was making was not directed exclusively towards
those who were coming to its rescue, and Mrs. Weldon could not
divest herself of the impression that there must be some survivors
still on board. All at once the animal changed its gestures.
Instead of the crouching attitude and supplicating whine with which
it seemed to be imploring the compassion of those who were nearing
it, it suddenly appeared to become bursting with violence and
furious with rage.
“What ails the brute?” exclaimed Captain Hull.
But already the boat was on the farther side of the wrecked
ship, and the captain was not in a position to see that Negoro the
cook had just come on to the schooner’s deck, or that it was
obvious that it was against him that the dog had broken out in such
obstreperous fury. Negoro had approached without being noticed by
any one; he made his way to the forecastle, whence, without a word
or look of surprise, he gazed a moment at the dog, knitted his
brow, and, silent and unobserved as he had come, retired to his
As the boat had rounded the stern of the drifting hull, it had
been observed that the one word “Waldeck” was painted on the
aft-board, but that there was no intimation of the port to which
the ship belonged. To Captain Hull’s experienced eye, however,
certain details of construction gave a decided confirmation to the
probability suggested by her name that she was of American
Of what had once been a fine brig of 500 tons burden this
hopeless wreck was now all that remained. The large hole near the
bows indicated the place where the disastrous shock had occurred,
but as, in the heeling over, this aperture had been carried some
five or six feet above the water, the vessel had escaped the
immediate foundering which must otherwise have ensued; but still it
wanted only the rising of a heavy swell to submerge the ship at any
time in a few minutes.
It did not take many more strokes to bring the boat close to the
larboard bulwark, which was half out of the water, and Captain Hull
obtained a view of the whole length of the deck. It was clear from
end to end. Both masts had been snapped off within two feet of
their sockets, and had been swept away with shrouds, stays, and
rigging. Not a single spar was to be seen floating anywhere within
sight of the wreck, a circumstance from which it was to be inferred
that several days at least had elapsed since the catastrophe.
Meantime the dog, sliding down from the taffrail, got to the
centre hatchway, which was open. Here it continued to bark,
alternately directing its eyes above deck and below.
“Look at that dog!” said Dick; “I begin to think there must be
somebody on board.”
“If so,” answered the captain, “he must have died of hunger; the
water of course has flooded the store-room.”
“No,” said Dick; “that dog wouldn’t look like that if there were
nobody there alive.”
[Illustration: The dog began to swim slowly and with manifest
weakness towards the boat.]
Taking the boat as close as was prudent to the wreck, the
captain and Dick called and whistled repeatedly to the dog, which
after a while let itself slip into the sea, and began to swim
slowly and with manifest weakness towards the boat. As soon as it
was lifted in, the animal, instead of devouring the piece of bread
that was offered him, made its way to a bucket containing a few
drops of fresh water, and began eagerly to lap them up.
“The poor wretch is dying of thirst!” said Dick.
It soon appeared that the dog was very far from being engrossed
with its own interests. The boat was being pushed back a few yards
in order to allow the captain to ascertain the most convenient
place to get alongside the “Waldeck,” when the creature seized Dick
by the jacket, and set up a howl that was almost human in its
piteousness. It was evidently in a state of alarm that the boat was
not going to return to the wreck. The dog’s meaning could not be
misunderstood. The boat was accordingly brought against the
larboard side of the vessel, and while the two sailors lashed her
securely to the “Waldeck’s” cat-head, Captain Hull and Dick, with
the dog persistently accompanying them, clambered, after some
difficulty, to the open hatchway between the stumps of the masts,
and made their way into the hold. It was half full of water, but
perfectly destitute of cargo, its sole contents being the ballast
sand which had slipped to larboard, and now served to keep the
vessel on her side.
One glance was sufficient to convince the captain that there was
no salvage to be effected.
“There is nothing here; nobody here,” he said.
“So I see,” said the apprentice, who had made his way to the
extreme fore-part of the hold.
“Then we have only to go up again,” remarked the captain.
They ascended the ladder, but no sooner did they reappear upon
the deck than the dog, barking irrepressibly, began trying
manifestly to drag them towards the stern.
Yielding to what might be called the importunities of the dog,
they followed him to the poop, and there, by the dim glimmer
admitted by the sky-light, Captain Hull made out the forms of five
bodies, motionless and apparently lifeless, stretched upon the
One after another, Dick hastily examined them all, and
emphatically declared it to be his opinion, that not one or them
had actually ceased to breathe; whereupon the captain did not lose
a minute in summoning the two sailors to his aid, and although it
was far from an easy task, he succeeded in getting the five
unconscious men, who were all negroes, conveyed safely to the
The dog followed, apparently satisfied.
With all possible speed the boat made its way back again to the
“Pilgrim,” a girt-line was lowered from the mainyard, and the
unfortunate men were raised to the deck.
“Poor things!” said Mrs. Weldon, as she looked compassionately
on the motionless forms.
“But they are not dead,” cried Dick eagerly; “they are not dead;
we shall save them all yet!”
“What’s the matter with them?” asked Cousin Benedict, looking at
them with utter bewilderment.
“We shall hear all about them soon, I dare say,” said the
captain, smiling; “but first we will give them a few drops of rum
in some water.”
Cousin Benedict smiled in return.
“Negoro!” shouted the captain.
At the sound of the name, the dog, who had hitherto been quite
passive, growled fiercely, showed his teeth, and exhibited every
sign of rage.
The cook did not answer.
“Negoro!” again the captain shouted, and the dog became yet more
At this second summons Negoro slowly left his kitchen, but no
sooner had he shown his face upon the deck than the animal made a
rush at him, and would unquestionably have seized him by the throat
if the man had not knocked him back with a poker which he had
brought with him in his hand.
The infuriated beast was secured by the sailors, and prevented
from inflicting any serious injury.
“Do you know this dog?” asked the captain.
“Know him? Not I! I have never set eyes on the brute in my
“Strange!” muttered Dick to himself; “there is some mystery
here. We shall see.”