In the Misty Seas. A Story of the Sealers of Behring Strait - Harold Bindloss - ebook

In the Misty Seas. A Story of the Sealers of Behring Strait ebook

Harold Bindloss

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Opis

When your country is small and poor, people have two choices. Some decide to stay and raise it from poverty, while others go to seafaring. So most New Zealanders did. So said one of the inhabitants of this country: „Our country is a kind of difficult country, and most of our people go to sea from time to time when they cannot achieve more.” In the same way, our main characters went to seafaring, where there were many prizes on their way.

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Liczba stron: 403

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Contents

I. JIMMY'S DUCK

II. OUT OF DOCK

III. DOWN CHANNEL

IV. A LESSON IN SEAMANSHIP

V. UNDER TOPSAILS

VI. A FAIR WIND

VII. ADRIFT

VIII. THE 'CHAMPLAIN,' SEALER

IX. A TRIAL OF SPEED

X. HOVE TO

XI. AMONG THE HOLLISCHACKIE

XII. PICKING UP THE BOATS

XIII. ON THE BEACH

XIV. GOOD WORK

XV. IN PERIL

XVI. STICKINE MAKES A DEAL

XVII. THE PLEDGE REDEEMED

XVIII. TREACHERY

XIX. THE SEALERS' RECKONING

XX. HE NEXT MEETING

XXI. IN VANCOUVER

XXII. THE RESULT OF THE CHOICE

CHAPTER I

JIMMY’S DUCK

“The sea!” said Bluey, the Nova Scotian, sitting up on his pillow. “Oh, yes. It’s kind of pretty, but the only use I’ve got for it is for bathing in.”

There was laughter and a growl of disapproval from two beds in a corner of the dormitory, for nobody could go to sleep at nine o’clock, especially on the last night of the term, though retiring at that hour was compulsory at Sandycombe School. Pearson, the assistant master, had not, however, come round as yet to turn the lights out, and the gas-jet blinked fitfully in the big wire cage which apparently protected it from unlawful experiments. It did not, however, do so in reality, because Niven had discovered that the cage could be unscrewed, and it was not difficult to curtail the hour of preparation in the morning and evening by blowing strenuously down the pipe in turn. There were, of course, risks attached to this, but Niven had pointed out that anybody caught at the operation would suffer in a good cause, and it provided work for the Sandycombe plumber, who was voted a good fellow because he would smuggle in forbidden dainties for a consideration.

“The sea,” said Appleby, “is everything that’s fine. What do you know about it, Bluey?”

“Well,” said the Nova Scotian in his slowest drawl, “I do know quite a little. You see, ours is a kind of hard country, and most of our folks go in sea now and then when they can’t do better. Sometimes it’s fishing way out on the Grand Banks where you got lost in a fog in the dory boats and starve before the schooner finds you, and if you don’t it’s quite likely a liner steaming twenty knots runs bang over you. Or it’s carrying dried cod south in little schooners in winter time, with your long boots stuffed with straw to keep your feet from freezing, while you run for it under a trysail that’s stiff with ice, with a full-size blizzard screaming behind you. No, sir. Going to sea isn’t any kind of picnic, and that’s why I’m sorry for Niven. The fellows who wrote those books ‘bout cutting out pirates and catching slavers are dead, and it’s ‘bout time they were.”

“Bluey’s not going to stop to-night. Throw a pillow at him, somebody,” said Niven, and there was a thud as the Nova Scotian’s slipper, which was quicker than the pillow, alighted within an inch of the speaker’s head.

Niven, however, took it good-naturedly, and he would have resented a better shot less than the remarks which had preceded it. He was going to sea, and had been describing his apprentice’s uniform, and the life he fancied he was to lead on board a sailing ship, to an appreciative audience. His contentment had only one alloy, and that was the fact that Appleby, who had read Marryat and others with him under a gorse bush on sunny afternoons when he was presumed to be playing cricket, was not coming with him too. Nobody, however, was apparently willing to pay Appleby’s premium, and Niven pinned his last hope on the possibility of his comrade being able to ship on the same vessel as ordinary seaman. Appleby, whom Niven privately considered somewhat slow and over-cautious, did not appear very enthusiastic about the scheme.

“To your kennels!” said somebody, and there was a footfall on the stairway, while two cots rattled as a couple of scantily-attired forms alighted upon them with a flying leap. They had been lying prone upon the floor giving a realistic representation of Niven swimming ashore with the captain in his teeth, though the lad who played the part of skipper protested vigorously that there was no necessity for his being grievously bitten.

“That was fine,” said somebody. “When Pearson’s gone we’ll have it again. You could pour some water on to him first to make it more real.”

“Then,” said the skipper, “you’ll get somebody else in the place of me. It was a good deal nicer the last time I was nibbled by a ferret, and I’m not going home with hydrophobia to please any of you.”

After this there was silence whilst the footsteps grew nearer, and presently the assistant master came into the room.

“You are all here?” he said as he swept his glance from bed to bed.

Then he gave a little sigh of relief, for he had a good deal to do that night, and they were all there, and apparently very sleepy, while it was not his fault that he did not see that two of them wore their outdoor clothes under their night gear. Appleby and Niven had business on hand, and they had discovered that with the aid of contributions levied from their comrades it was possible to lay out a suit of clothing that sufficed to pass a hasty inspection on their chairs. Pearson, however, glanced round again, for he had been taught that there was need for greater watchfulness when his charges were unusually quiet, and then turned out the gas.

“Good-night, boys. If there is any breach of rules some of you will not go home to-morrow,” he said.

Two minutes later everybody was wide awake again, and a voice was raised in a corner.

“Let’s have a court-martial and try Bluey for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman,” it said. “You’ll be president, Appleby, and we’ll make Niven executioner.”

“Sorry,” said Niven, “but we can’t. You see, Appleby and I have got another assize on to-night. We’re going to put an habeas corpus on Tileworks Jimmy’s duck.”

“More fools you!” said Bluey. “I’m sorry, too, because I’ve a few fixings handy that would double the court-martial up. Anyway, you’ll only catch red-hot trouble instead of Jimmy’s duck.”

“What’s that about a duck?” asked a lad who had come up in the middle of the term, and a comrade proceeded to enlighten him.

“It is by this time ancient history, and it may have been a drake,” he said. “Anyway, this is Appleby’s story. He stays here in the holidays, you know, and he made a catapult thing during the last ones.”

“It wasn’t,” said Appleby. “It was a crossbow, and Pearson thought so much of it that he took it from me.”

“Well,” said the other, “Appleby went out shooting, and shot a wild duck, but it was a tame one, and Tileworks Jimmy’s. Now if he’d been wiser he’d have buried it, but he took it to Jimmy’s house. Jimmy wasn’t in, and Appleby forgot, but a few days later Jimmy came round to see the Head, and wanted ten shillings for his duck. Took an affidavit that it would have won prizes at a dog show anywhere. The Head, who should have kicked him out, gave him five shillings, and stopped it out of Appleby’s pocket-money, and Appleby went back to Jimmy’s to ask for his duck. Jimmy told him how nice it was, and that he’d eaten the thing to save it going bad. That, I think, is Q.E.D. Appleby.”

Appleby laughed softly. “You’re not very far out, but it wasn’t the duck but the principle of the thing that worried me,” he said. “The one I shot was a common one worth one-and-six, and I didn’t even get it, though when Jimmy took the money he sold it me. Now I don’t like to be cheated by anybody.”

There was a little laughter, for Appleby was known to be tenacious of his rights.

“It was better than a circus when he made the Aunt Sally man fork out the cocoa-nuts he won,” said somebody.

“Well,” said Appleby slowly, “it was right, and sixpence has to go a long way with me. I don’t get so many of them as the rest of you.”

He slipped out of bed as he spoke, and there was another rustle when Niven followed him, while a lad in the cot nearest them sat up.

“You haven’t told us how you’re going to get the duck,” he said.

“That,” said Niven, “is going to be almost too easy. I throw big stones on Jimmy’s roof, and when he comes out after me Appleby slips in and gets the duck. With a little brains a fellow can do anything.”

Next moment they were out in the dark corridor, and Niven held his breath as they slipped past the half-open door of a lighted room where the Head of the school was busy making out the bills. The treatment at Sandycombe was at least as firm as kind, and the Head was known to have an unpleasantly heavy hand. Nobody heard them, however, and in another minute or two they were crawling about the dark passage where Charley, the boy of all work, had laid out a long row of boots. Niven, it was characteristic, took the first pair that seemed to fit him, while Appleby went up and down the row on his hands and knees, until his comrade fancied he would never be ready. Then Niven shoved up a window.

“Get through while I hold it. There isn’t any sash-weight,” he said.

“Then who’s going to hold it for you?” said Appleby. “There’ll be no duck catching if it comes down with a bang.”

Niven growled disgustedly. “Your turn! I never thought of that,” he said.

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