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The Wreck of the Nancy Bell - Cast Away on Kerguelen Land

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Project Gutenberg's The Wreck of the Nancy Bell, by J. C. Hutcheson This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Wreck of the Nancy Bell Cast Away on Kerguelen Land Author: J. C. Hutcheson Illustrator: W. S. Stacey Release Date: April 15, 2007 [EBook #21085] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WRECK OF THE NANCY BELL *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England J C Hutcheson "The Wreck of the Nancy Bell" Chapter One. Outwards Bound. “How’s her head?” exclaimed Captain Dinks, the moment his genial, rosy, weather-beaten face appeared looming above the top-rail of the companion way that led up to the poop from the saloon below, the bright mellow light of the morning sun reflecting from his deep-tanned visage as if from a mirror, and making it as radiant almost as the orb of day. “West-sou’-west, sorr,” came the answer, ere the questioner could set foot on the deck, in accents short, sharp, prompt, and decisive, albeit with a strong Milesian flavour, from the chief mate. He was the officer of the watch, and was standing alongside the man at the wheel on the weather-side of the ship, with a telescope under his arm and a keen look of attention in his merry, twinkling grey eyes. “Ha-hum!” muttered the captain to himself reflectively. “I wish the wind would shift over more to the nor’ard, and we’d then be able to shape a better course; we’re going far too much to the west to please me! I suppose,” he added in a louder tone, addressing the mate again, “she isn’t making any great way yet since daylight, McCarthy, eh?” “No, sorr, leastways, Captain Dinks,” replied that worthy, a genuine thorough-going Irishman, “from the crown of his head to the sole of his fut,” as he would have said himself, and with a shaggy head of hair and beard as red as that of the wildest Celt in Connemara, besides being blessed with a “brogue” as pronounced as his turned-up nose—on which one might have hung a tea-kettle on an emergency, in the hope that its surroundings would supply the requisite fire and fuel for boiling purposes. “No, sorr, no way at all at all, sure! Not more’n five knots, cap’en honey, by the same token, the last time we hove the log at six bells, bad cess to it!” “Everything drawing, too, slow and aloft!” said the captain, with just a shade of discontent in his cheery voice, as he took in with a quick, sailor-like glance the position of the ship and every detail of the swelling pyramids of canvas that towered up on each mast from deck to sky—the yards braced round sharp, almost fore and aft, the huge square sails flattened like boards, the tremulous fluttering of the flying jib, and occasional gybing of the spanker, showing how close up to the wind the vessel was being steered. “You couldn’t luff her a bit more, McCarthy, could you?” he added, after another glance at the compass and a murmured “steady!” to the steersman. “Not a ha’porth, sorr,” replied the mate sorrowfully, as if it went to his heart to make the announcement. “I had the watch up only jist a minit ago; an’ if you’ll belave me, Cap’en Dinks, we’ve braced up the yards to the last inch the sheets will run, bad cess to thim!” “Well, well, I suppose we’ll have to put up with it; though it’s rather disheartening to have this sou’-wester right in one’s teeth before we have cleared the Chops of the Channel, after all our good luck in having so fair a wind down with us from the Nore!” The captain still spoke somewhat disconsolately; but, his temperament was of too bright and elastic a nature to allow him long to look merely on the dark side of things. Soon, he saw something to be cheerful over, in spite of the adverse influence of Aeolus; and this was, as it appeared to him, the wonderful progress the ship was making, although sailing, closehauled as she was, with the wind right before the beam. “Now, isn’t she a beauty, though, McCarthy,” he said presently, with a sort of triumphant ring in his speech, after gazing for a few moments in silence over the taffrail astern at the long foaming wake the vessel was leaving behind her, spread out like a glittering silver fan across the illimitable expanse of greenish-tinged water. “Isn’t she a beauty to behave as she does under the circumstances! There are not many ships laden like her that would make five knots out of a foul wind, as she is now doing, eh?” “That there ain’t, sorr,” promptly returned the other with hearty emphasis, only too glad to have the opportunity of agreeing with his skipper. “An’ jist you wait, sorr, till we get into the nor’-east trades; an’ by the powers we’ll say the crathur walk away from us, like one of thim race-horses on the Skibbereen coorse whin you’re a standin’ still and a watchin’ thim right foreninst you.” “Aye, that we will, McCarthy,” chimed in Captain Dinks, now all good humour again, chuckling with anticipated pleasure and rubbing his hands together gleefully. “I wouldn’t wish for a better ship under me in fair wind or foul than the Nancy Bell . Bless her old timbers, she’s staunch and sound from truck to keelson, and the smartest clipper that ever sailed out of the London Docks—when she has anything like decent weather!” “That she is, sorr, plaze the pigs!” chorused the Irishman to this paean of praise, which might have run on to an interminable length if it had not been just then interrupted by the mate’s suddenly raising his gilt-banded cap in nautical salute to a new-comer, who now appeared on the scene. Captain Dinks, at once “cutting short” any further rhapsodical encomiums he may have contemplated anent the merits of the Nancy Bell , turned round. “Ah, good morning, Mr Meldrum,” said he in cordial tones, raising his cap politely like his chief officer. “You are early on deck: an old sailor, I presume!” “Good morning, Captain Dinks,” smilingly replied the gentleman addressed, one of the few saloon passengers who patronised the cuddy of the New Zealand clipper on her present voyage. He had only just that moment come up from below, tempted
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