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The Adventures of Captain Horn

Frank Richard Stockton

  Produced by Suzanne Shell, Mary Meehan and the Online DistributedProofreading Team.






  I An Introductory Disaster

  II A New Face in Camp

  III A Change of Lodgings

  IV Another New Face

  V The Rackbirds

  VI Three Weld Beasts

  VII Gone!

  VIII The Alarm

  IX An Amazing Narration

  X The Captain Explores

  XI A New Hemisphere

  XII A Tradition and a Waistcoat

  XIII "Mine!"

  XIV A Pile of Fuel

  XV The Cliff-Maka Scheme

  XVI On a Business Basis

  XVII "A Fine Thing, No Matter What Happens"

  XVIII Mrs. Cliff is Amazed

  XIX Left Behind

  XX At the Rackbirds' Cove

  XXI In the Caves

  XXII A Pack-Mule

  XXIII His Present Share

  XXVI His Fortune under his Feet




  Early in the spring of the year 1884 the three-masted schooner _Castor_,from San Francisco to Valparaiso, was struck by a tornado off the coastof Peru. The storm, which rose with frightful suddenness, was of shortduration, but it left the _Castor_ a helpless wreck. Her masts hadsnapped off and gone overboard, her rudder-post had been shattered byfalling wreckage, and she was rolling in the trough of the sea, with herfloating masts and spars thumping and bumping her sides.

  The _Castor_ was an American merchant-vessel, commanded by Captain PhilipHorn, an experienced navigator of about thirty-five years of age. Besidesa valuable cargo, she carried three passengers--two ladies and a boy. Oneof these, Mrs. William Cliff, a lady past middle age, was going toValparaiso to settle some business affairs of her late husband, a NewEngland merchant. The other lady was Miss Edna Markham, a school-teacherwho had just passed her twenty-fifth year, although she looked older.She was on her way to Valparaiso to take an important position in anAmerican seminary. Ralph, a boy of fifteen, was her brother, and she wastaking him with her simply because she did not want to leave him alone inSan Francisco. These two had no near relations, and the education of thebrother depended upon the exertions of the sister. Valparaiso was not theplace she would have selected for a boy's education, but there they couldbe together, and, under the circumstances, that was a point of primeimportance.

  But when the storm had passed, and the sky was clear, and the mad waveshad subsided into a rolling swell, there seemed no reason to believe thatany one on board the _Castor_ would ever reach Valparaiso. The vessel hadbeen badly strained by the wrenching of the masts, her sides had beenbattered by the floating wreckage, and she was taking in water rapidly.Fortunately, no one had been injured by the storm, and although thecaptain found it would be a useless waste of time and labor to attempt towork the pumps, he was convinced, after a careful examination, that theship would float some hours, and that there would, therefore, be time forthose on board to make an effort to save not only their lives, but someof their property.

  All the boats had been blown from their davits, but one of them wasfloating, apparently uninjured, a short distance to leeward, one of theheavy blocks by which it had been suspended having caught in the cordageof the topmast, so that it was securely moored. Another boat, a smallone, was seen, bottom upward, about an eighth of a mile to leeward. Twoseamen, each pushing an oar before him, swam out to the nearest boat,and having got on board of her, and freed her from her entanglements,they rowed out to the capsized boat, and towed it to the schooner. Whenthis boat had been righted and bailed out, it was found to be in goodcondition.

  The sea had become almost quiet, and there was time enough to doeverything orderly and properly, and in less than three hours after thevessel had been struck, the two boats, containing all the crew and thepassengers, besides a goodly quantity of provisions and water, and suchvaluables, clothing, rugs, and wraps as room could be found for, werepulling away from the wreck.

  The captain, who, with his passengers, was in the larger boat, was awarethat he was off the coast of Peru, but that was all he certainly knew ofhis position. The storm had struck the ship in the morning, before he hadtaken his daily observation, and his room, which was on deck, had beencarried away, as well as every nautical instrument on board. He did notbelieve that the storm had taken him far out of his course, but of thishe could not be sure. All that he knew with certainty was that to theeastward lay the land, and eastward, therefore, they pulled, a littlecompass attached to the captain's watch-guard being their only guide.

  For the rest of that day and that night, and the next day and the nextnight, the two boats moved eastward, the people on board suffering butlittle inconvenience, except from the labor of continuous rowing, atwhich everybody, excepting the two ladies, took part, even RalphMarkham being willing to show how much of a man he could be with anoar in his hand.

  The weather was fine, and the sea was almost smooth, and as the captainhad rigged up in his boat a tent-like covering of canvas for the ladies,they were, as they repeatedly declared, far more comfortable than theyhad any right to expect. They were both women of resource and courage.Mrs. Cliff, tall, thin in face, with her gray hair brushed plainly overher temples, was a woman of strong frame, who would have been perfectlywilling to take an oar, had it been necessary. To Miss Markham this boattrip would have been a positive pleasure, had it not been for theunfortunate circumstances which made it necessary.

  On the morning of the third day land was sighted, but it was afternoonbefore they reached it. Here they found themselves on a portion of thecoast where the foot-hills of the great mountains stretch themselvesalmost down to the edge of the ocean. To all appearances, the shore wasbarren and uninhabited.

  The two boats rowed along the coast a mile or two to the southward, butcould find no good landing-place, but reaching a spot less encumberedwith rocks than any other portion of the coast they had seen, CaptainHorn determined to try to beach his boat there. The landing wasaccomplished in safety, although with some difficulty, and that night waspassed in a little encampment in the shelter of some rocks scarcely ahundred yards from the sea.

  The next morning Captain Horn took counsel with his mates, and consideredthe situation. They were on an uninhabited portion of the coast, and itwas not believed that there was any town or settlement near enough to bereached by waiting over such wild country, especially with ladies in theparty. It was, therefore, determined to seek succor by means of the sea.They might be near one of the towns or villages along the coast of Peru,and, in any case, a boat manned by the best oarsmen of the party, andloaded as lightly as possible, might hope, in the course of a day or two,to reach some port from which a vessel might be sent out to take off theremainder of the party.

  But first Captain Horn ordered a thorough investigation to be made of thesurrounding country, and in an hour or two a place was found which hebelieved would answer very well for a camping-ground until assistanceshould arrive. This was on a little plateau about a quarter of a mileback from the ocean, and surrounded on three sides by precipices, and onthe side toward the sea the ground sloped gradually downward. To thiscamping-ground all of the provisions and goods were carried, exceptingwhat would be needed by the boating party.

  When this work had been accomplished, Captain Horn appo
inted his firstmate to command the expedition, deciding to remain himself in the camp.When volunteers were called for, it astonished the captain to see howmany of the sailors desired to go.

  The larger boat pulled six oars, and seven men, besides the mate Rynders,were selected to go in her. As soon as she could be made ready she waslaunched and started southward on her voyage of discovery, the matehaving first taken such good observation of the landmarks that he feltsure he would have no difficulty in finding the spot where he left hiscompanions. The people in the little camp on the bluff now consisted ofCaptain Horn, the two ladies, the boy Ralph, three sailors,--one anEnglishman, and the other two Americans from Cape Cod,--and a jet-blacknative African, known as Maka.

  Captain Horn had not cared to keep many men with him in the camp, becausethere they would have little to do, and all the strong arms that could bespared would be needed in the boat. The three sailors he had retainedwere men of intelligence, on whom he believed he could rely in case ofemergency, and Maka was kept because he was a cook. He had been one ofthe cargo of a slave-ship which had been captured by a British cruiserseveral years before, when on its way to Cuba, and the unfortunatenegroes had been landed in British Guiana. It was impossible to returnthem to Africa, because none of them could speak English, or in any waygive an idea as to what tribes they belonged, and if they should belanded anywhere in Africa except among their friends, they would beimmediately reenslaved. For some years they lived in Guiana, in a littlecolony by themselves, and then, a few of them having learned someEnglish, they made their way to Panama, where they obtained employment aslaborers on the great canal. Maka, who was possessed of betterintelligence than most of his fellows, improved a good deal in hisEnglish, and learned to cook very well, and having wandered to SanFrancisco, had been employed for two or three voyages by Captain Horn.Maka was a faithful and willing servant, and if he had been able toexpress himself more intelligibly, his merits might have been betterappreciated.