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O'er Many Lands, on Many Seas

Gordon Stables

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  O'er Many Lands, on Many SeasBy Gordon StablesPublished by Cassell and Company Limited, London, Paris, New York.This edition dated 1884.

  O'er Many Lands, on Many Seas, by Gordon Stables.


  ________________________________________________________________________O'ER MANY LANDS, ON MANY SEAS, BY GORDON STABLES.


  "And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be Borne, like thy bubbles, onward; from a boy I wantoned with thy breakers--they to me Were a delight... For I was, as it were, a child of thee."


  Not a breath of wind from any direction. Not a cloud in the sky, not aripple on the ocean's blue. Only when a bird alighted on the water,quisling rings of silver formed all around it, and widened and widened,but soon were lost to view. Or when a fish leaped up, or the dorsal finof some monster shark appeared above the surface, the sea about ittrembled for a time, trembled and sparkled as if a shower of diamondshad suddenly fallen there.

  And a broad low swell came rolling in from the Indian Ocean, as if thebosom of the sea were moving in its sleep. But landwards, had youlooked, you might have seen it break in a long fringe of snowy foam on abeach of yellow sand; and, had you listened, the distant hum and boom ofthose breakers would have fallen on your ears in a kind of drowsylong-drawn monotone.

  The brave ship _Niobe_ [this word is pronounced as if spelt "Ni-o-bee"]slowly rose and slowly fell, and gently rocked and rolled on thisheaving tide, and sometimes her great sails flapped with the vessel'smotion, but, alas! not with the rising wind.

  No, not with the rising wind, but whenever they moved, the officer whopaced up and down the white-scoured quarter-deck, would glance above asif in hope; then he would gaze seawards, and anon shorewards, wistfully,wishfully, uneasily.

  Uneasy, indeed, was the feeling on the minds of all on board.

  The vessel was far too near the shore, the wind had been dead for hours,but it had died away suddenly, and the glass had gone tumbling down.That it would come on to blow again, and that before long, everyone fromthe captain to the dark-skinned Kroo-boy was well aware. But from whatdirection would the wind come? If from the east, strong though the_Niobe_ was, close to the wind though she could sail, well-officered andmanned though she was, there was more than a probability she would bedashed to pieces on that sandy beach.

  And small mercy could the survivors, if any, expect from the savageSomali Indians, and the still more cruel Arabs, who dwelt in thewretched little towns and villages on the coast. For the ship was herein the Indian Ocean for the avowed purpose of putting down slavery andpiracy, and by slavery and piracy those Arabs lived.

  It was in the days before steam-power was generally adopted by our navy,when sailors were sailors in reality, and not merely in name.

  The crew of the _Niobe_ numbered about seventy, all told fore--and--aft.She carried ten good guns, and an unlimited supply of small arms,cutlasses, and boarding pikes. The timbers of this brave craft were ofthe toughest teak, ay, and her men were hearts of oak. They fearednothing, they hated nothing, save uncertainty and inaction. All thatthey longed for was to be accomplishing the object of their cruise.

  Had you been on board the _Niobe_ when the wind was blowing half a gale,and the ship ripping through the waves with, maybe, green seas hittingher awful thuds at times, and the foam dashing high over the main orfore-tops, you would have found the men as merry and jolly as boys atcricket. Had you been on board when the battle raged, and the cannonroared, and balls crashed through her sides or rigging, when splintersflew and men dropped bleeding to the deck, you would have found noughtsave courage and daring in every eye, and calmness in every hand.

  But to-day, at the time our story opens, there was neither laughing,joking, nor singing to be heard. The men clustered quietly about bowsor fo'c'sle, or leaned lazily over the bulwarks watching the vesselroll--for at one moment she would heel over till the cool clear watercould be touched with the hand, and the next she would raise her head orside until a yard at least of her copper sheathing shone in the sunlightlike burnished gold.

  There was no sound to break the stillness save the far-off boom of thebreakers; so quiet was it that the sound of even a rope's-end thrown ondeck grated harshly on the ear, and a whisper could be heard from oneend of the ship to the other.

  "Bill," said one sailor to another, biting off the end of a chunk ofnigger-head tobacco, "I don't half like this state of affairs."

  "And I don't like it either, Jack," was the reply, "but I suppose wemust put up with it."

  "Do ye think it would be any good to whistle for the wind, Bill?"

  "Whistle for your grandmother," replied Bill, derisively.

  "Bill," persisted Jack, "they do tell me--older men, I mean, tell me--that whistling for the wind is sure to bring it."

  "Ay, lad, if you whistle long enough. Look here, Jack, don't be asuperstitious donkey. I've seen five hands at one time whistling forthe wind; but, Jack, they nearly whistled the whites o' their eyes out."

  "And the wind didn't come?"

  "Never a breath. Never a puff."

  "Hand in sail!" This was an order from the quarter-deck.

  "Ay, ay, sir." This was an answer from for'ard.

  "Thank goodness," cried Jack and Bill both. "Better something thannothing."

  There was plenty of bustle and stir and din now, for a time at least,and bawling of orders, and shrill shriek of boatswain's pipe. But whenall was done that could be done, silence once more settled down on theship--lethargy claimed her again as its own.

  "I think, sir," said the boatswain, touching his cap to the officer onwatch, "I think, and I likewise hope, the wind'll come off the land whenit does come, sir. Anyhow, if it doesn't commence to blow for the nextten hours we'll get away into the open sea."

  "You're an old sailor, Mr Roberts, and know this coast better than Ido, so I like to hear you say what you do. Well, sure enough, the sunwill be down in three hours, then we may get a bit of a land breeze.But the falling glass, Mr Roberts! I don't like the falling glass!"

  "No more do I, sir, and I've seen a tornado in these same waters, andthe glass not much lower than it is now."

  Leaving these two talking on the quarter-deck, let us take a look downbelow.

  Within a canvas screen, that formed a kind of a square tent on the maindeck, a cot was swung in which there lay, apparently asleep, the fragileform of a young woman. A woman, a mother, and still to all appearancebut little more than a girl.

  Presently the screen was gently lifted, and a young soldier, dressed inthe scarlet jacket of a sergeant of the line, glided in, dropped thescreen again, then silently seating himself on a camp stool beside thecot, he began to smooth the delicate little snow-white hand that lay onthe coverlet. Then her eyelids lifted, and a pair of orbs of sad sweetblue looked tenderly at the soldier by her side.

  She smiled.

  "Oh, Sandie!" she said, "I've had such a dear delightful dream. Ithought that our darling had grown up into such a beautiful child, andthat you, and he, and I, were back once more, wandering among the bonniehills, and over the gowany braes of bonnie Arrandale. I thought thatfather had forgiven us, Sandie, and kissed and blessed our boy, and waslaughing to see him stringing gowans into garlands, and hanging themaround the neck of our old and faithful Collie."

  "Cheer up, dear wife," said the young sergeant, kissing her pale brow."Oh! if you only knew how much good it does my heart to see you smilingonce again. Yes, dear, and I too have good hopes, brave hopes, that allwill yet
be well with us. I was but a poor corporal when you fell inlove with me, Mary; when, despite the wishes of your father, who wouldhave wedded you to the surly old laird of Trona, and to lifelong misery,I made you my wife. Your father knew I had come of gentle blood--thatDunryan belongs by rights to me--but he saw before him only the humblesoldier of fortune; and he cursed me and spurned me.

  "But see, dear, look at these stripes on my arm, behold the medal. Icarry already a sergeant's sword; that sword I hope to wave and wield onmany a field of battle, and with its aid alone, though friendless now, Imean to earn both fame and glory, ay, and with it win my spurs. Then,Mary, the day will come when your father will be glad to own me as ason.

  "But sleep now, dear; remember, the doctor says you are not to move.Sleep; nay, you must not even talk. See, I have brought