Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

In the Eastern Seas

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  In the Eastern Seas, by W.H.G. Kingston,


  The book, quite a long one, is concerned with the adventures of a boy,Walter Heathfield, and of his sister Emily. They appear on the scene inchapter one, in rather a dramatic fashion, as they are rescued from asinking ship, along with their dying father, moments before the shipfinally vanishes. On reaching London their relations are traced, butnone appear at all interested in them, except for Uncle Tom, who has butlittle money, and who unfortunately dies before the chapter is done, ofa horse-riding accident.

  As a result the ship's captain and his family decide to look after them.

  The captain has a daughter, Grace, and a kindly wife. He asks them allto accompany him on the ship's next voyage, which is to the easternseas. There is a passenger, a Mr Nicholas Hooker, who is a naturalist,and who of course delivers himself of numerous speeches describing theanimals and plants they see during the trip.

  They have numerous adventures, including of course (as you would expectin a Kingston novel) the loss of the ship. Walter keeps a journal,though at times Emily has to write it for him. When they finally getback to Old England, the old relative, Lord Heatherly, who had refusedto help them, dies, and it turns out Walter is his heir. So thefortunes of Walter and Emily are very much changed.

  Quite a good read, or listen.





  "Well, Thudicumb, I hope by noon we may at last get a glimpse of thesun," said Captain Davenport to his first officer, as they walked thedeck of the _Bussorah Merchant_, homeward bound from the East Indies,and at that time rolling on over the long heaving seas of the Atlantic.The sky was overcast, but ever and anon a gleam of light burst forthamid the clouds, playing on the foaming crest of a wave. It was blowinghard, but had evidently been blowing much harder, of which fact thecondition of the Indiaman gave evidence. A portion of the starboardbulwarks were stove in, one of her quarter boats was shattered, andother slight damages were visible.

  "We must be ready for him, sir, at all events," said the first officer,looking at his watch. "It is not far off noon now."

  "Tell Oliver to bring me my sextant," said the captain, as the matedescended from the poop into his cabin.

  Mr Thudicumb soon returned, bringing his own instrument, and followedby a boy with the captain's. Continuing their walk, they lookedanxiously every now and then at the spot in the heavens where theyexpected the sun to appear. They were accompanied by one who seemed totake as much interest as they did in what was going forward. When theyturned, he turned; when they looked up at the sky, he looked up also;balancing himself when the ship rolled as they did, by leaning over tothe opposite direction to which she was heeling. He, however, could nothave afforded them any assistance in their observation, for though hiseye and the expression of his countenance exhibited much sagacity, hewas of the canine species--a large dog--a magnificent-looking fellow,who could, the crew declared, for he was a great favourite with them, doeverything but talk--and, they might have added, take a meridionalobservation, or a lunar.

  Mr Thudicumb again looked at his watch. "There he is, sir," heexclaimed at length.

  He and the captain stopped in their walk; their sextants were quickly attheir eyes; and there they stood, their feet planted firmly on theheaving deck, in an attitude long practice alone could have enabled themto maintain. A clear space was seen in the sky, increasing rapidly, andyet not altogether blue, but the vapour which drove across it was notsufficiently thick to prevent the sun's rays descending upon the sea.

  "She has dipped, sir," said the first officer.

  "She has," observed the captain.

  The sun's elevation was read off on the index, and the instruments werereturned to their cases. The calculation was very quickly worked out ona scrap of card.

  "Make it noon, Mr Thudicumb," said the captain, as, returning the caseto the young cabin-boy, he directed him to take it below. While thecaptain and his first officer were making their observation, a group ofmidshipmen had collected on the deck with their quadrants in theirhands, doing their best to shoot the sun, but their less experiencedeyes could make but little of it in that heavy sea; and when they cameto read off their observations, they were somewhat surprised at thewonderful difference which existed among them. Stopping to listen to afew remarks made to them by the captain, they hurried off the deck todeposit their quadrants in places of safety. The dog all the time stoodwith his feet firmly planted on the deck, watching the captain, as if hefully understood what was going on. Captain Davenport, as he turned,patted him on the head. "You are a wise dog, Merlin," he observed; "butyou cannot take an observation yet." Merlin wagged his tail as if hehad received a compliment, or, at all events, well pleased at the noticetaken of him.

  The captain was a tall man of spare figure, his white locks andweather-beaten countenance making him appear considerably older than hisfirm, yet light and active step, seemed to warrant. His eye, too, wasstill full of life and fire, and his voice clear and strong, evidence ofwhich had been given when he issued his orders in the late gale, andwhen, by his promptitude and decision, he had saved the ship, seeminglyon the point of destruction.

  Scarcely had eight bells been struck, when the voice of the boatswainfrom the forecastle was heard shouting, "A vessel on the lee bow, sir!A dismasted ship! It can be nothing else!"

  Captain Davenport went forward, followed by Merlin.

  "Where away is she, Mr Tarbox?" he asked of the boatswain.

  "There, sir, you will catch her over the bumkin-head," answered theboatswain. "I saw her again just as you stepped on the forecastle. Shecannot have gone down in the meantime!"

  "I hope not indeed," said the captain, looking out eagerly in thedirection towards which the boatswain pointed. At last he too caughtsight of a dark object lifted on the top of a sea. "A dismasted ship;no doubt about that," he observed. "We will keep away for her. Thereare probably people on board, and although it would be a difficultmatter to take them off while this sea is running, we may do so if itgoes down, as it has been gradually doing since daylight."

  The Indiaman stood on, now rising to the summit of a sea, now glidinginto the valley below, gradually approaching the dark object which hadbeen discovered. The boatswain had gone aloft, and quickly returned.

  "No doubt about it, Captain Davenport. She is a big ship--lost hermasts, no doubt, in the gale; and from the way she is rolling, I have anotion she has no small amount of water in her. If we had not sightedher, it is my opinion that those on board would be fathoms down in theocean, as she will be before another sun rises."

  "We will do what we can to save any people on board her," said CaptainDavenport. "Get the life-boat ready for lowering, Mr Tarbox."

  "Ay, ay, sir; I am ready to go in her," answered the boatswain.

  "Perhaps Mr Thudicumb may wish to go, or the second officer; but ifnot, Tarbox, I would intrust her to you more readily than to anybody."

  The news that a dismasted ship was in sight brought all the passengerswho were below on deck, and numerous glasses were now turned towardsher. No signs, however, of any one being on board were discovered. Shewas a complete wreck; the masts had gone by the board, the bulwarks werestove in, the caboose and booms and everything on deck had been sweptclear away. The Indiaman stood on, passing close to leeward of her.

  "She is deserted, sir; little doubt about that," said Mr Thudicumb,examining the ship. "The people thought she was going down, and to
ok totheir boats. Better have stuck to her in such a sea as they must havehad to encounter. Little chance of any boat living."

  "Haul the tacks aboard then, Mr Thudicumb; down with the helm," saidthe captain. "Unless for the sake of rescuing any fellow-creatures, Iwould not risk a boat to board her, while the sea runs as high as it nowdoes."

  As he was speaking, Merlin had been eagerly watching the wreck; and now,stretching out his fore-feet and neck towards her, he uttered a loudmournful howl or wail, which sounded strangely wild and sad to all whoheard it.

  "What is the matter, Merlin?" asked the captain, bending down andpatting the dog's head.

  "That dog has got more sense than many human beings," observed theboatswain. "Now, I should not be surprised but what he knows there issomebody on board that craft--dead or dying, may be--just as well as ifhe saw them. If I was our skipper, I would not leave that wreck withoutan overhauling."

  Just then a human head was seen issuing from the companion-hatch. Itwas that of a young boy. He sprang on deck and waved a handkerchiefwildly, apparently shouting with all his power, though his voice couldnot be heard amidst the roaring of the sea and the lashing of the ropesas the ship was luffed up close to the wind. Captain Davenport seizedhis speaking-trumpet and shouted, "We will keep by you! Do not fear!"Just then another head was seen. "A young girl!" cried several of thoselooking on. A mere child she seemed at that distance, her light hairblowing about in the wind.

  "Bless them!" said old Tarbox; "I would go to help them if there wastwice the sea there is on."

  Preparations were now made for heaving the ship to, but the captain wasanxious to wait, in the hopes of the sea going down still more beforenight, when there might be less risk in bringing the people from off thewreck. A great risk under similar circumstances is run when those onboard a ship on fire or likely to sink leap hurriedly in too greatnumbers into the boat alongside. In many such instances the boat hasbeen swamped, and the lives of all in her sacrificed. Here, such adanger was not likely to occur, as no crew apparently remained on board.The question, however, was, whether the wreck would float till the seahad sufficiently gone down to enable a boat to board her without risk.As the ship gradually receded from the wreck, the young boy was seen tolift up his hands imploringly, as if to beg for assistance. At lengththe boatswain came aft and addressed the captain.

  "If you will let me have the life-boat, sir, there are six hands readyto go in her; and I will undertake to board that craft, and bring offany people we may find alive. To my mind, from the way she rolls, shehas not got many hours longer to swim; and if she was to go down, thoseyoung people we saw would have to go down in her, and that's what myeyes would not like to watch."

  "No indeed, Tarbox," said the captain. "Mr Thudicumb, what do yousay?"

  "I was going to volunteer, sir," said the first officer; "but though Iyield to no other man on board in the management of a boat, Iacknowledge that Tarbox can handle one in a sea better than any man Ihave ever met with; and on that account, and not because I am afraid ofrisking my life, I yield to him."

  "Thank you, Mr Thudicumb," said the boatswain. "I should have said thesame thing of you, sir; but you have a wife and children at home, and itmatters little what becomes of old Dick Tarbox."

  Once more the ship was brought up as close as she could be to the wreck,and again being hove to, the life-boat, with the six hands selected bythe boatswain, was carefully lowered. And now everybody on boardwatched her with anxious eyes, as she pulled towards the wreck. Theyoung lad saw her coming, and was observed to be bending down as if toannounce the event to some one below. Again the little girl's headappeared above the deck, but the lad would not allow her to come upfurther, evidently being afraid of her being jerked overboard--an eventbut too likely to occur, from the way the ship was rolling. On pulledthe boat, now sinking down deep into the trough of the sea, which curledinto mountain billows, and seemed about to overwhelm her; now she roseup high on the crest of a wave. Many of those who gazed at her heldtheir breath, scarcely believing that she could possibly live amid thetumult of waters. Slowly she proceeded, guided by the well-practisedhand of the old boatswain. She was close to the wreck. Now she seemedto sink far down below the deck, now to rise up, as if the next instantshe would be thrown upon it. Could any human being ever manage to gainthe wreck from that tossing boat? Yes, yes! a man stands up in theboat. He makes a spring! He has gained the deck, hauling himself up bya rope which he has clutched. He waves off the boat till he is ready toreturn to her.

  Dick Tarbox was the man. He was seen to leap down the hatchway. Forsome time he did not appear. What could have become of him? "There heis! there he is!" shouted several voices. He came, bearing a young girlin his arms. The boat again drew near the dismasted ship. Those wholooked on held their breath, for how could he manage to convey hisburden to the tossing boat? He stood for a minute or more waiting, butnot irresolute. His eye was watching the boat. He was calculating therolling of the ship. He made a signal to one of the men to be ready toreceive the girl. Then, quick as lightning, he leaped across the deck,and dropped her--so it seemed--into the man's arms. The boat again keptaway from the ship, and the boatswain disappeared once more down thehatchway.

  "He will bring the boy this time!" But no; he came up carrying a farheavier burden--a man wrapped in a cloak, and apparently unable to helphimself. Dick shouted to one of the crew to go aboard and help him.Together they got the sick man into the boat. The little girl claspedher hands in her anxiety as she saw him lowered down. Sorrowfully shestooped over him, supporting his head in her arms; forgetting,apparently, where she was, and the fearful danger to which she was stillexposed. The boy had followed the boatswain, apparently with theintention of leaping into the boat by himself. Dick was seen to holdhim back: then he lifted him in his arms, and, waiting for the rightmoment, sprang into the boat.

  No one on board had watched these proceedings with more apparenteagerness than Merlin; and as the boat came alongside the ship, he ranto the gangway to receive those whom she brought. The little girl wasfirst lifted up the side, and received by the captain, Merlin instantlycoming up to lick her hands and attract her attention. She had nothought, however, for any one round her, but endeavoured to look downinto the boat to watch her companions. The sick man was next hoistedup; the boy, till he was safe, refusing to leave the boat. He then,aided by Dick Tarbox, hauled himself up on deck.

  "We will carry him aft, and take him at once to my cabin," said thecaptain. "He looks very ill."

  This was done; the young people keeping by the sick man's side,anxiously gazing on his countenance, apparently scarcely aware wherethey were, and paying no attention to any one else.

  "Is he your father, young gentleman?" asked the captain, as the sick manwas placed on the bed.

  "Oh yes, yes!" answered the boy. "But can you do nothing for him? Heis, I am afraid, very, very ill."

  At that moment the surgeon, who had been attending on a patient below,came up, and entering the cabin, looked at the sick man's countenanceand felt his pulse. The look he gave the captain was observed by thelittle girl: she seemed to understand it.

  "Oh do, sir, tell me what is the matter with him! Will he die?" sheasked, bursting into tears.

  "There is no time to be lost," observed the surgeon, hurrying away tohis own cabin without answering the question.

  "Our lives are in God's hands, young lady," said the captain, in a kindtone. "The doctor will do all he can for your papa; be assured ofthat."

  The surgeon instantly returned with a restorative; after taking whichthe sick man recovered slightly, and was able to utter a few words in afaint voice. He recognised his children, and beckoned them to approach.

  "I am leaving you, I fear," he whispered; "for I feel as I have neverfelt before. Walter, take care of Emily; never leave her. Think ofyour dear mother and me sometimes." Then he turned his glance towardsthe captain. "These, sir, will be orphans before many
hours havepassed," he said, in a faltering voice. "You, perhaps, are a father,and can feel for me. As a fellow-creature, you can do so. You havebeen the means of preserving the lives of those children; watch overthem, and do what you can for them. They will tell you aboutthemselves. I cannot speak more."

  While he was uttering these words, he seemed about to relapse into astate of insensibility. His eye was growing dim. He stretched out hishands, however, and took those of his children; and thus, almost withoututtering another word, his spirit passed away.

  "We will leave your father now," said the surgeon; and made a sign tothe captain, who led the boy and girl out of the cabin.

  The boy seemed to understand what had happened; but there was ananxious, scared, and inquiring expression on the countenance of thelittle girl, which showed that even now she was not certain that herfather had been taken from her.

  Captain Davenport was a father, and a kind, affectionate one, and knewhow to sympathise with the bereaved children. He had been in the cabinbut a few minutes when a midshipman entered.

  "She is sinking, sir!" he exclaimed.

  Captain Davenport hurried on deck. The boy had caught the words, andfollowed him. Just then Merlin uttered a low, mournful howl. They werejust in time to see the after-part of the dismasted ship, as, plunginghead first, she went down beneath the foaming billows.

  "We were but just in time to save you, my lad," said the captain,turning to the boy, whose hand Merlin was licking, as if to congratulatehim on his escape.

  "Indeed you were, sir," answered the boy; "and we are very, verygrateful to you, and to that brave sailor who carried my father andEmily out of the ship, and helped me into the boat. I want to thank himmore particularly, and so would my father; but oh, sir, do you think hewill soon recover out of that fearful swoon? Or do, do tell me, for Idid not like to ask you before my sister, is he--is he really--dead?"

  The boy's voice dropped as he spoke.

  "I fear, Walter, that he is dead," answered the captain. "But we willdo our best to comfort your little sister; and so, I am sure, will you.You have reason to be thankful that he was permitted thus to die quietlyin bed, and to know that your lives were spared."

  "Oh yes, yes! I know," answered the boy, hiding his face in his hands.

  It was some hours before Emily could understand that her father couldnever again speak to her or caress her. Her brother's anxiety toconsole her probably prevented him from so poignantly feeling his ownloss.

  The captain and all on board treated the young orphans with the greatestkindness and consideration. The following day their father's body wascommitted to its ocean grave; and Walter and Emily felt that for thefuture they must be all in all to each other.

  "Yes," thought Walter, as he gazed at his sister's fair and gentlecountenance, "I will watch over her--and die for her, if needs be--toprotect her from harm."