The Castaways
121 Pages
English
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The Castaways

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121 Pages
English

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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Castaways, by Harry Collingwood 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 Castaways Author: Harry Collingwood Illustrator: T.C. Dugdale Release Date: November 15, 2007 [EBook #23491] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CASTAWAYS *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England Harry Collingwood "The Castaways" Chapter One. Miss Onslow. It was on a wet, dreary, dismal afternoon, toward the end of October 18—, that I found myself en route for Gravesend, to join the clipper ship City of Cawnpore , in the capacity of cuddy passenger, bound for Calcutta. The wind was blowing strong from the south-east, and came sweeping along, charged with frequent heavy rain squalls that dashed fiercely against the carriage windows, while the atmosphere was a mere dingy, brownish grey expanse of shapeless vapour, so allpervading that it shut out not only the entire firmament but also a very considerable portion of the landscape. There had been a time, not so very long ago—while I was hunting slavers on the West Coast, grilling under a scorching African sun day after day and month after month, with pitiless monotony—when the mere recollection of such weather as this had made me long for a taste of it as a priceless luxury; but now, after some five months’ experience of the execrable British climate, I folded my cloak more closely about me, as I gazed through the carriage windows at the rain-blurred landscape, and blessed the physician who was sending me southward in search of warmth and sunshine and the strong salt breeze once more. For it was in pursuit of renewed health and strength that I was about to undertake the voyage; a spell of over two years of hard, uninterrupted service upon the Coast—during which a more than average allowance of wounds and fever had fallen to my share—had compelled me to invalid home; and now, with my wounds healed, the fever banished from my system, and in possession of a snug little, recently-acquired competence that rendered it unnecessary for me to follow the sea as a profession, I—Charles Conyers, R.N., aged twenty-seven—was, by the fiat of my medical adviser, about to seek, on the broad ocean, that life-giving tonic which is unobtainable elsewhere, and which was all that I now needed to entirely reinvigorate my constitution and complete my restoration to perfect health. Upon my arrival at Gravesend I was glad to find that the rain had ceased, for the moment, although the sky still looked full of it. I therefore lost no time in making my way down to the river, where I forthwith engaged a waterman to convey me, and the few light articles I had brought with me, off to the ship. The City of Cawnpore was a brand-new iron ship, of some twelve hundred tons register, modelled like a frigate, full-rigged, and as handsome a craft in every respect as I had ever seen. I had seen her before, of course, in the Docks, when I had gone down to inspect her and choose my cabin; but she was then less than half loaded; her decks were dirty and lumbered up with bales and cases of cargo; her jib-booms were rigged in, and her topgallant-masts down on deck; and altogether she was looking her worst; while now, lying well out toward the middle of the stream as she was, she looked a perfect picture, as she lay with her bows pointing down-stream, straining lightly at her cable upon the last of the floodtide, loaded down just sufficiently, as it seemed, to put her into perfect sailing trim, her black hull with its painted ports showing up in strong contrast to the peasoup-coloured flood upon which she rode, her lofty masts stayed to a hair, and all accurately parallel, gleaming like ruddy gold against the dingy murk of the wild-looking sky. Her yards were all squared with the nicest precision, and the new cream-white canvas snugly furled upon them and the booms; the red ensign streamed from the gaff-end; and the burgee, or house flag—a red star in a white diamond upon a blue field—cut with a swallow tail in the present instance to indicate that her skipper was the commodore of the fleet—fluttered at the main-royalmasthead. “She’s a pretty ship, sir; a very pretty ship; as handsome a vessel as I’ve ever see’d a lyin’ off this here town,” remarked the waterman who was pulling me off to her, noting perhaps the admiration in my gaze. “And she’s a good staunch ship, too; well built, well found, and well manned—the owners of them ‘red star’ liners won’t have nothin’ less than the very best of everything in their ships and aboard of ’em—and I hopes your honour’ll have a very pleasant voyage, I’m sure. You ought to, for there’s some uncommon nice people goin’ out in her; I took three of ’em off myself in this here very same boat ’bout a hour ago. And one of ’em —ah, she is a beauty, she is, and no mistake! handsome as a hangel; and such eyes—why, sir, they’re that bright and they sparkles to that extent that you won’t want no stars not so long as she’s on deck.” “Indeed,” answered I, with languid interest, yet glad nevertheless to learn that there was to be at least one individual of agreeable personality on board. Then, as we drew up toward the accommodation ladder, I continued: “Back your starboard oar; pull port; way enough! Lay in your oars and look out for the line that they are about to heave to you!” “Ay, ay, sir,” answered the fellow, as he proceeded with slow deliberation but a great show of alacrity to obey my injunctions. “Dash my buttons,” he continued, “if I didn’t think as you’d seen a ship afore to-day, and knowed the stem from the starn of her. Says I to myself, when I seen the way that you took hold of them yoke-lines, and the knowin’ cock of your heye as you runned it over this here vessel’s hull and spars and her riggin’—‘this here gent as I’ve a got hold of is a sailor, he is, and as sich he’ll know what a hard life of it we pore watermen has; and I shouldn’t wonder but what—knowin’ the hardness of the life—he’ll’—thank’ee, sir; I wishes you