There was no time for any one to be
idle on board the brig. She had received a tremendous
shaking in the hurricane, and was leaking considerably.
It was a wonder, indeed, that she had not gone down.
To have a chance of safety, jury-masts must be got
up before another breeze should come on, or she might
be driven on the reefs and lost.
Jack, having searched the cabin, brought
all the papers he could find to Mr Collinson.
By this he discovered that the brig was the Beatrix,
bound from New Orleans to Point a Petre in Dominique.
“Poor fellows! Some probably
died from the yellow fever before the hurricane came
on, and the rest, unable to shorten sail in time, must
have been washed overboard when the masts were carried
away, as the wind struck her,” observed Mr Collinson.
“Pray Heaven that we may be preserved; but
I will not deceive you, lads; it will require all your
courage and resolution to carry the vessel safely into
port. We have a long passage before us, and
I will do my best to navigate her, but I can do little
“And we will do our best, Mr
Collinson, to obey your orders,” answered Jack
“Then, Jack, the first thing
will be to get hold of a quadrant and chart, and navigation
books. Without these it will be very guess-work.
Fortunately, I understand the French; so that, if they
are found, there will not be much difficulty in the
As soon as Bill heard this, he hurried
below, and soon returned with several books, a chart,
and a quadrant.
“The first thing is to know
whereabouts we are,” said the lieutenant; “and,
as it must be nearly noon, I will take an observation
at once. You must lift me up, though, lads; I
am too weak to stand.”
Supported by Jack and Bill Sunnyside,
the lieutenant leant against the companion-hatch,
and made the required observation.
“I was only just in time, though,”
he remarked. “The sun dipped not two minutes
after I got a sight of him through the instrument.
There,” he said, pointing to a spot on the
chart, “is where, by my calculations, we now
are. If you steer south-west, you will make Cape
Saint Antonio, at the westernmost end of Cuba; but
look out for the Colorados, and do not run the ship
upon them. I tell you this, should anything happen
“But we hope, sir, nothing will
happen to you,” said Jack, “and that you
will live to carry in the brig to Port Royal, before
many weeks are over.”
Mr Collinson replied that he had little
hopes himself of ever again seeing land.
There appeared to be no want of provisions
on board, for even in the cabin a couple of hams and
cheese and a cask of biscuit were found, with several
other articles; and on deck was a water-butt, which,
having been tightly bunged and well secured, had escaped
being washed away, or filled with salt water.
All hands now set to work to get up
spars from below, and canvas, and rope. As the
wind came from the northward, they were eager to make
sail without loss of time. Spars were therefore
secured to the stumps of the masts, and stayed up,
and a couple of royals set on them. Fortunately,
the rudder had escaped injury; and though, as Jack
Windy observed, the brig was under-rigged, she slipped
through the water at the rate of a couple of miles
“`It’s a long lane that
has no turning,’ I’ve heard say,”
said Bill; “and it’s a long voyage, I
conclude, that has no ending; and so, I suppose, if
the brig keeps afloat as long, we shall reach port
“You may well say `_if_,’”
observed old Grim; “but, to my mind, the water’s
coming in faster than we are likely to pump it out;
and directly we get a bit of a sea on, it will play
old Harry with us.”
Though old Grim grumbled on all occasions,
yet he worked as hard as anybody else, and so nobody
minded his grumbling. The very worst sort of
character is the fellow who grumbles and does not work;
and there are some such on board ships, as well as
Having got up their temporary masts,
they now set to work to build more permanent ones.
In this, old Grim showed a good deal of skill, and
ably carried out Mr Collinson’s directions.
Darkness put an end to their labours. They,
in the mean time, however, had rigged an awning on
deck, under which Mr Collinson might sleep, for they
agreed that it might not be wise to remain any length
of time in the cabin. Jack and Bill took one
watch, and old Grim and Tommy Rebow the other.
The binnacle as well as the wheel
had escaped, and, oil being found, they were able
to light the lamp at night. Bill had already
learned to take his trick at the helm. He was
therefore able to steer part of his time during his
watch; indeed, there was no great difficulty, in consequence
of the small amount of sail the brig was carrying.
When Jack came aft to take the helm, Bill remembered
what old Grim had said.
“Don’t you think it will
be as well for us to try to sound the well, and see
if the vessel has made more water?” he asked.
“Yes; hold on for a minute, and I will do it,”
He came aft again in a short time.
“To my mind, she’s leaking
faster than is pleasant,” he observed.
“If you will stand to the helm, I will rig the
pump, and see if we can’t clear her a little.”
In a short time the pump was heard going. It
awoke Mr Collinson.
“I thought it would be safer,
sir, to keep the pump going,” sung out Jack;
“but don’t be concerned about it, sir;
it’s just on the safe side.”
Jack pumped and pumped away till he
could pump no longer; he then went and roused up old
Grim, who grumbled fearfully.
“Come, Grimshaw,” he said,
“just you take a spell at the pump. If
we cannot manage to stop the leak, or to get the vessel
clear, there’s not much chance of our getting
into Port Royal harbour, that I can see.”
Old Grim, although he grumbled, pumped
away as lustily as Jack; and then Tommy jumped up
and took a spell, and when he was tired he called Bill,
and took his place at the helm; and thus they went
on till daylight, when Grim declared the water was
considerably lessened in the hold. This gave
them encouragement. Poor Mr Collinson felt very
much vexed that he could not help. The men would
not hear of it.
“No, sir, you just lie quiet
there. Our lives depend upon your holding on,
as much as your life depends on our exertions; for
if you were to leave us, how should we ever find our
way into port again?”
Jack insisted that the two boys should
lie down again, and get some rest, while he and Grimshaw
took it by turns at the pump. At length they
agreed that by labouring at the pump every alternate
hour, they might keep the leak under. They now
again turned to, to get up jury-masts. A sufficient
supply of rope was found for the standing rigging,
and by night they had a very respectable foremast stepped
and well secured with a short jib-boom, on which a
fore-staysail was set. The night was spent much
as the former had been, though all hands began to
feel very weary with their exertions. Their only
comfort was that Mr Collinson appeared to be gaining
strength. Although the caboose had been carried
away, there was a stove in the cabin, and in this they
were able to cook their provisions. Some good
tea was found, and other luxuries, which tended much
to restore the lieutenant’s health. The
following day they got up a mainmast, and besides this
they rigged a small mizzen-mast, on which they were
able to set a sail to assist in steering the vessel.
It was rigged just in time, for the wind began to
draw somewhat round to the north-west, making the coast
of Cuba, which at length appeared in sight, a lee
shore. They hauled up, therefore; but not without
some anxiety weathered the Colorados, which they saw
not a couple of miles to leeward of them.
In a short time, Mr Collinson was
well enough to take the helm for several hours each
day, giving more time to his small crew to work the
pump and obtain necessary rest. At length Cape
Saint Antonio appeared in sight; and, weathering it,
the course was altered to south-east. Once more
they were out of sight of land. Mr Collinson
had showed all of them the chart, that they might
the better understand where they were going, and that
the progress they had made might keep up their spirits.
They had still a passage of some four or five hundred
miles before them; but though their vessel was somewhat
leaky, and even with a good breeze they could not
make more than three or four knots an hour, still,
as Bill observed, “it must some day or other
come to an end.”
The brig was now about mid-way between
the main land of Central America and Cuba, when the
wind, which had been for some time light, dropped
altogether. In vain old Grim growled; in vain
Jack whistled for a breeze. The water they had
brought on board, as well as that in the cask, was
“It will be pretty well time
to be getting this cask filled again,” observed
old Grim, as he drew out a tin cupful of water.
“I will just go down below, and see about getting
He was a considerable time absent,
hunting about with a lantern in his hand. At
length he came up again, with a look of dismay on his
“Jack,” he said, “do
you know I have been hunting from stem to stern, and
not a cask, which looks as if it had water in it, can
Mr Collinson, who was steering at
the time, guessed from the looks of the men that something
“We ought to have economised
it more,” he observed; “it was wrong in
me not to warn you. However, we must make the
most of what we have got; and perhaps in another search
we may be more fortunate.”
“I will have a look,”
said Jack; “and here, Bill, you come with me.”
Jack and Bill hunted about as old
Grim had done. At length, he appeared under
the hatchway, and shouted out
“Here’s a cask of some
sort, at all events: it contains liquor, if it
does not contain water.”
The cask was got up.
“You must promise me, lads,
if that cask contains spirits, not to drink it.
Let’s broach it, however, and see.”
On a hole being bored, wine spouted out.
“We should be thankful for this,”
said Mr Collinson, “it is light claret, and
a small quantity will probably do us all good.”
It was arranged that a pint of wine
only should be taken by each of them every day.
This would save the consumption of water.
“I would rather it had been
water,” said old Grim; “though, to be sure,
the wine is not bad, and I should not mind if it had
been a little stronger.”
The calm continued. The sea
was like glass. Chips of wood, even some feathers,
thrown overboard, did not move from the side of the
vessel. There she lay, her battered sides reflected
in the mirror-like surface of the ocean. Now
her head slowly moved round in one direction, now in
another, but no progress was made. At night they
lay down, hoping that the morning would bring a breeze;
but when the morning sun began its upward course,
his rays getting hotter and hotter, till the pitch
in the seams bubbled and hissed, on he went, passing
almost overhead, till he again glided down into his
ocean bed in the west.