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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:45:21
Typefacelarge in Small
They drew, and Scotty won. All faces fell at this, for if we were going to make a bold bid for our Christmas privileges we needed unity, and especially we wanted such a tough nut as Jock MacTavish actively enlisted on our side. The winner lifted our gloom by saying quietly, “Sae A’m with ye, aefther aal, ut seems.” Then, noting the surprise on our faces, he went on, “What’s the differ, think ye, whether Ah win at fechtin’ or drawin’. Ah said Ah’d be with ye if Ah won, sae that’s a’ richt.” And, easy in our minds, we separated, the watch below to their bunks, and the rest to their stations.

Somebody said, “Where’s M’Ginty?” That roused me. It seemed to put new life and hope into me, for I replied quite brightly, “He’s gone to the rest he was talking about in the dog-watch. He’ll never eat workhouse bread, thank God!”

“John Brown.”

Captain Scott was as commonplace a little man as ever commanded an old wooden tub of a barque lumbering her way forlornly from port to port seeking freight as a beggar seeks pence. His command, the Sarah Jane, belonged to a decayed firm of shipowners that, like many other old-fashioned tradesmen, had not kept pace with the times, and were now reduced to the possession of this ancient pauper and a still older brig, all the rest of their once stately fleet having been sold or lost or seized to satisfy mortgages. Yet they still retained a keen sense of respectability, and when Captain Scott applied for the command of the Sarah Jane they were exceedingly careful to ascertain that he was strictly sober and trustworthy. He not only succeeded in satisfying them on these points, but in some mysterious manner persuaded them also that he was exceedingly pious, and would certainly hold service on board every Sunday, weather permitting. That settled his appointment, for the senior member of the firm was a good, honest Dissenter, who, if a trifle narrow and bigoted in his religious views, was sincerely anxious to live up to the light he had. Beyond all question the Sarah Jane was the best-found vessel of her class in the food line that we chaps forrard had ever142 sailed in. It would have been hard to find a more agreeably surprised little crowd than we were when the first meal appeared in the fo’c’sle, for our preliminary view of the ship certainly gave us the idea that we were in for “plenty pump and velly flat belly,” as a quaint little Italian A. B. said while we were selecting bunks.

But it was written that they should never reach the Virgin. The bright, clear weather gave way to a greasy, filmy sky, accompanied by a mournful, sighing wail in the wind that sent a feeling of despondency through the least experienced of the fishermen, and told the more seasoned hands that a day of wrath was fast approaching, better than the most delicately adjusted barometer would have done. When about sixty miles from the Banks the gale burst upon the staunch little craft in all its fury, testing her powers to the utmost as, under a tiny square of canvas in the main rigging, she met and coquetted with the gathering353 immensities of the Atlantic waves. No doubt she would have easily weathered that gale, as she had done so many others, but that at midnight, during its fiercest fury, there came blundering along a huge four-masted sailing-ship running under topsails and foresail that, like some blind and drunken giant staggered out of the gloom and fell upon the gallant little schooner, crushing her into matchwood beneath that ruthless iron stem, and passing on unheeding the awful destruction she had dealt out to the brave little company of men. It was all so sudden that the agony of suspense was mercifully spared them, but out of the weltering vortex which swallowed up the Rufus B. only two persons emerged alive—Tom Burt and Jem the cook. By a miracle they both clung to the same piece of flotsam—one of the “dorys” or flat little boats used by the Bankers to lay out their long lines when on the Banks. Of course she was bottom up, and, but for the lifeline which the forethought of the poor skipper had caused to be secured to the gunwale of every one of his dorys, they could not have kept hold of her for an hour. As it was, before they were able to get her righted in that tumultuous sea, they were almost at their last gasp. But they did succeed in getting her right way up at last, and, crouching low in her flat bottom, they dumbly awaited whatever Fate had in store for them.


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