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Chapter 6 THE VOYAGE, A PIRATE, CHASE, WRECK, AND ESCAPE

  • Time reconciles a man to almost anything. In the course of time Martin Rattle_ecame reconciled to his fate, and went about the ordinary duties of a cabin-
  • boy on board the _Firefly_ just as if he had been appointed to that office i_he ordinary way,—with the consent of the owners and by the advice of hi_riends. The captain, Skinflint by name, and as surly an old fellow as eve_alked a quarter-deck, agreed to pay him wages "if he behaved well." Th_teward, under whose immediate authority he was placed, turned out to be _earty, good-natured young fellow, and was very kind to him. But Martin'_reat friend was Barney O'Flannagan, the cook, with whom he spent many an hou_n the night watches, talking over plans, and prospects, and retrospects, an_oreign lands.
  • As Martin had no clothes except those on his back, which fortunately happene_o be new and good, Barney gave him a couple of blue striped shirts, and mad_im a jacket, pantaloons, and slippers of canvas; and, what was of muc_reater importance, taught him how to make and mend the same for himself.
  • "Ye see, Martin, lad," he said, while thus employed one day, many weeks afte_eaving port, "it's a great thing, intirely, to be able to help yerself. Fo_y part, I niver travel without my work-box in my pocket."
  • "Your work-box!" said Martin, laughing.
  • "Jist so. An' it consists of wan sail-maker's needle, a ball o' twine, and _lasp-knife. Set me down with these before a roll o' canvas and I'll make yo_'most anything."
  • "You seem to have a turn for everything, Barney," said Martin. "How came yo_o be a cook?"
  • "That's more nor I can tell ye, lad. As far as I remimber, I began wit_urphies, when I was two feet high, in my father's cabin in ould Ireland. Bu_hat was on my own account intirely, and not as a purfession; and a sorrowfu_ime I had of it, too, for I was for iver burnin' my fingers promiskiously,
  • and fallin' into the fire ivery day more or less—"
  • "Stand by to hoist top-gallant-sails," shouted the captain. "How's her head?"
  • "South and by east, sir," answered the man at the wheel.
  • "Keep her away two points. Look alive lads. Hand me the glass, Martin."
  • The ship was close hauled when these abrupt orders were given, battling in th_eeth of a stiff breeze, off the coast of South America. About this time,
  • several piratical vessels had succeeded in cutting off a number of merchantme_ear the coast of Brazil. They had not only taken the valuable parts of thei_argoes, but had murdered the crews under circumstances of great cruelty; an_hips trading to these regions were, consequently, exceedingly careful t_void all suspicious craft as much as possible. It was, therefore, with som_nxiety that the men watched the captain's face as he examined the strang_ail through the telescope.
  • "A Spanish schooner," muttered the captain, as he shut up the glass with _ang. "I won't trust her. Up with the royals and rig out stun'-sails, Mr.
  • Wilson, (to the mate). Let her fall away, keep her head nor'-west, d'ye hear?"
  • "Ay, ay, sir."
  • "Let go the lee braces and square the yards. Look sharp, now, lads. If tha_lackguard gets hold of us ye'll have to walk the plank, every man of ye."
  • In a few minutes the ship's course was completely altered; a cloud of canva_pread out from the yards, and the _Firefly_ bounded on her course like _resh race-horse. But it soon became evident that the heavy barque was n_atch for the schooner, which crowded sail and bore down at a rate that bad_air to overhaul them in a few hours. The chase continued till evening, whe_uddenly the look-out at the mast-head shouted, "Land, ho!"
  • "Where away?" cried the captain.
  • "Right ahead," sang out the man.
  • "I'll run her ashore sooner than be taken," muttered the captain, with a_ngry scowl at the schooner, which was now almost within range on the weathe_uarter, with the dreaded black flag flying at her peak. In a few minute_reakers were descried ahead.
  • "D'ye see anything like a passage?" shouted the captain.
  • "Yes, sir; two points on the weather bow."
  • At this moment a white cloud burst from the schooner's bow, and a shot,
  • evidently from a heavy gun, came ricochetting over the sea. It was well aimed,
  • for it cut right through the barque's main-mast, just below the yard, an_rought the main-top-mast, with all the yards, sails, and gearing above it,
  • down upon the deck. The weight of the wreck, also, carried away the fore-top-
  • mast, and, in a single instant, the _Firefly_ was completely disabled.
  • "Lower away the boats," cried the captain; "look alive, now; we'll give the_he slip yet. It'll be dark in two minutes."
  • The captain was right. In tropical regions there is little or no twilight.
  • Night succeeds day almost instantaneously. Before the boats were lowered an_he men embarked it was becoming quite dark. The schooner observed th_ovement, however, and, as she did not dare to venture through the reef in th_ark, her boats were also lowered and the chase was recommenced.
  • The reef was passed in safety, and now a hard struggle took place, for th_hore was still far distant. As it chanced to be cloudy weather the darknes_ecame intense, and progress could only be guessed at by the sound of th_ars; but these soon told too plainly that the boats of the schooner wer_vertaking those of the barque.
  • "Pull with a will, lads," cried the captain; "we can't be more than half _ile from shore; give way, my hearties."
  • "Surely, captain, we can fight them, we've most of us got pistols an_utlasses," said one of the men in a sulky tone.
  • "Fight them!" cried the captain, "they're four times our number, and every ma_rmed to the teeth. If ye don't fancy walking the plank or dancing on nothin_t the yard-arm, ye'd better pull away and hold your jaw."
  • By this time they could just see the schooner's boats in the dim light, abou_alf-musket range astern.
  • "Back you' oars," shouted a stern voice in broken English, "or I blow you ou_e watter in one oder moment,—black-yards!"
  • This order was enforced by a musket shot, which whizzed over the boat withi_n inch of the captain's head. The men ceased rowing and the boats of th_irate ranged close up.
  • "Now then, Martin," whispered Barney O'Flannagan, who sat at the bow oar,
  • "I'm goin' to swim ashore; jist you slip arter me as quiet as ye can."
  • "But the sharks!" suggested Martin.
  • "Bad luck to them," said Barney as he slipped over the side, "they're welcom_o me. Til take my chance. They'll find me mortial tough, anyhow. Come along,
  • lad, look sharp!"
  • Without a moment's hesitation Martin slid over the gunwale into the sea, and,
  • just as the pirate boats grappled with those of the barque, he and Barne_ound themselves gliding as silently as otters towards the shore. So quietl_ad the manoeuvre been accomplished, that the men in their own boat wer_gnorant of their absence. In a few minutes they were beyond the chance o_etection.
  • "Keep close to me, lad," whispered the Irishman. "If we separate in th_arkness we'll niver forgather again. Catch hould o; my shoulder if ye ge_lowed, and splutter as much as ye like. They can't hear us now, and it'l_elp to frighten the sharks."
  • "All right," replied Martin; "I can swim like a cork in such warm water a_his. Just go a little slower and I'll do famously."
  • Thus encouraging each other, and keeping close together, lest they should ge_eparated in the thick darkness of the night, the two friends struck ou_ravely for the shore.