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- The Little Savage - 3/51 -
In the meantime, the smoke ascended in the air and the vessel approached nearer and nearer, until she was within, I suppose, two miles of the island, and then it fell quite calm. My companion threw more water on to increase the smoke, and the vessel now hauling up her courses, I perceived that there were people on board, and while I was arranging my ideas as to what the vessel might be, my companion cried out--"They see us, they see us! there's hope now. Confound it, I've been here long enough. Hurrah for old England!" and he commenced dancing and capering about like a madman. At last he said,
"Look out and see if she sends a boat, while I go into the cabin."
"What's a boat?" said I.
"Out, you fool! tell me if you see anything,"
"Yes, I do see something," replied I. "Look at the squall coming along the water, it will be here very soon; and see how thick the clouds are getting up: we shall have as much wind and rain as we had the time before last, when the birds came."
"Confound it," replied he, "I wish they'd lower a boat, at all events;" and so saying, he went into the cabin, and I perceived that he was busy at his bed-place.
My eyes were still fixed upon the squall, as I watched it advancing at a furious speed on the surface of the water; at first it was a deep black line on the horizon, but as it approached the vessel, it changed to white; the surface of the water was still smooth. The clouds were not more than ten degrees above the horizon, although they were thick and opaque--but at this season of the year, these tornadoes, as I may call them, visited us; sometimes we had one, sometimes more, and it was only when these gusts came on that we had any rain below. On board of the vessel--I speak now from my after knowledge--they did not appear to be aware of the danger; the sails were all set and flapping against the masts. At last, I perceived a small object close to the vessel; this I presumed was the boat which my companion looked for. It was like a young vessel close to the old one, but I said nothing; as I was watching and wondering what effect the rising wind would have upon her, for the observations of my companion had made me feel that it was important. After a time, I perceived that the white sails were disappearing, and that the forms of men were very busy, and moving on board, and the boat went back to the side of the vessel. The fact is, they had not perceived the squall until it was too late, for in another moment almost, I saw that the vessel bowed down to the fury of the gale, and after that, the mist was so great that I couldn't see her any more.
"Is she sending a boat, boy?" cried my companion.
"I can't see her," replied I; "for she is hidden by the wind."
As I said this, the tornado reached to where we stood, and threw me off my legs to the entrance of the cabin; and with the wind came down a torrent of rain, which drenched us, and the clouds covered the whole of the firmament, which became dark; the lightning darted in every direction, with peals of thunder which were deafening. I crawled into the cabin, into which the rain beat in great fury and flowed out again in a small river.
My companion sat near me, lowering and silent. For two hours the tornado lasted without interruption; the sun had set, and the darkness was opaque. It was impossible to move against the force of the wind and the deluge of water which descended. Speak, we did not, but shut our eyes against the lightning, and held our fingers to our ears to deaden the noise of the thunder, which burst upon us in the most awful manner. My companion groaned at intervals, whether from fear, I know not; I had no fear, for I did not know the danger, or that there was a God to judge the earth.
Gradually the fury of the gale abated, the rain was only heavy at intervals, and we could now hear the beating of the waves, as they dashed against the rocks beneath us. The sky also cleared up a little, and we could dimly discern the white foam of the breakers. I crawled out of the cabin, and stood upon the platform in front, straining my eyes to see the vessel. A flash of lightning, for a second, revealed her to me; she was dismasted, rolling in the awful breakers, which bore her down upon the high rocks, not a quarter of a mile from her.
"There it is," exclaimed I, as the disappearance of the lightning left me in darkness, more opaque than ever.
"She's done for," growled my companion, who, I was not till then aware, stood by my side. "No hopes this time, confound it!" Then he continued for some time to curse and swear awfully, as I afterwards discovered, for I did not then know what was cursing and swearing.
"There she is again," said I, as another flash of lightning revealed the position of the vessel.
"Yes, and she won't be there long; in five minutes she'll be dashed to atoms, and every soul perish."
"What are souls?" inquired I.
My companion gave me no reply.
"I will go down to the rocks," said I, "and see what goes on."
"Go," said he, "and share their fate."
I left him, and commenced a careful descent of the precipices by which we were surrounded, but, before I had gone fifty paces, another flash of lightning was followed up by a loud shriek, which arrested my steps. Where the noise came from, I could not tell, but I heard my companion calling to me to come back. I obeyed him, and found him standing where I had left him.
"You called me, master?"
"Yes, I did; take my hand, and lead me to the cabin."
I obeyed him, wondering why he asked me so to do. He gained his bed-place, and threw himself down on it.
"Bring the kid full of water," said he--"quick!"
I brought it, and he bathed his head and face. After a time, he threw himself back upon the bed-place, and groaned heavily.
"O God! it's all over with me," said he at last. "I shall live and die in this cursed hole."
"What's the matter, master?" said I.
He gave me no answer, but lay groaning and occasionally cursing. After a time, he was still, and then I went out again. The tornado was now over, and the stars were to be seen here and there, but still the wind was strong and the wild clouds flew fast. The shores of the island were one mass of foam, which was dashed high in the air and fell upon the black rocks. I looked for the vessel, and could see nothing--the day was evidently dawning, and I sat down and waited its coming. My companion was apparently asleep, for he lay without motion or noise. That some misfortune had happened, I was convinced, but what, I knew not, and I passed a long time in conjecture, dividing my thoughts between him and the vessel. At last the daylight appeared--the weather was moderating fast, although the waves still beat furiously against the rocky shore. I could see nothing of the vessel, and I descended the path, now slippery and insecure from the heavy fall of rain, and went as near to the edge of the rocks as the breaking billows would permit. I walked along, occasionally drenched by the spray, until I arrived where I had last seen the vessel. The waves were dashing and tossing about, as if in sport, fragments of timber, casks, and spars; but that was all I could see, except a mast and rigging, which lay alongside of the rocks, sometimes appearing above them on the summit of the waves, then descending far out of my sight, for I dared not venture near enough to the edge to look over. "Then the vessel is dashed to pieces, as my companion said," thought I. "I wonder how she was made." I remained about an hour on the rocks, and then turned back to the cabin. I found my companion awake, and groaning heavily.
"There is no ship," said I, "nothing but pieces of wood floating about."
"I know that," replied he; "but what do I care now?"
"I thought by your making a smoke, that you did care."
"Yes, I did then, but now I am blind, I shall never see a ship or anything else again. God help me! I shall die and rot on this cursed island."
"Blind, what is blind?" inquired I.
"The lightning has burned out my eyes, and I can see nothing--I cannot help myself--I cannot walk about--I cannot do anything, and I suppose you will leave me here to die like a dog."
"Can't you see me?"
"No, all is dark, dark as night, and will be as long as I live." And he turned on his bed-place and groaned. "I had hope, I lived in hope --it has kept me alive for many weary years, but now hope is gone, and I care not if I die to-morrow."
And then he started up and turned his face towards me, and I saw that there was no light in his eyes.
"Bring me some more water, do you hear?" said he, angrily. "Be quick, or I'll make you."
But I now fully comprehended his condition, and how powerless he was. My feelings, as I have before said, were anything but cordial towards him, and this renewed violence and threatening manner had its effect. I was now, I suppose, about twelve or thirteen years old-- strong and active. I had more than once felt inclined to rebel, and measure my strength against his. Irritated, therefore, at his angry language, I replied--
"Go for the water yourself."
"Ah!" sighed he, after a pause of some seconds, "that I might have
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