Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/370

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

pulled out the strand that was a little shorter was to be dished up for his messmates, and the man who drew the strand that was shorter still had the unpleasant duty of acting as butcher.

The mate cut the rope-yarn, as requested, and arranged the sixteen lengths all in a row in the crack of the bulkhead. The men stood waiting the word, very reluctant to pluck out the ends of tarry cord, until Mr. MacCloud exclaimed:

"My lads, let us put it off until to-morrow. We have endured thus far, and a few hours longer cannot make much difference. Who knows what Providence may have in store for us?"

Some consented, while others were for going through with it at once. To-morrow came, and no help was in sight. They shambled into the steward's storeroom and pulled the rope-yarns through the crack. Presently there was one man less on the muster-roll of the Barrett. Two or three days later the ceremony was repeated. Before it became necessary to doom a third man, the mate came below, a spy-glass in his hand, and he was trembling so violently that he clutched the table for support. "A sail," he stammered, and they followed him on deck, where the winter day was dying into dusk. In desperate need of making some sort of signal, Mr. MacCloud emptied a powder-flask upon the wind-