The Last Cruise of the Spitfire/Chapter 20

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While Phil was looking for ropes, I collected all the planking I could, and to this added a door or two. Then we tied all tightly together, placing the doors on top as a sort of deck.

Fortunately I was thoughtful enough to build the concern with one end resting on the top of the rail. Had I not done so it is doubtful if we could have got the raft over the side. When completed it was all of twelve feet square.

"Now take that pole and help pry her over," said I to Phil. "Try to make her strike right side up."

He did as I directed. At a favorable moment we gave the final push, and the raft went over with a mighty splash.

"She's all right," cried Phil joyfully. "Now what?"

"Get some stores together as quick as you can and jump aboard," I replied. "I'll look after some water."

Last Cruise Spitfire P165.jpg

On the raft.

Page 157

Picking up one of the poles Phil had thoughtfully taken aboard, I placed it against the stern of the schooner, and we shoved the raft away as far as possible. Then the cabin boy took a board, and using it as an oar, propelled the clumsy craft still further, until we were at least a hundred feet off.

"There she goes! That's the last of the Spitfire!"

As the cabin boy uttered the cry there was a tremendous crash on board the schooner. Both of the masts had come down together.

The fall tore a great hole in the vessel's side. Into this the water poured at once.

At last the schooner could stand it no longer. She quivered from stem to stern. Then with a mighty plunge she disappeared beneath the surface of the ocean!

The Spitfire was no more! And Phil Jones and I were left alone upon the bosom of the broad Atlantic!

I can hardly explain the feelings that filled my breast as I saw the schooner take her final plunge and sink beneath the waves. It was to me like some gigantic living creature breathing its last. I turned to the cabin boy, and saw that his eyes were filled with tears.

"I've spent a good many years on her," he whimpered. "And all I had was on board her. It wasn't much, but it was a good deal to me."

"Let us be thankful that we saved our lives," I replied. "Captain Hannock no doubt thinks we are at the bottom of the ocean."

"By the way, where is the jolly-boat?" asked Phil suddenly.

I stood up and looked eagerly in all directions. Not a craft of any kind was to be seen.

"She's gone," I replied. "I suppose they have a compass, and have set out for the shore."

"If it wasn't for a couple of the men, I'd like to see the boat swamped," said Phil.

"Captain Hannock will be surprised if we ever meet again," I replied.

"I don't want to meet him again. I won't live with him. I'll kill myself first."

I was surprised at the determination with which the cabin boy uttered the words.

"You are right," I replied. "Captain Hannock is not a fit person for any one to have in charge. If we ever escape, depend upon it I will do all in my power to see that you are treated better in the future."

"Will you? Oh, thank you very much!"

The sun was now rising quite high in the eastern sky, sending broad sheets of light over the ocean. I climbed up on the top of the water cask and gazed eagerly around in all directions.

Not a boat was in sight.

"See anything?" asked Phil.

"Nothing but water and sky," was the reply. "We must shift for ourselves and no mistake."

Luckily for us the planks we had lashed together were of sufficient buoyancy to cause the doors above them to ride clear of the waves, so we were comparatively free from the wash of the sea, although occasionally a wave broke over the flooring.

"We will lash the cask fast," said I, "and then fasten the box of provisions on top of it."

"That's a good idea," replied the cabin boy. "If the water strikes the food it won't be of much account."

We did as I had suggested, first, however, drawing sufficient water from the cask to last us for the day.

"Now if we could hoist a sail we'd be all right," said Phil.

"Let us see if we can't raise the oar between the doors. I think if we can, we can tie some ropes fast to steady it and put the sail on it."

"We haven't any boom."

"Maybe we can split off a side of one of the doors and make one."

"We can try," responded Phil. "We ain't got much else to do. Gracious, ain't I glad I ain't alone."

"So am I," was my warm rejoinder. "We'll live or die together."

"I ain't much afraid of dying, now you are with me."

Planting the oar for a mast was no easy matter. Of course we did not attempt to do it until we had made the boom, and also a small crosstree at the top, from which we suspended the sail, not very artistically, it is true, but in such a fashion that it drew very well.

"There we are!" cried Phil, when the task was accomplished. "What's the matter with that?"

"Nothing," I replied. And then added with a laugh:

"Let us go into a firm: Jones & Foster, Boatbuilders and Sailmakers."

Phil laughed heartily.

"You're right! I'm glad it's up. It looks more like a regular boat now."

"It will act as a signal as well as a sail," I replied, "and we need both."

"Now we've got the sail, how are we going to steer, and in what direction? The ocean looks all alike to me."

"We will have to be guided by the sun. I know land is to the west of us, though how far I haven't the least idea. And we'll have to make a rudder of some kind out of another piece of the door."

"Suppose we run across Captain Hannock and the jolly-boat?"

"It isn't likely, and if we do we will have to make the best of it. I'll stand no more nonsense."