The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 12
ANOTHER ACCIDENT AT SEA
It was four hours later, and Captain Blossom was just preparing to come on deck, when there came a fearful shock which threw the Golden Wave back and over on her side.
"We have struck! We are on the rocks!" came a shrill cry from the deck, and immediately, there was an uproar.
The Rover boys were thrown to the floor from their berths, and it was several seconds before they could realize what had happened.
"We have struck something, that is sure!" gasped Sam.
As quickly as they could they donned their clothing and made their way to the large state room occupied by the girls.
"Oh, what a shock!" came from Nellie.
"Are you safe?" asked Tom.
"I am, but poor Grace struck her head on the wall, and is unconscious."
Without ceremony Tom picked up the unconscious girl, wrapped her in a blanket, and, aided by Sam, carried her to the deck, the others following. A minute later Grace revived.
On deck they found all in confusion. The bowsprit of the Golden Wave was gone, and also the main topmast, while a mass of the rigging littered the forecastle. It was also announced that the rudder was broken and the vessel was pounding helplessly on the rocks, with a big hole in the bow directly below the waterline.
"Who changed the course?" demanded Captain Blossom. "We should be fifty miles away from these rocks."
"The first mate made me change the course," said the man who had been at the wheel. "I told him you had said southwest by south, and he made it south by west."
"He don't know what he's talking about!" howled Jack Lesher. The shock had partly sobered him. "He was steering due south, and I told him to make it southwest by south."
But little more could be said on the point, for it was feared that the schooner would go down at any moment.
"We must man the boats," said the captain. "Bring up the provisions and the kegs of water, and be quick about it."
"Are we near land?" asked Dick.
"There should be some islands four or five miles south of this spot," answered Captain Blossom.
Now that there was danger of going down some of the sailors seemed to grow crazy. Half a dozen tumbled into one of the boats and be gan to lower it of their own accord.
"Stand back there!" shouted the captain. "The girls must go first."
"Not much!" shouted one of the sailors. "It's everybody for himself now!" And in a moment more the small boat had left the ship's side and disappeared in the darkness.
There were three other boats and the remaining sailors, along with the first mate and Dan Baxter, wanted to crowd into these. But Captain Blossom said he would shoot the first man who tried to row away without his orders. Then some provisions were put into the boats, and the captain divided the whole company among the three boats.
"Let us stay together, captain," pleaded Dick. "We can row."
"And what of the girls, Rover?"
"Let us go with the Rover boys," pleaded Dora, and Nellie and Grace said the same. Old Jerry also stood by his friends.
While this talk was going on there was a rush for two of the boats, and before Captain Blossom could do anything his men were off, taking Jack Lesher and Dan Baxter with them.
"You can go down with the ship!" cried Dan Baxter mockingly. An instant later the darkness hid the speaker from view.
"They have left us," cried Captain Blossom. "But, thank fortune, the best and largest boat is also left."
Some provisions had been tumbled into this boat, and a cask of water followed. Then the girls were placed on board, the Rover boys followed, and the captain and old Jerry came behind, to cut away. Down went the small boat into the mighty waves, and each of the boys caught up an oar.
"Pull!" roared Captain Blossom. "Pull for your lives!" And they did pull, two boys on one side, and Sam and old Jerry on the other. The girls huddled in the stern, expecting every moment to see the little craft turn bottom side up. They scraped along the side of the doomed ship, and then along some rocks. Captain Blossom was in the bow, peering ahead.
"To the left!" he yelled. "Quick!" And then came a shock, and the captain disappeared beneath the waves.
"The captain is gone!" screamed Dora, but she was hardly heard, for the ship was pounding on the rocks, and the spray was flying in all directions. The boys and old Jerry continued to pull, knowing not what else to do, and at last the spot was left behind and they found themselves on the bosom of the mighty Pacific, in the black darkness, out of sight of everything, with only the sounds of the wind and the waves filling their ears.
"Do you think we will ever get out of this alive?" asked Grace of Dora.
"Let us pray that we may all be spared," answered Dora, and they did pray, more earnestly than they had ever before prayed in their whole lives. It was a moment that put their faith to a supreme test.
The boys did not dare to stop rowing, and they kept on until their backs ached and their arms seemed ready to drop from their sockets.
"We had better take turns," said Dick, at last. "We can't keep this up all night." And his suggestion was followed out, two rowing at a time, for a space of fifteen or twenty minutes.
They thought they might see something of the other boats, but nothing came to view, and when they set up a shout at the top of their lungs, no answer came back.
"They have either gone down or else got out of this neighborhood," said Tom.
"It was too bad to lose Captain Blossom," said Sam. "He was not such a bad sort, after all."
It was not long after this that a mass of wreckage drifted past them. There was a bit of broken spar and some other woodwork, but no human being, and they let the wreckage go.
By looking at his watch Dick saw that it was three o'clock in the morning.
"It will be light in another couple of hours," he said. " If we can keep on top of the waves until then perhaps we can sight the islands the captain mentioned."
"I wish it was daylight now," sighed Nellie.
Fortunately a bundle of clothing had been brought along, and as the water was warm, no body suffered much from the wetting received. Care was taken to keep the provisions as dry as possible, for there was no telling how long it would be before they would be able to get more.
Slowly the night dragged by, and, with the coming of morning, the wind went down, the storm passing to the northward.
"It is growing lighter," announced Dora. "The sunlight is beginning to show over the rim of the sea."
Half an hour later the sun came up, like a great ball of fire from a bath in the ocean, capping the high waves with gold. As the light spread around them, Dick stood up on a seat and gazed eagerly in all directions.
"What do you see?" demanded the others.
"Nothing," he answered, with a sinking heart; "nothing but water on all sides of us."
"The islands—they must be somewhere!" cried Tom, and he, too, took a look, followed by the others. The last to look was old Jerry.
"Can't see much," said the old sailor slowly. "But I kind of reckon there's a dark spot directly southward."
"It must be one of the islands the captain mentioned!" exclaimed Dora.
"We might as well row in that direction," said Dick. "There is nothing else to do."
"It's queer what became of the other boats," said Sam.
Some of the provisions were brought forth and they ate sparingly, and drank a little of the water. Then the boys and old Jerry took up the oars once more and began to pull as nearly southward as they could make it, steering by the sun.
When the sun grew higher it became very warm, so that the rowers were glad enough to lay aside their jackets. By noon they reckoned that they had covered six or eight miles. One after another stood up on the seats to take a look around.
"Nothing in sight yet," said Dick, with a sorry shake of his head. "We must have been mistaken in that dark spot."
"What will you do now?" asked Grace. "The hot sun is beginning to make my head ache."
Sam's head also ached, but he said nothing. Nobody knew what to suggest.
"One thing is certain; we can't remain out on the bosom of the ocean," said Dick.
"Better continue to pull southward," came from old Jerry. "There are lots of islands down that way. The map is full of 'em."
"Yes, the map is full of them," answered Dick. "But a quarter of an inch on the map means a hundred miles or two in reality."
Yet it was decided to row on, trusting to luck to strike some island, either large or small. It was now fiercely hot, and all hands perspired freely.
By the end of the afternoon the boys were worn out, and had to give up rowing. The girls were dozing in the stern, having covered their heads with a thin shawl, stretched from one gunwale to another. Tom and Sam were dizzy from the glare of the sun on the water.
"Another day like this will set me crazy," said the youngest Rover. "I'd give ten dollars foir a pair of blue goggles."
Old Jerry had been looking intently to the westward. Now he pointed in that direction.
"See that trail of smoke," he said. "Unless I am mistaken a steamship is sailing toward us!"
"A steamship!" cried Tom, and the words awoke the girls. "We must hail the vessel by all means."
"If she comes close enough," said Captain Jerry pointedly. "Don't be too hopeful, my lads. She may pass us by."