The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 5

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"What a glorious day for the trip!"

"We are going to turn real sailors, aren't we?"

"Can't I help pull up a sail or something, Tom?"

Such were the remarks of Dora, Nellie, and Grace as they boarded the Old Glory early on Monday morning.

The boys and Captain Jerry were there to receive them, having arrived an hour before, to see that all the provisions were stowed away, and that the craft was in prime condition for sailing. By a curious combination of circumstances Bob Sutter had ordered far more provisions than were necessary for such a short trip, but Captain Jerry had found a place for everything, remarking that they might come in useful after all, but never dreaming how useful, as later events were to prove.

Mrs. Stanhope had come down in a carriage to see them off. She kissed all of the girls an affectionate good-by.

"Have a good time," she said. "And be sure and come back safe and sound."

"Don't ye worry but what I'll bring 'em back safe enough, ma'am," said Captain Jerry, as he tipped his cap respectfully.

When the girls were safe on board, the boys waved an adieu to Mrs. Stanhope. Then they ranged up in a row in front of old Jerry and each touched his forelock and gave a hitch to his trowser leg.

"Ready for orders, cap'n," they said, in unison, having practiced this little by-play in secret.

"Wh—what?" stammered Captain Jerty, gazing at them in bewilderment.

"Ready for orders, sir," they said.

"Shall we shake out the mainsail?" asked Dick.

"Shall I hoist the jib?" came from Tom.

"Can I set the topsail, captain?" put in Sam.

"Well, by the son o' Neptune!" gasped Captain Jerry. "Got a real, generwine crew, aint I? All right, my hearties, I'll set ye to work fast enough." And then followed a string of orders in true nautical style, and the Rover boys flew in one direction and another to execute them. Up went the mainsail and the jib, and the top sail followed, and soon the Old Glory was standing off into Santa Barbara Channel, with Mrs. Stanhope in the carriage waving them an adieu, and the girls and the boys waving their handkerchiefs in return.

It certainly was a glorious day, as Dora had said, and after the sails were set, there was nothing to do but to take it easy on the cushions of the rail seats. Captain Jerry was at the wheel, but he promised to let each of them "take a trick" in his place before the trip should come to an end.

"I jest wish we had another yacht to race with," said the old sailor. "Then I could show ye what sort o' a clean pair o' heels the Old Glory could show the other craft."

"It is easy to see the yacht is speedy," replied Dick. "She cuts the water like a thing of life. And you know just how to get her best speed out of her," he went on, a remark that pleased old Jerry very much.

"Will we have more breeze, do you think?" asked Tom, later on, as he observed some tiny clouds to the westward.

"Can't say as to that, lad. Those clouds may come this way and they may blow north'ard. If they come down here, we'll catch it putty lively."

"I like a good, stiff breeze," came from Sam.

"Oh, don't run us into a storm," cried Grace in alarm. "We might all get seasick."

"Don't be alarmed," said Dick. "We are a very long way from a storm, to my way of thinking."

The morning passed quickly enough, and at noon they ran into a small harbor on one of the islands and had dinner in true picnic style. At one o'clock they packed up once more, went on board of the Old Glory, and stood off to the westward, for all wanted a run "right on the ocean," as Tom expressed it.

Captain Jerry was just a bit doubtful of the trip, for the clouds in the western sky had grown considerably larger than when first noticed. Not that he did not think the yacht could weather a blow, but he was afraid the young ladies would get seasick. However, as he did not wish to put a damper on their fun, he said nothing, resolved to turn back at the first sign of any "inward upsetting'," as he expressed it.

The breeze had increased, and as it was directly from off shore the Old Glory bowled along merrily over the waves. Nobody showed the least sign of seasickness, and they talked, laughed, and sang as if they had not a care in the world. Tom also did some fishing, and caught a string of the finny tribe, of which he was justly proud.

"You can bake them for us when we get back," he said to Nellie. "And then we can all have a fish party."

"I could go on sailing like this for a week," said Dick to Dora, as they moved forward. "I mean if you were along with me," he added, in a lower tone, and she gave him a look that meant a good deal.

When three o'clock came Captain Jerry announced that they must turn back. They were far out of sight of land, with nothing but the blue ocean around them. Overhead the sky was still clear, but the clouds on the horizon were rapidly increasing.

"Oh, let us keep on a while longer," pleaded Tom. "This is just glorious!" And the others said the same.

So they kept on, although somewhat against Captain Jerry's better judgment. The old sailor was watching the clouds. Presently there came an extra heavy puff of wind, and then the clouds seemed to rush up with lightning-like rapidity.

"Got to go back, now," said the sailor. "Going to have a big blow afore night." And he threw over the tiller and gave the necessary commands to change the sails.

"By Jove, but those clouds are coming up fast!" exclaimed Dick, after a careful survey. "I never saw them come up like that on the Atlantic, or on the Great Lakes."

"It's unusual," replied Captain Jerry, with a shake of his head. "Never seen it afore myself. The wind is coming around, too. It's goin' to be a different storm from what we generally git around these waters."

The black clouds soon obscured the sun, and the wind began to blow stronger than ever, sending the whitecaps rolling over the ocean, and causing the spray to fly over the deck of the yacht. Nellie clutched Tom by the arm.

"Oh, Tom, what does this mean?" she asked in a trembling voice.

"It means that we are going to have a storm, that's all," he answered as lightly as he could.

"But—but will it hurt us?" came from Grace.

"I don't think so," put in Sam. "But we may get wet, unless we go into the cabin."

"I vote the girls all go into the cabin," said Dick. "Sam can go with them if he wants to. Tom, you and I can stay on deck to look after the sails."

"I'm going to do my duty on deck, too," came from Sam promptly.

Another rush of wind now sent the spray flying in all directions, and to keep from being drenched the girls retired to the tiny cabin, or, rather, cuddy, of which the Old Glory boasted.

"I am sure it is going to be an awful storm," said Dora. "I wish we were safe on land once more."

"Oh, dear! do you think we'll go to the bottom?" asked Nellie.

"The boys won't let the yacht go down," answered Dora. "They are all good sailors, and Captain Jerry must know all about handling this craft. But we may have a very bad time of it before we get back to Santa Barbara."

It was dark in the cabin, but the yacht pitched and plunged so violently that they were afraid to light the lantern. So they huddled together, each holding another's hand.

On deck Captain Jerry gave orders to lower the topsail and haul in the jib. Several reefs were also taken in the mainsail, and the boys stood ready to bring down the rest of the sheet with a rush at the first word from the old sailor.

"It's a re-markable storm—re-markable," said Captain Jerry, chewing vigorously on the quid of tobacco in his cheek. "Aint never seen no sech storm here afore. Puts me in mind o' a blow I stood out in onct off the coast o' Alaska when I was in a whaler. Thet storm caught us same time as this an' ripped our mast out in a jiffy and drowned two o' the sailors."

"I hope nothing like that happens to us," said Dick, with a shudder. He was not thinking of himself, but of the three girls in the cabin.

"Well, lad, it aint goin' to be no easy blow, I kin tell ye that," responded Captain Jerry.

Soon the wind began to whistle shrilly through the air, and the sky became so black they could scarcely see a hundred yards in any direction. Then came some distant flashes of lightning and rolling thunder, and soon the patter of rain.

"Now we are going to catch it," said Tom, and he was right. Ten minutes later it was pouring in torrents, and the rain continued to keep coming down as if there was to be no end of it.

"Boys, aren't you most drowned?" asked Nellie, peeping out of the cabin door.

"No, but you'll be if you come out here," called back Tom.

"We can't stand up and we can't sit still," came from Grace.

"Sorry, but you'll have to make the best of it," answered Sam.

"Oh, we won't mind, if only we reach shore in safety," put in Dora, and then the door was closed again.

On and on swept the Old Glory, through the wind, the rain, and the darkness. As there was no land near, Captain Jerry paid his whole attention to making the yacht ride easily, an almost impossible task in such a sea as was now raging.

Suddenly from somewhere out of the air came a humming sound. It grew louder and louder, and the boys felt a strange suction of wind which made them hold tightly to the rail for fear of being pulled overboard by some uncanny force. There followed a loud snap and a crash, and the mast began to come down.

"Look out for the mast!" screamed Captain Jerry, and all jumped just in the nick of time. Down came the stick, to strike the rail and shatter it like a pipe stem, and then lay over the deck and over the waves beyond.