Published in Household Words, December 1856. Collins was responsible for two parts: "John Steadiman's Account" and "The Deliverance." The rest of The Wreck of the Golden Mary is available here here at Project Gutenberg.
WHEN the sun rose on the twenty-seventh day of our calamity, the first question that I secretly asked myself was, How many more mornings will the stoutest of us live to see? I had kept count, ever since we took to the boats, of the days of the week; and I knew that we had now arrived at another Thursday. Judging by my own sensations (and I believe I had as much strength left as the best man among us), I came to the conclusion that, unless the mercy of Providence interposed to effect our deliverance, not one of our company could hope to see another morning after the morning of Sunday.
Two discoveries that I made--after redeeming my promise overnight, to serve out with the morning whatever eatable thing I could find--helped to confirm me in my gloomy view of our future prospects. In the first place, when the few coffee-berries left, together with a small allowance of water, had been shared all round, I found on examining the lockers that not one grain of provision remained, fore or aft, in any part of the boat, and that our stock of fresh water was reduced to not much more than would fill a wine-bottle. In the second place, after the berries had been shared, and the water equally divided, I noticed that the sustenance thus administered produced no effect whatever, even of the most momentary kind, in raising the spirits of the passengers (excepting in one case) or in rallying the strength of the crew. The exception was Mr. Rarx. This tough and greedy old sinner seemed to wake up from the trance he had lain in so long, when the smell of the berries and water was under his nose. He swallowed his share with a gulp that many a younger and better man in the boat might have envied; and went maundering on to himself afterwards, as if he had got a new lease of life. He fancied now that he was digging a gold mine, all by himself, and going down bodily straight through the earth at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour. "Leave me alone," says he, "leave me alone. The lower I go, the richer I get. Down I go!--down, down, down, down, till I burst out at the other end of the world in a shower of gold!" So he went on, kicking feebly with his heels from time to time against the bottom of the boat.
But, as for all the rest, it was a pitiful and dreadful sight to see of how little use their last shadow of a meal was to them. I myself attended, before anybody else was served, to the two poor women. Miss Coleshaw shook her head faintly, and pointed to her throat, when I offered her the few berries that fell to her share. I made a shift to crush them up fine and mix them with a little water, and got her to swallow that miserable drop of drink with the greatest difficulty. When it was down there came no change for the better over her face. Nor did she recover, for so much as a moment, the capacity to speak, even in a whisper. I next tried Mrs. Atherfield. It was hard to wake her out of the half-swooning, half-sleeping condition in which she lay,--and harder still to get her to open her lips when I put the tin cup to them. When I had at last prevailed on her to swallow her allowance, she shut her eyes again, and fell back into her old position. I saw her lips moving; and, putting my ear close to them, caught some of the words she was murmuring to herself. She was still dreaming of the Golden Lucy. She and the child were walking somewhere by the banks of a lake, at the time when the buttercups are out. The Golden Lucy was gathering the buttercups, and making herself a watch-chain out of them, in imitation of the chain that her mother wore. They were carrying a little basket with them, and were going to dine together in a great hollow tree growing on the banks of the lake. To get this pretty picture painted on one's mind as I got it while listening to the poor mother's broken words, and then to look up at the haggard faces of the men in the boat, and at the wild ocean rolling all round us, was such a change from fancy to reality as it has fallen, I hope, to few men's lots to experience.
My next thought, when I had done my best for the women, was for the captain. I was free to risk losing my own share of water, if I pleased, so I tried, before tasting it myself, to get a little between his lips; but his teeth were fast clenched, and I had neither strength nor skill to open them. The faint warmth still remained, thank God, over his heart--but, in all other respects he lay beneath us like a dead man. In covering him up again as comfortably as I could, I found a bit of paper crunched in one of his hands, and took it out. There was some writing on it, but not a word was readable. I supposed, poor fellow, that he had been trying to write some last instructions for me, just before he dropped at his post. If they had been ever so easy to read, they would have been of no use now. To follow instructions we must have had some power to shape the boat's course in a given direction--and this, which we had been gradually losing for some days past, we had now lost altogether.
I had hoped that the serving out of the refreshment would have put a little modicum of strength into the arms of the men at the oars; but, as I have hinted, this hope turned out to be perfectly fruitless. Our last mockery of a meal, which had done nothing for the passengers, did nothing either for the crew--except to aggravate the pangs of hunger in the men who were still strong enough to feel them. While the weather held moderate, it was not of much consequence if one or two of the rowers kept dropping, in turn, into a kind of faint sleep over their oars. But if it came on to blow again (and we could expect nothing else in those seas and at that time of the year), how was I to steer, when the blades of the oars were out of the water ten times as often as they were in? The lives which we had undergone such suffering to preserve would have been lost in an instant by the swamping of the boat, if the wind had risen on the morning of Thursday, and had caught us trying to row any longer.
Feeling this, I resolved, while the weather held moderately fine, to hoist the best substitute for a sail that we could produce, and to drive before the wind, on the chance (the last we had to hope for) of a ship picking us up. We had only continued to use the oars up to this time, in order to keep the course which the captain had pointed out as likeliest to bring us near the land. Sailing had been out of the question from the first, the masts and suits of sails belonging to each boat having been out of them at the time of the wreck, and having gone down with the ship. This was an accident which there was no need to deplore, for we were too crowded from the first to admit of handling the boats properly, under their regular press of sail, in anything like rough weather.
Having made up my mind on what it was necessary to do, I addressed the men, and told them that any notion of holding longer on our course with the oars was manifestly out of the question, and dangerous to all on board, as their own common sense might tell them, in the state to which the stoutest arms among us were now reduced. They looked round on each other as I said that, each man seeming to think his neighbour weaker than himself. I went on, and told them that we must take advantage of our present glimpse of moderate weather, and hoist the best sail we could set up, and drive before the wind, in the hope that it might please God to direct us in the way of some ship before it was too late. "Our only chance, my men," I said, in conclusion, "is the chance of being picked up; and in these desolate seas one point of the compass is just as likely a point for our necessities as another. Half of you keep the boat before the sea, the other half bring out your knives, and do as I tell you." The prospect of being relieved from the oars struck the wandering attention of the men directly; and they said, "Ay, ay, sir!" with something like a faint reflection of their former readiness, when the good ship was under their feet, and the mess-cans were filled with plenty of wholesome food.
Thanks to Captain Ravender's forethought in providing both boats with a coil of rope, we had our lashings, and the means of making what rigging was wanted, ready to hand. One of the oars was made fast to the thwart, and well stayed fore and aft, for a mast. A large pilot coat that I wore was spread; enough of sail for us. The only difficulty that puzzled me was occasioned by the necessity of making a yard. The men tried to tear up one of the thwarts, but were not strong enough. My own knife had been broken in the attempt to split a bit of plank for them; and I was almost at my wit's end, when I luckily thought of searching the captain's pockets for his knife. I found it--a fine large knife of Sheffield manufacture, with plenty of blades, and a small saw among them. With this we made a shift to saw off about a third of another oar; and then the difficulty was conquered; and we got my pilot-coat hoisted on our jury-mast, and rigged it as nigh as we could to the fashion of a lug-sail.
I had looked anxiously towards the Surf-boat, while we were rigging our mast, and observed, with a feeling of great relief, that the men in her--as soon as they discovered what we were about--were wise enough to follow our example. They got on faster than we did; being less put to it for room to turn round in. We set our sails as nearly as possible about the same time; and it was well for both boats that we finished our work when we did. At noon the wind began to rise again to a stiff breeze, which soon knocked up a heavy, tumbling sea. We drove before it in a direction North and by East, keeping wonderfully dry, considering all things. The mast stood well; and the sail, small as it was, did good service in steadying the boat and lifting her easily over the seas. I felt the cold after the loss of my coat, but not so badly as I had feared; for the two men who were with me in the stern sheets, sat as close as they could on either side of me, and helped with the warmth of their own bodies to keep the warmth in mine. Forward, I told off half a dozen of the most trustworthy of the men who could still muster strength enough to keep their eyes open, to set a watch, turn and turn about, on our frail rigging. The wind was steadily increasing, and if any accident happened to our mast, the chances were that the boat would broach-to, and that every one of us would go to the bottom.
So we drove on--all through that day-- sometimes catching sight of the Surf-boat a little ahead of us--sometimes losing her altogether in the scud. How little and frail, how very different to the kind of boat that I had expected to see, she looked to my eyes now that I was out of her, and saw what she showed like on the waters for the first time! But to return to the Long-boat. The watch on the rigging was relieved every two hours, and at the same regular periods all the brightest eyes left amongst us looked out for the smallest vestige of a sail in view, and looked in vain. Among the passengers, nothing happened in the way of a change--except that Miss Coleshaw seemed to grow fainter, and that Mrs. Atherfield got restless, as if she were waking out of her long dream about the Golden Lucy.
It got on towards sunset. The wind was rising to half a gale. The clouds which had been heavy all over the firmament since noon, were lifting to the westward, and leaving there, over the horizon line of the ocean, a long strip of clear pale greenish sky, overhung by a cloud-bank, whose ragged edges were tipped with burning crimson by the sun. I did not like the look of the night, and, keeping where I was, in the forward part of the boat, I helped the men to ease the strain off our mast, by lowering the yard a little and taking a pull on the sheet, so as to present to the wind a smaller surface even of our small sail. Noting the wild look of the weather, and the precautions we were taking against the chance of a gale rising in the night--and being, furthermore, as I believe, staggered in their minds by the death that had taken place among them--three of the passengers struggled up in the bottom of the boat, clasped their arms round me as if they were drowning men already, and hoarsely clamoured for a last drink of water, before the storm rose and sent us all to the bottom.
"Water you shall have," I said, "when I think the time has come to serve it out. The time has not come yet."
"Water, pray!" they all three groaned together. Two more passengers who were asleep, woke up, and joined the cry.
"Silence!" I said. "There are not two spoonsful of fresh water left for each man in the boat. I shall wait three hours more for the chance of rain before I serve that out. Silence, and drop back to your places!"
They let go of me, but clamoured weakly for water still; and, this time, the voices of some of the crew joined them. At this moment, to my great alarm (for I thought they were going mad and turning violent against me), I was seized round the neck by one of the men, who had been standing up, holding on by the mast, and looking out steadily to the westward.
I raised my right hand to free myself; but before I touched him, the sight of the man's face close to mine made me drop my arm again. There was a speechless, breathless, frantic joy in it, that made all the blood in my veins stand still in a moment.
"Out with it!" I said. "Man alive, out with it, for God's sake!"
His breath beat on my cheek in hot, quick, heavy gasps; but he could not utter a word. For a moment he let go of the mast (tightening his hold on me with the other arm) and pointed out westward--then slid heavily down on to the thwart behind us.
I looked westward, and saw that one of the two trustworthy men whom I had left at the helm was on his feet looking out westward, too. As the boat rose, I fixed my eyes on the strip of clear greenish sky in the west, and on the bright line of the sea just under it. The boat dipped again before I could see anything. I squeezed my eyelids together to get the water out of them, and when we rose again looked straight into the middle of the bright sea-line. My heart bounded as if it would choke me--my tongue felt like a cinder in my mouth--my knees gave way under me--I dropped down on to the thwart, and sobbed out, with a great effort, as if I had been dumb for weeks before, and had only that instant found my speech:
"A sail! a sail!"
The words were instantly echoed by the man in the stern sheets.
"Sail, ho!" he screeches out, turning round on us, and swinging his arms about his head like a madman.
This made three of our company who had seen the ship already, and that one fact was sufficient to remove all dread lest our eyes might have been deceiving us. The great fear now was, not that we were deluded, but that we might come to some serious harm through the excess of joy among the people; that is to say, among such of the people as still had the sense to feel and the strength to express what they felt. I must record in my own justification, after confessing that I lost command over myself altogether on the discovery of the sail, that I was the first who set the example of self-control. I was in a manner forced to this by the crew frantically entreating me to lay to until we could make out what course the ship was steering--a proceeding which, with the sea then running, with the heavy lading of the boat, and with such feeble substitutes for mast and sail as we possessed, must have been attended with total destruction to us all. I tried to remind the men of this, but they were in such a transport--hugging each other round the neck, and crying and laughing all in a breath--that they were not fit to listen to reason. Accordingly, I myself went to the helm again, and chose the steadiest of my two men in the after part of the boat, as a guard over the sheet, with instructions to use force, if necessary, towards any one who stretched out so much as a finger to it. The wind was rising every minute, and we had nothing for it but to scud, and be thankful to God's mercy that we had sea-room to do it in.
"It will be dark in an hour's time, sir," says the man left along with me when I took the helm again. "We have no light to show. The ship will pass us in the night. Lay to, sir! For the love of Heaven, give us all a chance, and lay to!" says he, and goes down on his knees before me, wringing his hands.
"Lay to!" says I. "Lay to, under a coat! Lay to, in a boat like this, with the wind getting up to a gale! A seaman like you talk in that way! Who have I got along here with me? Sailors who know their craft, or a pack of long-shore lubbers, who ought to be turned adrift in a ferry-boat on a pond?" My heart was heavy enough, God knows, but I spoke out as loud as I could, in that light way, to try and shame the men back to their proper senses. I succeeded at least in restoring silence; and that was something in such a condition as ours.
My next anxiety was to know if the men in the Surf-boat had sighted the sail to the westward. She was still driving ahead of us, and the first time I saw her rise on the waves, I made out a signal on board--a strip of cloth fastened to a boat-hook. I ordered the man by my side to return it with his jacket tied on to the end of an oar, being anxious to see whether his agitation had calmed down and left him fit for his duty again. He followed my directions steadily, and when he had got his jacket on again, asked me to pardon him for losing his self-command in a quiet, altered voice.
I shook hands with him, and gave him the helm, in proof that my confidence was restored; then stood up and turned my face to the westward once again. I looked long into the belt of clear sky, which was narrowing already as the cloud-bank above sank over it. I looked with all my heart and soul and strength. It was only when my eyes could stand the strain on them no longer, that I gave in, and sat down again by the tiller. If I had not been supported by a firm trust in the mercy of Providence, which had preserved us thus far, I am afraid I should have abandoned myself at that trying time to downright hopeless, speechless despair.
It would not express much to any but seafaring readers if I mentioned the number of leagues off that I considered the ship to be. I shall give a better idea of the terrible distance there was between us, when I say that no landsman's eye could have made her out at all, and that none of us sailors could have seen her but for the bright opening in the sky, which made even a speck on the waters visible to a mariner's experienced sight all that weary way off. When I have said this, I have said enough to render it plain to every man's understanding that it was a sheer impossibility to make out what course the ship was steering, seeing that we had no chance of keeping her in view at that closing time of day for more than another half-hour, at most. There she was, astern to leeward of us; and here were we, driving for our lives before the wind, with any means of kindling a light that we might have possessed on leaving our ship wetted through long ago--with no guns to fire as signals of distress in the darkness--and with no choice, if the wind shifted, but still to scud in any direction in which it might please to drive us. Supposing, even at the best, that the ship was steering on our course, and would overhaul us in the night, what chance had we of making our position known to her in the darkness? Truly, look at it anyhow we might from our poor mortal point of view, our prospect of deliverance seemed to be of the most utterly hopeless kind that it is possible to conceive.
The men felt this bitterly, as the cloud-bank dropped to the verge of the waters, and the sun set redly behind it. The moaning and lamenting among them was miserable to hear, when the last speck and phantom of the ship had vanished from view. Some few still swore they saw her when there was hardly a flicker of light left in the west, and only gave up looking out, and dropped down in the boat, at my express orders. I charged them all solemnly to set an example of courage to the passengers, and to trust the rest to the infinite wisdom and mercy of the Creator of us all. Some murmured, some fell to repeating scraps out of the Bible and Prayer-Book, some wandered again in their minds. This went on till the darkness gathered--then a great hush of silence fell drearily over passengers and crew; and the waves and the wind hissed and howled about us, as if we were tossing in the midst of them, a boat-load of corpses already!
Twice in the forepart of the night the clouds overhead parted for a little, and let the blessed moonlight down upon us. On the first of those occasions, I myself served out the last drops of fresh water we had left. The two women--poor suffering creatures!--were past drinking. Miss Coleshaw shivered a little when I moistened her lips with the water; and Mrs. Atherfield, when I did the same for her, drew her breath with a faint, fluttering sigh, which was just enough to show that she was not dead yet. The captain still lay as he had lain ever since I got on board the boat. The others, both passengers and crew, managed for the most part to swallow their share of the water--the men being just sufficiently roused by it to get up on their knees, while the moonlight lasted, and look about wildly over the ocean for a chance of seeing the ship again. When the clouds gathered once more; they crouched back in their places with a long groan of despair. Hearing that, and dreading the effect of the pitchy darkness (to say nothing of the fierce wind and sea) on their sinking spirits, I resolved to combat their despondency, if it were still possible to contend against it, by giving them something to do. First telling them that no man could say at what time of the night the ship (in case she was steering our course) might forge-ahead of us, or how near she might be when she passed, I recommended that all who had the strength should join their voices at regular intervals, and shout their loudest when the boat rose highest in the waves, on the chance of that cry of distress being borne by the wind within hearing of the watch on board the ship. It is unnecessary to say that I knew well how near it was to an absolute impossibility that this last feeble exertion on our parts could lead to any result. I only proposed it because I was driven to the end of my resources to keep up the faintest flicker of spirit among the men. They received my proposal with more warmth and readiness than I had ventured in their hopeless state, to expect from them. Up to the turn of midnight they resolutely raised their voices with me, at intervals of from five to ten minutes, whenever the boat was tossed highest on the waves. The wind seemed to whirl our weak cries savagely out of our mouths almost before we could utter them. I, sitting astern in the boat, only heard them, as it seemed, for something like an instant of time. But even that was enough to make me creep all over--the cry was so forlorn and fearful. Of all the dreadful sounds I had heard since the first striking of the ship, that shrill wail of despair--rising on the wave-tops, one moment; whirled away, the next, into the black night--was the most frightful that entered my ears. There are times, even now, when it seems to be ringing in them still.
Whether our first gleam of moonshine fell upon old Mr. Rarx, while he was sleeping, and helped to upset his weak brains altogether, is more than I can say. But, for some reason or other, before the clouds parted and let the light down on us for the second time, and while we were driving along awfully through the blackest of the night, he stirred in his place, and began rambling and raving again more vehemently than ever. To hear him now--that is to say, as well as I could hear him for the wind--he was still down in his gold-mine; but was laden so heavy with his precious metal that he could not get out, and was in mortal peril of being drowned by the water rising in the bottom of the shaft. So far, his maundering attracted my attention disagreeably, and did no more. But when he began--if I may say so--to take the name of the dear little dead child in vain, and to mix her up with himself and his miserly greed of gain, I got angry, and called to the men forward to give him a shake and make him hold his tongue. Whether any of them obeyed or not, I don't know--Mr. Rarx went on raving louder than ever. The shrill wind was now hardly more shrill than he. He swore he saw the white frock of our poor little lost pet fluttering in the daylight, at the top of the mine, and he screamed out to her in a great fright that the gold was heavy, and the water rising fast, and that she must come down quick as lightning if she meant to be in time to help him. I called again angrily to the men to silence him; and just as I did so, the clouds began to part for the second time, and the white tip of the moon grew visible.
"There she is!" screeches Mr. Rarx; and I saw him by the faint light, scramble on his knees in the bottom of the boat, and wave a ragged old handkerchief up at the moon.
"Pull him down!" I called out. "Down with him; and tie his arms and legs!"
Of the men who could still move about, not one paid any attention to me. They were all upon their knees again, looking out in the strengthening moonlight for a sight of the ship.
"Quick, Golden Lucy!" screams Mr. Rarx, and creeps under the thwarts right forward into the bows of the boat. "Quick! my darling, my beauty, quick! The gold is heavy, and the water rises fast! Come down and save me, Golden Lucy! Let all the rest of the world drown, and save me! Me! me! me! me!"
He shouted these last words out at the top of his cracked, croaking voice, and got on his feet, as I conjectured (for the coat we had spread for a sail now hid him from me) in the bows of the boat. Not one of the crew so much as looked round at him, so eagerly were their eyes seeking for the ship. The man sitting by me was sunk in a deep sleep. If I had left the helm for a moment in that wind and sea, it would have been the death of every soul of us. I shouted desperately to the raving wretch to sit down. A screech that seemed to cut the very wind in two answered me. A huge wave tossed the boat's head up wildly at the same moment. I looked aside to leeward as the wash of the great roller swept by us, gleaming of a lurid, bluish white in the moonbeams; I looked and saw, in one second of time, the face of Mr. Rarx rush past on the wave, with the foam seething in his hair and the moon shining in his eyes. Before I could draw my breath he was a hundred yards astern of us, and the night and the sea had swallowed him up and had hid his secret, which he had kept all the voyage, from our mortal curiosity, for ever.
"He's gone! he's drowned!" I shouted to the men forward.
None of them took any notice; none of them left off looking out over the ocean for a sight of the ship. Nothing that I could say on the subject of our situation at that fearful time can, in my opinion, give such an idea of the extremity and the frightfulness of it, as the relation of this one fact. I leave it to speak by itself the sad and shocking truth, and pass on gladly to the telling of what happened next, at a later hour of the night. After the clouds had shut out the moon again, the wind dropped a little and shifted a point or two, so as to shape our course nearer to the eastward. How the hours passed after that, till the dawn came, is more than I can tell. The nearer the time of daylight approached the more completely everything seemed to drop out of my mind, except the one thought of where the ship we had seen in the evening might be, when we looked for her with the morning light.
It came at last--that grey, quiet light which was to end all our uncertainty; which was to show us if we were saved, or to warn us if we were to prepare for death. With the first streak in the east, every one of the boat's company, except the sleeping and the senseless, roused up and looked out in breathless silence upon the sea. Slowly and slowly the daylight strengthened, and the darkness rolled off farther and farther before it over the face of the waters. The first pale flush of the sun flew trembling along the paths of light broken through the grey wastes of the eastern clouds. We could look clearly--we could see far; and there, ahead of us--O! merciful, bountiful providence of God!--there was the ship!
I have honestly owned the truth, and confessed to the human infirmity under suffering of myself, my passengers, and my crew. I have earned, therefore, as I would fain hope, the right to record it to the credit of all, that the men, the moment they set eyes on the ship, poured out their whole hearts in humble thanksgiving to the Divine Mercy which had saved them from the very jaws of death. They did not wait for me to bid them do this; they did it of their own accord, in their own language, fervently, earnestly, with one will and one heart.
We had hardly made the ship out--a fine brigantine, hoisting English colours--before we observed that her crew suddenly hove her up in the wind. At first we were at a loss to understand this; but as we drew nearer, we discovered that she was getting the Surf-boat (which had kept ahead of us all through the night) alongside of her, under the lee bow. My men tried to cheer when they saw their companions in safety, but their weak cries died away in tears and sobbing.
In another half-hour we, too, were alongside of the brigantine.
From this point, I recollect nothing very distinctly. I remember faintly many loud voices and eager faces;--I remember fresh strong willing fellows, with a colour in their cheeks,, and a smartness in their movements that seemed quite preternatural to me at that time, hanging over us in the rigging of the brigantine, and dropping down from her sides into our boat;--I remember trying with my feeble hands to help them in the difficult and perilous task of getting the two poor women and the captain on board;--I remember one dark hairy giant of a man swearing that it was enough to break his heart, and catching me in his arms like a child--and from that moment I remember nothing more with the slightest certainty for over a week of time.
When I came to my own senses again, in my cot on board the brigantine, my first inquiries were naturally for my fellow-sufferers. Two--a passenger in the Long-boat, and one of the crew of the Surf-boat--had sunk in spite of all the care that could be taken of them. The rest were likely, with time and attention, to recover. Of those who have been particularly mentioned in this narrative, Mrs. Atherfield had shown signs of rallying the soonest; Miss Coleshaw, who had held out longer against exhaustion, was now the slower to recover. Captain Ravender, though slowly mending, was still not able to speak or to move in his cot without help. The sacrifices for us all which this good man had so nobly undergone, not only in the boat, but before that, when he had deprived himself of his natural rest on the dark nights that preceded the wreck of the Golden Mary, had sadly undermined his natural strength of constitution. He, the heartiest of all, when we sailed from England, was now, through his unwearying devotion to his duty and to us, the last to recover, the longest to linger between life and death.
My next questions (when they helped me on deck to get my first blessed breath of fresh air) related to the vessel that had saved us. She was bound to the Columbia river--a long way to the northward of the port for which we had sailed in the Golden Mary. Most providentially for us, shortly after we had lost sight of the brigantine in the shades of the evening, she had been caught in a squall, and had sprung her foretopmast badly. This accident had obliged them to lay to for some hours, while they did their best to secure the spar, and had warned them, when they continued on their course, to keep the ship under easy sail through the night. But for this circumstance we must, in all human probability, have been too far astern when the morning dawned, to have had the slightest chance of being discovered.
Excepting always some of the stoutest of our men, the next of the Long-boat's company who was helped on deck was Mrs. Atherfield. Poor soul! when she and I first looked at each other, I could see that her heart went back to the early days of our voyage, when the Golden Lucy and I used to have our game of hide-and-seek round the mast. She squeezed my hand as hard as she could with her wasted trembling fingers, and looked up piteously in my face, as if she would like to speak to little Lucy's playfellow, but dared not trust herself--then turned away quickly and laid her head against the bulwark, and looked out upon the desolate sea that was nothing to her now but her darling's grave. I was better pleased when I saw her later in the day, sitting by Captain Ravender's cot; for she seemed to take comfort in nursing him. Miss Coleshaw soon afterwards got strong enough to relieve her at this duty; and, between them, they did the captain such a world of good, both in body and spirit, that he also got strong enough before long to come on deck, and to thank me, in his old generous self-forgetful way, for having done my duty--the duty which I had learnt how to do by his example.
Hearing what our destination had been when we sailed from England, the captain of the brigantine (who had treated us with the most unremitting attention and kindness, and had been warmly seconded in his efforts for our good by all the people under his command) volunteered to go sufficiently out of his course to enable us to speak the first Californian coasting vessel sailing in the direction of San Francisco. We were lucky in meeting with one of these sooner than we expected. Three days after parting from the kind captain of the brigantine, we, the surviving passengers and crew of the Golden Mary, touched the firm ground once more, on the shores of California.
We were hardly collected here before we were obliged to separate again. Captain Ravender, though he was hardly yet in good travelling trim, accompanied Mrs. Atherfield inland, to see her safe under her husband's protection. Miss Coleshaw went with them, to stay with Mrs. Atherfield for a little while before she attempted to proceed with any matters of her own which had brought her to this part of the world. The rest of us, who were left behind with nothing particular to do until the captain's return, followed the passengers to the gold diggings. Some few of us had enough of the life there in a very short time. The rest seemed bitten by old Mr. Rarx's mania for gold, and insisted on stopping behind when Rames and I proposed going back to the port. We two, and five of our steadiest seamen, were all the officers and crew left to meet the captain on his return from the inland country.
He reported that he had left Mrs. Atherfield and Miss Coleshaw safe and comfortable under Mr. Atherfield's care. They sent affectionate messages to all of us, and especially (I am proud to say) to me. After hearing this good news, there seemed nothing better to do than to ship on board the first vessel bound for England. There were plenty in port, ready to sail, and only waiting for the men belonging to them who had deserted to the gold diggings. We were all snapped up eagerly, and offered any rate we chose to set on our services, the moment we made known our readiness to ship for England--all, I ought to have said, except Captain Ravender, who went along with us in the capacity of passenger only.
Nothing of any moment occurred on the voyage back. The captain and I got ashore at Gravesend safe and hearty, and went up to London as fast as the train could carry us, to report the calamity that had occurred to the owners of the Golden Mary. When that duty had been performed, Captain Ravender went back to his own house at Poplar, and I travelled to the West of England to report myself, to my old father and mother.
Here I might well end all these pages of writing; but I cannot refrain from adding a few more sentences, to tell the reader what I am sure he will be glad to hear. In the summer-time of this present year eighteen hundred and fifty-six, I happened to be at New York, and having spare time on my hands, and spare cash in my pocket, I walked into one of the biggest and grandest of their Ordinaries there, to have my dinner. I had hardly sat down at table, before who should I see opposite but Mrs. Atherfield, as bright-eyed and pretty as ever, with a gentleman on her right hand, and on her left--another Golden Lucy! Her hair was a shade or two darker than the hair of my poor little pet of past sad times; but in all other respects the living child reminded me so strongly of the dead, that I quite started at the first sight of her. I could not tell, if I was to try, how happy we were after dinner, or how much we had to say to each other. I was introduced to Mrs. Atherfield's husband, and heard from him, among other things, that Miss Coleshaw was married to her old sweetheart, who had fallen into misfortunes and errors, and whom she was determined to set right by giving him the great chance in life of getting a good wife. They were settled in America, like Mr. and Mrs. Atherfield--these last and the child being on their way, when I met them, to visit a friend living in the northernmost part of the States.
With the relation of this circumstance, and with my personal testimony to the good health and spirits of Captain Ravender the last time I saw him, ends all that I have to say in connection with the subject of the Wreck, of the Golden Mary, and the Great Deliverance of her People at Sea.
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