The Stone Chest by G. A. Henty
Chapter X.--The Escape Of The "Dart."
For fully ten minutes no one could tell whether the yacht would right herself or not.
Captain Sumner, aided by our hero and Jack, at length found the topgallant halyards, and lowered the sail in the peak.
We say found, for the darkness was intense.
Then the gallant little vessel, as if freed from an overpowering load, came up to her bracings.
Once more she flew with increased speed through the water.
A few seconds and the star-lit sky again appeared overhead, and the rolling smoke wreaths were left behind.
"Heavens!" cried the captain; "never in all my life have I seen the like. What a death to have escaped!"
As if exhausted with its own fury, the squall subsided as suddenly as it had sprung up. The smoke gradually blew away.
And there, over the starboard quarter, some two miles distant, lay a long, low, black island.
"Look! look!" yelled Bob suddenly.
All eyes followed his outstretched hand.
There on the shore rested a familiar-looking boat, containing three figures--Mrs. Cromwell, Viola, and the madman.
Mrs. Cromwell and Viola were waving their hands. Then, assured they were seen, both fell back unconscious.
As for the mad sailor, he never stirred. He was dead.
It did not take the captain and Bob long to reach the women folks. They were taken on board the Dart, and, after Bob had kissed his mother and the captain had hugged his daughter, and both were given food, they told their story.
"When the madman struck Bob I nearly fainted," said Mrs. Cromwell. "When I came to he had hoisted the sail, and we were leaving the shore. The crazy fellow was eating some ship biscuit, which lay in a basket.
"When the madman had appeased his hunger he looked at us for some minutes without speaking.
"We were dreadfully frightened, but he never once came aft to annoy us.
"He placed some tinned meat and water near us, and then sat by the mast, singing loudly and rocking himself backward and forward.
"Viola and myself slept in turn; but the madman sat in the bow, looking out ahead, hour after hour.
"When the wind rose and the waves broke into the cutter he reefed the sail, and managed her wonderfully well.
"Still he never spoke.
"A shower fell, and Viola and myself collected the water and had a good drink.
"Another time snow fell.
"This also we collected and put into the barrel.
"Time after time a fresh can of meat was placed out for us.
"But we ate very sparingly.
"I think at this period the man's senses were returning to him, for soon after he spoke.
"He told us he did not know where we were, but trusted it was off the coast of Siberia, and that we had every chance of being picked up.
"He said that his name was Charlow, and that he had been mate of a brig that had been wrecked, but he had gone mad through misery, loneliness, and want.
"We had just sighted the coast, when first the smoke from your vessel came into view.
"Charlow was very weak, but he altered the direction the boat was going, and told us how to steer toward you.
"Presently the yacht came in sight, and we tried to get him to put us on board; but he was too weak, and just before Bob saw us he breathed his last."
Such was Mrs. Cromwell's narrative, and Viola corroborated it.
A happy day was spent on board of the Dart. "I trust we are never separated again," said Bob to his mother.
"So do I, Bob," she returned fondly. Then she gave a sigh. "I wonder when we will reach Cedar Island. I see nothing like cedar trees around here."
"The map has but one cedar on it," he returned. "It must have floated up here in the water and taken root in the ice. Even Captain Sumner can't understand that part of it."
On the following day the Dart again set sail for the coast of Siberia.
They were well into the sea of Kamtchatka, and felt that they must soon strike the spot mentioned in Ruel Gross' memorandums, if the old sailor had taken his observations correctly.
"If only we were sure father was alive!" Bob murmured more than once.
Three days passed, and Bob was one morning in the foretop when suddenly he gave a wild shout.
"Where away?" asked Captain Sumner quickly.
For from the deck nothing but icebergs were to be seen.
"To the northwest, sir. Will you let me have the glass?"
The glass was quickly brought and adjusted. The captain gave one glance.
"Ah! Bob, look!"
The boy did so, and then gave a shout that brought everyone on board on deck.