The Stone Chest by G. A. Henty
Chapter III.--Among The Icebergs.
At that instant a shock nearly threw them off their feet.
Viola caught Bob's arm, and Mrs. Cromwell and the captain almost fell together.
"We are foul of the ice!" shouted the mate, rushing forward.
"What!" roared the captain. "Where's that rascally lookout? Down with helm! The sea is full of loose ice."
For the rest of the day the Dart was dodging through hummocks of ice, which looked as if a floe had been broken up by a storm.
When Bob came on deck for his watch at midnight, it was intensely dark.
A thin scud shut out the light of the stars and moon.
He was joined by Jack, for the two lads usually kept watch together.
"I am afraid we are in a tight fix," said the latter. "I doubt if we shall ever again find our way home."
"Never say die," cried our hero. "But look! What's that yonder?"
The two chums peered into the darkness ahead.
"I think there is a blacker spot than the rest over the starboard bow," said Bob, after a while.
"There are some blue signal-lights here. I'll ignite one," suggested Jack.
Retiring under shelter of the companionway he struck a light and ignited the blue fire.
Clambering on to the bulwarks, and holding on to the forestay with one hand, he held it above his head.
Right in front of them loomed two bergs, not a quarter of a mile apart, the sea dashing in spray along their sides.
There was not a moment for hesitation.
"Port your helm!" sang out our hero. "Keep her so!" he added, as he saw the bows of the schooner point for the narrow passage.
Jack lit another blue light, and thumped on the deck to wake those below.
In half a minute Captain Sumner and the mate were beside them.
"The bergs are closing in on us," said the captain quietly. "Go to your helm, Bok; it will be safer."
The bergs were more than a mile long, and the vessel, under easy sail, was not making more than six knots an hour.
"Here, gentlemen, take the halyards, and rouse up the topgallant sails. I won't trust the crew on deck till the last minute."
With the assistance of the man Bob had relieved at the wheel, they soon had the topgallant sails, which had been furled, chock-a-block.
"It will be a narrow squeak," muttered the captain, as he glanced at the icebergs, whose tops seemed quite close, though the bases were yet some distance from the schooner.
"Is there any hope?" whispered a soft voice in our hero's ear.
"I trust so, Miss Viola," he answered. "See! yonder is the end of the ice mountain on the starboard bow."
"But how close they are!"
"They look closer than they are in reality," he replied.
All the time he was wondering if their end had really come.
Suppose the wind were to fail!
Fortunately for them, however, caught between the two bergs, it rather increased in force than diminished.
The icy tops seemed now ready to topple down on the deck.
The waves, running up the sides of the bergs, lifted the vessel on their swell as they rebounded.
Fifty yards on either side towered the glittering mountains.
Thirty yards, twenty yards! and the salt spray of the billows, which dashed on the icy cliffs, fell on deck.
Viola's hand was clasped in Bob's, and our hero felt some relief in facing death with her and his mother.
"Call your comrades," cried Captain Sumner to the sailor. "Give them a chance for life. Come, Mrs. Cromwell, Viola, Bob, Jack--all of you. Prepare to jump for the ice, when we strike! It's our only hope!"