The Stone Chest by G. A. Henty
Chapter IV.--The Escape From The Icebergs.
To Captain Sumner it looked as if the Dart would surely be crushed.
"Be prepared to jump!" he sang out again.
But even as he spoke a strong gust filled the yacht's topsails.
She plunged forward.
The starboard berg was left behind, and the sea on that bow was open.
Bok instantly shifted the helm.
The Dart's head fell away from the danger on the port bow.
A few minutes passed.
Then, with a crash as if an earthquake had riven a mountain chain, the two bergs met.
Our hero, who, with the others, was watching with breathless interest, saw them rebound.
Huge blocks and pinnacles of ice, thousands of tons in weight, fell into the gap between them.
Before these could rise to the surface the ice mountains had again collided.
A crunching, rending sound struck the ears of our friends, as the two monsters ground their sides against one another.
The rugged summits fell into the sea, and formed smaller bergs.
The yacht was lifted on to the top of the giant waves caused by the concussion, then sank into the hollow, only to be caught up again by the still higher swell.
But the danger was over!
After escaping so narrowly being crushed the Dart found the sea free from ice, and made good way to the southward.
However, about eight bells on the following day, a gale sprang up from the northeast, which drove down the eastern floe in dangerous proximity.
The waves rose, and sheets of spray flew ever the fast-driven schooner.
It was so cold that, in spite of all the warm clothing they could find on board, all hands felt numbed.
"Land ahead!" was an appalling cry which rang out suddenly.
Captain Sumner himself hurried forward.
A rough, rocky island, the waves dashing in foam against its low cliffs, was discerned through the flying spray.
Already the edge of the eastern floe was crushing itself to pieces against the projecting reefs.
On the right, or western side, was a lane of broken water.
To venture into it was very dangerous, but seemed their only chance.
Bok and another sailor were at the wheel.
Over it went, strained down by their united strength, and the Dart dashed through the breaking water.
The western side of the island was about a mile long.
Twice, by porting the helm, the little vessel escaped clear of rocks, over which the water spurted.
As she approached the southern end of the isle, Bok, who had been sent into the foretop, shouted that again there was land ahead, and that the passage between was full of ice.
The captain ascended the shrouds himself, halfway to the top.
"It's like a cauldron," he exclaimed on descending. "No ship, except perhaps a very powerful steam whaler, could live in it.
"There is only one chance for us," he continued. "We must get under shelter of this island."
As the south coast line opened, the helm was put down, and the vessel was hove to under a high cliff and jutting cape, which protected her from the rush of the ice-laden current.
Both anchors were at once let go.
Fortunately they found good holding ground.
All the rest of that day, and till dawn the next, did the gale rage; but as the short night passed, the wind sank, and by midday it was but a breeze.
The current running between the islands soon swept the ice away.
But before trusting himself in these strange waters the captain determined to send a boat across to the greater island, on which rose a rugged hill of considerable height.
Both Mrs. Cromwell and Viola begged for a run on shore, so the larger boat was manned by Bok and three seamen, Bob and Jack each taking an oar, while the captain and the women occupied the stern-sheets.