The Stone Chest by G. A. Henty
Chapter VIII.--A Remarkable Story.
"Jack! Jack!" shouted Bob.
A sound as of falling rocks or ice blocks reached his ears, but no answering voice.
The echoes of the falling masses died away.
Bob was filled with dismay at the dreadful ending of his chum.
He had reached his gun to him, but Larmore had been unable to grasp it.
He shuddered as he thought of Jack's feelings as he felt himself shooting over the precipice.
There was nothing to do but to return.
He found, lame as he was, the path extremely difficult.
But at length he reached the yacht and told his story.
"It's dreadful," said Captain Sumner. "First my daughter and your mother, and now your friend, a young gentleman we all liked and I, for one, looked on as a comrade, for we fought side by side against that rascally crew of ours."
The captain was quite affected.
When the Dart was once more going through the water in the direction in which Bob had seen what he took for a boat sail, he came to the side of our hero, who stood leaning on the after-bulwarks, gazing at the berg, whose southern point they were now passing.
"He was a fine young fellow!" he exclaimed, "and would have made a good officer.
"But what are you looking at?"
"A seal, sir," said Bob. "Don't you see it, lying in the shade of that block of ice, on the ledge, lapped by the swell?"
"Seals don't lie in the shade--they bask in the sun. Give me the glass, Bob."
But our hero was already drawing it out to his focus.
No sooner did he get it pointed correctly than he uttered a cry of surprise.
"That's his body!" he exclaimed. "At all events, a man's body. How on earth did it come there?"
A small boat was still towing astern.
Bob, forgetful of his sprain, lowered himself into her, and grasped the oars, while the captain followed.
"Hold hard!" shouted the mate.
Our hero impatiently, though he never for a moment expected to find his friend alive, complied.
In two minutes Leeks reappeared and let down a flask into the boat.
Our hero dashed the oars into the water, and the small boat moved faster over the heaving face of the ocean than she had ever done before.
"Don't deceive yourself. If it is your friend, he can't be alive," said the captain, as they approached the body of the ledge.
"It is Jack!" he added, a couple of minutes later. "But how on earth did he come there?"
Another score of vigorous strokes brought the little boat alongside the berg.
Hardly waiting to fasten the painter, they rushed to the body.
It was lying on its back, and as Bob bent over it he noticed a faint tinge of color on the cheek.
"He's only stunned, I believe, after all," cried our hero.
The captain unscrewed the top of the flask and poured a mouthful of wine between the teeth of the senseless lad.
In a minute it took effect.
Jack sighed and opened his eyes.
"Let's get him on board the yacht at once," exclaimed the captain.
First, however, he passed his hand along each limb, and then felt Jack's ribs.
The patient winced at the last experiment and uttered a low cry.
"Legs and arms all right," muttered the captain, as he with our hero's help carried the boy to the small boat; "so, if a rib's broken, he must consider himself well out of a bad scrape."
Bob again pulled his hardest, and when alongside the yacht his comrade with some difficulty was got on board.
It was not until late that evening that Jack was able to tell of his wonderful escape.
"I don't know much about it," he said, "but never shall I forget the awful feeling as I shot over the edge of the precipice.
"Of course I thought that I should fall down a well that penetrated right through the berg into the sea.
"However, instead of that, I did not fall a great distance before I came down feet first among a lot of pieces of loose ice, or, if not loose, they gave way with me, and together we went clattering down a second slope.
"All of a sudden I was pulled up by my rifle, which was slung round my shoulders, getting jammed across the passage.
"I tried to gain my feet, but failed; the slope was too smooth and steep.
"There was but one thing for it, and that was to go on.
"I slipped the sling over my head, and away I went again.
"Then came another fall.
"This nearly knocked me senseless.
"I just remember another slide, then daylight, then a last fall, and I lost all consciousness, only coming to myself to find you leaning over me."
"How is your side?" asked the captain. "Your escape was most wonderful. Another foot farther, and you would have been drowned."
"It was, as you say, a narrow escape. As for my side, I must say it's rather painful."
However, on the captain pressing it, he came to the conclusion that no ribs were broken.
It was bandaged up, and Jack was able to walk about, thankful that things were not worse.