Luck by Louis Becke
At the end of another four weeks, the Braybrook Castle, with three-fourths of the cargo she had brought from London, sailed for Sydney under the command of Captain Blake of the Harvest Queen, and the Harvest Queen under jury masts, and with her valuable cargo undamaged, was ready to sail, escorted by the Dolphin on the following day, with Lindley as master.
The last night at "Wreck House" was even a merrier and happier one than that on which the wrecking party celebrated Lucy's "find." But yet Lucy herself felt a little sad at saying farewell to this wild spot, where amid the roar of the ever-beating surf, and the clamour of the gulls and terns, she had spent the four happiest months of her life. The rough food, the fresh sea-air, and the active life had, Lester declared, only served to increase her beauty, and she herself had never felt so strong and in such robust health before. Almost every day in fine weather she had taken a walk to some part of the interior of the island, or along the many white beaches, filling a large basket with sea-birds' eggs, or collecting the many beautiful species of cowries and other sea-shells with which the beaches were strewn. Years before, another wrecking party had left some goats on the island, and these had thriven and increased amazingly. Her husband's men had shot a great number for food, and captured three or four, which supplied them with milk, and these latter, with their playful kids, and a number of fowls which had been brought from Sydney in the Dolphin, together with a pair of pet baby seals, made up what she called her "farmyard." On one part of the island there was a dense thicket of low trees, the resort not only of hundreds of wild goats, but of countless thousands of terns and other sea-birds, who had made it their breeding ground. It was situated at the head of a tiny landlocked bay, the beach of which was covered with the weather-worn spars and timbers of some great ship which had gone ashore there perhaps thirty or forty years before. The whole of the foreshores of the island, however, were alike in that respect, for it had proved fatal to many a good ship, even from the time that gallant navigator Matthew Flinders had first discovered the group.
On the morning of the last day of the stay of the wrecking party on the island, Lucy set out for this place, remembering that on her last visit she had left a basket of cowries there. Bidding her beware of black snakes, for the place was noted for these deadly reptiles, Lester went off on board the Harvest Queen.
An hour afterwards, as Lester was engaged with Lindley in the ship's cabin, a man on deck called down the skylight to him.
"Here is Mrs. Lester coming back, sir. She's running, and is calling for you."
With a dreadful fear that she had been bitten by a snake, Lester rushed on deck, jumped into a boat, and was ashore in a few minutes. Lucy, too exhausted to come down to the boat and meet him, had sat down in front of the now nearly empty house.
"I'm all right, Tom," she panted, as he ran up to her, "but I've had a terrible fright," and she could not repress a shudder. "I have just seen three skeletons in the thicket scrub, and all about them are strewn all sorts of things, and there are two or three small kegs, one of which is filled with money, for the end has burst and the money has partly run out on the sand."
Lester sprang to his feet, and called out to the two men who had pulled him ashore to come to him.
"Mrs. Lester's luck again!" he cried.
"Mrs. Lester's luck again!" bawled one of the men to the rest of the wrecking party on board the Harvest Queen, and in an instant the cry was taken up, and then came a loud cheer, as, disregarding discipline, all hands tumbled into a boat alongside, frantically eager to learn what had occurred.
Lester waited for them, and then Lucy gave a more detailed account of how she made her discovery.
"I found my basket where I had left it, and had just sat down to take off my shoes, which were filled with sand, when a goat with two of the sweetest little kids you ever saw in your life came suddenly out from behind a rock. The kids were not more than a day or two old, and I determined to catch at least one of them to take home. The moment the mother saw me she ran off with her babies, and I followed. They dived into the thicket, and led me such a dance, for they ran much faster than I thought they could.
"I had never been so far into the scrub before, and felt a little bit frightened--it was so dark and quiet--but I was too excited to give up, so on I sped until the nanny and kids ran into what seemed a tunnel in the thick scrub. It is really a road made by the goats and is only about three feet high, the branches and creepers making a regular archway overhead. I stooped down and followed, and in a few minutes came to a little space which was open to the sky; for the sunlight was so bright that, coming out of the dark tunnel place, I was quite dazzled for a few moments, and had to put my hands over my eyes.
"When I looked about, I saw that the ground was strewed with all sorts of things--rotten boards and boxes, and ships' blocks, and empty bottles and demijohns, with all the cane covering gone. Then I saw the three kegs, and noticed one had burst open or rotted away, and that it was filled with what looked like very large and dirty nickel pennies. I went to it and took some up, and saw they were crown pieces! Of course, I was at once wildly excited, and thought no more of the dear little kiddies, when I heard one of them cry out--quite near--and saw it, lying down exhausted, about ten yards away. I was running over to it when I saw those three dreadful skeletons. They are lying quite close to each other, near some brass cannons and a lot of rusty ironwork. I was so terrified that I forgot all about the poor kid, and--and, well, that is all; and here I am with my skirt in rags, and my face scratched, and my hair loose, and 'all of a bobbery,' as Manuel says."
"Boys," said Lester, "I'm pretty sure I know how those poor fellows' bones come to be there. An East Indiaman--the Mountjoy--was lost somewhere on the Kent Group about sixty years ago; and I have read that she had a lot of specie on board. Now, as soon as Mrs. Lester has rested a bit, we'll start."
"I'll carry you, ma'am," said Bailey, a herculean creature of 6 ft. 6 in., and stepping into "Wreck House" he brought out a chair, seated Lucy on it, and amidst applause and laughter, lifted it up on his mighty shoulders as if she was no more weight than the chair itself.
She guided them to the spot, and within an hour, not only the three small casks--all of which were filled with English silver money, but the contents of two others, which were found lying partly buried in the sandy soil, were brought to the house. And then began the exciting task of counting the coins, which took some time, and when Lester announced the result, a rousing cheer broke from the men.
"Six thousand, two hundred and seven pounds, four shillings, boys; all with the blessed picture of good old George the Third on them. Lucy, my dear, let us drink your health."
Lucy drew him aside for a minute or two ere she complied with his request, and with sparkling eyes she talked earnestly to him.
"Of course I will, dear," he said.
"Now, hoys," he cried, as Lucy brought out two bottles of brandy, and some cups and glasses, "let us drink my wife's health. She has brought us good luck. And she and I are dividing a thousand pounds between you, with an extra fifty for Manuel; for I'm pretty well certain that the Home Government can't claim any royalty."
The rough wreckers cheered and cheered again, as they drank to "Mrs. Lester's Luck." They were all being paid high wages, and were worth them, for they had toiled manfully, and the most pleasant relations had always existed between them and Lester.
Immediately after breakfast on the following morning the anchors of the Harvest Queen were weighed to the raising chanty of--
"Hurrah, my boys, we're Homeward Bound!" and then the Dolphin, with Lester on the bridge and Lucy beside him at the telegraph, went ahead, and tautened out the tow line, and Lindley made all sail on his stumpy jury masts.
Seventeen days later, the gallant little tug pulled the Harvest Queen into Sydney Harbour. "Mrs. Lester's Luck," had been with them the whole voyage, for from the time they had left Kent's Group, till they passed between Sydney Heads, nothing but fine weather and favourable winds had been experienced.
As the Dolphin, with the hulking Harvest Queen behind her, came up the smooth waters of the harbour to an anchorage off Garden Island, big Bailey, who was standing beside Lester and Lucy on the bridge, uttered a yell of delight.
"Mrs. Lester's luck again, by all that's holy! There is the Braybrook Castle at anchor over in Neutral Bay!"
It was indeed the Braybrook Castle, which had arrived only one day previously, and when Lester went on shore a few hours later, he found that he was a richer man by over £17,000 than when he had left Sydney less than six months before.
And "Mrs. Lester's Luck" brought happiness to many other people beside herself and her husband in the city of the Southern Sea, and when a year later, in England, she stood on a stage under the bows of a gallant ship of two thousand tons, built to Lester's order, and broke a bottle of Australian wine against her steel plates, she named her "The Lucy's Luck!"