Late in the afternoon some of the men insisted on eating the beef, and it was served to them. No ill effects followed, so all hands took their ration. This satisfied them for the time being, but I knew the thirst which must surely follow. I had been adrift in an open boat before in the Pacific. There had been sixteen men at the start, and at the end of four weeks of horror seven had been picked up to tell a tale which would make the blood curdle. The memory of this made me sick with fear and anxiety.
Johnson felt so much better from his meal that he stood in the bow with his little monkey-like figure braced against the mast, his legs on the gunwales. He said jokingly that he’d raise a sail before eight bells in the afternoon. Suddenly he cried out:—
“Sail dead ahead, sir!”
“‘Tis no jokin’ matter,” growled Chips, angrily. “Shet yer head, ye monkey, afore I heave ye over th’ side.”
Johnson turned fiercely upon him.
“Jokin’, you lummax! Slant yer eye forrads, an’ don’t sit there a-lookin’ at yerself,” he snarled.
“Steady, there!” I cried. “Where’s the vessel?”
“Right ahead, sir, and standing down this ways, if I see straight.”
I stood up on the stern locker and looked ahead. Sure enough, a white speck showed on the northern horizon, but I couldn’t see enough of the craft’s sails to tell which way she headed.
The men all wanted to stand at once, and it took some sharp talk to get them under control; but the young girl at my side showed no signs of excitement. I looked at her, and her gentle eyes looked straight into mine.
“I knew she would come,” she said. “I’ve prayed all the morning.”
In twenty minutes, spent anxiously watching her, the ship raised her topsails slowly above the line of blue, and then we saw she really was jammed on the wind and reaching along toward us rapidly.
“‘Tis the Pirit, an’ no mistake!” cried the carpenter. “Look at them r’yals! No one but th’ bit av a mate, Trunnell, iver mastheaded a yard like that.”
“The Pirate!” yelled Johnson, from forward.
And so, indeed, it really was.
I looked at her and then at the sweet face at my side. All the hard lines of suffering and fright had left it. The eyes now had the same gentle, trusting look of innocence I had seen the first morning we had taken off the Sovereign’s crew. The reaction was too much for me. I was little more than a boy in years, so I reached for the girl’s hand and kissed it.
When I looked up I caught the clew of Jenks’ eye, but the rest were looking at the rapidly approaching ship.